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Getting Starting Without Experience By Mattie Lou Chandler

Jason Barrett

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Young people often ask me “how do I get started in the media business”? It should be easy to answer, but it’s not. That’s because everyone travels a different path to their first break.

In many cases, internships are an advantage. They help you get your foot in the door. Then it’s up to the individual to work their tail off and prove that they have that extra-something that stands out. During my programming days I’d have my Assistant Program Directors oversee the process, and we’d identify 1 or 2 of the 10-15 people who came through the door that were worth holding onto at the end of the quarter. When interns know that their hard work could result in a future job at the radio station, they’re more inclined to give their best effort.

But what if an internship isn’t an option? Some stations require college credit to get inside the building. In my opinion, that’s one of the silliest rules in our industry. Why would a radio station turn down free help? Especially from people who see the internship as their one big shot? I know insurance salesmen, bartenders, callers, and contest winners who occupy the airwaves in major markets today. If someone has talent, passion, and dedication, that’s what should matter most. If a radio station hadn’t allowed me to intern (without being in college at the time), I’d have never gone on to program in three top 20 markets, produce some of the industry’s top national shows, and host my own program.

socialgrowthIf there’s one advantage today that didn’t exist when I was working my way up, it’s that the internet and social media have created platforms for people to develop their skills and expand their connections. Every aspiring broadcaster has the opportunity to podcast, record videos on YouTube, and establish a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Periscope.

I’ve said this many times, there’s no excuse for young media professionals to not seek out program directors, corporate executives, talent, and producers on social media. The worst someone can do is deny your request. If they accept it, you get a chance to interact, and understand who they are, and what they value. That relationship has potential to one day lead to opportunity IF you have talent and the fit they’re looking for. Most jobs in this business are filled through word of mouth, internal connections, and external relationships. It’s a lot harder to be unknown to a hiring manager, and land a great position based on submitting an email or filling out an application.

Since starting my own company, Barrett Sports Media, I’ve had a chance to spend more time researching people, listening to different markets, and reading websites that I didn’t get a chance to enjoy as much in the past. One site that I’ve spent more time reading lately has been Outkick The Coverage. It’s run by Fox Sports personality Clay Travis, and features a good mix of sports coverage, media topics, and pop culture.

otcIt’s on Outkick The Coverage that I became familiar with Mattie Lou Chandler. When she first reached out expressing interest in writing a column for the website I was unfamiliar with her background. I’m not a viewer of the Bachelor or Bachelorette, so I had to venture into unfamiliar territory and read her recaps of the show to get an idea of her style. What I discovered was that her writing was conversational, inviting, and very entertaining. In one of her recaps she said “If I make a joke that Johnny Manziel is currently going through his 2007 Brittney Spears phase, you better laugh“. It was hard not to chuckle and continue reading.

That left me wondering though if she had an ability to write deeper content. After doing some research, I landed on a story she wrote about Jameis Winston. The headline read, “A Victim’s Perspective on Jameis Winston and FSU“. In the article, she opened up about some of her personal experiences and how they related to the story, in addition to sharing her opinion on how Jameis Winston conducts himself. I was impressed with her willingness to put a personal side of herself on display because not everyone has the courage to do that.

bstAfter sorting through a number of her stories, and getting familiar with her witty, sarcastic, light hearted, and direct personality on Twitter (how can you not appreciate the opening line on her profile – “Attempting to combat the Wussification of America“), I touched base to ask her what she’d like to write about. After brainstorming some ideas Mattie Lou came up with the column you’re about to read. I think you’ll find it really helpful if you’re looking to open the doors and develop a career in the industry. Especially if you’re female.

There are a few areas that I think are especially valuable. From the way she got her break, to her approach to social media, to discovering the importance of finding your own niche and being willing to sacrifice and work multiple jobs at once, if it’s something you want bad enough it can be accomplished.

This story is refreshing because it reminds me that working in sports media still remains attractive to many people. When you get paid to do a job that you love, and invest everything you have in becoming great at it, there’s no telling how far you can go. But don’t take it from me, hear it instead from Mattie Lou Chandler.

Getting Started Without Experience

mlc2A female, in sports, who has zero experience. Two and a half years ago, that’s what I was. Sitting in the cube farm of corporate finance, miserable. My dad had a rule when I was little, you’ll watch an hour of SportsCenter each day during the summer before he watched My Pretty Pony or something of the sort with me. His reasoning was that it would make me well rounded and I could converse with boys and girls. It’s not only paid dividends, but it spurned my love of sports. Okay, I’d be lying if I said growing up spending Saturdays in Athens, Georgia and witnessing three BCS National Championships while in college didn’t help significantly.

While in college at The University of Alabama, I could never decide what I wanted to major in. It’s a common dilemma for many students, but I couldn’t settle on anything. Attending a school that is so immersed in sports, my parents quite frequently asked, “Why don’t you go into broadcasting and be like Erin Andrews?” I usually came back with some response about every division one school popping out fifty or so EA wannabe’s a semester, and not being interested or “do you realize how pretty she is?” What did I decide on? That would be Finance, General Business, and Computer Science.

clay1So, how did I get to where I am now? Well, insert Outkick the Coverage, Clay Travis, and Twitter. Clay created a now extremely popular website that’s hosted by a major network, but it has a unique component. The Bull Pen, where you can submit articles in the hopes of them getting published. Everyone at Alabama follows and knows Clay. I was a huge fan of his so imagine my surprise when an email from him appeared in my gmail account saying I needed to write the Bachelor recaps for OKTC. Long story short, my best friend submitted our pledge class recaps and well, the rest is history. Except, the Bachelor isn’t sports.

This is where the necessity of social media comes in. To say I have a love hate relationship with it would be the understatement of a lifetime. As Chrissy Teigen put it, “females in sports have the worst mentions in Twitter.” How bad? My first hate tweet is framed in my house. It was like a badge of honor, which is ridiculous, almost like I had gained some credibility. I created my OKTC Twitter towards the end of my first season of The Bachelor recaps. I thought it would instantly take off and I would get a lot of followers quickly, but not so much. You have to be interacting constantly, it’s the nature of the beast. This is how I started to weave in sports to prove that I could offer more than just Bachelor recaps. College Football and golf, are my first loves, so that’s what my Twitter content consists of.

mlc5

Social Media is an incredible tool if you utilize it properly. Not only do you have to constantly be active, but you have to differentiate yourself. It won’t be enough to be a not completely unfortunate looking blonde who knows some fun facts about football and golf. The best advice I got before I walked into my first agency meeting was, “don’t walk in there and say you want to be the next Erin Andrews.” What do you want to do? How do you want to be presented? Whoa. I needed to hear that a week before the meeting, not twenty minutes prior.

mlc8Six months after writing for Clay and Outkick, I met him in person. The internet is a weird place and I have entirely too many “internet friends” that are in the industry that I’ve either never met or have only seen a few times, and we all think it’s normal. I digress, Clay wrote a book called “Dixie Land Delight Tour” where he went to every SEC school in one season. Our meeting was in the summer before the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff and he suggested given my deep experience with tailgating in the SEC that I go on a version of his book and write about it from a female’s perspective. “Wait, you’re going to pay me to tailgate and talk about college football? Is this real?”

This is how I was going to differentiate myself. I wasn’t going to try and talk x’s and o’s, because while I know the basics and have learned a lot, I’m far from an expert. So I don’t try to be. I’m a southern belle, but I’m witty and can be a guy’s girl. It’s the wholesome, girl next door vibe that comes with the sassy side you never saw coming. I realized this would benefit me greatly for the audience I was writing for, but I had to play to my strengths. You have to know your demographic and target audience.

mlcAs I stated before, being a female in this business can be brutal. There are good days and bad days. You’re going to have to work harder than the men sometimes, and that’s okay. I’m sure you’re all thinking, “wait, you just walked into this job with no journalism experience?” Yes, Clay gave me an opportunity to get my foot in the door, BUT while I quit the corporate world, I’ve worked as a nanny for at least forty hours a week. I then go on the road for three days during the season, and am back at the nanny house at 5:30am on Monday’s.

If you want to be in this industry, you have to go all in. You have to send the DMs to the random radio station that followed you to beg for a segment. You have to check Twitter and get your opinion out when your friends are begging you to get off your phone. You have to write a bunch of articles that will never get published, and you have to take the ones that offer to help you and provide you with advice. Poor Todd Fuhrman, I’m sure he regrets ever offering to help me as we now talk daily about different stories and the best way to approach things. Most importantly, you have to want it, or this business will eat you alive.

mlc7I still have much to learn, and I’m just getting started. In two and a half years I’ve gone from writing Bachelor recaps to heading into my third season covering college football for a major network’s website. I appear frequently on radio show’s across the country, have developed a decent social media following, and I’ve had the opportunity to interview for additional opportunities….all while still nannying.

Don’t go into sports journalism for the money. You’ll more than likely be disappointed. To say it’s been an interesting ride would be an incredible understatement, but it’s only the beginning. Don’t worry if you don’t have a journalism degree or don’t think you know enough. Reach out to people in the industry whose work you respect, and the good one’s will be more than happy to help. In most cases, someone did the same for them. All that matters is getting that one opportunity to get your foot in the door, but you have to continuously build off of it.

Mattie-Lou Chandler is a writer and media personality for Outkick The Coverage and Fox Sports. To connect with her or book a future media appearance, follow her on Twitter @MattieLouOKTC or on Instagram @MattieLouC.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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