Editor’s Letter from Terry McDonell: A Tough JobPosted: May 31, 2011
Let me tell you about Sports Illustrated senior writer George Dohrmann. You should know who he is. Dohrmann is the last sportswriter to win the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s top honor, which he received in 2000 at age 27 while at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Pulitzer committee cited his determined reporting, despite negative reader reaction, of a series of stories that uncovered academic fraud within the men’s basketball program at the University of Minnesota. These articles are never fun; Dohrmann’s winning series made him one of the least popular people in the usually friendly Land of 10,000 Lakes, and he still occasionally gets disparaging e-mails from Gophers fans.
The same year that he won the Pulitzer, Dohrmann joined SI, where his primary beat has been investigative reporting. He has worked on some of the magazine’s most challenging assignments, ranging from steroid use in baseball to the Michael Vick dogfighting case to a piece in October 2010 that exposed a netherworld in which agents try to lock up prospective NFL players by giving them money while they’re still in college. Ask Dohrmann what draws him to such difficult stories and he’ll tell you it’s simple: “meaty subjects and lots of tough reporting.”
That answer helps explain why Dohrmann was drawn to write Play Their Hearts Out, an exposé of youth basketball published last fall by Ballantine Books (and excerpted in SI). A review in The New York Times praised Dohrmann for “[being] a reporter, not a polemicist, [who is] comfortable letting the facts speak for themselves.” Dohrmann’s article on NCAA violations at Ohio State, another meaty subject fully reported, is this week’s cover story. This one isn’t fun either. But as with other sad stories of programs gone wrong, it offers the hope of redemption in what Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith referred to as “refocusing the football program on doing what we do best—representing this extraordinary university and its values on the field, in the classroom and in life.”