"This is the best time to be in journalism!"
Kevin Merida of ESPN's The Undefeated talks about the site's coverage of sports, race, and culture and what it takes to build a digital media platform
POUGHKEEPSIE (March 2, 2017) – Journalism may be under fire from a White House hostile to many national media outlets and broader allegations of "fake news," but Kevin Merida, Editor-in-Chief of ESPN's The Undefeated, says that just makes the work that journalists do more important -- and more exciting -- than ever.
"This is the best time to be in journalism," Merida told an audience of Marist communication and business students -- many future journalists among them --during his Feb. 27 visit. "No doubt."
"The work is always the best answer to any criticism," he added
While the particular political pressures of the day may be a fairly new phenomenon, the business pressures on the media industry are well-established. Merida helped lead The Washington Post's successful transition from a primarily print product to a digital-first news platform with a greatly expanded audience during his long career there, most recently as managing editor.
"Everybody's a digital business now," Merida said.
Now, he's bringing what he learned there to bear on growing The Undefeated, which he launched just under a year ago with the mission of covering the intersection of sports, race, and culture. Responding to questions from moderator Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of the Center for Sports Communication, Merida said that he defines success for his nascent venture as growing an audience through scoops -- like Michael Jordan using the platform to express his thoughts on police shootings in the African American community -- and expanding format -- like podcasts -- and new forms, like poetry.
"Success is the sum of all that," Merida said.
After hosting Kevin's talk with the students, Dr. Strudler talked about the benefit to them of engaging with someone of his position and personal and professional background.
"Kevin connected with our students on so many different levels and topics," Dr. Strudler said, "from the economics of sports media to the intersection of sport and race to the importance of a vibrant political press. We are all fortunate to have Kevin spend his time and share his knowledge with our campus community."
At his talk and over lunch earlier in the day, Merida advised students interested in media careers to be similarly innovative and open to trying new things.
"College is a great laboratory," Merida said. "It's a place where you can experiment with your voice, and you can try things. You can create the structure and the platform to put your work out into the world, and that's the greatest gift that being a student in this age gives you."