Connect with us
Register for the BSM Summit Now

Barrett Blogs

Sports Radio Must Address Its Own Minority Issues

“Radio companies have made it a priority to give women and minorities more opportunities at the Market Manager level, but it doesn’t excuse a lack of progress in programming.”

Published

on

Sports Radio Must Address It's Own Issues

For the past few days, I’ve debated pressing send on this column. It wasn’t because I was uncomfortable addressing a serious issue or concerned that my words could piss off high ranking media executives. I swore to myself 5 years ago that if I became a publisher, influencer, consultant, and strategist that I’d use my voice, speak from the heart, and reject those who sought to use their power to control my opinions.

The reason I struggled publishing this piece is because new information continued to pour in, and the more that I digested, I wondered if the radio industry cared to hear the truth about where it’s missing the mark. When tough conversations start, some corporate folks tend to ignore the message and attack the messenger. The quick reaction is to shield the company from negative attention, and protect the bottom line, because after all that’s what matters most.

Well, if you’ve read this site at all in the past 5 years, I’m confident that we’ve improved your education on the sports radio industry. I love this business, the people involved in it, and I enjoy telling their stories, sharing ideas, and helping brands grow their ratings and revenue. I dedicate myself daily to using my eyes, ears, hands and mouth to observe the sports format, advocate for it’s value, and help those who contribute to its success.

Denver cleans debris from Saturday protest over police brutality ...

But what I can’t stomach is the hypocrisy that I’ve seen take place during the past week of events.

If you turned on your television or radio or used your cell phone to scroll thru your social media timelines during the past few days, you likely were exposed to an avalanche of images, videos and soundbites reflecting reality, pain, frustration, and inequality. Some situations have been organized and peacefully executed, others have showcased the very worst of what America has to offer.

What each of these protests have reminded us of is the imbalance that exists in white and black America. Tensions may have resurfaced recently due to the disgusting actions of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, costing the man his life and creating an uproar across the nation, but this issue has brewed beneath the surface for quite some time. The names and faces may change, but the results don’t. All that awaits is the next victim, legal process, and destruction of another American city.

But as a 46-year old white male, who’s role in the media industry is to help companies, brands, and people make improvements to their business, I’m not going to profess to be an expert on how to improve race relations in the United States. That’s a much bigger job for someone with very different credentials. What I do possess though is the skill and ability to weigh in on an issue which sports radio continues to sweep under the rug, hoping nobody will notice – hiring and promoting minorities.

On Tuesday, I saw sports radio brands across the country use their social media accounts to post statements and share the blackout Tuesday image to show that they were standing up against racism and violence. That same day, Sports Radio 1140 KHTK in Sacramento terminated longtime host Grant Napear, after he answered a question on Twitter from former Kings player DeMarcus Cousins using the words ‘All Lives Matter’, not realizing that the term was hurtful to members of the black community. Each brand may have had the best of intentions, but forgive me if I’m not rushing to pat the industry on the back for claiming to stand for a cause that it’s conveniently turned a blind eye towards.

The cold reality is that sports radio has and continues to fail at giving minorities opportunities to occupy larger roles, especially in programming circles. All you have to do is look across the nation at the nearly eight hundred sports radio stations in existence and count how many on-air hosts are of Hispanic or African American descent. As of last check, it was between 10-14%. The number is higher if you focus solely on Major Markets, but as you add smaller cities to the mix, the percentages decline.

Now, take a peak behind the curtain to see how many Hispanic or African American’s have been given the opportunity and privilege of programming sports radio stations. The results are even more staggering. If you can find more than 5 minorities in programming positions it’d be a shocker. Quite frankly, it’s unacceptable, and each of us who are part of this format should be embarrassed by it.

I realize that some corporate leaders are going to hate this column. The last thing a radio industry executive wants to deal with is a story that draws attention to their lack of attention to a serious matter. But if nobody has the courage to say what needs to be said, then how on earth can we expect any type of progress to be made?

What especially pisses me off is that there isn’t a ton of focus being placed either on grooming future African American sports radio executives. If Dave Roberts is qualified to run the ESPN Radio network, and Terry Foxx was good enough to build 92.9 The Game in Atlanta and 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh into successful brands, shouldn’t that be enough evidence to open some eyes and pave the way for other minority programmers?

Unfortunately the answer is no.

In Terry’s case, his reward for being recognized as one of the Top 20 programmers in the format, developing another minority leader in Sean Thompson, and leading The Game in Atlanta to a 2nd place finish in his final ratings book was a trip to the unemployment office. It used to be that if you delivered results, you were untouchable. Now, it’s about the dollars and cents that you earn each paycheck. Clearly Terry didn’t lose his gig for poor performance.

Hawks, Entercom Extend, Grow Broadcast Partnership With New Multi ...

How is it possible that in 2020, a format as universally loved as sports, doesn’t have more than a handful of African American and Hispanic’s in key programming roles? Are we proud of that performance? If our report card on this issue were a ratings book, the PD and GM would be fired for historically bad results. And before you tell me that females are poorly represented too, I’m well aware. That’s another massive issue that deserves its own column.

What’s even more troubling is that this topic isn’t new. I wrote columns on it in 2015 and 2017, guided numerous conversations with executives and talent at the BSM Summit and other industry events, and I’ve shown data to draw attention to our format’s abysmal track record. This may not be what you want to hear, but it’s what you need to hear because if you think the issue is going to vanish into thin air, you’re making a massive mistake. The noise will only get louder.

So why does it continue to get overlooked? Am I supposed to believe that no minorities have interest in running sports radio stations? The United States is made up of roughly 50% Whites, 25% Hispanics, 14% African Americans, and the remaining numbers are split between Asian Americans and Other. Yet on sports radio stations, 85-90% of the hosting roles belong to White personalities, and in management the percentages are even higher.

That’s just not good enough.

When I’ve asked leaders about this issue, most acknowledge that the sports format’s report card is unsatisfactory. The responses I often hear are along the lines of ‘we do care about this issue, realize we’ve under performed, and need to do better‘, and though I appreciate the honesty, what I’m not seeing or hearing is a plan for fixing the mistake. Words are great, but actions are greater.

FORECAST GALLERY | Radio Ink Forecast Conference

So how do we make sports radio hosting and management jobs more attractive to minorities? Why would a non-white person assume they had a chance to land one of these jobs if they don’t see people from a similar background occupying them? Are we leaving our studios and heading to areas that are largely occupied by minorities to talk about the sports radio industry and why it’d be worth pursuing?

What about creating digital shows to give young minority voices a chance to develop and engage with an audience? Do we have training programs set up to help minority employees grow? And what about the interviewing process for management jobs – are minority candidates receiving a fair shake or are managers just gravitating to those they already know?

It’s disappointing and hypocritical that a business as big as ours, which currently has personalities flooding the airwaves and social media with opinion after opinion over protests, injustice, inequality, and politics, continues to ignore what exists inside of its own closet. Countless hosts are speaking about these issues, expressing their emotions, and challenging others to rise up and seek a new direction yet they fail to acknowledge that the same disparity exists inside their own place of employment.

Case in point, Bonneville is a company that I greatly respect, admire and was proud to be a part of for two years of my career. They employ people who I like, have helped, and want to see do well. On Tuesday, the company cut ties with Grant Napear, a man who was the face of Sacramento sports radio for 26 years, and who spent 32 years calling Sacramento Kings games. His career was ruined by a tweet which many feel was an honest mistake. Even the Sacramento Bee’s Marcos Breton, who wasn’t close with Napear, took issue with the company’s decision.

I have no idea if Grant Napear is or isn’t racist. Chris Russo says he isn’t, Matt Barnes says he is. Only Grant and those close to him know the truth. I certainly won’t shape my opinion on him or anyone else by listening to folks on Twitter who claim to know what someone is or isn’t simply by reading an article or a few tweets. I prefer to talk to people and gather facts before assigning labels.

Kings Q&A: Grant Napear | Sacramento Kings

What bothers me though about incidents like these is that companies won’t hesitate to extinguish an individual’s career in order to save face but many do so while throwing stones from inside of glass houses. Bonneville for example owns sports radio stations in Phoenix, Seattle, Sacramento, and Denver. On those 4 stations, they employ 30 local hosts M-F 6a-12a – 11 in Denver, 9 in Seattle, 7 in Phoenix and now 3 in Sacramento. Guess how many minorities occupy key hosting roles on those stations? Three. Two in Denver, and Doug Christie in Sacramento, Napear’s former partner. The amount of minority producers and program directors employed is also low.

I believe Bonneville tried to do the right thing in this instance. They showed compassion, understanding, and a willingness to make a tough decision to show their support for the black community. It’s hard though to offer praise when the stations under their control aren’t exactly booming with diverse personnel. Similar to sports stations tweeting out the blackout Tuesday image, it’s a well intended gesture, but it means little unless you actually follow thru and make improvements. How the company responds moving forward will tell you if they’re committed to change or just reacting to negative attention.

And don’t think that this issue only applies to Bonneville. Other radio companies have similar challenges. So too do sports digital outlets. Just yesterday, the New York Post published a piece after employees at The Ringer took aim at Bill Simmons for failing to provide a diverse workplace. The comments came after Ryen Russillo praised Simmons on a podcast for hiring a diverse work force.

“Diversity in the newsroom is essential to covering police brutality and systemic racism, including in the worlds of sports and pop culture. The Ringer has a lot of work to do,” said The Ringer Union on Twitter.

Staff writer John Gonzalez added “If you’ve heard someone say The Ringer is a super diverse place, sadly that person does not know what he’s talking about. We have a long way to go, and I hope we get there”.

The Ringer, Bill Simmons podcast, Ryen Russillo racial diversity

If I dug deep into other sports digital brands, I’m sure I’d find similar issues. Jobs shouldn’t be given to people based solely on their skin color but when 90-95% of opportunities are provided to individuals from the same background, it tells you that the system isn’t working.

I believe sports radio could be the biggest format in this business. I say that without a shadow of doubt because I already see what sports does for television, print, podcasting and social media. But in order to grow, this issue has to be addressed up top, and then sent down, received, understood, and embraced inside the market manager’s office. We don’t need hollow speeches and bullshit quotes delivered to industry trade outlets about our concern for the issue, we need to take action and show proof that we’ve made things better.

Making real progress won’t be easy. It’s going to require adjusting our mindset, improving our education, abandoning prior strategy, demanding better execution, holding corporate leaders accountable, and actually hiring people who look, talk, think and live differently. Vince Lombardi once said “Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged on one thing: the result”. Unfortunately for the sports radio business, the result right now is a collective F.

If you’re in a position of power and have been emotionally moved by the events of the past week, you might not be able to improve the relationship between the black community and local police departments. Nor will you be able to control if people choose to loot stores or assault other human beings. But never forget why it is that people are acting out. They’re fed up with being mistreated, overlooked, and ignored.

Column: Don't allow extremists to board up your feelings toward ...

I’d love to tell my minority friends in the industry and anyone who’s non-white and thinking about getting into our business that this situation will get better. I want to believe that the future will be brighter because radio executives will put a greater focus on addressing these issues, but I don’t want to make empty promises. I honestly don’t know if it’ll improve. I’m sorry that opportunities in our format have been scarce. Lord knows we’d all benefit from a more diverse workplace.

All I can add at this point is that if you’re black, Hispanic, Asian or female, don’t stop letting others know of your desire to advance your career. There aren’t a ton of these jobs available, so keep working on your craft, seek input from those you trust and respect, and answer the call as often as possible when you’re asked to perform. As an advocate for this industry and independent resource who works with a number of companies, I’m happy to help any minority who’s interested in growing. All you have to do is reach out by email to schedule a call.

I understand that there will be mixed reactions to this column. I’m OK with that. What I hope we can all agree on once emotions subside is that the sports radio format hasn’t done enough to address this issue. If we truly care about growing our business and changing for the better, then it’s time to switch the game plan, because the one we’ve been using clearly isn’t working.

Additional Note: After this column was posted, 610 Sports PD Steven Spector reached out on Twitter (see below). If you’re a minority host, producer or future program director interested in receiving feedback, asking questions, and developing a relationship, email Steven at Steven.Spector@entercom.com.

Barrett Blogs

Black Friday Sale TODAY For 2022 BSM Summit Tickets

“BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets will begin at 12:01am ET on Friday November 26th and expire at 11:59pm later that same night.”

Published

on

There are less than 100 days remaining until the 2022 BSM Summit takes place in New York City. We’ve announced 31 participants for the show so far, and have more to reveal in the weeks and months ahead. I think you’re going to like what’s still to come.

Putting this conference together isn’t easy. It requires months of meetings, brainstorming, promotion, selling sponsorships, pursuing speakers, and creating everything that attendees see on stage over a two day period. I’m thankful to have help from some amazing partners, but as I’ve mentioned previously, this isn’t an event that makes us rich or ends with 5-10 new clients signing up to work with BSM. The goal each year is simple, make sure the conference is valuable for those who attend, and don’t run BSM out of business by doing it. As long as those two things remain solid, it’s worth doing.

Some might wonder, why go thru months of headaches if you’re not going to break the bank or immediately add clients. That’s fair to ask. If you look at it from a pure business standpoint, one could easily make a case that pouring this type of energy into something else could be more lucrative. But money was never the motivation for doing this. I felt the sports media industry lacked a signature event where smart, successful media professionals (who don’t often cross paths) could gather at one location to laugh and learn together, and I wanted to change that. If over a two day period attendees could gain insight, information, ideas, and introductions, it’d put everyone in a stronger position to remain successful.

I’ve unapologetically loved the sports media business since I started listening to Mike & the Mad Dog on WFAN and watching SportsCenter on ESPN. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of cities over the past two decades, learning how different companies and people operate, and I remain involved today thru my work with BSM. I mention this because I also know media people. They tend to wait until the last minute to book hotel rooms, airfare, and purchase tickets, even if they can save money by acting sooner. I know, I used to do it too. I can’t control when you book your room or plane ticket, but I do want to give you an added incentive to buy your ticket to this year’s show. Seating is limited, and once the last seat is filled, that’s it. We can’t make extra room.

With that in mind, most of you are either taking today off or working inside a much quieter building. If you’ve thought about coming to the Summit, take 5-10 minutes to log on to BSMSummit.com to take advantage of our special Black Friday sale. We’ve reduced tickets for the day, so whether you’re planning to attend in NYC or watch the conference online, there’s a discount to help you out. Just $199.99 for live tickets, and $124.99 for virtual.

BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets expires at 11:59pm tonight. In the meantime, Hotel Edison in NYC is offering rooms for just $109 + taxes to Summit attendees. Click here to take advantage of the special room rate we’ve secured for this year’s show. Those of you planning to fly to NYC for the show, there have been a ton of great deals offered by American, Southwest, United, JetBlue and Frontier. It might be worth checking into today since Black Friday often has even better sales on travel.

If you’re interested in learning more about the industry, staying a step ahead, forming new relationships, strengthening existing ones, exploring potential business deals, and celebrating the business you’re in, I hope you’ll join us either online or in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit. I’m making it easier on you, by offering lower ticket prices today. The rest is up to you!

Continue Reading

Barrett Blogs

Craig Carton, Fred Toucher, Mike Felger To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.”

Published

on

When you talk to industry people about successful brands in sports talk radio, most conversations include WFAN and 98.5 The Sports Hub. The New York and Boston sports radio brands are consistently recognized for their ability to deliver large audiences and revenues.

Helping to create that success is a mixture of strong play by play partnerships, skilled programmers and even more importantly, some of the most dynamic on-air personalities in the format. Fortunately for us, a few of those gamechangers will be present to share their opinions and insights on content matters in New York City at the 2022 BSM Summit.

Starting in New York, it’s an honor to welcome WFAN afternoon drive host Craig Carton to the 2022 BSM Summit. Heard daily on ‘Carton and Roberts‘ alongside Evan Roberts, which is also featured on TV on SNY, Carton has made his presence felt ever since returning to the airwaves in November 2020. Prior to taking on the challenge in afternoons, Craig spent a decade partnering with Boomer Esiason on ‘Boomer and Carton‘, forming one of the most successful sports radio morning shows in the country. In addition to enjoying success in New York, Craig has also experienced the ups and downs that come with performing in different markets. His radio travels have taken him to Philadelphia, Denver, Buffalo and Trenton, NJ. The Syracuse graduate and outspoken host is expected to join BSM President Jason Barrett for a one on one conversation at this year’s Summit.

Shipping up to Boston, it’s a pleasure to welcome two of the format’s highest rated performers to New York City. They’re heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub in morning and afternoon drive, and at the Summit, they’ll interact together during an in-depth content conversation with BSM President Jason Barrett.

Fred Toucher is one half of the Sports Hub’s popular morning show ‘Toucher & Rich‘, which recently added syndication. The Detroit native started his career in Georgia before moving to Boston in 2005. Toucher & Rich, which includes Rich Shertenlieb, officially moved into the sports talk format in 2009. Since making the format switch, the duo have consistently produced some of the best ratings in the entire format in mornings during the past fifteen years. Toucher & Rich have also been recognized by industry executives as one of the top two morning shows in the format each of the past three years in the BSM Top 20, including taking top honors in 2018.

Mike Felger on the other hand is heard on the ride home alongside Tony Massarotti on The Sports Hub. The Marconi Award-winning afternoon radio show has been a fixture in Boston since the station’s inception in 2009. During the past twelve years, Felger & Mazz have been a steady force atop the Men 25-54 ratings including recently delivering an impressive 18.9 share in the summer book to finish 1st. The Milwaukee native also hosts a show for NBC Boston, and has previously served as a columnist for the Boston Globe. Similar to Toucher & Rich, Felger & Mazz have earned high praise from format execs in the BSM Top 20. They’ve been voted one of the top 2 afternoon shows each of the past 2 years including grabbing the top spot in 2019.

We’re excited to add all three of these men to the lineup for the 2022 BSM Summit. As vital as it may be to spend time on business issues in order to stay ahead of a rapidly changing media climate, without great talent and content, the rest is irrelevant. Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.

To reserve your hotel room, purchase tickets or learn more about the speakers we’ve lined up for the 2022 show, visit BSMSummit.com. We hope to see you online or in New York City this March.

Continue Reading

Barrett Blogs

BSM Summit Adds Borrell, Crain, Cutler, Goldstein, Scott, Shapiro & Thomas

“The Summit is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited.”

Published

on

The 2022 BSM Summit continues to add firepower to the sports media industry’s premier conference. After previously announcing the first twenty one participants to take part in March’s event in New York City, another seven talented media professionals have been added to the speaker schedule.

Making his BSM Summit debut in 2022 will be the media industry’s leading business analyst Gordon Borrell. The well respected and accomplished CEO of Borrell Associates is featured frequently in the trades and mainstream publications for his insights on advertising trends and forecasts in local media. Borrell will join Amplifi Media CEO Steven Goldstein on stage at the Summit for an in-depth discussion on the advertising climate in 2022. The two men will offer insights and opinions on what advertisers value most, where they’re expected to invest future dollars, which categories will continue to rise and decline, and what brands can do to position themselves better to increase revenue. Additionally, Borrell will be hosting his local advertising conference in Miami a few days after the Summit. Those interested in heading to South Beach and learning more about the marketing world can learn more by clicking here.

Switching to the content end, the Summit is thrilled to welcome The Volume’s Jake Crain to New York City. The host of The JBoy Show will also be making his debut at the conference. Crain will be part of a talent panel along with John Jastremski and Kazeem Famuyide.

Also making his debut at the Summit will be Carl Scott. Meadowlark Media’s Executive Director of Audio will join our podcasting panel featuring Blue Wire CEO Kevin Jones and The Volume’s Head of Content Logan Swaim. Hubbard Radio’s Digital Content Director Phil Mackey will guide the conversation.

Not everyone participating at the Summit will be new to the audience though. Returning to the stage as part of our GM’s discussion will be newly appointed Audacy Boston Market Manager Mike Thomas. Thomas recently led ESPN 1000 in Chicago as the station’s GM after working with Mark Hannon to turn 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston into one of sports radio’s top performing stations. It should be noted that each time Thomas appears at the Summit it follows a recent promotion. We figure by 2023 or 2024 he’ll be running the entire industry.

A Summit isn’t complete without attention given to programming matters. To help us address some of those key issues, we’re excited to welcome back the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio & Podcasts Scott Shapiro. The passionate network executive who oversees many of the nation’s top national programs is always a great listen for folks interested in learning how programmer’s view and tackle the industry’s most important affairs.

Last but certainly not least, voice talent extraordinaire Jim Cutler will return to the stage to lead a session on storytelling. One of the industry’s prominent station voices and creative minds has a penchant for putting on entertaining and informative sessions. If you’ve attended the conference before, you’re already aware. To those planning to catch this one, you’re in for a treat.

Keep an eye out over the next two weeks. We’ll be making additional announcements involving a few high profile talents we’ve lined up for the 2022 BSM Summit. A reminder, the event is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited. I realize some folks may prefer to wait until the last minute to make sure the world is safe. If you’re not comfortable flying to NY for the show, we do have an option in place to enjoy the conference virtually thanks to NuVoodoo Media. For more information on tickets, click here.

That said, the in-person environment is excellent. If you haven’t attended the Summit before I think you’ll find the two days in New York City to be time well spent. This conference is not open to the general public. You must either presently work in an area of the media industry or be pursuing a degree in the broadcasting field.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we still have some sponsorship opportunities available for the show. We’re thrilled to have the support of great partners, ESPN Radio, Premiere Networks, FOX Sports Radio, Stone Voiceovers, Compass Media Networks, Point to Point Marketing, and Core Image Studio. If you’d like to be part of the event too, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com for additional details.

One final note, airfare is low right now. There are roundtrip flights to and from New York from many major cities for less than $200.00. We’ve also secured a low hotel rate of $109.00 per night at Hotel Edison in NYC to help companies and individuals keep costs down. The sports media industry has endured two years of difficulty due to the pandemic, preventing many from networking, learning, celebrating, and growing. The two days we spend together in the big apple won’t solve every issue facing our business, but I promise you’ll leave the show more informed, more connected, and better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

Hope to see you in New York on March 2nd and 3rd.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Copyright © 2021 Barrett Media.