Redesign amplifies NCAA magazine’s focus on diversity, equality

[Related posts: How new formats and philosophies for the Cincinnati Enquirer frame its powerful investigation of the region’s heroin epidemic; The Standard of Nairobi, Kenya, shines a spotlight on government corruption, public safety, poverty and famine.] 

By Ron Reason

I went into journalism many years ago, as so many of us did, to make a difference. Although I moved beyond reporting and interviewing, into editing, leadership and visual journalism roles, it’s rewarding to look back and consider how, in various ways, my work may be helping to do just that.

At its best, the training and design work I do for magazines and newspapers aims to inspire and give new tools to journalists, to tell compelling stories that create understanding, conversation and change in their communities.

Such has been the case with former client Champion, the Magazine of the NCAA, who hired me to advise them on redesign strategy and process. In reviewing their post-launch work, I was struck at how the new formats and strategies shine a light on issues important to their mission, including diversity and equality. I asked Editor Amy Wimmer Schwarb to pass along some of her favorites among such impactful pages they’ve published:

School mascots. This feature offers an in-depth look at the challenges posed to teams and colleges with Native American mascots. Note the use of timelines and team logos, and historical photos with precise captions, throughout the layout, a great complement to the longform approach to storytelling: 

[Read “Where Pride Meets Prejudice” online and see the multimedia presentation here.]

Blind cross country runner. Inspiring stories of athletes and teams persevering against the odds are part of the Champion mission. I love the use of photography here, including the blurred edges around the 2-page photo introducing the story:

[Read “Seeing It Through” online, with supplemental video, here.]

Human trafficking. A student athlete escaping a life of hardship in Ghana is the topic of this compelling feature:

[Read “The Missing Peace” online, with supplemental video, here.]

Transgender athletes. What does “transgender” mean? How does it impact a college athlete and their teammates? Champion decided to let one Harvard student tell the story through his own journey. Note the use in the layout of Instagram posts, with text and images from the subject’s profile over recent years, telling the story in personal terms:

[Read the online version of “Transformed” here.]

Readers and even media competitors are noticing Champion’s good work. Amy proudly reports: “We published a story in January about how the number of opportunities for women in coaching haven’t kept pace with the explosive opportunities offered for female athletes through Title IX. (When Title IX started, 92 percent of women’s teams were coached by women; today, it’s 42 percent.) The New York Times did its own version during the Women’s Final Four, citing the magazine by name, the story by name and mentioning our writer three times! And it ran on 1A. We were pretty excited.”

Congrats to Amy, Art Director Arnel Reynon and Champion staff for ongoing terrific work, and for letting me share them with web visitors, students and future clients for inspiration.

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