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Why The Media Is No Longer Trusted!

Jason Barrett



As a kid, I used to read the New York Daily News, and New York Post. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about my local sports teams from the media members who covered them, and I trusted the information they provided. When a columnist wrote an opinion piece it was clear that it was subjective, and I was able to form my own thoughts based on what I had read.

When I turned on the television, sports anchors like Warner Wolf, Len Berman, Scott Clark, Russ Salzberg, and Sal Marciano, made local sports fun, and informational. Although they each had their own style, and preferences, they relied on the facts to help tell each night’s stories.

Granted, back then things were a lot simpler. There was no internet, social media, a flood of sports radio stations, and the world wasn’t as cynical, and reactionary as it’s become today. We relied on the newspaper, watched the nightly sportscasts, and we trusted the people who reported the news to us.

Maybe I was naive, and things were worse than I knew, but in the 1980’s the broadcasters, and reporters that I supported, didn’t make themselves the story. Instead that honor was reserved for the individuals involved in the games. The focus was placed on what transpired between the lines, rather than what occurred outside of them. Sure there were players who weren’t warm and fuzzy, but the relationship between the media and athletes was cordial. More importantly, the public’s trust in the media was higher.

The inspiration I drew from those sportscasters, and writers, along with the local personalities I listened to on WFAN, led me to pursue a career in broadcasting in 1996. I loved sports, and the passion people felt for them, and the thought of telling a story, and talking about it with an audience, seemed like the greatest job on the planet.

Who wouldn’t want to attend sporting events, form relationships with athletes, coaches, and executives, and report the information back to listeners? I looked forward to attending games, talking to people, and sharing what I learned. I never considered twisting the words of the people I covered, or letting my personal feelings get in the way of the truth. I considered it a responsibility to be factual, and I didn’t feel it was right to manufacture drama.

During my early years, I saw the media change right before my very eyes. I stood at a locker next to Bobby Bonilla when he was with the New York Mets, and famously told a reporter “make your move”. I watched Bill Parcells berate broadcasters who tried to lecture him how he should’ve coached against the Seahawks when he was running the New York Jets. I even witnessed Michael Strahan lose his cool when media members attempted to bait him into saying things to create bigger headlines for upcoming rivalry games.

As these moments unfolded, I sat there wondering why these media members sought to provoke and create additional issues. It wasn’t their job to draw Bonilla, Parcells or Strahan into a fight. They were supposed to be there to ask questions, and report the facts.

The great Walter Kronkite once said “our job is only to hold up the mirror – to tell and show the public what has happened”. But as I discovered, sometimes the truth just isn’t sexy enough.

Without drama, what will the front page of next day’s newspaper say? Will people want to watch a sportscast without some form of controversy? Are people going to call a sports radio station if something doesn’t stir their emotions?

This is the formula that helped make ‘First Take’ successful. It’s why the public gets overloaded with Barry Bonds, Brett Favre, Tim Tebow, and Johnny Manziel stories. We bitch and complain about negativity and controversy, yet stop to watch the car crash. It’s why we flocked to a Mike Tyson fight, but failed to give our full respect to Evander Holyfield who kept doing things the right, and honest way.

While those days in the 90’s were certainly different than what I had experienced in the 80’s, I can’t help but feel like many parts of the media business today are even worse. That’s not to suggest that errors and agendas didn’t occur in the past, but today’s influx of media outlets and the audience’s quest to control situations have led to many more mistakes, irresponsible reports, and agendas aimed to satisfy personal beliefs.

To gain access in the past, you had to work for an established media company, and possess the qualifications necessary to be placed in an important setting. Now press passes are given out like candy on halloween to children. Everyone fancies themselves as a talk show host, and due to the advancement of technology, they are. The launch of a podcast, YouTube page, or website makes you a part of the media machine.

Some of these things are excellent. I love that interest in broadcasting and writing has grown. Audiences deserve to have content options. But somewhere along the line, we became more enamored with being first than being right. Generating web traffic, and social media response, now matters more than presenting stories fairly. Relationships with athletes, coaches, and team executives are quickly fractured because there are media members who won’t hesitate to embarrass someone if it helps them gain favor with their bosses. For each person who treats someone fairly, there are others who don’t. As a result, trust is difficult to gain.

Because agendas have gotten in the way of the information, it’s led athletes to break news on their own social media platforms, websites, or places such as “The Player’s Tribune“. This allows the athlete to tell their side of the story in a safer environment, and while that may annoy various members of the media, it’s partly our own fault.

Last week I read a piece on “The Undefeated” titled “36 Hours in Beast Mode“. Lonnae O’Neal was the reporter. She spent time in Oakland, with Marshawn Lynch and members of his inner circle. Lynch, who’s notorious for saying very little, wasn’t eager to be cooperative because he’d been burned by the media before. If he couldn’t trust O’Neal to present his story fairly, and honestly, why speak at all?

Lynch’s cousin, Quarterback Josh Johnson told O’Neal, “The problem with the media is that you’ve got someone telling your story who doesn’t know you, or where you’re from, or what you’ve been through. On top of that, the story is already written. They just want a couple of quotes to confirm what they want to put out there. It’s a created perception. And the media doesn’t have to live with that perception, we have to live with that perception. It affects our family and friends, the community, and our ability to make money going forward. You flew in here to exploit this story, and now you’re going to go back, where editors can twist our words and faces, and turn them into something unrecognizable. And he’s (Marshawn) not having it”.

As I read those quotes, I couldn’t help but find myself agreeing with him. The reason so much mistrust is in place is because few care about the individual they’re reporting on, only the information they can provide. If a quote can be squeezed out of Lynch to say something negative about Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll, the Seahawks, or Roger Goodell, it’s media gold.

That’s exactly what Al Jazeera and Shaun King of the New York Daily News did to assassinate the character of Peyton Manning. Was the future Hall of Fame Quarterback completely innocent of what he was accused of? Who knows. But why was the story coming up in the first place? It was more than twenty years old.

Secondly, why wasn’t Manning’s side of the story told? Where was the research into the backgrounds of the individuals claiming he had done something wrong? It wasn’t hard to uncover. BSN Media discovered it.

When someone is successful in sports, and relatively clean throughout the majority of their career, many media people are cynical. They’ve been burned before by famous athletes, so they see it as a personal challenge to dig up dirt to knock an individual down. The second they have one small ounce of information, they present it irresponsibly, and with malice and bias.

When these stories come out, public opinion usually sways in favor of the report. That’s terrifying, because it goes against what our society tells us – that we’re innocent until proven guilty. Those words were true when I was growing up, but now people find themselves guilty until proven innocent.

It’s even worse for a professional athlete. If they get accused of something, and don’t sue, the speculation increases immediately. I can recall being in St. Louis when the Mitchell Report came out, and media outlets rushed to judgment on Albert Pujols. Customers at his restaurant were harassed, and the good name he had built as a solid member of the community was stained immediately.

What did Pujols gain when it was discovered that his name wasn’t on the report? An apology? Nope. His big win was banning one local television station from attending his news conference. Doesn’t exactly seem like a fair trade does it?

How about the Duke lacrosse case. Remember that? If you don’t, watch the “30 For 30” on it on ESPN. It’s brilliant.

The public formed quick opinions on the case due to the way the story was presented by the media. The families involved endured public humiliation, and emotional pain, Duke’s head coach was fired, and the three accused men had their reputations permanently damaged.

We later learned that no evidence existed to find any of the men guilty, and a corrupt district attorney seeking re-election, money, and fame, attempted to use the case as a springboard for his professional career. Had numerous members of the media stuck to reporting the facts rather than attempting to be the judge, jury, and executioner, they wouldn’t have been left to eat a healthy heaping of crow.

I’m trying to come to grips with why members of our industry adopt this practice. Why is it that the information is not enough, and we feel a responsibility to tamper with evidence? What happened to allowing the public to form an opinion based on what we know? Are we so thin-skinned that we can’t stomach the thought that the public won’t agree with our point of view?

Here’s another example. The Washington Post conducted a poll to find out how offended Native Americans were by the Washington Redskins team name. In the poll, nine out of ten said they weren’t bothered. The results were similar to a previous study done in 2004.

Why was this a story in the first place? Were Native Americans beating down the doors of the press demanding justice? The team name had been acceptable for the past eighty years, so what changed that made it a larger mainstream issue?

The answer – the media and government. It didn’t matter that the franchise had built its entire image, history, and business around the name for eight decades, or that the majority of Native Americans weren’t offended. Media people and politicians took exception, so they decided to try and flex their muscles and influence the result, rather than report the facts.

Except, it never was their fight in the first place. It wasn’t their job to tell Native Americans how to think or feel or Dan Snyder how to run his business. Other NFL teams, television announcers, analysts, and reporters even started referring to the Redskins as “Washington” on team schedules, and national broadcasts. Did the viewing public request that? Did the team apply for a name change? The answer is no.

We don’t have to agree with it, and we can express our views that we believe things should be done differently, but we don’t make the rules, set the laws, and decide how others consuming our work should feel. It’s our job to present the information, offer both sides, explain where we stand, and let the public figure out how they feel about the issue.

Just last week, the New York Times did a hit piece on Donald Trump because they don’t think he should be our next President. They crafted a story and used quotes from a woman he previously dated (Rowanne Brewer Lane) to present an image of Trump behaving poorly towards women.

Except, Rowanne Brewer Lane quickly took to the television airwaves of MSNBC, and Fox News, and proceeded to destroy the Times for attempting a smear campaign. She mentioned how well Trump had treated her, and how the Times took her words and edited and twisted them to present the narrative that they wanted.

If a Times columnist writes an opinion piece taking Trump to task, that’s acceptable. A columnist is paid to present their opinions. They are essentially the written version of a talk show host. The reader consumes the material that they present, knowing that it’s one person’s point of view. But when news stories are reported, the public expects them to be factual, not altered to support the newspaper editor’s personal preference.

One week prior, a former Facebook employee pointed out how the social media company uses editorial judgment to decide what news you receive in your trending topics. While that may not seem like a huge deal, when the majority of the information provided represents only one side of a story to billions of people, that’s not presenting an even playing field.

If Mark Zuckerberg and his company choose to vote, and live their lives under democratic guidelines, that’s ok. They have that right as Americans. But to attempt to influence thought, belief, and opinion of the public by showcasing only one side of the news, rather than allow them to form their own judgments after seeing both, is wrong.

To Zuckerberg’s credit, he responded quickly, and met with conservatives, and acknowledged that Facebook has to do better. This isn’t about politics, and whether or not republicans or democrats are better, it’s about being fair, balanced, factual, and letting the public decide for themselves.

Media outlets operate like they’re in the middle of a war zone, and social media platforms have become the new battleground. The minute something happens, people rush to Facebook, and Twitter to express their views. What’s frightening is to see how many individuals, and companies overreact due to negative feedback.

Not every situation is defensible. I recognize that there are times where you have to cut bait or punish someone for poor judgment. However, not every situation warrants that. It takes courage to stand by someone during difficult times. But, if you believe they’ve done nothing wrong, be prepared to have their back, even when others might not.

The general public, and professional athletes, coaches, and executives, have become less trusting of the media because of agenda driven reporting. When information is withheld, words are twisted, and judgments are rushed, it’s hard to put faith in reporters.

That’s not what our business is supposed to be about. When you cover a team, athlete, executive, or event, the story can be told by keeping your eyes and ears open, and gathering facts. Your job is to share what you’ve uncovered, and let the audience decide what to think about it.

It may not always be fancy, or create an avalanche of social media activity, but you can’t put a price on sleeping with a clear conscience. Some would rather take a shortcut and advance their career at the expense of those they cover. I believe you can enjoy the same success by earning their trust and respect. In doing so, you may even improve the image and reputation of an industry that few have confidence in.

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Barrett Blogs

ESPN Has Made It Clear, Radio Is Not a Priority

“What’s unfolding now at the worldwide leader is disheartening because it could have been avoided.”

Jason Barrett




This is not a column I wanted to write. For years, I’ve expressed how much better the industry is when ESPN Radio is healthy. I’ve maintained friendships at the network, the company has supported our BSM Summit, and I reflect fondly on the few years I spent working there earlier in my career. It was a special place to work and I learned a lot about becoming a pro in Bristol.

But this ESPN Radio is not the one that I and many others were fortunate to be a part of under Bruce Gilbert. It is not the one that Traug Keller, Scott Masteller, and other radio-first believers oversaw. This current version lacks radio instincts, focus, passion, and care. That may be an opinion that folks in Bristol, New York, and Los Angeles offices don’t want to hear but the decisions made in recent years make it difficult to see it any other way.

ESPN Radio used to obsess over serving the sports fan, its radio affiliates, and network advertising partners. But serving the company’s television and digital interests is what matters most now. Relationships with radio operators have changed, interest in operating local markets has decreased, and though I’m sure some will defend the network’s interest in satisfying advertising partners, it’s hard to do that a day after the entire national audio sales team was gutted. Thankfully Good Karma Brands is passionate about the audio business and helping their sales efforts. If they weren’t involved, who would be leading the charge in Bristol?

I didn’t start this week planning to drop a truth bomb but as I sat here on Tuesday and fielded text after text and call after call, I couldn’t help but be disappointed and upset. This network has been a staple of the industry for over thirty years. Yet in less than ten it feels they’re closer to turning off the lights than celebrating success. That should not happen when you have the partnerships, history, and talent that ESPN has.

What saddens me is that it didn’t have to reach this point. ESPN Radio had chances to sell in the past to outside parties. They declined. Folks inside of Disney felt the network was worth more. Well, how’s that looking now? If the company wasn’t going to commit to doing it the right way, and was just going to cut its way to the bottom, why stand in the way of others who’d pay to save it? It’s eerily similar to what just happened with Buzzfeed News. The company thought it was better than it was, and within a few years, the whole thing crumbled.

If this were the first time the network looked bad, I’d go easier on them. I understand the business, and sometimes brands or companies make mistakes or have to make difficult choices. It’s why I didn’t bury the network when Mike and Mike ended. Though I knew replacing their stability in mornings would be tough, I felt the network had earned enough clout over the prior years to be given the benefit of the doubt with a new show/lineup. I also applauded the company for replacing Zubin with Max, defended paying Stephen A. Smith top dollar, and supported GetUp! when it was popular to predict the show’s funeral.

But how can leadership in Bristol expect radio operators to trust their decision making at this point? I’ve talked to network executives privately and publicly about these issues for years, and have been told repeatedly that the radio business matters to them and becoming more consistent was a priority. At some point though the actions need to match the words. Unfortunately the only consistency taking place is change, and it often isn’t for the better.

I’ve lost count of the phone calls, texts, emails and direct messages I’ve fielded from PDs, executives, market managers, and ad agency professionals who’ve asked ‘should I be doing business with this network? Can you help me rebrand and redesign my radio station without ESPN Radio?‘ Yesterday alone I took five calls including from two who have expiring deals coming up. Think they’re in a rush to extend a partnership given what’s going on?

If you turn back the clock, some will say that things began to go in the wrong direction when Bruce Gilbert and Dan Patrick left. Though those were big losses, there was still a lot of confidence across the industry in ESPN Radio after they left. The early signs of issues at the network really started in 2014. That’s when Scott Masteller and Scott Shapiro departed. Masteller went on to program WBAL in Baltimore, and Shapiro teamed up with Don Martin to strengthen FOX Sports Radio.

Fast forward to 2020, and the heart and soul of the network, Traug Keller retired. Traug had more in the tank when he signed off, and when I talked to him prior to his exit, he denied being forced out or having concerns about the future direction of the network. Those who know Traug, know that’s he’s a class act and not one to air dirty laundry. But I also know he’s smart. As I look back now, I can’t help but wonder if he knew the ship was headed for an iceberg. I have no doubt that the network would be in better shape today if he were still there.

After Traug’s exit, a year later, Tim McCarthy was let go in New York. The network even cut ties with longtime voice talents Jim and Dawn Cutler, though they stayed on the company’s top stations in NY and LA.

Though I hated to see all of them go because they were good at their jobs and valuable to the network, the one that made a little more sense was Tim’s exit because that had more to do with Good Karma taking over in New York. Tim has since landed with the Broadcasters Foundation of America, and Vinny DiMarco is now leading 98.7 ESPN NY, and I’m a fan of both men.

But now here we are in 2023, and once again, the folks being shown the door are the people who dedicated their lives to radio. Among the casualties, Scott McCarthy, the network’s SVP of Audio, Pete Gianesini, Senior Director of Digital Audio, Louise Cornetta, Digital Audio Program Director, and two good local sports radio programmers, Ryan Hurley at 98.7 ESPN NY, and Amanda Brown at ESPN LA 710. All of them good, talented people with track records of success in the format. I struggle to explain how ESPN Radio is better today without them.

By the way, I haven’t even touched the talent department yet. But let’s go there next.

In less than eight years, ESPN Radio’s morning show has featured Mike & Mike, Golic & Wingo (Mike Golic Jr. and Jason Fitz were added as contributing voices), Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin, and Keyshawn, JWill and Max. Middays have included Colin Cowherd, Dan Le Batard and Stugotz, Scott Van Pelt, Ryen Russillo, Danny Kanell, Will Cain, Mike Greenberg, Jason Fitz, Stephen A. Smith, Bart & Hahn, and Fitz and Harry Douglas. Afternoons have been a combination of Le Batard and Stugotz, Bomani Jones, Jalen & Jacoby, Golic Jr. & Chiney, Canty & Golic Jr. & Canty and Carlin. I could run down the changes at night too, but you get the picture.

As a former programmer and current consultant, I know that radio is a relationship listen and investment. You can’t build an audience and attract sponsor support for talent and shows if the product constantly changes. Most PDs or executives who make this many changes during a short period of time, usually aren’t around very long. Yet ESPN has allowed this to continue, which leaves me to question how much they value their radio network.

Look, I’m sure this is a tough week for those in management at ESPN. Having to tell folks they’re not being retained and watch friends say goodbye is a crummy part of the job. I’m sure some have even fought to try and avoid this bloodbath. But when the news comes down from up above that 7,000 jobs are being eliminated, it’s not a question of whether or not people are talented and valuable, it’s simply about the bottom line. I feel for the folks at ESPN who have to deliver the bad news this week but also for those who are staying and now have limited support around them to make a difference.

By decimating the radio department there are now bigger questions to be answered by Jimmy, Burke, Dave, Norby and the rest of the management team. How much does ESPN value the radio business and the stations they’re in business with? If most of the people who’ve built relationships with local stations are gone, talented programmers are being ousted, talent changes happen far too frequently, and the company becomes less involved in local markets, why is anyone to believe this space matters to ESPN? What exactly are stations gaining from partnerships besides the use of four letters and the opportunity to air play by play events?

The network expects these stations to provide them with inventory, rights fees, branding, promotion, and clearance of certain programs so isn’t it fair of stations to have expectations of the network too? Don’t radio network partners deserve consistent quality programming, relationships with managers who prioritize audio, and less negative PR?

Most who I talk to about this situation believe the network’s glory days are gone. That’s fine. Just because this isn’t the ESPN Radio of 2005 doesn’t mean it can’t be great. The product exists now to primarily serve mid to small market operators who can’t afford local content, major market stations who don’t want to spend on evening and overnight shows, and company owned stations that can be utilized to promote the company’s digital and television content. ESPN does gain value for their radio shows on TV and podcast platforms, but those benefit the company much more than their radio partners.

The general feeling in industry circles is that FOX Sports Radio now delivers the best national radio product, CBS Sports Radio has better consistency but similar east coast content issues, and others don’t have strong enough brand recognition or content to justify a change. If sports betting continues to gain mainstream acceptance and bring cash into the marketplace, that could help outlets like VSiN, BetQL, and SportsGrid gain greater traction. If Outkick gets more aggressive with offering content to local markets, especially in the south and Midwest, that could be another interesting option.

The bigger question is whether there’s enough audience, revenue, and excitement for national content in today’s sports radio space. If most major markets are focused on local, is there enough out there in rural America to keep networks excited?

I do know that just ten years ago CBS Radio entered the space because they saw value in it. NBC Sports Radio leaped in too. FOX Sports Radio went all-in for Colin Cowherd, and ESPN Radio was healthy. Even SiriusXM continues to expand its national offerings, and three sports betting networks saw value in pursuing national distribution. It’s hard to convince me that there isn’t financial upside for national sports radio brands in today’s media environment. It may not be a big ratings play but from a business standpoint there is value.

What’s unfolding now at the worldwide leader is disheartening because it could have been avoided. Instead, brands have been damaged, relationships changed, jobs lost, and questions raised about future viability.

If the world’s leading sports operator values radio, they’ll prioritize restoring confidence across the industry. A good start would be putting people in place who champion radio’s future, and make decisions that best serve the radio brands carrying their product. If they can’t do that, then maybe it’s time to step aside, and let someone else try. I know a few groups who’d be happy to take a shot at restoring the network’s pride.

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Barrett Blogs

Radio Must Bring Back The Fun

“The promotions you’re creating are not producing massive recall across the format, national media attention or revenues that change the fate of your next quarter.”

Jason Barrett




Five and a half days in Las Vegas can feel like an eternity. Especially when you’re in town for business not pleasure. But though I’d rather sleep in my own bed, eat at home, and avoid walking from convention hall to convention hall, I’m glad I made the trip because the NAB Show delivered. 

Many media members have attended this event over the years, and it’s easy to come up with reasons not to attend. Budgets are tight, you can’t afford to be out of the office, or you think it isn’t beneficial. That’s where I’ll take exception. If you can’t find something of value at a five-day event that exists to serve broadcasters and brands, that’s on you, not the conference.  

Over the past few days, I did what many do and took necessary business meetings at Encore, but I also listened to speakers offer valuable insights on artificial intelligence, marketing, programming, technology, dashboard connectivity, the future of AM radio, and more. All of these are subjects that should matter to media professionals. Having Brett Goldstein (Ted Lasso star Roy Kent) on hand to talk about content creation was an added bonus. 

As I spent my final hour inside the North Hall on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think about how large this event is, what goes into creating it, and how many different industries and brands are represented at it. What the NAB does to make this event possible for sixty-five thousand plus is amazing, and I commend all involved because it truly is informative, and it helps bring together business leaders and brands to help move our industry forward. 

There were many takeaways from the conference sessions, but one in particular stood out. I thought Mike McVay’s session with J.D. Crowley and Paul Suchman of Audacy was excellent. Crowley’s insights on listener choice, distribution, and personalization were spot on, and I was very impressed with Suchman’s feedback on some of the behavior testing Audacy has done to learn how consumers respond to different types of content and messaging.

Crowley’s final message about people in the audio industry needing to be proud of the business they’re in was easy for me to relate to because I feel similarly. This is a great business to be in. I get tired of hearing folks in and out of the industry tear it down. So much attention gets placed on who exceeded revenue goals, what a brand’s ratings were, and what a company’s stock price is, losing sight of the more important part, our brands, personalities, and content, and the way they’re received by those who consume it.

Additionally, I was honored to speak about the growth of BSM and BNM. Joe D’Angelo of Xperi and Pierre Bouvard of Cumulus Media treated folks to information on advertising and in-car data, and Erica Farber, Tim Bronsil, and Mary DelGrande did a nice job guiding multiple business conversations. I also enjoyed stopping by the Veritone booth and learning about their products and staff. My only regret, I missed Buzz Knight’s session with Nielsen’s new audio team due to a business meeting running long. Thankfully Inside Radio put together a detailed recap of what was discussed. 

But what I want to draw attention to most is something Dan Mason said on stage during his acceptance speech when receiving the Lowry Mays Award at the Broadcasters Foundation of America breakfast. It’s something I raised at last month’s BSM Summit. 

After sharing how local is a key differentiator in helping radio stand apart from other forms of media, and reminding everyone about the importance of longevity, Mason said that radio has to get back to having fun. He shared a story of a promotion he was part of in the 1970’s that wouldn’t fly today. It was a short people’s convention that included six-ounce drinks, pigs in a blanket, and strawberry shortcake. The event put his radio station on NBC Nightly News, and created a ton of buzz.  

Just because that type of event wouldn’t work in 2023, doesn’t mean others can’t. We have got to create special events that produce national attention, local market interest, and fear of missing out spending. This is what radio is supposed to be exceptional at yet it doesn’t happen enough.  

At our Summit in LA, I asked three PD’s to share with me the one promotion in sports radio today that they viewed as a killer event. It wasn’t an easy one to answer. In fact, two referenced WIP’s Wing Bowl, which ended in 2018. Had I asked five or six other PD’s, they’d have likely been in the same boat, struggling to name three or four killer events. 

I mentioned how the Mandy Awards at 710 ESPN in Los Angeles stood out, but this format should be able to deliver more than one standout promotion. I realize there are stations doing promotional events, and if they’re helping you produce revenue, great. I’m not telling you to abandon that strategy. But I will challenge you if you try to tell me sports radio’s report card on promotions in 2023 is superb. It is not.

One gentleman I listened to during the week who was attending a session shared one reason why this is the case. He was asked about creating ideas and said ‘we use a committee to brainstorm and find that sometimes the best ideas come from different departments, in fact, our last successful event was the idea of our engineer.’ 

I’m all for collaboration, and if you’re creating events that satisfy your goals, continue doing it. I’m not here to rain on your parade. But let me share an opinion some may view as unpopular. If the best ideas in your organization are coming from departments other than programming, you have a problem.

The program director and talent are supposed to be the people you turn to for leadership, ideas, passion, creativity, and execution. They’re supposed to be able to think of things that others can’t. Do you think Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino would turn over the direction of their next film to others inside their companies? Imagine the focus of Ted Lasso’s next episode being decided by someone other than Jason Sudeikis, Brett Goldstein, and the rest of their writing team. You’d be wasting the talent of your best storytellers.

Radio companies pay premium dollars for elite programmers and hosts because they’re supposed to be able to bring things to life that only exists inside their brains. If your HR or engineering department are creating the station’s best promotions, you don’t have enough creativity coming from your programming team. That could be due to having a PD who lacks ideas and vision or it could be the result of the way your creative process is structured.

One of the things I enjoyed most as a PD was coming up with ideas that created buzz, ratings, and revenue. My job was to think and execute BIG, and whether it was Lucky Break in San Francisco, Stand For Stan at 101 ESPN in St. Louis, the Golden Ticket at 590 The Fan in St. Louis, the 20 in 20 tour or Goodbye Roast at 95.7 The Game or the Gridiron Gala in both cities, we produced buzz, grew ratings, and made money. If we did something and it failed, that was ok. I’d rather swing and miss than be afraid to try. I took that responsibility seriously, and feel that when you’re making calls by committee, you’re not allowing your best people to do what they’re best suited to do. 

Case in point, I attended Boomer & Gio Live in Jersey City, NJ a few weeks ago. It was a fun event with a lot of different things going on. WFAN’s PD Spike Eskin worked the event on stage, and if you recall, the station made national news when Jets GM Joe Douglas said that Aaron Rodgers would end up in New York. There were multiple sales activations included throughout the show, and much of the fun content that took place on stage came from the creators. Because the FAN crew were allowed to do what they do best, the station produced a successful event. Had that been an ‘all departments contribute’ approach, it’d have not been the same show. 

What Dan Mason said in Las Vegas was accurate. Radio has to get back to having fun but it also has to be unafraid to take risks. I fear that we worry so much about the ‘what ifs’ and the potential noise on social media that we’re killing creativity, and the next big idea.

If I asked you to list five GREAT sports radio promotions today, could you? And I’m not talking about golf tournaments, charitable bowling events, host debates or bar remotes. If I ask this same question in five years and we’re in the same spot, that’s going to say a lot about where we are as an industry. We have to excite ourselves, our listeners, and our advertisers because when we showcase our creativity in a way that no other medium can, we make a statement, which results in increased attention, and financial investment.  

Some of that creative spirit is still alive. You see it in Boston with WEEI’s Jimmy Fund Telethon, and if you attended the Michael Kay Show 20-year anniversary special or Barstool’s Upfront, you saw what great planning, and execution looks like. But I also remember The Fanatic’s Celebrity Week, The Millen Man March in Detroit, Ticketfest in Dallas, Wing Bowl in Philadelphia, and 790 The Zone in Atlanta becoming a national sensation by creating multiple home run events.

I don’t believe enough brands today create events that deliver meaningful impact. Yet they’re needed. When done right, brands ascend to a different level. Sports radio has too many sharp, creative minds to not be creating the biggest and most successful promotions in all of media. If you work in programming and your station isn’t producing promotions that generate recall across the format, national media attention or revenues that change the fate of your next quarter, it’s time to step up your game. If you don’t, the interns, street team, and receptionist may soon be deciding the future direction of your brand’s promotional strategy.

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Reflecting on the 2023 BSM Summit

“Barrett Media president Jason Barrett reflects on last week’s BSM Summit in Los Angeles.”

Jason Barrett




One of the best parts about the world of sports is that every season ends with one team being crowned champion. It doesn’t exactly work that way managing a media company, even though we invest the same amount of time leading up to the BSM Summit, our equivalent of the Super Bowl or WrestleMania.

Having had a few days to recover and reflect after last week’s Summit in Los Angeles, I know that what we did last week was special. I’m a perfectionist and have a hard time patting myself on the back because I know there’s plenty we can do better, but last week, we hit a homerun. The venues at USC were perfect, the signage was spectacular, the tech ran well, the speakers were awesome, the crowd was great, and the sponsorship support was outstanding. It’s the first time I’ve walked away from an event and felt we accomplished what we set out to do. If time allows, check out Garrett Searight’s piece on some of the key takeaways from the show.

In 2018, Mitch Rosen invited me to utilize his space at Audacy Chicago to take a shot at trying to execute an event for PDs. Now here we are five years later with a few hundred people joining us from all across the industry. It’s pretty incredible. We’re only successful because a lot of people have come together to make sure we are. Without the speakers, sponsors, and staff around me stepping up to get things done, I’d just be a guy with an idea incapable of executing it.

In the next week or so we’ll be sharing video clips from the show on the BSM social media pages. I’m also planning to make full sessions available via on-demand for free for those who attended the show in California. If you didn’t come to the event and want to watch it online, it will be available for a small fee. Stay tuned for further details.

What matters most to me with the Summit is that folks in the room get something out of it. I thought many of our speakers delivered a ton of value this year, and there were a few WOW moments along the way as well. Colin and Rome were outstanding as expected, and Jay Glazer and Al Michaels’ speeches had everyone hanging on their next words. I thought the Shawn Michaels and Jack Rose led sessions were outside the box and well received, and I was beyond impressed by Joy Taylor, Mina Kimes, and Amanda Brown. We used 14 hours in that room to explore issues dealing with management, research, technology, programming, talent and social media, so it gave everyone a little bit of everything, which was the goal.

We did have a little bit of friction on stage during the Aircheck on Campus session, which wasn’t a bad thing. Personalities and programmers have passionate conversations inside the office every day. Rob, Mark and Scott just happened to have one on stage. All three are smart, talented, and willing to be candid. I thought that was healthy for the room.

I know networking is important at these type of events and there was plenty of opportunity for folks to do that. I look at it like this, if you can get face time with others, meet your heroes or folks you admire and pick up some ideas and insight in the process to elevate your business, that should justify it being worthy of a few days out of the office.

As crazy as it may sound, I step away from each of these events asking my team ‘is that the last one?’ I know I can create and execute a great conference, and I enjoy doing it, but I also don’t want to invest eight months of time building a show that becomes predictable and stale. It’s why I change speakers and topics frequently. This year’s lineup was phenomenal, and I’m so pleased with who we featured on stage and had in the room, but the competitor in me will also look back and say ‘Bill Simmons, Ice Cube and Lincoln Riley Should’ve Been On Stage Too!


If we do host an event in 2024, it will take place in either Boston, Chicago, Dallas or New York. You can cast your vote on

I want to thank everyone who stopped me last week to share how much they enjoy this event. That support means a lot. I think Good Karma Brands broke a record with 20+ employees in attendance, and iHeart was also well represented, which was great to see. I was also excited to have 15-20 college students in the room. The more we can educate the next generation, the better it is for all of us. I also was thrilled to learn a few of our partners and attendees made time to arrange further business conversations. If two groups can help each other, that’s what it’s all about.

But as much as I love my radio brothers and sisters, I’ve noticed more folks showing up the past two years from areas outside of sports radio. That’s both exhilarating and concerning. This year we had folks in the room from WWE, Amazon, The Volume, Omaha Productions, Dirty Mo Media, Barstool Sports, Spotify, Blue Wire, Locked On, BetRivers, Bleav, etc.. I hope that trend continues because sports media is a lot larger of a business than sports radio. As I told the room, we’re not in the radio business, television business, audio or video business, we are in the content business. That covers a lot more ground for brands than focusing on one specific platform.

I’ve been on cloud nine for a few days because overall, this went as well as I could ask for. If there’s one thing I’d like to make better it’s that I hear from a lot of folks throughout the year who say they want to learn, meet new people and give themselves a competitive edge yet when an event exists that can help them do that, they’re not in the room. Some of my radio friends didn’t come because they weren’t asked to speak. Others said they couldn’t make it because their company wouldn’t cover the costs. A few said they thought the Summit was only for programming people not managers or sellers.

First, growing and selling an audience should matter to everyone not just programmers and hosts. GM’s and Sales Managers can gain a lot at this show. So can advertisers and agencies. I’m hoping to change that in the future. Second, I can’t tell you whether or not to prioritize attending but groups outside of radio are passionate about sports audio and video, and they’re finding ways to be in the room. At some point, you have to decide if investing in knowledge, ideas and relationships matters to you and your business. Your employer isn’t going to cover everything you want to do so especially when the economy isn’t strong. Sometimes you have to invest time and resources in yourself.

Many of you reading this website know my track record in the radio industry. I built my career in radio. My passion for the business remains strong. I consult brands all across the country, and root for the industry’s success. It’s why I sink my heart and soul into this event and share all that I do over two days because I want to help people grow their businesses.

But it is strange that over the course of four live events I’ve still not had one current radio CEO sit down for an in-depth sports media business conversation. It’d be one thing if they were pitched and I turned them down but that’s not the case. I’ve had great conversations and support outside of radio from Jimmy Pitaro, Eric Shanks, Erika Ayers, and John Skipper. Jeff Smulyan has been a huge supporter taking part in our awards ceremony, and we’ve had high ranking TV executives in the room watching the show. Maybe things will change in 2024 but whether they do or don’t, I’m going to focus on helping brands and individuals who gain value from this two day event, and continue challenging this industry to think and act differently.


Now that the 2023 BSM Summit is over, my focus shifts to supporting my clients and gearing up for a massive challenge, hosting our first BNM Summit for news media professionals. The conference will take place in Nashville, TV on September 13-14 at Vanderbilt University. I’ll be announcing the first group of speakers in April after the NAB. Tickets will go on sale at that time too.

I know it won’t be easy but I tend to do my best work when I’m out of my comfort zone. This is a space I have passion for and feel I can add something to so there’s only one thing left to do, get to work, and put together the news media equivalent of what we just created for sports media professionals last week in Los Angeles. That may be a tall order but if anyone is ready to meet the challenge head on, yours truly is certainly up to the task.

Thanks again for a spectacular time in Los Angeles. Onward and upward we go!

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