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Volume 26 No. 181
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Turner's Ernie Johnson Crafting Content For Sports-Hungry Fans

Photo: TURNER SPORTS
Photo: TURNER SPORTS
Photo: TURNER SPORTS

Turner Sports' Ernie Johnson has led two digital series that have been keeping fans connected to the sports world while traditional sports content creation is in a holding pattern because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “EJ’s Journalism School” recently completed a six-week run in which notable journalists joined Johnson on Twitter to discuss their careers and answer questions from aspiring journalists and fans. Among the guests were ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Maria Taylor, HBO’s Andrea Kremer, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons and NBC’s Mike Tirico. Johnson: “I said, well, let's kind of turn this into a forum for J-school students. So I did the first one -- went for an hour and twenty minutes or so. And then I just kind of went through my phone. I was like, “OK, let's have Seth Davis. Let's have Brian Anderson. Let's have Mike Tirico. Let's have James Brown. And every time I got in touch with these people, they were immediately, 'Sure, what time?' ... It was amazing.” It was not a Q&A session; Johnson turned the reins over to each of his 35 guests and let them lead the "class." There were times where technical difficulties took hold, but Johnson likened it to his normal gig hosting “Inside The NBA,” with both being “rough around the edges” at times. He said, “I have learned from everybody that I've listened to and here I am. I'm 40 years in the business and 30 years at Turner, and I'm sitting here saying, ‘Wow, I hadn't thought about it that way.’”

ALL TOGETHER NOW: The other series, “#NBATogether With Ernie Johnson,” has featured many of the league’s biggest names, from Commissioner Adam Silver to HOFers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West to Trail Blazers G Damian Lillard and Hawks G Trae Young. Launched by NBA Digital -- jointly managed by the NBA and Turner Sports -- the series streams live every Monday and Wednesday on the league’s Twitter feed and will run until play resumes. As part of the global NBA Together campaign during the pandemic, “#NBATogether With Ernie Johnson” has helped raise more than $78M to support relief efforts and stop the spread of coronavirus, plus nearly 6 million meals. The series through last week has more than 6.5 million aggregate views. Johnson: “I just love getting into stories like that. It’s just wonderful for me. Not only has it given my life, my daily life, a little more rhythm to have something scheduled that you're going to do, but I've learned a lot just in talking to these guys. And they've been very forthcoming with their interviews.” One example: Johnson asked Abdul-Jabbar about meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the first time while he was a student at UCLA. Johnson: “I don't know how we put it, but he wasn't a fan. He said, ‘I wasn't sold on nonviolence as being the answer.’ And I was like, ‘Well, you know, I'd never heard that before.’ ... It's stuff like that that you don't know you're going to get when you sit down and you just kind of, you know, talking for 35, 40 minutes. That's pretty rich.”