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An Open Letter To The Class of 2016 (And Beyond)

Jason Barrett

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When you’re in a management role, you receive inquiries for employment on a daily basis. Heck, sometimes it’s on an hourly basis. Job seekers have many different approaches and strategies for getting the attention of a hiring manager, and depending on the style of the individual who’s making the decision, it may or may not work.

I’ve often been asked for feedback on what to submit on a demo, how to craft an email, and who to reach out to when chasing opportunities and I usually tell each person that there’s no particular formula and the results will vary. Some programmers prefer longer demos that are unedited. Others like shorter “best of” clips that get right to the point. One executive wants a quick one paragraph introduction, and the other prefers a cover letter, resume, references and extensive details about your background.

oneThese are important factors to remember when you’re pursuing an opportunity. All that matters is finding that one person and company who’s willing to give you a shot. Don’t take the rejections personally. Sometimes openings don’t exist, the fit isn’t there, or a manager doesn’t like you or believe in you. You can waste a lot of energy wondering why you’re not getting the nod, but that’s valuable time you could be spending on chasing the next situation.

It’s well documented that Michael Jordan didn’t make his High School basketball team, Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round, and 24 players went ahead of Mike Trout in the 2009 MLB Draft. I think they all turned out alright. If you prefer an industry example, watch this video of Adam Schefter talking about his climb up the ladder. If the top NFL Insider in our industry had to go through tough moments, you likely will too.

There is though one misunderstanding that I do want to address. A number of young people today are of the belief that by going to college and pursuing a broadcasting or journalism degree, it will open up the door for landing an opportunity.

Newsflash – it doesn’t!

graduateYes education is important, and a degree has great value, but if you think you’re going to land a job on the air with an established radio station or produce one of their top shows simply because you went to college, received your degree, worked at the campus radio station, and are smart and love sports, prepare to be disappointed.

What a degree often does is help you get inside the building. But so does going to a broadcasting school, having a relationship in the industry, or knocking on the door and refusing to take no for an answer. It’s what you do once you’re in the building that determines whether or not you stick around and get a bigger break.

One person who has a great read on this subject is Matt Sammon, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Director of Broadcasting and Programming. As you’d expect, working for a sports franchise attracts a lot of interest and Matt deals with it on a regular basis. There are certain things a college student or young person can do to stand out when trying to get their foot in the door and Matt’s taken the time to share his advice on the best ways to do it.

That Degree Alone Won’t Get You a Job in Sports Broadcasting

If you’re one of the handful of people who have followed my blog, you know I’m willing to offer advice to aspiring young broadcasters any day. You also know I’ve been very vocal in the past with some less than prepared intern candidates not once, but twice. Well I’m glad to say after a recent intern fair at Amalie Arena, the intern candidates were well-dressed and I even got a few samples of the lost art of a cover letter.

But with some candidates, I saw an issue I’ve seen not just in recent years, but one that has been around for as long as I can remember. A candidate is months away from graduating, and is solely counting on his or her degree to land a job. It doesn’t work that way, but I’m happy to provide some direction for you.

That Degree Is Valuable

degreeDon’t get me wrong, there is a value to having a college degree or even a broadcasting school certification. That piece of paper shows you were instructed on the basics, and I can tell you some things I picked up in college 20 years ago are still utilized today. Having a degree or certification from a reputable school can help you get a foot in the door, but make sure you have a major that puts you right in front of that door, and a minor that you can either “fall back” on or supplement that major degree.

I majored in broadcast communications, and minored in management, and thankfully that education paid off to where I’m in both fields. But if I ever needed to do something other than manage in broadcasting, or if I ever needed to do some management outside of broadcasting, I have the documentation that says I can do that. But more importantly, I have experience, and THAT is the key to accelerating your career.

ANY Experience Helps

experienceI know what you’re saying college students, “I don’t have 20 years of experience!” Guess what, when I was starting out, neither did I! But believe it or not, I didn’t just stay out late and sleep in late while I was in college (please believe it). I worked, and even though the broadcasting business has changed since I went to college, there are still opportunities out there. It’s hard to balance a school schedule and a work schedule, especially when a lot of that work falls in to the “volunteer” category, but nothing brings me down more than a college senior with absolutely no experience looking for that internship in the final semester. And I can tell you, I’m not the only person in this position who feels the same. Yes, the internship is the big link between college and the real world, but you can’t come in totally cold.

We All Are Fans of Sports, But You Need More Than That

knowSome of us are fans of the team we’re working for. But simply knowing a lot about our favorite team or favorite sport didn’t clinch the job. Knowledge of a particular sport or team you want to work for is helpful, but experience in any form of journalism or broadcasting trumps that. The encyclopedia-like memory, or collection of team memorabilia, is the icing on the cake if you can convince us you can carry out the simple tasks the job demands.

Utilize Your School’s Resources

resourcesYou (or your parents) are paying a ton of money for you to attend that reputable school. You (and not likely your parents) will be paying off student loans out the wazoo for the next 20 years of your life. While you’re in school, use those facilities you’re paying for and will continue to pay for. If you want to get into broadcasting, sign up to work at the student radio station or TV station. If you’re into print journalism, sign up to work at the student newspaper or yearbook. Yes, these are “old school” mediums in a digital age, but a lot of schools have made the shift to digital while continuing to teach the journalism basics that are sorely lacking from a lot of what’s out there on the digital playground.

The shift at the radio station will suck (my first shift was Sunday mornings from 1-6 a.m.). You’re going to be pulling cable at the TV station, and you’re going to get the less-than-desirable assignment for the newspaper. Take it. Take it and ask for more. This is where you’re going to learn, where you’ll make mistakes, where you’ll find your style and personality. Don’t turn down any opportunity, even if it’s unpaid or “just” for credit.

The Earlier You Start, The Better

earlyWhile this was titled for the class of 2016, it’s better suited for 2017 and beyond. One reason why I chose the University of Alabama for my college experience, was that I could work at the student radio station as soon as I got there (and as long as I maintained a good GPA which wasn’t an issue). You will learn a lot working for the school, but nothing replaces that real-world experience of an internship, which most are done for college credit. As soon as you make that fateful decision to go in to broadcasting (God bless you), check with your adviser on how the school does internships and how soon you can get one.

I was fortunate to work an internship the summer after my freshman year, and again the summer after my sophomore year. The second internship lasted 2 weeks before the station decided to hire me part-time. Those two summers prepared me to do some of my finest work at the school in my junior and senior years, preparing me to enter that real-world job search during my senior year. The time for an internship is not when you have 6 months left in your education, although all is not lost if that is the case for you. The time is heading in to your junior or senior year if possible, with the experience you have picked up working at a school facility.

Why Wait Until Graduation, When You Can Work Now?

whywaitIf you’re fortunate enough to find paid part-time work in your field while you’re at school, by all means take it. Don’t fret over the format, the network affiliation, the hours or the pay. I worked part-time in a classic rock station, a news/sports talk station, a public radio station, a hot AC station. Very little of my work then was in sports, but I can’t tell you how much that experience in different formats, doing various jobs on and off the air helped me do what I do now.

Now times have changed, and unfortunately a lot of the entry level jobs I had while in college have dried up, especially in large markets. There still are opportunities in fringe markets and smaller markets. And while entry level jobs in traditional broadcast outlets have dried up, there are new outlets with new opportunities including website writing, video production, and podcasting. You want to work with a legitimate company, but don’t get wrapped up in how big the company is or if the job pays you enough. Work is work, experience is experience, and even a part-time wage buys you plenty of ramen noodles (and I’m told, beer).

If You Can’t Land That Official Job, Make Your Own Work

createTechnology is amazing these days– portable, affordable, and for the most part durable. If you can’t get that gig at your college calling basketball games, go find an open area in the seats and record your call in to an mp3 recorder. Ask the local high school if you can cover their football team, or call up the nearest minor league baseball team to see if they have a spot for you in the press box. You’re probably doing this for free, but nine times out of ten these teams will be thrilled someone is showing interest in their product. You’ll get a seat in the press box, and game notes, and support. Suddenly that turns in to interview opportunities with coaches and players, and more importantly you build up contacts and connections who undoubtedly will be helpful down the line.

I will give an intern or a job candidate a second look if they have 6 months of “freelance” work with the Capital City Capitals compared to nothing at all. At the very least you’re showing initiative to make something out of limited opportunities. And the same can be done if you want to host a show– start your own podcast. I don’t care if 4 people listen to it on average… you’re working out the kinks. If you want to do video work, shoot your own stand-ups. Make your own feature stories. Edit your own 30-second highlight videos (note I said 30-second, not 8 minutes and 47 seconds set to your Limp Bizkit megamix). Your iPhone camera work won’t be perfect, but again it’s something to get your feet wet.

NOTHING Is Given

givenI can’t stress this enough. Unless you know someone who knows someone who owes someone a favor, and that is very rare, you’re not just going to suddenly wake up one day and have that dream job. In fact, you won’t just be dropped on to the path of the dream job. You have to work for it, and that includes less than glorious work, little or no pay, and forget about 9-5 hours Monday through Friday. There is sacrifice to get to where you want to go, and it doesn’t happen quickly.

And I’m going to break this to you right now: you’re not good enough to turn down any good opportunities. That also goes for those of you who are a few years removed from college. Just because you’re 28 doesn’t mean you can put your nose in the air because the job isn’t 100% perfect.

You got this far, GO DO some of the things I suggested, and gradually get to where you want to be. Don’t just sit across from me with a resume full of summer wait jobs, telling me how big of a fan you are of the team I work for. I’m not a big fan of your prospects.

Matt Sammon is the Director of Broadcasting/Programming for the Tampa Bay Lightning. You can reach him on Twitter @SammonSez or by email at MattSammonSez@Gmail.com.

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Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett

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We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on BSMSummit.com.

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit BSMSummit.com.

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Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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