Steve Delsohn: Investigating Sports Careers in PR and Journalism

Steve Delsohn, Founder and President of Delsohn Strategies Public Relations firm and former Investigative Reporter for ESPN's Outside the Lines joins us on the Work in Sports Podcast!

Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp Vice President of Content and Engaged learning at and this is the Work in Sports podcast…

When I first started in the sports industry back in 1996 as a production assistant at CNN/Sports Illustrated, I was a sports fan. I loved watching games, debating players, arguing strategies and playing as often as I could in my spare time.

Sure, I had some skills for the job or else I wouldn’t have been hired, I could edit video and audio, operate a camera and things of that nature. But I lived for the events.

I grew up with a subscription to Sports Illustrated, and while my grandmother, who got me the yearly subscription, thought I was really engaging with all the longform storytelling, truth is I was lazy. I’d read the opening 20 pages of short stories based on what happened with the teams I know and loved… and then when it came to the langer articles with meaning, from Frank Deford, Leigh Montville, Tim Layden and Sally Jenkins… I’d skip through and look at the pictures.

It wasn’t until March 14th, 2000 -- four years into my career at CNN Sports Illustrated that I truly grasped the power of journalism, reporting and storytelling.

Our investigative reporting team toiled for months and month on a story about Bob Knight, the bombastic coach of Indiana University. A man feared for his temper tantrums, but admired for his winning. He was a God to many in Indiana, but not everyone. 

I won’t rehash the story - I can link to some old articles if you arte interested in reading more - but suffice it to say our reporters blew open a monumental story into events that happened behind the scenes of his empire that would have made your head spin. 

I’ll tell you, as someone who had nothing to do with the story, but had access to the reporting, there were dozens of horrifying stories that didn’t make the final cut….and that final cut was still a full 30 minute story that left people with their jaw dropped.

Bobby Knight was fired shortly after our programming aired.

I remember talking to one of the people who worked on it closely, he was being pressed on what it meant to be part of a story that got the great bobby knight fired… and he consistently said - the job of the journalist is to present the story as reported, not to strive or reach for any result, he wasn’t trying to get Bobby Knight fired, he was trying to present the truth. 

I admired this approach -- this idea that now people know what happens there. You can still decide to go to Indiana, or later Texas Tech and play for knight, but if he strangles you on the sidelines, or does some other horrific thing, you have to accept it because the truth has been presented to you. 

This was when I first became obsessed with the art and craft of story telling. I was late to the part y in a lot of ways, but now if i see a long form article on the AAF, Barry Bonds, or some underground fighter trying to make his way in MMA… I’m hooked. 

The pinnacle of sports storytelling in the broadcast world is ESPNs Outside the Lines, for decades they’ve been responsible for breaking hundreds of stories like our Bobby Knight feature. And behind the scenes of that operation for nearly 2 decades was today’s guest, investigative reporter Steve Delsohn. 

After 17 years at OTL, Steve now runs an boutique PR firm, focused on building the profile of sports personalities that deserve to see the light -- like West Coast Conference commissioner, and former Work in Sports podcast gust Gloria Nevarez. 

With over 20 years experience in storytelling both from a journalistic and PR persepctive, no one knows this game better that Steve…

Listen in for great information on the current state of sports journalism and sports public relations with Steve Delsohn!

By Brian Clapp | July 10, 2019
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