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Are Vaccine Mandates Going To Work In Radio?

“I asked a few people on the ground for their thoughts. I offered everyone anonymity. I wanted the answers I received to be honest and not influenced by fear of corporate repercussions.”

Demetri Ravanos

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I am not wavering from my position on the Covid-19 vaccine. Everyone should get it. The delta variant exists in the US because rather than listening to doctors and scientists, so many people thought their aunt’s Facebook page was where they would find the most reliable research.

I support vaccine mandates for companies and schools and all that jazz. The thing is though, I am just a dude. It is easy to operate in black and white and right and wrong when you aren’t a corporation making rules.

These Anti-Vaxxer Memes Will Make You Sick - Anti-Vaxxers | Memes

Companies across our industry have announced mandates for their employees. Get vaccinated or get a new job. That is the position of Beasley, Cumulus, Disney, Urban One and others in the field.

Will such mandates be as effective and work as smoothly as these companies believe? I asked a few people on the ground for their thoughts. I offered everyone anonymity. I wanted the answers I received to be honest and not influenced by fear of corporate repercussions.

Cumulus is the company whose decision interests me the most. The idea of a vaccine mandate in that company seems more like idealism than reality. Remember, the company owns Westwood One, which syndicates Dan Bongino, Mark Shapiro, and Mark Levine. All three have made some degree of denying the need to take Covid-19 seriously part of their brand – brands that have made that company a lot of money.

As media changes, radio cannot afford to operate in a world of idealism. So in reality, what are the rules for guys like that?

“My guess is those people at that level are largely going to be left to operate how they see fit, and the mandate is really for people at my level,” one PD in the company told me.

I shared this perspective with a friend at another company mandating vaccines.

“If only we lacked a sense of right and wrong, we could make millions off being on the wrong side of history,” he joked.

In other buildings, it has been smooth sailing. Things are going exactly how management hoped they would according to a PD inside of Beasley.

“We do not anticipate and have not had any significant ‘pushback’ from any staff. We have had discussions about it of course, but thankfully no resistance to the company requiring the vaccine.”

Brittany Hosea-Small | Reuters

One host inside a company mandating vaccines told me that he does not intend to get vaccinated. He has hired a lawyer and hopes there can be an amicable agreement reached with management on how to proceed.

“I think ‘fair accommodation’ is the legal term. I am in that part of it – the asking for exemption phase.”

My evidence is purely anecdotal, so make of it what you will. I heard from a lot of people that haven’t made a fuss themselves but have seen colleagues that have. Even the ones, like the host mentioned above, that object to the mandates aren’t storming out of buildings. They are in wait-and-see mode.

That is understandable. Principles are good to have. They can be a little difficult to stand up for though if it means giving up a paycheck, particularly in a field like radio, where jobs don’t just come along every day.

One host told me that he has another theory as to why we haven’t seen anyone actually quit yet over their objections. “I tend to think most sports talk radio people love to bitch, myself included, more than we love actually throwing down the gauntlet.”

I asked the PD with no trouble on his staff if he could see a scenario where someone that objected to a vaccine mandate was allowed to do shows from home regularly. That’d be similar to the compromise MLB Network made with Al Leiter and John Smoltz. Doing that would allow a station to keep a valued contributor without having him or her in the building potentially spreading the virus. He said while that is something a station could do, it isn’t something he thinks will happen.

“The past year-and-half has made most businesses more technically nimble. However, we believe, in this format especially, there’s nothing as good as doing the shows the way they were meant to be done – together as a team, in the studios with all of the intangible things that come with being in the same space. Non-verbal cues, off-air adjustments and communication across the entire team, and even basic human interaction before and after shows adds so much to what ends up coming out of the speakers. That can’t ever be replaced.”

Of course, there is one other possibility.

What if enough employees threaten to quit or sue any of these companies mandating vaccines? Sure, one US Supreme Court Justice has already cut the legs out from any legal argument, but what is allowed and what is good PR are two very different things. Would any company want to invest the necessary legal fees in defending itself from these challenges?

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That is what the host that told me he is hoping for an exemption thinks will ultimately end up happening.

“It will be framed as legal reasons (for abandoning a vaccine mandate). There will be challenges. They will have to adjust, but they will still be able to frame it in a way that they can claim morally, they did the right thing.”

I honestly don’t know what to think. Will there be a number of openings in the industry when these mandates take effect and the grace periods are over? Well, if we have learned anything from the last 12-15 years of American political and societal discourse, it is that even presenting hard, unimpeachable facts isn’t enough to change some people’s minds. That means we can’t completely rule out a buyers’ job market in the near future. Of course, paychecks are important in this country. The cost of just living every day is high. That might make some principled stands crumble a little quicker than those taking them are letting on.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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