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When Breaking News Happens

Jason Barrett

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The past few days I’ve had the benefit of enjoying some time off and during that time I couldn’t help but be drawn more to CNN, Fox News and MSNBC as a result of the situation in Ferguson, MO. Having spent 5 years of my career and life in the St. Louis area and still maintaining friends in the area today, I was curious to find out what was going on with the chaotic situation that has been unfolding for more than a week now.

fergusonWhat started as a curiosity on my part to learn more about the story, ended up becoming a reminder of how important it is to handle breaking news coverage the right way. Some of this may seem obvious but as simple as it may appear, not every individual or brand handles things right when it comes to dealing with major stories that require an ability to think and react quickly and wisely.

Case in point this past weekend’s news television programming. I think most would agree that the Ferguson, MO shooting and situation between the police, protesters and looters qualified as a major breaking news story. If you work in news television then it would qualify as an all hands on deck type of situation. What occurred though was perplexing.

KMOXOn the positive side, 1120AM KMOX in St. Louis was on top of the story every single minute. The station went wall to wall with on-air coverage and I saw numerous people involved with the radio station tweeting, posting photos and continuing dialogue with listeners. I could tell quickly that the brand was connected with its audience and invested in making sure they had the most up to the minute information on the story.

Dana Loesch who hosts her own syndicated radio show and works for “The Blaze” network, was also highly invested in the story and offering different viewpoints on the situation. She too was dialed in with her audience on Twitter and was supplying audio samples of things that she had gathered on the show to further help with gaining perspective.

KMOX and Dana Loesch are both St. Louis based so they had an opportunity to be closer to the situation and to their credit they took advantage of it and went full throttle on the story. In simpler terms, they played the hits and super served the needs of their audiences.

On the local television side in St. Louis, Fox-2 KTVU and News 4-KMOV did a stellar job covering the scene to provide eyewitness footage of what was taking place and they kept their focus on presenting the facts which is difficult in situations like this. So many outlets are battling for information and want to provide it to the viewer as quickly as possible so what impressed me with both stations was how they kept their standards high and just reported what they knew rather than try to become the story.

boycottOn the flip side, KSDK-4 in St. Louis dropped the ball big time. Rather than stick to reporting the news, the station became the news after they elected to sensationalize the story and show footage of the police officer’s home which had his address on the house. This caused an uproar from local viewers and led to the creation of a “Boycott KSDK” facebook page which as of last check had over 29,000 likes. Many of those people also planned to boycott outside the TV station to voice their unhappiness with the station’s lack of judgement.

The station to its credit came out and apologized after for their egregious error but the damage had been done. Poor judgement during a pivotal time cost the station its trust and loyalty from the audience and a whole lot of bad PR. One could make the case that their quest for higher ratings on this day, could cost them a lot more in the future.

FoxNewsSpinning it to the national side, Fox News almost always wins in the ratings because for the most part they do a good job. That top notch programming though wasn’t on display this weekend however. Instead I tuned in on 5 different occasions for coverage of the Ferguson story only to find the network showing taped programming or a quick news update. On one occasion they even presented a live show and focused content on Rick Perry’s issues in Texas rather than the Ferguson situation. That was very surprising and disappointing for a channel which is usually the first choice for news programming.

MSNBC meanwhile was slightly better than Fox News but they too were missing in action on the lead story too often. In a few instances I once again stumbled across taped programming rather than live coverage of the biggest news story in the country.

CNNThe one national network that owned the story was CNN. Anytime I put the channel on, they were focused on the story. While some of the coverage became tiresome due to repetition, they kept the focus on what mattered to most people and I felt after 3 days that if I wanted to know anything about the story from a national perspective that I could trust CNN for their commitment to it.

When stories like this unfold I think it’s extremely important to be all-in with your coverage. I can handle a listener complaining that we spent too much time on a major news story a lot better than having to explain why we were absent on it. Listeners and viewers turn to us hoping to receive information when things like this occur and if we’re not fully invested in the content that everyone is talking about, then we not only lose the audience today but we lose them in the future too when the next big event happens.

facts2I also think it’s critical when these types of stories come up to be very smart and factual when reporting information. When I see a channel like KSDK make an error and show a police officer’s address on live television during a time when tensions are high, I can’t help but wonder which manager made the call and what repercussions they’ll have to deal with for making such a bad judgement. The last thing you want to do in a situation like this is become the story and KSDK became that for a day when they made one really bad decision.

It reminded me of a situation I went through in St. Louis back in 2007. I was programming 590 The Fan in St. Louis the day the Mitchell Report was released. A ton of baseball players had been found guilty of using PED’s and rumors began to swirl that when the list was made public, Albert Pujols’ name would be on it. Albert was the most popular figure in St. Louis and had been a great representative of the city and his being on this list would no doubt crush his public perception and put his entire career under the microscope.

pujolsOur competitor 1380AM chose to go on-air and report that Pujols was indeed on the list. At the same time, Fox 2-KTVU made the same call and decided to send a crew over to Albert’s restaurant and ask patrons how they felt about Pujols being on the list and whether or not they’d eat at his place of business again in the future.

The guys on my staff started to get antsy and wanted to run with the story and a few were starting to question why I was holding back on going with the story. I remember getting into a spirited argument with one of my guys and I told him “I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to St. Louis’ biggest superstar and if I’m late reporting on him cheating the game of baseball I can live with it….but I won’t be ok sleeping tonight if we make a decision to report him as guilty when we don’t have evidence to show that he is“.

pujolsAn hour later the Mitchell Report came out and Albert Pujols’ name wasn’t on it. The staff seemed to be more relieved that we didn’t get beat to the story than happy that we were accurate but truth be told, it was a big risk. I had a 50/50 shot of being the hero or the goat and I chose to follow my gut and my beliefs which were “you’re innocent until proven guilty“. Maybe I’m old fashioned with situations like this but I’d rather be late and right than first and wrong.

The next day, I got a call from a member of Albert’s camp thanking me for how we handled the story and I specifically remember Albert expressing his disappointment with the local media during his first local news conference. Because we hadn’t presumed him guilty, he would grant a sit down interview with one of my reporters and one other local TV outlet who had also elected not to assassinate his character without evidence.

Now I didn’t care if Albert liked my radio station or not and I didn’t make that call hoping it would lead to him appearing on a show, I did it because it felt right and I believe attacking one’s character is only warranted when there’s evidence to support doing so. Going on witch hunts and reporting speculation is a dangerous area that usually results in the broadcaster having egg on their face. I can recall more personalities being suspended, fired and/or sued then those coming out on top after accusing someone of something without evidence.

tfIt sounds basic but when breaking news happens I think you’ve got to be on top of it immediately and you’ve got to ask the right questions. As difficult as it may be, you’ve got to separate fact and speculation and do so quickly. So many people are in a rush to get content on the air that they hear one side of a story and run with it and then when the other side comes out later, they look foolish. It’s ok to report the one side that you know but how you paint the picture has a lot to do with how you’ll have to navigate the next part later on.

Even worse though is turning a blind eye to a story and pretending it isn’t there. When we first launched 95.7 The Game in San Francisco we spent a lot of time talking about these types of situations and sure enough, during our first month on-air there was a huge local story that I felt our crew did an excellent job with while our competitor missed the boat.

49ersThe 49ers and Raiders played a pre-season game at Candlestick Park in August 2011 and at that game a number of fights broke out in the stands and bathrooms. There was also a shooting in the parking lot. It was a scary situation and easily the number one story throughout the Bay Area.

Our competitor that Monday did a nice job of landing Joe Montana for an interview fifteen minutes before we did, so they had the advantage of getting the perspective on the situation first from one of the most famous San Francisco 49ers of all-time – except they never asked him about the situation.

Instead they spent 8 minutes of the interview asking Joe about the San Francisco Giants and 2 minutes on Alex Smith’s QB abilities. As soon as I heard what they were doing, I called my morning producer to make sure we had a strong plan ready for when Joe appeared with us and sure enough we did.

montanaJoe then joined us right after that conversation and the first question from my morning crew was about the violence at Candlestick Park. We then spent the first 6-7 minutes of the interview talking about the situation with Joe and he was engaged in the topic and went as far as to tell us that when he played for the 49ers, he too saw similar situations occur in the stadium and didn’t always feel safe there. His comments would go on to make national news that day and become a topic of conversation for the rest of the broadcast day.

What happened that day was a result of good/bad strategic execution and that’s the same thing that took place this past weekend with the news coverage of the Ferguson situation.

dotherightthingI’ve seen people lose careers over making the wrong calls in these kind of situations and my approach is simple “dive into the story immediately, share the facts, allow for audience interaction and voice your opinion based on what you know“.

In these cases, we’re not the story – we’re simply the messenger passing along the information and giving people an outlet to express their opinion at. Your brand’s loyalty and trust are at stake and how you handle things determines whether or not your audience will turn to you again in the future.

I can tell you this, as someone who watches news television on a very limited basis, when the next major news story breaks my first stop will be to CNN not MSNBC or Fox News. It’s then CNN’s job to present the information well, keep the programming interesting and give me a reason to stay. If they don’t, then they’ve created an opportunity for their competition.

This is exactly what you’re faced with when the next big story breaks. Don’t try to be the one person in the room who thinks that just because everyone else is talking about it you don’t need to. That’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you care about the needs of your audience and want their support in the future, give them what they came to you for.

GreenDayIt’s no different then going to see your favorite band. If they play every song that never was released and ignore the “hits“, chances are you’ll leave the show disappointed or less than satisfied. Those who crank out the tunes that everyone knows, usually benefit from having the crowd sing and dance along and spend more money on other CD’s, merchandise and tickets to future shows.

Like it or not, you work in the breaking news business and how you react to big events says a lot about your judgement and the way you value your audience. Embracing the subject, reporting the facts and allowing people an opportunity to weigh in puts you in position to form a deeper bond with the listener. Sensationalizing the content, reporting inaccurate information and choosing to ignore the story completely earns you mistrust, your brand being boycotted and in some cases unemployment.

Playing the hits isn’t difficult – you’ve just got to check your ego at the door and let the story be the star. Question is, can you do that?

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media’s Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022

“A total of 101 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the National Sports Radio Shows category.”

Jason Barrett

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The 8th annual BSM Top 20 series kicks off with a look at the Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022. These shows have the largest reach in America, and are distributed by the largest networks in the industry, airing across hundreds of radio stations, as well as on various digital and television outlets.

As you review this year’s selections, please remember that the results represent the collective opinions of forty six (46) industry executives. I’d like to thank Alex Reynolds, Stephanie Eads, and Dylan Barrett for helping with the Top 20 process, and Steve Kamer Voiceovers for being our exclusive sponsor for this year’s Top 20 series. Steve’s voice is heard across the nation on many top shows, stations, and networks, and if you’re not familiar with his work, take a second to learn what makes him stellar at his craft by clicking here.

As it pertains to the voting, here are a few key things to be aware of.

– These results are based on 2022’s performance. 2023 changes have no effect on the voting.

– Our executive panel consists of forty six (46) program directors and corporate executives from a number of top broadcasting companies including Audacy, iHeart, Cumulus, Beasley, Hubbard, Good Karma Brands, ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, SiriusXM, Spotify, and independently owned and operated radio stations. We involve a large number of people in this process in order to include feedback from all parts of the country, as well as to prevent the results from heavily favoring one company.

 A total of 101 shows were eligible for voting consideration in the National Sports Radio Shows category.

– Voters choose their Top 20 based on a myriad of factors including the ear test, originality, ability to entertain, multi-platform impact, on-air chemistry, and ratings success. Keep in mind that voters live in different cities, have different tastes, and value certain factors higher than others. This isn’t a perfect science, but it’s the best system we’ve been able to come up with to showcase how sports radio’s brain trust view the best in the format.

And that brings us to the rankings for this year’s National Sports Radio Shows. For only the 2nd time in 8 years, we have someone at the top other than Colin Cowherd. The winner this year for best National Sports Talk Show of 2022 is The Pat McAfee Show. It was a close race, which included Cowherd earning more first place votes, eighteen (18) to McAfee’s twelve (12), but Pat scored seven more votes in the 2-5 range, allowing him to prevail by seventeen points. McAfee’s show is now consumed through podcasts, YouTube, and social media but 2022 did include eight months of distribution on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. We congratulate Pat, AJ, and the entire crew on earning this year’s top honor, as well as every other show which appeared on this year’s list.

Now, here are the full results of “BSM’s Top 20 National Sports Radio Shows of 2022!”

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Additional Notes:

  • The Herd w/ Colin Cowherd earned a category best eighteen (18) first place votes. The Pat McAfee Show was second with twelve (12).
  • 21-25 was occupied by Outkick 3602 Pros & a Cup of Joe, The Zach Gelb Show, Spain & Fitz, and Bart & Hahn.
  • The closest contest saw You Better You Bet edge Ben Maller by 4 points.
  • Of the 101 shows eligible for consideration this year, 9 received at least one 1st place vote.

Here is the remaining schedule for the BSM Top 20 of 2022.

  • Tuesday February 7 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Morning Shows of 2022
  • Wednesday February 8 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Midday Shows of 2022
  • Thursday February 9 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Afternoon Shows of 2022
  • Friday February 10 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2022
  • Monday February 13 = The Top 20 Major/Mid Market Sports Radio Stations of 2022

To view prior years of BSM’s Top 20 results, click here.

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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