‘League of Denial’ authors speak at MU

Steve Fainaru: “Any information that we can provide that helps other people think about the way they do their jobs, that would be great.”

Steve Fainaru and his brother Mark Fainaru-Wada had one goal going into their keynote speech for the Digital Health Storytelling Conference. They wanted to keep the audience in Jesse Hall awake.

“That’s a goal,” Fainaru-Wada said. “It’s not a high bar, but it’s a goal.”

Judging by the applause, the brothers were successful. For an hour and a half on Thursday night, the two ESPN employees spoke and answered questions about their book “League of Denial,” an investigative report on the concussion problem in the National Football League.

Steve Fainaru, the older brother, graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism in 1984 and has won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on mercenaries in Iraq. Mark Fainaru-Wada went to Northwestern University and co-authored the bestselling book “Game of Shadows” about steroid use in baseball.

In their presentation, the brothers detailed the process of investigating the NFL’s cover-up of the relationship between football and brain damage. Their reporting has led to increased awareness of the concussion-related problems that stem from football.

Jon Stemmle, the Digital Health Storytelling Conference co-coordinator, introduced the Fainaru brothers before their speech. The conference was organized to bring together people involved with health care, research and communications. Stemmle felt there were plenty of lessons that the audience could learn from the presentation.

“If there is a big story and you seek it out and you do your reporting accurately, you can make change in policy,” Stemmle said. “You can make change in society. I think they’ve showed that with a lot of their work.”

The brothers spoke for about an hour and then answered questions from an audience comprised of both students and faculty.

Steve Fainaru said he hoped the keynote speech would help aspiring journalists learn how to put together an in-depth project like “League of Denial.”

“Any information that we can provide that helps other people think about the way they do their jobs, that would be great,” he said.

Junior Austin Hough attended the event. He was impressed by the amount of research the brothers put into making the book and felt that they were personable with the crowd.

“I thought it was pretty cool, and I thought they were very genuine,” Hough said. “These guys seemed like they really wanted to make an impact, and I think they have.”

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