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Sports Media Sensitivities Are Getting Out of Hand

“The immaturity and accusatory behavior has to stop. If this is how we’re going to operate every time a personality offers a strong point of view, the future of the sports media business is in big trouble.”

Jason Barrett




The sports media business has long been fueled by two things: opinions and competition. Those who do this line of work understand that sports radio and television are fun, lucrative, and highly visible industries to work in. That makes them attractive career options to men and women all across the country. You’re expected to consistently bring it, because once you take a day off, let alone an hour, there’ll be someone behind you gunning for your position.

Equally as important is being able to express a strong point of view, operate without fear, and endure the bullets firing in your direction especially if you offer opinions that don’t satisfy the majority. The beauty of opinions is they are a point of view – they are not necessarily facts. Two people can see things differently, each stating their case and supporting their positions with evidence, and they can be right in their initial observations. What decides who’s right and wrong is the result (fact) that follows.

When you examine the weapons at the disposal of an on-air personality it boils down to a few key things: their eyes, ears, mind, voice, personality, and their information and opinions. Those qualities separate great hosts from average ones. Nobody can control the voice their born with or who they are as an individual, but they can use their eyes, ears, and mind to process information and form unique opinions.

In today’s media climate, talent have to work harder than ever to cut thru the clutter. On-air people must possess the skill to make an audience stop, think, and react to what they have to say because competition for the eyes and ears is intense. Featuring people on-air who fill the airwaves with noise and fail to stand out puts brands in position to lose money let alone future listener, reader or viewer support.

But sensitivity is increasing in the media business, especially when uncomfortable opinions are shared. Not everyone is built with thick skin or emotionally equipped to handle the verbal onslaughts that follow when they say or do something that others take issue with, and social media has led many of these issues to be magnified. I was reminded of that this past weekend when Doug Gottlieb took to Twitter to question Maria Taylor’s credentials in the NBA voting process after she left Anthony Davis off her ballot for the NBA’s all-defensive team.

Having worked with Doug during my career, I know he has the ability to get under your skin. He’s good at it. He drove me nuts many times inside the ESPN Radio studios. But I also know he speaks his mind and isn’t afraid to question things that warrant a closer look even if it generates a negative response from others in the business. That’s what a good talent is supposed to do.

What bothered me about the social media response to Doug’s initial tweet was the defensive nature of many in the industry. Rather than stick to what the actual tweet was about, criticism of a decision and questioning if Maria was closely following the NBA after making a glaring error, it turned into ‘he’s a sexist, racist, and should cancel his Twitter account.’

This immaturity and accusatory behavior has to stop. If this is how we’re going to operate every time a personality offers a strong point of view, the future of the sports media business is in big trouble. Disagreement is at the core of everything that matters in the media business. Anyone making a living in this industry should understand that. Players, coaches, and sports executives deal with it from the media on a daily basis, and sometimes industry members end up in the eye of the storm too.

The fact of the matter in this situation is that Maria Taylor turned in her first NBA ballot and failed to recognize one of the best players in the NBA for his defensive excellence. That wasn’t an issue for other voters and observers. Given that it was her first time voting you’d think she’d be even more careful submitting her ballot. She wasn’t though, and that’s why the question was raised. Making it about more than that distracts from the issue at hand, and labels the person raising the question unfairly.

That doesn’t make Maria Taylor any less of a broadcaster or person, it makes her human. For the record, I don’t know Maria personally, but I think she’s excellent on television. I’m not advocating for her voting privileges to be revoked just because she made an error. We all make mistakes, and when you operate in a public industry there are going to be times when you’re called out for them. Heck, Mike Francesa is still criticized for falling asleep on the air 8 years ago for a few seconds despite spending twenty seven and a half hours per week successfully hosting a talk show in the nation’s #1 media market for nearly 30 years. It comes with the territory.

Where I disagreed with Doug was when he suggested hosts shouldn’t vote. When you lump every host into the same boat, you’re leaving no room for exceptions. I agree with Doug that former players, coaches and executives turned analysts pay more attention to the league as a whole than a host running point on a league focused show, but that doesn’t mean every host lacks the ability to stay up on the league. Nor does an honest error suggest that Taylor doesn’t do her homework. By Doug’s own admission in a later tweet, Nick Wright and Ryen Russillo were mentioned as people who host and pay close attention to what’s happening.

What I didn’t understand is why this particular issue set off Doug in the first place. There are media members every year who vote on awards and either screw up or make questionable decisions. It’s nothing new. One could argue that if a television host isn’t qualified to vote on awards due to not watching and studying the league enough then the same criticism should be levied against on-air radio personalities who are charged with discussing the entire world of sports yet can’t possibly watch, read and listen to every single team or game. Doug knows how that can bite you in the ass because his George Kittle take last year was a swing and a miss.

But this is how it should always work. Broadcasters watch, listen, and read things, process the information, and then offer their opinions on them. It’s then up to us to find parts of their commentary to agree and disagree with. Two people can be right or wrong for different reasons, and conversations are more interesting when multiple views are presented. I’m not going to watch Maria Taylor any less on television because of her ballot snafu, and I won’t listen to Doug any less on radio because he thinks hosts shouldn’t vote.

The bigger concern I have is over the difference in responses between people over and under the age of 35-40. I noticed that many of the defensive tweets on social media came from younger folks, the group many refer to as ‘millennialls’. I prefer to call them the ‘social generation’ because they’ve grown up in a world where everything they see and hear exists on a social platform.

Young people in the industry calling for others who share opinions and do the same line of work to be cancelled, quit Twitter or casting labels without knowing who or what someone is like in everyday life is foolish. It also misses the point. That could be YOU the next time you provide a take online or on-air that others disagree with. Is that the precedent you want to set? Do you think silencing discussion and not raising awareness about issues will increase the amount of people who consume your work? Do you want to operate in a sports media world where everything is positive and questioning decisions is off limits? What if teams insisted on that type of treatment? The world of sports would be pretty vanilla.

What some folks lose sight of is that half of your audience think and live differently than you do. You’re not going to change them either. If you only cater to the 50% who see the world the way you do, you’ll one day be sent to the sidelines for not attracting a large enough audience. Disagreeing on sports and the issues that surround them is fine, but calling for people who see things differently and raise awareness to issues that strike a nerve is asinine.

Talent in our industry generate attention from millions of people everyday. Like it or not, your words and actions are monitored. When Stephen A. Smith made a blunder two years ago suggesting Hunter Henry had a favorable matchup against the Chiefs despite being out for the season, he got roasted for it. When Fred Hickman cast the lone MVP vote for Allen Iverson in 1999-2000 denying Shaquille O’Neal a unanimous MVP award and NBA history, he too got ripped.

The criticism Stephen A. and Fred endured had zero to do with their age, race, religion or anything else, it was about their comments and decisions. They took the heat because they knew it was warranted, even if they didn’t like it. It should’ve been the same with this situation except Maria didn’t squash it immediately by saying ‘I messed up’. I realize she was put in an unfair position last week having to deal with unnecessary drama due to Dan McNeil’s tweet, so that could have been a factor in how she responded, but we’ve got to be able to separate one issue from another rather than making it into something it’s not. What Gottlieb tweeted was not the same as what McNeil did.

Stephen A. Smith - ESPN Press Room U.S.

In the television business, a host often speaks to a camera, pushing content at the audience without viewers having a chance to respond back. In radio and podcasting, the same is true unless the host and producer invite audience interaction via phones, texts or social replies. But Twitter puts every individual in charge of their own content. We speak our minds about various issues on the platform and feedback flies in immediately whether we’ve asked for it or not. Like a moth to a flame, we often check to see what people are saying about our opinions and observations, and it can create tension, hurt feelings, and overreactions that don’t exist in other mediums where feedback is limited and controlled.

Handling the social media noise isn’t easy. We’re all human beings who don’t appreciate when others take shots at our performance. We’ve seen some of that this week with Jason Whitlock taking Taylor, Katie Nolan, and others to task. But this is part of the responsibility that comes with being a public figure. We may not like it when peers, colleagues or competitors criticize and raise awareness to our mistakes or flaws, and some may have different agendas or personal histories that factor into the way criticism is presented, but that doesn’t mean the criticism itself isn’t warranted.

From my vantage point, sports media needs more, not less, personalities offering bold opinions. You may not like what a host has to say sometimes, but we’re all adults with a choice of whether or not to watch, listen, read or follow an individual. We should be encouraging our personalities to share their views without fear, while pushing them to do their homework, defend their positions, and keep things focused on the result rather than making things personal. But if everyone is timid or even worse, cancelled, what will we watch, read, follow or listen to that’s worth our time?

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Rachel Nichols and Baron Davis Headline Final Speaker Announcements For the 2023 BSM Summit

“I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.”

Jason Barrett




The 2023 BSM Summit schedule is set. After months of planning and talking to everyone across the industry, I’m ecstatic to roll out next week’s agenda including making one final announcement involving seven great additions to our conference.

For starters, it is a pleasure to welcome Showtime’s Rachel Nichols to the BSM Summit. I’ve admired her work on television for years, and am thrilled to have her guiding a session which I think many in the room are going to really enjoy.

Rachel’s guest will be former NBA star Baron Davis. Baron runs his own company, Baron Davis Enterprises, and he has been active in investing in media brands, and exploring ways to evolve the industry. Among his areas of passion, athletes taking more control of their brands, and the media industry needing to improve its track record with diversity. I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.

Also joining the Summit are a few longtime industry friends. For starters, VSiN’s program director Jon Goulet is someone who I’ve known and worked with, and he understands the sports betting audio space extremely well. Jon and BetQL VP of Programming Mitch Rosen will spend time with another industry friend, Bryan Curtis of The Ringer. Collectively they’ll examine the state of sports betting audio on Tuesday March 21st from 3:35p-4:10p, and what they look for when it comes to sports betting talent, and how they determine what is and isn’t success in the sports gambling content world.

With Mitch taking part in the sports betting panel, Jeff Rickard of WFNZ in Charlotte steps into The Programmer’s Panel alongside Jimmy Powers, John Mamola and Raj Sharan. The session is scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 9:10a-9:45a PT. Ironically, all four of these programmers work for different companies, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they differ and where they align while navigating through a few sports radio programming topics.

Next, I’m excited to introduce a social media session with Karlo Sy Su of ESPN Los Angeles and Matthew Demeke of AM 570 LA Sports. If you look at the performance of their brands on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, they’ve each delivered strong audiences and engagement. I’m looking forward to hosting this one and learning about their processes, how they decide which platforms to focus on most, what they consider a social media win when analyzing social statistics, and how they develop their content process. Given our location, we’re calling the session ‘Social Media Goes Hollywood‘. It’s scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 3:35-4:10 PT.

I realize you’re not going to remember all of these session speakers and times off the top of your head, so to make it easier, log on to and scroll down past our speakers. That’s where you’ll find our detailed list of sessions/times and activities planned each day. We have eighteen sessions, two awards ceremonies, and two parties. Our kickoff party is presented by the WWE and takes place Monday March 20th from 7p-9p at the 1880 Founders Room. The ESPN Radio After Party takes place Tuesday March 21st from 6p-8p at the Lab Gastropub. Both party locations are in walking distance of the USC Hotel and our conference venue.

As an added bonus, thanks to the generosity of our friends at WWE, we will be giving away a pair of tickets to the first night of WrestleMania, and a WWE title at our kickoff party. WrestleMania takes place this year in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium on March 25-26. You must be present at the kickoff party to win either prize.

We’ll have more to share next week including providing an ongoing blog with session news and notes for our readers. We’ll also have a ton of content available on our social media channels so if you’re not following @BSMStaff on Twitter, @BarrettSportsMedia on Facebook or @BarrettMedia on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for?

The focus now shifts to finishing our creative for next week’s show, sending information to our speakers for their sessions, and finalizing our attendees list. For those who are attending, we’ll be sending out an email on Friday or Saturday with a complete list of names of who’s coming so you can plan meetings in advance.

If you forgot to buy your ticket after seeing months of promotion about the event and meant to do so, you can still do that, but it costs more. Students on the other hand can take advantage of a low rate established for college kids at

Putting this event together isn’t easy, but I’m extremely pleased with how it’s come together. We have a lot of smart, talented, and accomplished people making time to be part of this, and I appreciate each and every one of them for doing so. Now, it’s all about the execution. Hope to see you next week in LA.

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Sports Broadcasting Icon Al Michaels To Be Honored at the 2023 BSM Summit

“This is a man who has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer.”

Jason Barrett




If you work in the sports media industry you’ve likely heard someone along the way utter the phrase “don’t bury the lead“. I’m usually good about following that advice but I didn’t do that at our 2022 BSM Summit.

We introduced the greatest tandem in sports radio history, Mike Francesa and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo and it was a special half hour. Mike and the Mad Dog were reunited after seven years apart and every individual at the event knew they were witnessing something magical on stage. I created a Mike and the Mad Dog Award for the event, which went to Felger and Mazz, who were the absolute right choice to win it. Even Chris remarked ‘that’s the right call‘.

But I learned quickly that although the intention was right in honoring the industry’s current top performing show, when you have legends in the room and they’re in their element, the last thing you want to do is overcrowd them. The connection Mike and Chris had on the air became the gold standard by which we measure successful sports talk shows, and they didn’t need an award created to deliver a special moment, just two mics and 20-30 minutes of stage time.

As I began thinking about the 2023 BSM Summit, I knew there was an opportunity to build on what we started last year with Mike and Chris, and after talking to a few people who I trust and respect, the decision of who we would recognize became crystal clear. I believe it’s important to honor the greats in our business because those who leave a permanent mark on our industry deserve it. The man we’ve selected has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer. He’s worked with the best of the best inside the booth, has helped elevate the presentation and execution of in-game content for ABC, NBC and Amazon, and his call of the Miracle on Ice, the US Olympic hockey team’s 1980 gold medal win over Russia remains one of the best calls in the history of sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored and privileged to share that Al Michaels will join us on Wednesday March 22nd at the 2023 BSM Summit for our awards presentation, where we will present him with BSM’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michaels is one of America’s most respected sports broadcasting voices, known for his exceptional work on Monday Night Football (1986-2005), Sunday Night Football (2006-2022) and Thursday Night Football (2022-Present). He’s called the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Hagler-Hearns, the Olympics, the Indy 500, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown races, College Football and Basketball games, Golf, and more. He’s even held roles as the voice of the University of Hawaii, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants, and was in the booth in 1989 when an earthquake rocked the Bay Area during Game 3 of the A’s-Giants world series.

The Brooklyn native turned Los Angeles resident has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and owns a ton of hardware including five sports Emmy’s, three NSMA Sportscaster of the Year honors, the 2013 Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award distributed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award given out by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Though his trophy case may be full, we’re excited to add another to his collection to show our appreciation and respect for the impact he’s made on the sports media business.

A quick reminder, the BSM Summit takes place on Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California. Tickets are on-sale at

Be advised, we have started adding sessions and times on the website. As always, the schedule is subject to change. Our final agenda will be posted by the end of next week. In addition, attendees will receive an email by next Friday with details of who will be in attendance. We hope to see you there.

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Rob Parker, Brian Long, Sean Thompson and Matt Fishman Join The BSM Summit Speaker Lineup

“I’m excited to welcome a few folks who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.”

Jason Barrett




As we gear up for our 5th annual BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023, I’m starting to get a better feel for how the final puzzle may look. When this process starts I have no idea how it’s going to turn out because so much depends on who says yes and no. Many who’ve attended over the years have complimented our lineups, and I appreciate it because I put a lot of time and effort into featuring a strong mix of professionals from different areas of the industry. Though I’m proud of the work we do and the schedule we deliver, there are so many things pursued leading up to the event that I can’t help but wonder ‘what if this or that had worked out?’

One thing that some folks don’t understand if they haven’t been to the show before is that this is not a talent conference. It’s a sports media business conference. That means we feature radio, TV and digital executives, programmers, researchers, sales professionals, and yes, talent. I believe on-air performers are vital to the industry’s success and I want the best of the best sharing their wisdom with everyone in the room, but we’re also not going to do two full days of on-air conversations. Being successful in sports media requires understanding the on-air side and the business side, and we do our best to offer a blend of both.

For today’s announcement, I’m excited to welcome a few sports media pros who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.

First, Rob Parker is someone who has made a name for himself as a radio host, writer, TV commentator, and teacher. He’s currently heard weeknights on FOX Sports Radio, teaches students at USC Annenberg, writes for Deadspin, and is helping MLBBro gain awareness and a bigger mainstream media presence covering Major League Baseball. He’s experienced, smart, and never short on opinion. I’m looking forward to having him join Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score/BetQL, and Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports Radio for a session titled “Aircheck On Campus“. They’ll take the stage together on Wednesday March 22nd from 2:10-2:45.

My next three speakers, all come from the sports radio programming department.

Matt Fishman is the Director of Content for ESPN 850 Cleveland. Fishman has been with the brand since January 2020 following stints at SiriusXM, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 670 The Score in Chicago. He even wrote for BSM for a few years.

Sean Thompson is responsible for programming decisions at Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM. He joined the well respected Phoenix brand after more than a decade in Atlanta at 92.9 The Game. Sean has also worked in affiliate relations for Westwood One, and on the air and as a programmer in music radio for Good Karma Brands in Madison, WI.

Brian Long is the program director of both San Diego Sports 760 and KOGO 600 in San Diego. In addition to guiding two of the top talk brands in his market, he has also managed Seattle Sports 710, and served as the Assistant Program Director for ESPN LA 710.

Matt, Sean, and Brian will be part of one of our final sessions on day two of the Summit. The Last Call which yours truly is hosting, will explore unique revenue opportunities created by local brands, and examine a few new ideas and missed opportunities that brands and managers may want to take advantage of in the future.

As of today, the Summit has more than forty accomplished professionals taking the stage at the Founders Club at USC’s Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023. I’ve got a few others still to announce as well, including a few cool giveaways planned for the WWE’s Kickoff party.

If you haven’t bought a ticket and wish to be in the room, visit The last day for ticket sales will be Monday March 13th. I’m hoping to release our final schedule of sessions on Tuesday March 14th. Hopefully I’ll see you in the city of angels.

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