Q&A: Covering the beat with Law alum Lester Munson

Chicago Maroon gets personal with current ESPN writer and former Sports Illustrated writer Lester Munson (JD, U of C Law ’67).

By Audrey Henkels

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Legal analyst, writer, and ESPN producer Lester Munson (J.D. ‘67) has covered such high-profile cases as the investigations of Roger Clemens’s purported steroid use, the Michael Vick dog fighting prosecution, and the O.J. Simpson robbery trial. Munson has a soft spot for the city of Chicago, the midway where he spent hours playing intramural touch football, and the Maroon.

“I worked for the college paper [at Princeton, where he obtained his undergraduate degree], and I’ve been sliding downhill ever since,” Munson said before the interview even began.

When he came to Chicago, he became involved in crime reporting for the Chicago Daily News, an afternoon paper that is since “long gone.”

Munson was on the staff of Sports Illustrated from 1991 to 2007, when he started working for ESPN.

“Now I work on current issues in sports off the field: money, crime, and power,” he continued. “I do all the stories about athletes that are in trouble. I’m now kind of a glorified crime reporter in the world of sports.”

Chicago Maroon: What was your favorite case that you covered?

Lester Munson: The rape prosecution of Mike Tyson the fighter. There were 400 news organizations there at the trial; I was at Sports Illustrated at the time, and we had three people and a photographer. The trial lasted four weeks, and it came out with the correct result. Justice was done, which does not usually happen.

In the beginning, people thought that the woman [who had made rape allegations] was lying to try to get some of his money, his celebrity status. But she was telling the truth, and the prosecutor, Greg Garrison, was brilliant, and he convicted him in a very challenging case where other prosecutors would have walked away.

CM: Can you talk a little bit about your experience here at the Law School?

LM: Well, the most important thing is that I met my wife my first year here.

CM: How did you meet?

LM: A blind date. A classmate from Princeton knew her from working at the [Booth] Graduate School of Business, and set us up. We met at the beginning of the year and got married just before exams.

CM: What else stands out from your time here at U of C?

LM: I did enjoy law school—there were wonderful people in my class. Also, I played lots of intramural basketball and touch football on the Midway with the guys.

CM: Did you always know you wanted to use your law degree in a sports setting?

LM: I went to law school under parental pressure. After graduation, I worked briefly at a law firm and in other few law-related jobs, finally left in 1989 to go into journalism, and have been in that field ever since.

CM: What advice would you give to people interested in sports journalism?

LM: People shouldn’t be discouraged; very good things are happening despite what’s happening in print journalism. There are so many more ways people can get involved than when I started the profession: You can work on the web, radio, or television—you don’t have to choose.

It’s so much fun [to work at ESPN]. It’s wonderful for me to be able to do some reporting, put it up on the web, and have people see it and comment within a number of hours. The web has worked out very well for us—we have an enormous following.

CM: Will you go to the World Cup?

LM: The only way I would go is if someone [an athlete] gets murdered.

CM: I have to ask—I’m from Cooperstown—have you ever visited and been to the Baseball Hall of Fame?

LM: I have! I can’t wait to bring my [four] grandchildren.

CM: Any advice for students interested in law school?

LM: There are a lot of lawyers in sports journalism, and I’ll expect we’ll see more in the upcoming years. [Working in this field] is a lot more fun than going to court every day; it’s a wonderful way to make a living.