Yahoo! Sports Win Edward R. Murrow
Sports Award for Feature on Katie Taylor
by Michael O'Neill
June 29, 2013
(JUNE 29) The Radio Television
Digital News Association (RTDNA) has announced the winners of
the 2013 national Edward R. Murrow Awards, which recognize work
of the highest quality produced by radio, television and online
news organizations around the world, and the winners of the 2013
RTDNA/UNITY Awards, which honor outstanding achievement in the
coverage of diversity.
For the first time, since the Association was formed, women’s
boxing featured in one of the main awards- National : Reporting
WBAN extends its congratulations to Yahoo Sports, senior
producer Alan Springer and team at Yahoo Sports Studios Los
Angeles, including respected sports journalist Dan Wetzel,
who earlier this month took Yahoo's first ever Edward R. Murrow
Before we look at the video and feature that won the award for
Springer, Wetzel and Yahoo Sports let us take you back to August
and see for yourself just what went on behind the scenes, what
went into planning the video and how it came about.
A tremendous amount of research and fast detective work went
into the production as Producer Alan Springer at the time.
"BRAY, IRELAND — Her story seemed to mirror a classic sports
storyline I had told before: Athlete comes from humble
beginnings. Athlete against all odds. Athlete has the support of
But Katie Taylor's story was different. So different. So beyond
Hearing her friends and family describing her as just "humble"
would be a massive understatement.
You want going against the odds? The sport of female boxing
didn't even exist in the Olympics four years ago.
And support of a hometown? How about the weight of an entire
nation on your shoulders.
Every night in the Olympic Media Center we met with our editors
and photographers to plan out the next day's attack. Storylines
discussed ranged from quirky London tidbits to the achieved
medal plateaus and usually ended with a comparison over which
producer had less sleep the night before. That's one debate if
you win you lose.
But last Thursday night was different. Yahoo! Sports columnist
Dan Wetzel had just returned from covering Irish boxer Katie
Taylor in a semifinal victory. He implored his wisdom as to the
gravity of this moment, as Taylor's gold-medal final matchup the
next day would be historic for so many reasons.
He proceeded to tell us about the crowd of 4,000 that he heard
took over the streets of Katie's hometown of Bray. Dan heard
about how she was a great fighter and that he was truly looking
forward to covering her gold-medal match the next night here in
London against Russian Sofya Ochigava.
I started thinking there's always two sides to every story. I
knew the broadcasts around the world would cover the fight, but
what about the story 362 miles across the ocean in Katie's town?
What about Bray?
After attempting what I presumed would be a failed request to
cover the scene in Bray, my bosses green-lighted taking a
photographer to Ireland to see what we could find. What would
this blue-collar town (population 32,000) be like the next night
when Katie took center stage again?
Six hours later, no sleep earned, a camera, tripod, light panel,
two backpacks and two tired journalists in myself and colleague
Victor Velazquez boarded a flight to Ireland. Where exactly
would we go when we landed? Who was going to tell us how to find
the people closest to Katie? Would we ever sleep?
We land in Dublin at 8:14 a.m. local time. We jump into a taxi
and told the driver to take us on the 14-mile drive to Bray, a
coastal town that clearly loves its favorite daughter. Signs and
posters wallpapered the cobblestones streets as a tribute to
Bray's own 26-year-old, four-time boxing World Amateur Champion.
Our driver unloaded us at the Royal Hotel. After four cups of
strong coffee, we mapped out our story but still stood without
any central characters in place. We met the owners of the hotel,
John and Maureen O'Conner, who overwhelmed us with their
kindness and generosity. Actually, every person along this
journey was remarkably nice and warm.
As if they were proud parents to Katie themselves, John and
Maureen proceed to call every person in town they knew to help
us further develop our story. They sent us photos and videos
from their iPhones and laid out the entire map of the town. We
couldn't thank them enough. The best we could do to re-pay them
was to give them one of our Yahoo! Sports Olympic pins. I think
I won in this exchange.
While all this was going on, I heard a radio report in the
background discussing the days' activities and viewing parties
around town to watch Katie's big fight later that night. The
radio reporter interviewed a councilman named John Brady. I ask
John (O'Conner) if he knew him., to which he responded, "Of
course. Would you like me to call him?"" Gotta love small towns.
After Marry, an employee from the hotel, volunteered to drive
us, we ended up at a sports field. It was exactly a site you
would have probably imagined — about two hundred straight yards
of the lushest green you've ever seen blanketed by grey skies.
This was Ireland.
At the end of our hike across the turf with our gear, Marry
volunteering to come with us to carry our tripod, we reached the
radio voice we'd heard before, John Brady. He proceeded to show
us around the makeshift viewing party area where they were
setting up, which included two giant video screens, a couple of
food trucks and an endless field for capacity.
We now knew where the people would migrate to watch Katie's
gold-medal match, but we wanted to know more. We knew our story
was taking shape but how about our leading lady and the town
where she grew up?
Once again, the generosity of these fine Irish people came
through as John and his two daughters drove us to Katie's house
to meet her neighbors. As we pulled up, a full block of parties
were in effect with kids and elderly people draped in Katie
T-shirts and flags. It was as if they were already waiting for
their hero to come home.
We learned everything we needed for our story: Katie walks her
dog every day around these parts, never turns down autographs,
she's very active in soccer and still lives at home with her
After getting to know the real Katie Taylor through the voices
of the people who know her best, we headed back to the venue
where the viewing party would be held. With more than 10,000
people and just about every single Irish media outlet on the
island on hand, we were ready for this fight to begin.
Those of you who follow boxing know the Olympic scoring system
is quite different. Katie won two rounds, lost one and tied one.
That equaled enough overall points to capture her first gold
medal and capture us a perfect ending to our story.
When it was over, we headed back to the airport and onto London
that night, stopping at the airport bar for, of course, one pint
of Guinness. It is Ireland!
The last 24 hours have been a mixture of an hour or two of sleep
in a cab or plane, several more cups of coffee, hours of logging
tape and the brilliance of my editor Victor. It's the ultimate
example of how the love for a story (and its accompanying
adrenaline) wins the day despite no advance planning.
Looking back, if we hadn't jumped in that cab, hadn't heard the
radio reporter, hadn't met all those people and hadn't watched
the hero of the story reach her dream, we might have produced a
more typical athlete's story. But, we got lucky. I guess we had
the luck of the Irish!So that was how Alan Springer and
Yahoo!Sports got their video to back up this piece from ace
reporter Dan Wetzel.
"ExCeL LONDON – They came from Cork and Kerry. They flew in from
Dublin and brought their daughter from across town. They came
for a 5-foot-5, 132-pound woman whose hands deliver hammer
swings, happiness, and hope.
They came because Katie Taylor – Ireland's Katie Taylor – was
boxing for the gold medal.
They came because this might be the most perfect Irish story
ever, and the Irish love stories. A little kid, mesmerized by
her father shadow boxing in their kitchen along the Irish coast,
winds up trained by dad in a sport few believed should even be
allowed – a girl fight? She turns into the four-time world
champion, humble, hard-working, and wrapped, literally, in
religion: "The Lord is my Savior and my shield," her robe reads.
"She's an everybody," said 17-year-old Aifric Norton, who flew
here with her older brother Aonghus.
They came because, back home, the recession drags on and drags
down. And when Katie Taylor hits someone in the mouth it feels,
even for a brief moment, like Ireland, too, can hit back.
"Everybody forgets about the recession when she fights," said
Con McDonnell, who flew in with three buddies all wearing their
"Katie Taylor Made for Gold" T-shirts.
They came because they were the lucky ones who got tickets.
"Half of Ireland is here," marveled Barry McGuigan, the old
Irish champion. Others just came over to hang around outside the
ExCeL Center, stuffing the bars and restaurants in what was once
a slum of East London. "There's 1,500 paddies down the road in
the pubs," said Graham Regan, noting he knows because that's
where he watched Taylor's semifinal victory on Wednesday.
They came because they know back in Taylor's hometown of Bray,
in County Wicklow, there were 10,000 people gathered outside to
watch on a giant screen. They had to move the viewing to a
bigger spot because 6,000 showed up for the semifinal and the
town square couldn't hold them all. Across the nation, everyone
else just crowded into pubs and living rooms. Many bosses in the
city centers of Dublin and Galway just let workers go early
rather than pretend they wouldn't sneak off anyway. "The country
will stop today," said fan Tony Barrett.
They came because coming had developed into a movement. Each
Taylor fight during these Olympics saw the 10,000-seat venue
filled with green shirts and homemade signs and Tricolour flags.
For the finale, the venue manager estimated 8,000 Irish were in
attendance, even with a Brit fighting for gold in a different
Oh, and the building filled with noise. Lots and lots of noise.
Unbelievable amounts of noise. The fans, often these burly men,
would sing soccer songs and chant "I-er-LAND, I-er-LAND" and
"KAY-t, KAY-t." Louder and louder. This was the wildest scene of
the Games, electric and exciting. The International Olympic
Committee measured the noise at every session of the Olympics,
and nothing matched the decibels of the introduction for a Katie
Taylor fight. The second-loudest event was the final seconds of
a thrilling Great Britain cycling victory at the Velodrome.
Here, in London, as sure as Katie's fists would be felt, Ireland
would be heard.
They came because of Katie. In a nation of writers, they
couldn't dream her up. Every possible positive attribute the
Irish want to see in themselves, she delivered. "Talented,
modest, unaffected, lovely," the Irish Times wrote. Throw in
tough, quick, smart and loyal. "Warrior Hero," the Irish
Independent dubbed her.
The most popular athlete in Ireland is female. Where else is
that true? Where else could that be true? And it's real, with
men, grown men, old and young, coming because of what she can do
in the field of competition. There was no stigma. This was
boxing. Not women's boxing. Twenty years ago to the day, Michael
Carruth – also coached by his father – won gold in Barcelona,
making him a forever legend. His gold wasn't any bigger than
The nation's male boxers were contending for medals also.
Ireland should win three overall, a great haul for them. None of
them are as popular. No one comes close. The men say they aren't
even bitter. They love Katie, too. "It's great, I know how hard
she trains," said fighter Paddy Barnes , still in the men's
semifinals. "It goes to show you, equal rights."
"We are here together as a team," Katie Taylor said. "I watched
Paddy fight [Wednesday]. Really unbelievable."
So, yes, she may be a woman, but did you see that combination?
They came with young girls at their side and on their laps.
Daughters and granddaughters, nieces and cousins, some just
three and four years old.
All these little girls, faces painted, in awe of Katie, in awe
of the reaction Katie has produced, in awe of a woman fighter
who carries herself with unrelenting pride at competing in a non
feminine pursuit. I am, she seems to be saying, who I am. From a
nation with a difficult history on equality, here was something
"That she is female and not male," said 12-year-old Millie
Regan, Graham's daughter, "means that we are equal."
They came because so many of them understand equality isn't an
obligation but a strength. These aren't the old days. If Ireland
is going to get out of its economic plight, out of the banking
crisis and real estate collapse, it will need the energy, the
talent and, indeed, the fight of all its citizens.
They came because in a nation that has so often intertwined its
self-worth with sporting success,Katie Taylor represented
something a bit new. Ireland is always the underdog, this rural
island home to so much heartbreak. Its success stories are so
often about pluck and luck and digging deep. Katie has that,
too, of course. All champions do. She also has a killer cross
that will flatten you, and she's had it for years. She's claimed
four consecutive world championships and five European titles.
Katie Taylor gave Ireland a new feeling, a confidence bordering
on cocky. Watch her dominate. Watch her overwhelm. She always
wins. The old familiar hope of an upstart was replaced by the
powerful sense of strength that comes from cheering on the
favorite. This here was proof of Irish might, of Irish fight. No
apologies, she's the best.
They came for the gold, which often isn't so likely for Ireland.
"Where our country is at right now," Regan said, "to hear the
national anthem at the Olympics, that is what it is all about.
There won't be a dry eye in the house, I tell you."
Regan noted the only gold the Irish won at the 2004 Olympics in
Athens came in equestrian. "And then the horse failed the doping
test," he said before breaking into a big laugh.
"That's pretty Irish in itself."
Not as Irish as this.
Peter Taylor was marveling about all of it the other day. The
crowds. The noise. The momentum. The stories from home. The
He's an electrician, 50 years old now. A simple guy who just
happened to be a pretty good amateur boxer back in the day. His
daughter was an athlete – a star in soccer, rugby, just about
anything. She even has professional offers in soccer.
She loved boxing, though. She was 10 and loved it at a time when
girls didn't box. The sport wasn't even sanctioned in Ireland,
and fathers weren't supposed to teach their daughters to throw a
punch, let alone take one. Peter trained her anyway, noting the
fitness benefits of the sport.
She was a natural. She could hit like a ton of bricks. She
seemed to draw strength from the lonely roadwork and endless
time mauling a heavy bag. She had the mentality and courage.
Peter began petitioning for women's boxing to gain recognition.
"If it wasn't for my dad pushing, women's boxing wouldn't be in
Ireland," Katie said. Peter fought for his daughter to fight,
even if he, at times, wished she'd just play soccer.
"It's a little safer," Peter said with a laugh. "You play
[soccer], you don't play boxing."
Katie kept winning and winning. They went all over the globe for
fights. Asia. The Middle East. Anywhere. Peter's daughter won
tournament after tournament, title after title. She kept
returning with humility, though, putting in her long runs along
that misty coast. Slowly, she went from a novelty to a national
treasure, the momentum building for the girl-next-door with a
jab for the ages.
Then the IOC decided to let women's boxing into the Olympics,
the Olympics right over here in England, too, just an hour's
flight. Katie and Peter Taylor knew this would be the pinnacle.
She dreamed of winning gold at age 10, when it wasn't possible.
Now, at 26, she wanted this gold, the first gold in the sport,
perhaps the only gold for Ireland.
And a nation came along with her.
"I feel like I'm boxing back home in Dublin," Katie said this
week, her ability to focus amid the frenzy perhaps the key to
this run. "To have the whole nation behind me. Incredible."
"We can't believe this," Peter Taylor said, marveling at the
scene here and the stories filtering in of a nation stopping for
each four-round fight. "Ireland is in a recession, and people
are coming over here …"
He paused for a second.
"Hopefully she is providing a bit of a lift for the country."
Then his eyes began showing some emotion.
"It's a great country," he said. "It's a great country."
They brought Katie out to Rihanna's "Only Girl [in the world],"
and the damn roof nearly came off. Katie was dressed in red,
hair in a tight braid, Peter on her left shoulder. It was bedlam
to the point you could hardly hear her introduced. Russia's
Sofya Ochigava was dealing with arguably the most intimidating
environment of the Olympics.
The cheers and chants were as strong as ever, but this was a
different level of a fight for Katie Taylor. Ochigava had beaten
Katie in the past; her skill was respected. "She's a really nice
person," Katie also noted later. Once the bell rang, Katie
couldn't just fire off straight rights like in her early fights
of this tournament. She had to respect Ochigava's speed.
They flash the score after every two-minute round in women's
boxing, and after the first it was level, 2-2. The fans began to
try to scream off nervous energy, trying to pretend Katie still
had this in the bag. She didn't. The second round went 2-1 for
Ochigava, giving the Russian a 3-2 lead. Katie was behind. The
crowd groaned, but couldn't mount much of an argument.
Then came the third round, and Katie began to find her timing.
"I just had to stay relaxed and stick to the game plan," she
said. She landed a vicious combo. Then another. She controlled
the ring a bit. Ochigava had her moments, but this was the Katie
Taylor everyone was waiting for.
The scoreboard flashed 4-1 for the round in favor of Katie. She
now led 7-5 overall. The ExCeL Center erupted. The Irish could
taste the gold.
Ochigava was unfazed by the crowd's opinion. There was still one
last round. She came out and tagged Katie. She walked her down
into a corner. There was one exchange in which Katie almost hit
the canvas, and the crowd gasped and then exhaled when it was
ruled a stumble.
They chanted louder and louder. "KAY-t, KAY-t." Oh, she couldn't
lose. She couldn't. That would be pretty Irish. She fired off a
jab and connected. Then she hit again. She was rallying. The
crowd surged. The bell rang. The fight was over.
Peter jumped on the ring apron and raised his hands. As Katie
came over, he hugged her and kissed her headgear. The score
wouldn't matter. Win or lose, gold or silver, this was a father
proud of his little girl.
"An unbelievable journey, right?" he said later.
The announcement took forever. The crowd rocked back and forth
in anticipation, all nerves and fear. Katie paced the ring.
Ochigava did the same. "I didn't know which way the fight went,"
Katie said. The ref finally gathered them, and the
public-address system came to life.
"The winner, by a score of 10-8, the winner and Olympic
champion, from the country of Ire … "
You couldn't hear the rest. You didn't need to.
Katie hit her knees. The fans headed toward the sky. Soon, there
was a flag in the ring, and a victory lap. The noise just built
and built, and if you listened closely enough, you could
probably hear it washing in from Bray and Dublin, from perhaps
every Irish lung in the four corners of the earth.
"We all cried when they lifted her arm, everyone around us,"
said Emma Lally, a Bray resident watching with her neighbors
outside back home in Ireland . "There were just tears
everywhere, screams and jumping up and down."
A half-hour later, back in the ExCeL Center, they brought out
Katie Taylor, sent her up a podium to the highest step, and hung
a gold medal around her neck. Soon Amhrán na bhFiann, the Irish
national anthem, was playing. Katie stood and smiled. The crowd
sang along. As the green, white, and orange were lifted up,
Graham Regan's prediction didn't turn out completely true. There
might have been one or two dry eyes in the house. Perhaps.
This is why they had come. To celebrate a present-day hero who
speaks to a bright future that draws its power from values
rooted in the past. "These whole Olympics were made for her,"
They came for Ireland, resting their joy on the strong shoulders
of a single woman, the girl boxer from County Wicklow.
She, in turn, delivered gold and the best kind of Irish
"We came because it's history," Regan said.
They came for the legend of Katie Taylor.”
A great ‘scoop’ for Alan Springer and Dan Wetzel who brought
their readers and viewers the real life story of how Katie
Taylor captured the hearts of a nation. There were many stars in
many sports who were under great pressure in London 2012 but for
Katie Taylor it was much more for
she was always seen as Ireland’s greatest Gold medal hope, had
carried the Irish flag at the opening ceremony and upon her
young shoulders rested the hopes of a whole nation at a time of
serious economic desperation at home.
So that's the story behind Yahoo ! Sports Edward R. Murrow Award
- now sit back and enjoy the video that helped Yahoo win that
prestigious RTDNA award.
Link to Sport.Yahoo.com