An interview with the photographer of the epic Raptors shot, plus Elizabeth Warren’s rebuke of Fox News and ESPN’s new location

Your Wednesday news roundup

May 15, 2019

May 15, 2019

You’re probably wondering why there’s a photo of basketball players at the top of this morning’s newsletter about the media. Yes, I’m a basketball fan, but that’s not the reason. This photo of Toronto superstar Kawhi Leonard just before his game-winning shot went in has gone viral over the past few days and it’s already a contender for sports photo of the year. It was taken by the Toronto Star’s Rick Madonik, who jokingly admitted to me that all this attention to his photo felt a little silly.

“It’s one shot,’’ he said.

But it’s a heck of shot. Madonik talked to me about those details for this morning’s newsletter.

Let’s start with the already-famous sports photo.

The perfect shot

On Sunday afternoon, Toronto Raptors basketball star Kawhi Leonard shot a buzzer-beater that bounced off the rim four times before finally dropping through the hoop and giving the Raptors a seventh and deciding victory against the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA playoffs.

While the ball agonizingly rattled around the rim, Toronto Star photographer Rick Madonik took what turned out to be a photo that’s gone viral.

In it, Leonard is squatting down with his tongue sticking out. His teammate, Jordan Loyd, is squatting next to him, ready to celebrate. 76ers star Joel Embiid is leaning forward, hoping the shot doesn’t go in.

I spoke to Madonik, who has been working at the Star since 1991, about his amazing shot. For starters, because of limited room during the playoffs, he was high above the court in the rafters instead of his normal courtside position. Madonik said this position is generally a “really ugly” place for photos. This time, it turned out be the perfect spot.

“If he hadn’t had been in that corner, I wouldn’t have any shot that was worthwhile,” Madonik said. “Out of the four corners, that was the only one that worked.”

Madonik said he knew that Leonard would take the last shot so he set his camera on him the whole time. Even after Leonard heaved up his jumper, Madonik kept his camera locked in on Leonard. He said time seemed to stop. He remembers actually seeing Leonard stick out his tongue through his lens and had no idea the ball was rolling around the rim. Madonik, who used to play and referee basketball, wondered what was taking so long for everyone to react. Oddly enough, he might have been the only person in the arena who didn’t actually see the shot go in. Later, he even had to ask, “How many bounces before that ball went in?”

So what makes the shot so special?

“There’s emotional tension,’’ Madonik said. “There are three different players with three different faces. … I think Embiid leaning into it also helps. It’s not symmetrical by any means, but it seems to have some symmetry about it.”

Another special element: viewers of the photo know what happened. The players are still waiting to find out.

“It’s all the emotions of it,” Madonik said.

Warren to Fox News: ‘hard pass’

The Democratic hopeful opts out of appearing in any of the network’s events, calling it a ‘hate-for-profit machine.’

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Elizabeth Warren will not be doing a town hall on Fox News. Not only that, the Democratic presidential hopeful slammed the network on Tuesday with a series of tweets, calling it a “hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists.”

Is she doing the right thing?

She tweeted:

“I’ve done 57 media avails and 131 interviews, taking over 1,100 questions from press just since January. Fox News is welcome to come to my events just like any other outlet. But a Fox News town hall adds money to the hate-for-profit machine. To which I say: hard pass.”

In a column for Poynter on Tuesday, I wrote that I can understand where Warren is coming from.

Still, other Democratic hopefuls — including Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Kirsten Gillibrand — have either done or will do events on Fox News. Others could follow. They likely see it as a chance to get their message directly to more conservative viewers without that message going through the spin cycle of the network’s hosts. Maybe they can even sway a few undecided voters or those who have soured on President Donald Trump.

Warren knows that a town hall of Fox News isn’t a make-or-break event for her nomination hopes. In fact, most Democrats likely will applaud her stance against a network they feel is biased against them.

‘You do not forget who it was’

Connie Chung wrote a letter in The Washington Post about her sexual assault — and she didn’t expect this outcome.

Connie Chung in 2016. (Photo by Rich Fury/AP Images)

Last year, when Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused then-Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her three decades ago, journalist Connie Chung wrote an open letter to Ford in The Washington Postdetailing her experience of being sexually assaulted by a family doctor while she was in college. Chung now tells ABC News’ “Nightline” co-anchor Juju Chang why she wrote the letter and her reaction since then.

Chung said, “I was so incensed that people did not believe her. And once something has happened to you, you do not forget who it was or what happened.

“I was hoping that if I had any shred of credibility left from my journalistic days that maybe … it would turn the tide. Well it didn’t, and that’s so unfortunate.”

ESPN bets on Vegas

The network announced plans to build a studio in Sin City in advance of the coming sports betting bonanza.

The Las Vegas Strip. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)

ESPN is putting a studio on the Las Vegas Strip. Is it because Las Vegas is becoming more mainstream sports-wise or is it because ESPN is embracing the gambling aspect of sports? You could argue both. Las Vegas already has an NHL team and will soon have an NFL team when the Oakland Raiders move there, probably in 2020.

But let’s be honest: It’s about the gambling. Now that all states can legalize sports betting if they chose, sports gambling is going to be covered more heavily by newspapers, digital outlets and TV networks. Connor Schell, executive vice president of content for ESPN, said in a statement, “A full studio presence in Las Vegas will help us create content that taps into that culture and grows our offerings to avid bettors and more casual fans.”

Hot type

A list of great journalism and intriguing media.

  • Elite storytelling: The New York Times’ sobering yet excellent long piece about an area in northwestern England whose beautiful landscape masks growing poverty and isolation — particularly for seniors. Superb work by writer Ceylan Yeginsu and photographer Laetitia Vancon.
  • Poynter’s Ren LaForme gives four great tips for telling really long stories in his latest Try This! digital tools newsletter.
  • Writing for Poynter’s The Cohort newsletter, Kameel Stanley, the senior producer for USA Today’s “The City” podcast, delves into what you can do to help make your podcast a success.
  • Thought-provoking piece by Jeremy Gordon in The Outline that questions the accuracy of David Foster Wallace’s work and others now that we live in the YouTube age.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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