After adding four journalists last month, The Undefeated 2.0 continues to bolster its staff ahead of its launch date.  ESPN announced this week five more names that will be on the roster of the new site including a couple more names from the Washington Post.

That last fact is notable because new Editor-In-Chief Kevin Merida is making a number of moves to bring writers with him from the Post, where he was most recently managing editor.  In fact, of the last nine names to be added to ESPN’s site focusing on African American sports and culture, four of them will be Washington Post graduates.

Here’s the list of new Undefeated writers:

– The Washington Post’s Lonnae O’Neal – senior writer specializing in profiles
– Fusion’s Latoya Peterson – deputy editor for digital innovation
– Crain’s Chicago Business managing editor Steve Reiss – deputy editor for enterprise and narrative
– Former editor-in-chief at VIBE Danyel Smith – senior culture editor
– The Washington Post’s Clinton Yates – senior writer

And the announcement from ESPN:

Five acclaimed journalists have joined the editorial staff of The Undefeated, ESPN’s new content initiative for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture. The new additions include two writers, Lonnae O’Neal and Clinton Yates of The Washington Post, and three editors – Latoya Peterson, an editor-at-large at Fusion, Crain’s Chicago Business managing editor Steve Reiss, and Danyel Smith, former editor-in-chief at VIBE magazine.

O’Neal, a Washington Post columnist who has covered myriad topics including race and culture, joins The Undefeated as a senior writer specializing in profiles. Racialicious.com blog editor Peterson will serve as a deputy editor for digital innovations. Reiss, whose professional credits include editing the work of three Pulitzer Prize winners for criticism at the Post, will be deputy editor for enterprise and narrative. Smith, who led the editorial staff atVIBE magazine in its most-successful era, joins The Undefeated as senior editor for culture. Yates, a Washington Post online columnist, will serve as senior writer anchoring The Undefeated’s lead blog and producing a range of multimedia content.

“We are building a phenomenal roster of talent. Latoya, Steve, Danyel, Clinton, Lonnae? Whew. Can’t wait to play with them, and I know others are excited too,” said Kevin Merida, ESPN Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of The Undefeated. “I think we’ve got a playoff team.” 

Perhaps you’re thinking what I’m thinking – surely this means The Undefeated is nearing its launch point, right?  We’re nearing almost eight months since Whitlock was given the boot from his leadership role for the site, almost a year from it getting its name, and two and a half years since the idea was first broached in the summer of 2013 when Whitlock left Fox Sports for ESPN.  Well, ESPN officially said “no comment” when asked by Awful Announcing to provide a timetable for the launch of one of the most anticipated and talked about verticals in online sports.

It’s expected that the launch should be sometime this year, but the continued rollout of new hires is a reminder of the remarkable reality that we’re really talking about The Undefeated having to undergo a “relaunch” before it even launched in the first place.  The site has been restaffed with not only a new editor-in-chief (Merida) replacing the original choice (Whitlock), but also a new managing editor in Raina Kelley and an editorial and writing staff basically being filled out from scratch again.

In spite of the site being in the works for well over two years, the clock had to be reset to zero when Whitlock was ousted and Merida was installed last fall.  And given everything that happened with that transition, perhaps it was all for the best for The Undefeated in the long run and the long wait will be worth it.

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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