Lavigne Part of ESPN Team that Earns Peabody Award

Lavigne Part of ESPN Team that Earns Peabody Award

By Molly Garriott, BA’89

Since joining ESPN in 2008, Paula Lavigne, MBA’09, has tackled some serious issues within the sports industry — from high-stakes gambling in youth athletics to sexual assault in college football.

“Our stories have a sports angle, but they dive into mainstream issues,” says Lavigne, an investigative reporter and data journalism and statistics specialist at ESPN. “Our unit has tackled stories on human trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence, race relations, drug addiction, all sorts of white-collar crime and multiple other social issues that transcend sports. I work with some of the most talented journalists — not just sports journalists, but journalists, period — anywhere.”

Lavigne says her MBA degree has married well with her journalism career, advancing her understanding of the financial aspect of sports. Creighton, she says, was appealing because of its reputation and flexible scheduling. She adds that her Creighton leadership courses, particularly those taught by the late Roger Fransecky, PhD, remain a source of inspiration and guidance.

“Journalism is oftentimes a frustrating and agonizing job, and I am completely honest when I say there are times when I go back to some of his emails or suggested readings to re-center myself, refocus and get back above the fray,” she says.

Plus, she adds, her MBA will be very beneficial “if I ever leave journalism or go into management within journalism.”

Which, given the year she has had, shouldn’t be any time soon.

In 2019, Lavigne and her colleagues won a Peabody Award for “Spartan Silence,” which chronicled USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of more than 140 young women and athletes and the struggles and suppression faced by women who reported being assaulted by Michigan State student-athletes.

ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro calls “Spartan Silence” the “most impactful journalism the ESPN team has produced in our 40 years of exemplary storytelling.”

Lavigne says the Peabody Award recognizes the collective efforts of numerous people at ESPN, with much of the credit going to the brave women who shared their deeply personal stories with the journalists.  

“Our first thoughts went to all the women and their advocates who trusted us with the most painful, intimate details of their lives, and how this award is a recognition of their bravery,” she says.

Lavigne and her colleagues also received the Sports Investigation Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) for their Michigan State and Nassar coverage, and their work was nominated for a Sports Emmy award for journalism.

Awards are gratifying, says Lavigne, but the stories and the truths they expose are what’s most important.

“I really do this work because it matters,” she says.