"I Don't Want to be Predictable"


ESPN's Kevin Merida, formerly of "The Washington Post," speaks with students about sports, race, the changing media landscape, and his plans for "The Undefeated" during his Marist visit

Longtime journalist and Editor-in-Chief of ESPN's The Undefeated Kevin Merida visited campus recently to meet with students, discuss his nearly four decades in the news business, and share his thoughts on the state of the media and the complex intersection of sports and race. Those issues are the focus of The Undefeated, which he took over last year and has since been staffing and building toward a launch sometime this year.  

"It was amazing for our students to exchange ideas with the person who will truly lead the vital conversation on sport and race in America," said Keith Strudler, Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication and Associate Professor of Communication. "Kevin spoke eloquently both on the evolving journalism and media industries while also giving great perspective on where we are as a nation. I think our students have an even greater appreciation for The Undefeated and its potential in the American media complex."

 Kevin Merida, Editor-in-Chief of ESPN's The Undefeated speaks with Center for Sports

Communication Director Keith Strudler in front of an audience of students
during a recent visit to campus.
Strudler moderated a discussion with Merida, which included questions from the audience of approximately 60 students. Asked if professional athletes have an obligation to use their celebrity to speak out on social issues, Merida said that it's not as simple as an athlete deciding they want to be identified as an activitst on a particular issue. "We all have multiple identities," Merida said, "and athletes should be no different."

Before joining ESPN, Merida was Managing Editor at The Washington Post, where he was one of the highest-ranking African American's in the nation's newsrooms. He helped lead The Post’s digital transformation that has resulted in one of the largest increases in audience growth of any media outlet in the country over the last two years. During his tenure, The Post won three Pulitzer Prizes.

Students at Kevin Merida event

Students discussed issues of sports, race, and the media at a luncheon with Kevin Merida of ESPN

While The Undefeated will feature a lot of commentary, it will also include original reporting. When a student asked about whether Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton had been subjected to a different standard by the media and the public because of his race for his perceived bad behavior following his team's loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, Merida did not offer up the conventional wisdom that Newton necessarily had been.

"I want to put actual evidence to something," Merida said. "I always want to bring reporting to it. There's still a lot of love for Cam Newton. It would be an interesting comparative study.    

Merida also talked about the excitement and challenges of building a diverse and talented team of reporters, editors, and writers to produce The Undefeated. 

"I loved his take on diversity in the workplace and on a team, saying that regardless of race it's important to have lots of differing skill sets," said senior Elena Eberwein, a media studies and production major and President of the Marist chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. "I thought he was a great and inspiring speaker to bring to campus. Journalism is still alive, and though it is moving to the digital realm, it is very assuring to know it is still moving and evolving."

Kevin Merida event

 ESPN's Kevin Merida talked with Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Jocelyn Smith Lee

after a luncheon during his recent campus visit.

"This was a great opportunity for our students to hear directly from one of this country's journalistic leaders who will be bringing to sports the same sense of seriousness and rigor that he brought to news at the highest level," said Kevin Lerner, Assistant Professor of Communication/Journalism. "I was impressed by how incisive he was at analyzing his own career and his role. I think that the students appreciated that, too, and he left them optimistic about beginning a career in media."

Senior communication major Jordan Carter said, "I think visits by professionals like Kevin Merida are a tremendous educational experience and career-preparation because they allow students to ask questions specific to any concerns they may have and be able to listen directly to individuals who circumspectly know the ins and outs of their desired path."

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