Kelley L. Carter blazes a trail in Black journalism

fter stints at the Detroit Free Press, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Ebony and BuzzFeed, Kelley L. Carter’s latest career move to all-sports, all-the-time ESPN may have been puzzling for those watching her career. The Southfield native has made tremendous strides in her 18-year career covering entertainment, interviewing countless celebrities; one of her more recent sit-downs was with Prince at his Paisley Park estate, making her one of the last journalists to speak to him before he passed in April.

But to Carter, everything she’s done throughout her career has led her to the position of senior entertainment writer for ESPN’s new digital magazine, The Undefeated. Carter chatted with BLAC about her new role and ESPN’s upcoming documentary, O.J. Simpson: Made in America.

What kind of content can people expect from The Undefeated?

It really deals with the intersection of race, culture and sports. I am an entertainment reporter, so I’m always in and out of meetings lately, telling people that that’s not changing just because I work for ESPN. I’m still an entertainment journalist. In some cases, my stories will have a connection with sports, and other cases it won’t have anything to do with sports. It’ll truly just be about culture and maybe culture that Black people create-or how culture affects the way that Black people live. I’ve always loved to identify stories that I don’t think most journalists are telling.

(The Undefeated) is kind of a mix of ’90s Vibe magazine meets Slam magazine meets Vanity Fair meets The New Yorker. The site isn’t just for a Black audience; it’s for an audience that’s interested in culture that’s defining how we live our everyday lives. You don’t have to be Black to consume a story on Kobe Bryant or LeBron James or Michael Jordan. But you do have to be someone who subscribes to those people being leaders on defining modern popular culture.


How has your background as an entertainment journalist helped you at ESPN?

Everything that I’ve done over the course of my career-and I’ve been at it for 18 years professionally-has led me to this position. I started out at the Detroit Free Press and I was covering music and hip-hop. That was when Detroit established itself as a hip-hop scene, with the rise of Eminem and D12 and Obie Trice and Trick-Trick. I left Detroit to go work for the Chicago Tribune where I started learning about how to cover Hollywood, and then I moved out to L.A. to work for USA Today to cover red carpets and Hollywood on a bigger level. I’ve worked a couple other places since then, and now here I am at a job where I really get to combine all the things that I do well in one place with a company that supports the work that is most important to me. That’s really special.

ESPN has an upcoming docu-series O.J. Simpson: Made in America. What can we expect?

I personally think this is the most important documentary ever produced on race, class and gender. It’s something that’s going to get people talking. It’s going to reignite the conversations that need to be reignited. It’s also going to challenge the way that all of us see the world. I think every American, especially those who were around when this trial was happening, should consume it. It’s that important. It’s certainly going to inspire really, really dope kitchen-table conversations. The documentary will be presented through ABC and ESPN through the course of five days.

What’s next for you and your future?

I think the thing about being at a place like ESPN is that you have so many different tracks you can follow. The one thing about The Undefeated is that we’re fully integrated into the ESPN family, which means we can do television and radio and podcasts. As I continue to dabble in television, it’s something that I’m interested in doing more on behalf of The Undefeated, so I hope that there’s an interesting segue to kind of dip my toe in the water and see what else we can do around the ESPN family while we’re pushing out The Undefeated.

‪Get in the Game

Check out Kelley Carter’s content for ESPN at, and catch O.J. Simpson: Made in America premiering June 11 on ABC and ESPN.

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