Daily news podcasts have become a crowded space on the news side. The New York Times’ “The Daily,” launched in 2017, NPR’s “Up First” and Slate’s “What Next” come out every weekday morning, and The Washington Post’s “Post Reports” delivers new episodes each weekday afternoon. Last month, subscription sports media company the Athletic launched “The Lead” with host Kavitha Davidson. As other shows have pioneered, the idea behind ESPN’s offering is to harness the power of a large newsroom’s reporting and analysis with a prominent host for an increasingly popular format.
“First and foremost this is about sports, and sports are fun and sports are exciting,” Kimes said in an interview. “They can be serious, and they delve into social and cultural issues — we’re going to do investigative stories — but there should be room for joy and passion, and I think that’s what makes sports different generally and also the podcast.”
As for what an episode might sound like, Kimes cited exploring big stories such as a July piece by NBA reporter Ramona Shelburne on how Kawhi Leonard lured Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“All I wanted to do when I was reading that story was to find out how Ramona got wind of that story and how she reported it,” she said. “It’s the perfect 20-minute conversation.”
The show will also have room to highlight less high-profile stories, for instance a piece by Aishwarya Kumar about how elite chess players physically train for their matches, Kimes said. Other episodes could be more timely and feature a close examination of a big playoff game, for example. ESPN’s reporters are regularly talking about their reporting on a bevy of ESPN’s platforms, but Kimes said the podcast is set up to probe deeper and illuminate both the reporting process and new layers to big stories.
Based in Los Angeles, Kimes will work with a team of five recently hired audio producers to create episodes that will be ready every Monday through Friday in time for the morning commute on the East Coast.
Kimes has been a senior writer at ESPN since 2014 when she was hired from Bloomberg Businessweek, where she was a reporter writing investigative pieces about companies such as Sears and Caterpillar. At ESPN, she has profiled NFL stars such as Aaron Rodgers and brothers Michael and Martellus Bennett while building up credentials as an NFL analyst. Earlier this year, she was a color commentator on Los Angeles Rams telecasts during the preseason.
To prepare for the podcast, Kimes said she had been listening to noted NPR interviewer Terry Gross.
“Curiosity will be the driving force behind this,” she said, adding: “The target audience is me. I’m 34. I listen to a ton of sports news. I consume a ton of podcasts. I read a lot. I like good stories but I also have limited time, and I’d like to have something that entertains me but also gives me something to talk about with other people.”
Kimes will continue to host her podcast “The Mina Kimes Show” and said she would eventually be back on TV, appearing on afternoon opinion shows such as “Highly Questionable” and “Around the Horn.”
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