The decision of when and if to retain an agent is an important one for a sports radio personality. When you rise through the ranks in this business, you do it based on your own hard work, and negotiating skills. But when you reach that point in your career when you’re beginning to make a mark on the industry, it’s fair to ask the question “what else am I capable of accomplishing”?
Having the right person in your corner who has confidence in your abilities and possesses the relationships necessary to open up doors is worth its weight in gold. But if the only reason you’re retaining an agent is to help put your resume and on-air samples in front of top decision makers, you have the wrong strategy.
Truth be told, most personalities won’t become dominant national figures or the next Mike Francesa in a local market. Sports radio is ultra competitive and for every person with talent, there are a thousand more with similar skills. It’s not always a question of whether you’re good, it’s a matter of whether or not you’re the right fit for a brand, and if you have the right relationships with key decision makers.
I’m asked for career advice on a regular basis by many members of the sports radio community. While I’m happy to pass along whatever wisdom I’ve gathered from two decades of experience, I don’t pretend to be an agent. I do have friendships with many executives, and understand how many of them think and operate, and I’ve been fortunate to develop friendships and knowledge of how some of the best agents in the business work as well. Whether or not an individual reaching out to me for advice makes sense to put on their radar depends on a variety of factors.
One of the biggest misconceptions I see involves upcoming talent, often younger people, and what they believe is going to happen if they retain an agent. They assume that the agency is going to spend each day chasing down leads for them, and making sure they locate employment. They approach the situation with the mindset of the agent being their personal recruitment center, instead of understanding their role as a career adviser and business partner.
That’s the wrong way to approach the relationship.
First things first, nobody will work harder to find a job than the person without one. But when an opening is identified, it’s often the relationship between the agent and potential employer that can help place the candidate at the top of the list, especially if the agent’s track record is considered strong by the hiring executive.
For example, FOX Sports 1 employs Colin Cowherd and Skip Bayless. Both individuals are represented by CAA. If FOX Sports 1 has a future need, and CAA recommends someone else they’re working with, hiring officials at FS1 are likely going to take a look. This doesn’t mean they’ll hire that person, but a strong track record gives them an advantage over someone else chasing the same opportunity.
There’s also this belief among some on-air talent that being skilled should be enough to warrant a high profile position. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by an on-air host “did you see who ESPN hired? I’m ten times better than him”. My immediate response is usually something to the affect of, “the hiring executive obviously had an interest in what they provide, and if you don’t have the right people talking to that executive, it doesn’t matter how good you may be or think you are”.
I’ve seen industry people with limited experience as a night or weekend talk show host apply for positions on First Take and Undisputed. I’ve seen board operators with one year of experience apply for afternoon drive jobs in top 10 markets despite not having hosted regularly at the radio station where they’re employed.
Newsflash folks, if you’re John Skipper or Jamie Horowitz, you are more than likely going to want to see more proof of performance than a couple of hours on the weekend in a local market. The same is true of those Top 10 market hiring managers who are going to see a resume with no hosting experience and toss it to the side when considering applicants for their vacant position. There are exceptions of course, but a strong track record in a top market often helps candidates stand out.
Hosts have little idea of how sought after these jobs are or who’s in the mix for consideration. Having hired people many times in various markets, the flood of activity is enormous. If a market is desirable, and a brand has a good reputation, a PD is going to receive hundreds of applications and air checks, and phone calls. That’s not taking into account the couple of people who drop by the radio station unannounced and decide to try and infiltrate the PD’s office to let them know they’re the next big thing. By the way, that approach rarely works.
If you’re in charge of a sports television network and under the microscope for every hire you make, especially when it involves large dollars, you’re more likely to pledge your commitment to someone with a strong track record and a relationship with a well respected agency than a possible diamond in the rough who nobody has given a big break to.
As it applies to sports radio, it’s slightly different. Local stations don’t work with the budgets that national television networks do, but that doesn’t mean that a good agent can’t be extremely valuable.
Personalities who have built a good foundation in a local market and choose to handle their own business often assume they’ve emerged victorious when negotiating with their employer. If they were offered a 2 year deal with a 2% raise and negotiated a 2 year deal with a 5% bump, they’re heard in the halls bragging about their big victory.
Except they have no idea if the company would have been willing to extend the deal to three or four years or if they had 10-20% available in compensation and other perks. In that case, did the host really get the best deal available?
When personalities handle their own negotiations they also have a harder time separating business from their personal feelings. Many can’t hear that the company doesn’t believe they’re worth more, and they want to believe that because they’ve invested the past 2-3 years of energy into the brand that they simply deserve to receive better compensation. Unlike the federal government though, a raise isn’t granted for time served in broadcasting.
In numerous cases, the host isn’t familiar with the station’s expenses, sales performance, budgets, or additional challenges. They also don’t know how they’re perceived internally when it comes to working with other departments and station advertisers who are attaching their dollars to the station and/or individual. Before they find out those hard truths at the negotiating table, a good agent is able to prepare them, and hopefully guide them along the way so they can fix any issues that arise and ultimately impact the talent’s earning potential.
This is why smart personalities with a long-term view of their careers invest in good representation. It doesn’t always result in an overnight success story, but having a strategic long-term game plan in place with someone you trust, who has your best interests in mind, who’s willing to invest in your development, and has the ability to present your story to prospective employers is how you ultimately help advance your career.
I wanted to get a better understanding of how agents think and approach a variety of these situations so I reached out to four people who I know and have a ton of respect for in the industry. These men have represented some of the best talents in the sports media business, and if you’re considering working with an agent in the future, or looking to gain perspective of what to expect from such a relationship, I encourage you to pay close attention to their advice.
- Matt Kramer – CAA
- Steve Herz – IF Management
- Mark Lepselter – MAXX Sports
- Matt Miller – Miller Broadcast Management
Herz: Personal character issues first and foremost. Are they hard working, passionate and committed to the business for the right reasons (a love of the craft as opposed to a desire for fame)? Are they coachable people (on and off the air), and do they have a growth mindset about life and learning? We have made a policy of meeting every potential new client so you can generally tell in that face to face meeting if your personalities are in sync, and that generally serves as a mutual weeding process.
We ask people to do a writing sample and reflect on their reasons for being in the business and childhood/life influences. It reveals a lot and helps us make an educated decision on whether we think it’ll be a mutually beneficial long term relationship. Obviously, we also look at their talent and skills and while that’s subjective, after doing this for so many years you like to think you develop a good gut/sense of the marketplace.
Miller: I look for a solid combination of talent, skill and radio business acumen. The latter can be taught or honed. Natural talent is of course a driving quality, but it’s not everything. I have known a lot of naturally talented people who just couldn’t get out of their own way on the business side, often because they weren’t willing to listen and learn. I would share their names but unfortunately you wouldn’t have heard of them. Had they received the proper guidance, and listened and followed that advice, they would be household names today.
Kramer: While there are many attributes we look for in a client, we first consider if he or she is a next level talent. If so, we try to determine how we can help elevate them to that next level across multiple platforms.
Lepselter: We are very selective about who we look to represent in the radio arena. We consider, in no particular order, depth of knowledge, ability to entertain and engage listeners, age, work ethic, background and experience.
Herz: That agents have magic pixie dust. This business is a process and careers take time to develop and involve a lot of factors including timing and luck. Agents who sell the career equivalent of lottery tickets should be avoided by talent. Clients who expect immediate results should be avoided by agents.
Miller: That all agents are equal and able to accomplish the same goals on behalf of their client. Our sole focus is to represent broadcast professionals on a local and national basis. Another misconception is that agents will represent anyone who inquires. Maybe some will, but we won’t. As much as an agent is a reflection of his or her client, a client is a reflection of the agent as well. I work with some of the best and brightest in the industry, and if I’m known as the agent that also represents that “nightmare” of a talent, it reflects poorly on all my clients. My clients are my family, and I won’t bring a negative force into my house.
Kramer: The agent is a facilitator who must be knowledgeable about the entire marketplace – television, radio , digital platforms, and beyond. It is important to remember that the network is king, and therefore, has the keys to the kingdom. The agent works for the client and the client works for the network, so the agent must be useful in helping to maintain, manage, and grow that relationship.
Lepselter: I think that’s a question you’d need to ask the talent, more so than an agent.
Once you’ve agreed to work with a personality, how do you help them in their career beyond negotiating their contracts and helping place them on the radar of potential employers?
Herz: We like to find out what the marketplace thinks of their strengths and weaknesses and if we agree and/or there is a general consensus on that, we try to work with them on improving the areas holding them back. For example, we’ve had clients where the feedback was about the lack of authority in their voice so we engaged a professional voice coach.
Miller: Once we dive in it’s more than just placement and negotiation of contracts. We work with the talent to improve their knowledge of the business, and guide them to be a greater asset to their broadcast partner and to their future success threshold. If you are looking for someone to “yes” you to death and just keep the status quo, we probably aren’t the company for you. If you are looking for someone to be honest and challenge you to raise your game to the next level, both on and off air, then we may have something to talk about. I’m tough (my clients reading this are nodding voraciously), but it’s because there are only so many hours in the day and if I represent you I dive in 100%. If you aren’t listening or working with me to raise your game, then it’s wasted effort.
As to getting on the radar it’s about career planning and taking advantage of our network of contacts and reputation with broadcast companies. But beyond that I am goal oriented. There has to be a plan. Let’s target particular companies for which your skill set is a match and start creating familiarity before there is an opening, so that when opportunities arise the decision makers are already familiar with you.
Kramer: A successful relationship is incumbent on the sharing of information. The agent has to obtain the information and then be able to help connect the dots for the client. The agent needs to convey information – positive and negative – quickly and efficiently to the client. As an agent, if you have information, and know how best to utilize it, your client usually wins.
Lepselter: Listening and reviewing their shows certainly is important. Helping them diversify their portfolio is imperative. You can no longer be a one trick pony in this business. Introducing our clients to the decision makers is critical for them.
For a personality to warrant consideration for a high profile national or local opportunity, what must they already possess? (track record, market familiarity, industry relationships, unique style, etc.)
Herz: They must have some track record of success, hopefully some level of relationship/connection to the potential hiring executive either direct or thru a referral, and they have to be consistent with the goals of the hiring company. Someone who might work on ESPN might not be a fit for CBS. In our case, since we represent a small select number of clients, we hope our clients merit a serious look based on prior success with those execs.
Miller: Track record of success, and a reputation for being a positive force in a company environment. Look, it should be enough to just be talented on the air, to garner ratings. But it’s not. This is a business and the talent who can drive ratings yet understand that we live in a revenue driven world, who can partner in and give the extra effort to help their company drive revenue, develop relationships with sales clients, get out and participate in promotional and sales events and meet current and future P1’s, will always find success. A good agent can get you in the door, that’s the industry relationship portion, but it’s very easy to find out everything about you through various sources. If you’re known as a pain in the ass or unable to work with sales, or countless other shortcomings, you will be passed over.
Kramer: You have to have a laser-focus on what you do to have a shot at making it. You must watch everything and have a strong take on what is happening and what might happen. You can’t fake it through a three or four hour daily radio show. It’s too easy to get exposed in a 24/7 social media world if you aren’t on top of your game.
Lepselter: All of the above. I always say that in this industry, timing is everything.
What advice can you pass along to a personality who has established a good track record and is considering utilizing an agent to help him get to the next level?
Herz: Make sure your personalities, objectives and expectations of each party are consistent and aligned when you enter the relationship. And continue to be an active part of the process of advancing your own career. Continue to build a track record and relationships. The best agent/talent relationships are partnerships.
Miller: I have spoken with hundreds of personalities for whom the timing wasn’t right to hire an agent. Every circumstance is different. I would say reach out to an agent if you think it’s time, but be wary of the agent that will rush to sign you. Research that person or company, and talk to them more than once. As I said earlier, your representative is a reflection of you, and the right agent can reflect positively on your reputation and be effective in accomplishing your career goals.
Kramer: Be meticulous when it comes to the actual representation agreement. Agents know when a client wants to be represented by them. Too many agencies use that to their advantage; pressuring a new client to sign an agreement that requires them to pay that agency in perpetuity – literally forever – for what, in many instances, may be an unsophisticated approach to representation. I would advise talent to take a step back and understand why an agent, who has a fiduciary responsibility to put the client first, would ask for this.
Lepselter: If you truly believe you have the “it factor” you have to decide if you are willing to invest in yourself.
Sports Radio Congratulates Mark Chernoff On a Historic Run at WFAN
“Mark’s greatest strength has been his ability to forge and maintain strong relationships with talent. He has done this by putting his ego aside. It’s never about him but what’s best for the radio station.”
Regardless of what business you’re in, it’s inevitable that things will change. What you hope for as a professional is that when you walk out the door for the final time, you can look back and feel proud of the work you’ve done, the friendships and relationships you’ve established, and the way you helped people improve and reach heights they never dreamed possible. If you can leave a permanent mark on a city, let alone an entire format and industry, that’s even sweeter.
And that’s exactly what Mark Chernoff has done.
I never had the privilege of sharing office space or a studio with Mark, but I’ve been fortunate over the years to develop a professional relationship with him. He’s always been a champion for his people, his radio station, and the industry we’re all proud to be a part of. I’ve written before how WFAN inspired me to get into this business. The way the radio station sounded, felt, and captured the spirit, passion and imagination of New York sports radio fans is the reason why I decided to enter the business and am now able to write this column. The powerful combination of Mike & the Mad Dog and the numerous larger than life personalities that have graced WFAN’s airwaves over the years may have received most of the credit. All of them deserving of their recognition. But equally as important to the brand’s ratings and revenue success has been the PD who many in the format recognize as the best to do it, Mark Chernoff.
When I heard the news that Mark would be leaving WFAN I knew this column would have to be written. The issue, I knew it’d be incredibly long. So, if you’re not a fan of reading long stories, let this serve as your cue to exit before you get sucked in and lose 20 minutes of your day.
A man with Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments and importance to the sports format deserves to be recognized properly by the site that specializes in covering the sports radio world. Columns like this aren’t usually available in other online locations, and I take pride in our ability to use our platform to celebrate people and preserve the history that so many have helped to create in our industry. It’s the same reason why I sought Mark’s blessing two years ago to introduce the Mark Chernoff Award at our annual BSM Summit.
Countless hosts, programmers, producers, executives, clients and listeners have benefitted from Mark’s wisdom as WFAN’s program director. I could go on and on about his accomplishments, his impact on the industry, and the brand he’s turning over to Spike Eskin, but I’d rather turn this piece over to those who know Mark best. They’ve had a front row seat to watch him operate and turn WFAN into one of the most important brands in all of media. So without further delay, here’s the industry’s heartfelt thank you and congratulations to the greatest program director in sports radio history – Mark Chernoff.
Chris Oliviero, Audacy New York Market Manager: Mark offered me one of my first paying radio jobs back in 1998, and since that moment our relationship has evolved into one of the most rewarding, important and genuine friendships of my entire life. He might not have been the first sports radio PD, but Babe Ruth wasn’t the first baseball player either. First does not always mean best.
The Chernoff family’s love of baseball is well documented, so when you look at the back of Mark’s baseball card, you will see a dominant performance. An almost 30 year run at the same station in market #1 delivering consistent ratings and revenue success. A gifted talent whisperer to a “Who’s Who’s” of radio personalities from Stern to Imus to Francesa & Russo to Boomer & Carton. Mark’s fingerprints are everywhere on our industry from the AM to FM sports revolution, to iconic local sports brands on the dial in the biggest cities in America beyond just New York, and to being a founding father of a thriving national sports radio network. What hasn’t he done?
But what he is most proud of I am sure and probably his biggest legacy will be his coaching tree. His mentorship to an All-Star roster of sports radio PDs nationwide is his gift to us all. When Mark cares he truly cares and when he says he will help make you better, he actually means it. Our business is better because of Mark, and I know I am too.
Mike Francesa, legendary WFAN talk show host, one half of Mike & the Mad Dog, and solo host of ‘Mike’s On: Francesa on The Fan’: There are a select number of very talented people who established WFAN into one of the great success stories in the history of broadcasting, and helped it endure for over a generation alone at the top. Mark is one of them.
Chris Russo, SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Afternoon Host and former co-host of WFAN’s Mike & The Mad Dog: I was in St. Martin in the Caribbean in March of 1993 when Mark introduced himself as the new program director of WFAN. He knew what a good radio station was supposed to “sound” like, never looked for the spotlight, and understood how to play the middle man between the GM/Owner & talent. Name me a PD anywhere who can successfully deal with the egos of Howard Stern, Don Imus, & Mike & the Mad Dog?
Also, Mark always backed you up and never sold you down the river. He always protected the rights of the radio station, even to a “fault”. For instance, he’d never let another radio show broadcast in the booth from Shea Stadium. I was always impressed that he’d be in there when the morning show started at 6am, and he did a hell of a job putting together a successful show after the demise of Imus….not easy.
On a personal note, he did everything in his power to keep me at WFAN, and always kept in touch even after I departed (like remembering my birthday).
Craig Carton, WFAN Afternoon Show Co-Host of ‘Carton & Roberts’: There are very few entities and even fewer people who are undeniably synonymous with sports talk radio in this country. Mark Chernoff is one of those people. For more than 30 years he was in charge of the singular radio station responsible for the first new radio format in decades. You wouldn’t know it today with the hundreds of successful sports talk stations in every market but sports talk as a 24 hour a day format was scoffed at and not taken seriously. Under Mark’s leadership, WFAN changed that while changing radio forever. He may not have invented the format but he no doubt oversaw it and massaged it and now leaves it as arguably the most successful and powerful format on the radio today. Boomer and Carton never would have happened let alone become as successful as it became without Mark. I never would have been offered the job in the first place if Mark was not the man in charge. His prior experience with Howard Stern, Don Imus and Opie and Anthony gave him a unique view of how important an entertaining morning show was for the overall success of a station and how different that show could and should be from the rest of the sports talk programming.
Take a look around the country and tell me how many straight sports, x’s and o’s morning shows are dominating the ratings in any market. The answer is none. Chernoff is ultimately responsible for that. Mark is also a fighter for what he believes in and someone who loves radio. I have worked for PD’s who didn’t love radio and who didn’t get the art form that compelling radio is. Mark always did. He also appreciated talent. I remember dozens of arguments w had about content and the sound of on air promotion’s and ID’s, neither of us wavering but always respecting that the argument was about making things better and not about who was right. He won some, I won some, and the show and radio station benefitted from the back and forth.
I had never met a PD prior to meeting Mark who was in the building before the morning show went on the air and was still there when the afternoon drive show signed off. He lived and loved radio and would listen on his cheap Walkman while jogging on the streets of New Jersey everyday at 4:00 in the morning. Mark heard everything, missed nothing and truly cared about the voices that came through his headphones. He was not a micro-manager the way so many people are but he also never failed to give you his opinion on your performance. In doing so he kept you on your toes and made you a better broadcaster. On a personal note, I love Mark. I’m blessed to have had him as my Program Director and as my friend, and blessed that he was at WFAN when I needed someone to believe in me as a person enough to give me a second chance at returning to the airwaves last year. I will always be indebted to him for that and for the first chance all the way back in 2007 to replace Imus with me and Boomer, an unpopular move at the time, which was ridiculed and challenged as nuts, but which turned out to be one of the most successful radio decisions he ever made. Mark leaves behind a legacy of success that is unmatched by any other talk radio program director in the country. He is deserving of all of the accolades that I am sure are pouring in and he will certainly be missed.
Evan Roberts, WFAN Afternoon Show Co-Host of ‘Carton & Roberts’: If you are a sports fan in the New York City area there is no doubt you listened to WFAN as a kid and young adult. The radio station defined everything that was the New York sports fan and couldn’t be more perfectly put together. I know that it influenced me as a young sports fan as well as countless others. Personally, I don’t think I ever get to where I am now on WFAN without one man giving a 9 year old a shot in 1993 when I wrote a letter applying for a job. That opportunity in 1993 and and again in 2004 when I started filling in on the overnight shift came from one of the great program directors in radio history; Mark Chernoff. I will always cherish the conversations Joe Benigno, Mark and I would have in the back office. Congrats to Mark on an incredible run and changing the landscape of sports talk radio in America.
Gregg Giannotti, WFAN Morning Show Co-Host of ‘Boomer & Gio’: “I think you need to be a talk show host”.
Without those words from Mark Chernoff I wouldn’t have the career I have now. Mark, Eric Spitz, Joe Benigno, Evan Roberts and I would get together before every midday show and talk sports and laugh. It was in those conversations that Mark saw something in me, which led to hosting my first show. I will be forever grateful.
I really don’t know how he did it, dealing with all of us maniacs. Managing those type of personalities is a skill very few possess. I didn’t fully appreciate Mark until I left my producer job at WFAN for a talk show host job in Pittsburgh. I thought every PD got to work at 5am and left at 6pm.
Every day of my radio career I knew Mark Chernoff was working and doing all he could to make our radio station great. It will be very odd the first day he isn’t there. I may have to call him at 5am so we can talk some baseball before the show. He’s a great husband, father, grandfather and radio titan. All the best Mark, I’m sorry for all those impressions I’ve done of you (Not Really).
Eric Spitz, SiriusXM VP of Sports Programming: Although all of these accolades are extremely well deserved, Mark won’t like any of this as he dreads being the center of attention. Too bad, Mark.
I think Mark’s greatest strength has been his ability to forge and maintain strong relationships with talent. Whether it’s been established stars like Howard, Imus, Scott Muni, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo or shows that he created like Boomer and Carton, and more recently, Boomer and Gio and Carton and Roberts, Mark has been able to get along with and get the most out of high profile talent. He has done this by putting his ego aside. It’s never about him but what’s best for the radio station.
Among many other attributes, Mark is a tireless worker who has the same passion and energy for the job today as he has had any point in his career. I will guarantee you that he will be writing station promos and Yankee liners on June 30th and will hit send right before returning the corporate laptop.
What has always impressed me the most about Mark, however, has nothing to do with radio. It’s been his commitment to family. Despite an incredibly demanding job, he never missed a child or grandchild’s game, recital or concert. The event could take place in New Jersey, DC, Cleveland or Chicago and Mark would be there. And he insisted that others, like me, follow the same path. For that, I am extremely grateful.
Hopefully, this is only a goodbye to WFAN and not a so long to the industry. Mark still has so much to contribute to both the sports and music formats. He’s a dual threat. A sports guy who never misses a post.
Spike Eskin, Mark Chernoff’s successor as WFAN Program Director: Mark has been the most thoughtful, encouraging influence that I’ve had on me as a Program Director since I started at 94WIP. He’s not just a person you can bounce things off of (he does that too), but always goes above and beyond when you need another voice.
His influence on WFAN and sports radio in general cannot be understated, and is obvious, but his influence on other programmers is the thing that I will always remember and appreciate. He’s really the greatest.
Jim Rome, CBS Sports Radio Host of ‘The Jim Rome Show’: I’ve appreciated Mark’s presence and participation in all we’re doing. He’s been solid from the word, “go”, and has made a whole lot possible for us. For all he’s accomplishing on a day-to-day basis, he’s grinding just as hard as the rest of us and he’s been doing that for 30 years or more. To perform and achieve at his level, you have to be the real deal, and Mark is. Heck of a run! He’s one to watch for what’s next.
Dan Mason, Former CEO of CBS Radio: In good times and trying times, Mark was always prepared. He was the backbone of WFAN whose respect for the product and talent was always stellar. I loved working with him and congratulate him on a terrific run at WFAN.
Steve Cohen, SiriusXM Senior Vice President of Programming, former WFAN host, reporter and executive producer: One of Mark’s greatest attributes as a manager of people was he didn’t try to change you. He gave you the feedback and room necessary to grow. That was easier said than done with the wild bunch he inherited. Mark allowed a certain level of independence and if we delivered, then he let us roll with it. We never worked in fear under his watch and became very confident in our ability to deliver quality content. That’s what great managers do. It’s what Mark Chernoff excelled at.
Mitch Rosen, 670 The Score/1250 The Fan, Program Director: What defines the person by the name of Mark Chernoff?
Genuine – Teacher – Coach – Real – Friendly – Helpful – Original – Pioneer – Innovator – Menche, and a terrific father, grandfather, husband, and most importantly, a great friend to so many.
When people think of sports radio they should think of Mark Chernoff.
Chris Kinard, 106.7 The Fan/Team 980, Program Director: Mark Chernoff’s career speaks for itself. The ratings, the successful shows he’s launched, the tenure, the consistency, and those 4 call letters: WFAN. What doesn’t speak for itself and requires others to speak out is what Mark has done behind the scenes for countless hosts, PD’s, producers, and other professionals in our business. I’m honored to be able to share some of what Mark has done for me, and meant to me.
I was a first-time PD, about 30 years old, 2+ years into the job, and working without a contract when CBS decided to flip a bunch of its talk and music stations to sports in 2009. We had a great launch, and beat our direct competitor the first month out of the gate. Then the race got tight in the Fall, and then football season was over and things continued to be competitive. It was decided that Mark should come down to evaluate what we were up to, and help where needed. Hearing the corporate format captain is coming to town to “help” inspires DOOM in the mind of every PD. I had no relationship with Mark at that point, and honestly I was very nervous about what his visit meant for me. My apprehension quickly dissipated as Mark and I talked. He is a great listener. He knew the signal challenges of the station (he’d programmed WJFK for about a month before Mel Karmazin said “I need you in New York!), understood the talent dynamics, and calmly focused the conversation on action items that we would tackle over the next few days. Mark was very clear on one thing in particular… our jingles sucked! And he was right. I will never forget standing next to Mark in our crappy old studio in Fairfax, VA as he sang over the phone to jingle singers “No, it’s more like ‘one-oh-six-seven The FAN!” over and over and over and over again. Until they were perfect, because that’s how you have the kind of career Mark Chernoff has had. You pay attention to the details and you work at them until they’re perfect.
I’ve had the privilege of working with and knowing Mark since then, and always know I will get great advice about radio or anything else when I need it. And you know someone is the real deal when you hear the same experience from everyone else around the format. Mark truly is the real deal, as a programmer, leader, and human being. Thank you, Mark.
Al Dukes, WFAN Morning Show Producer of ‘Boomer & Gio’: I first heard the name Mark Chernoff while listening to The Howard Stern Show during the 1990’s (I think it was the 1990s). I first met him while working at the corporate offices of CBS Radio when the company was looking for replacements for Howard Stern. Mark and I had the ‘pleasure’ of working with David Lee Roth. True story, I once had to get in between DLR and Mark because I actually thought they were going to come to blows in the hallways of K-Rock. The man is certainly passionate about radio (Mark that is, not David).
For the last 14 years, I’ve worked with Mark at WFAN while producing the morning show. I’ve always appreciated his management style of letting shows do their own thing as long as the ratings are good. When the ratings start to slip, he’s always there with suggestions on how to tweak things to get back on track. And he was always ready to battle sales when they came up with a terrible sponsorship idea. It will be really weird not having him around. Thank you Mark.
John Jastremski, ‘New York, New York’ Host, The Ringer and Spotify, former WFAN host: For almost the last decade I worked for Mark Chernoff, but it’s very rare that you get a sense to hear and know about your boss before you ever start at your employer. Mark’s success in programming radio was obvious with the product that was on the air at WFAN for years with Imus and Mike and the Mad Dog. I was curious to get a sense of what made the man tick when I started at the radio station in 2011. Even as a bright eyed 23 year old, Mark believed in my talent and allowed me to be me. Sure, there were critiques and plenty of conversations, but one of his great strengths is that he allowed talent to be themselves and perform. With Mark at the helm, I never had to worry about the program director micromanaging topics, telling me what to discuss. He trusted me to do the very best sports radio show that I could do. For that, I will forever be grateful.
In the years doing the overnight shift, there was nothing quite like the Cherny pop in as he would stroll in at 515 in the morning. You never quite knew what that meant. Sure, it would be the occasional, “you hit the update a minute and a half late!”, but in many cases it would be conversations of sports, classic rock and me wondering how a human could go for a run at 315 in the morning. That’s Mark Chernoff for you. Mark has had a legendary career in radio and personally I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me.
Marc Malusis, WFAN Midday Show Co-Host of ‘Maggie & Moose’: I started out as an intern at WFAN in 1998. That led to a part-time position in 2000 as a behind the scenes producer/board-op. This means I have worked for Mark Chernoff in some capacity for 20+ years, experiencing his leadership in those early roles that I held and later as an update anchor and host. I owe a lot to Mark. He gave me my first opportunities as an anchor and host. I think what separates him as a Program Director(PD) and has made him successful at WFAN and other stations is that he has a clear understanding of what the station should be based on what the audience is looking for from the station. He knew what he wanted from his hosts, and what worked and didn’t work at the station. Mark has a keen sense of the heartbeat of WFAN which at its core, is passionate sports talk mixed in with other topics and caller interaction. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him giving me those on-air opportunities.
Being a New Yorker, I never wanted to leave this city. I’ve always wanted a chance to be a full time host on the station that I grew up listening to. I was afforded that shot by Mark in 2020 and I will forever be grateful to him. He has been open and honest with me over the course of my career and even though at times, I might not like what he’s had to say, I appreciated his honesty. New York Radio, not just WFAN, will forever feel the indelible mark that he has made on this medium. He is an excellent Program Director, and loyal to his team and the stations he has managed. I just personally want to say ‘Thank You’ and I will miss him.
Maggie Gray, WFAN Midday Show Co-Host of ‘Maggie & Moose’: Mark Chernoff helped open the door to sports talk radio for me. Working at WFAN has been the opportunity of a lifetime. I will always appreciate Mark for giving me a chance to be a host.
Bruce Gilbert, Cumulus/Westwood One, Senior VP of Sports: Jeff Smulyan had the stones to create America’s first all sports radio station in WFAN. Mark Chernoff made WFAN as much a part of New York City as the Empire State Building. Mark’s intelligence, competitiveness, foresight, understanding, and patience combined with his loyalty and consistency made WFAN a huge part of the overall DNA of New York City sports.
Mark managed the many spirited, passionate, and disparate voices employed as hosts on “The Fan” while constantly protecting the mission of being a voice for “The Fan”. Anyone that has studied the history of FAN under Mark can take away numerous worthwhile tips from his leadership, inventiveness, and creativity. Mostly, though, we can take away the fact that when your radio station truly and accurately reflects the mood and disposition of your constituents, the results are beyond dynamic.
Mark IS the Godfather of sports talk radio in America. He deserves every award and honor the media industry has bestowed upon him up until now and forever more. It’s also vitally important to know that beyond his professional achievements, Mark is a genuinely caring and wonderful human that loves his family and talks constantly and lovingly about his kids and grandkids. A man that still “has a catch” with his son Mike at least once a month, even if it means flying to Cleveland, having a catch in the airport parking lot, and flying back to New York in one afternoon.
If you are among those lucky enough to have worked with, for, or alongside Mark Chernoff; you know you’re better off because of it.
Mike Thomas, Good Karma Brands Chicago (ESPN 1000), Market Manager: Mark and I have similar radio paths. Don’t take that the wrong way. Mark is the King! I’m just saying that we both were in rock radio and made the switch to sports radio and have been successful in both formats. When we launched The Sports Hub in 2009 at CBS Radio Boston, Mark was an invaluable resource to me. Not only did he support me programming sports radio for the first time, but he shared many ideas with me about working with sports radio hosts, instead of what I was used to, which was music radio “DJ’s”. He also always reinforced the fact that programming an FM sports station is not much different than a rock station…you’re talking to the same audience, he would tell me. Throughout my time in Boston, Mark was always available if I needed to bounce something off him, and always offered great advice. The thing you could always count on in every conversation, he would ask about my family. He’s an amazing programmer and more importantly one of the nicest, kindest, caring people you’ll ever meet. I wouldn’t be where I am without Mark Chernoff!
Brandon Tierney, CBS Sports Radio, Afternoon Show Co-Host of ‘Tiki & Tierney’: Cherny is truly a broadcasting legend, an undeniable industry titan. Yet, despite all of his success, he has remained incredibly humble and approachable. Throughout his distinguished career, he’s left an indelible mark on this business, one that will be incredibly hard to replicate. His instincts and feel for the medium are probably his greatest professional strengths, but his willingness to connect personally with talent, to humanize the business so to speak, was always greatly appreciated. Quite frankly, I wish I had an opportunity to work more closely with Mark earlier in my career. A tremendous person who’s day-to-day contributions and consistency will be missed greatly. Legend. Congrats, Mark!
Damon Amendolara, CBS Sports Radio, Morning Host of ‘The DA Show’: I remember sitting wide-eyed in an office for an interview with Mark Chernoff in 2005. This was THE Mark Chernoff who guided Howard Stern, Don Imus, and Mike and the Mad Dog over the course of his career. In radio terms, it was like sitting with Bill Walsh or Pat Riley. I was 26 years old, hoping to earn some fill-in work on WFAN by not stammering my way through questions about show philosophy and the art of the monologue. Anyone who has worked for him knows, earning trust from Chernoff isn’t easy, but once you have it you feel extremely confident. It’s like Coach K giving you the green light to shoot.
That conversation led to a few weekend shifts while I was on vacation from my full-time hosting job in Kansas City. Those shows led to Mark hiring me for CBS Radio’s launch in Boston three years later. That ultimately led to my spot at CBS Sports Radio in New York. It’s just one example of his strong loyalty to those who have worked hard for him. But he’s also quick to dole out sharp criticism when he feels it’s needed. Every step along the way Mark was consistent with me. He was honest if I needed direction or critique. He was trusting and hands off when I was in a groove. He allowed me to develop my style, while also having strong opinions on what was working and what wasn’t. He was an impeccable resource.
If you’ve ever been in his office, you’ve heard him listening to multiple stations at the same time, while responding to emails and fielding phone calls. His fingerprints are on scores of stations, and hundreds of careers. He’s a Hall of Famer for a reason. Mark has plenty of energy and ability left for a new challenge. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s coaching radio talent and giving them the green light to shoot again.
Shaun Morash, CBS Sports Radio/WFAN, Host/Producer: Mark has meant the world to me and other young broadcasters that have had the pleasure of interning and working at WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. His willingness to allow me to be me has allowed me to live out my lifelong dream. I am excited for the next chapter at CBS Sports Radio and WFAN but will undoubtedly miss the guidance and underrated laughs Mark has given us all. I wish him nothing but the best as he gets to spend more time being the wonderful grandfather that he is.
Terry Foxx, WFNZ, Program Director: When I think of Mark Chernoff, a few words come to mind. Passionate, smart, visionary, coach, and teacher. Mark is the “bench mark”, the one we strive to be in the sports programming world. In sports language, he’s won more Super Bowls than anyone else, and we as programmers have stolen his playbook for our own success. Most importantly, he has been the most successful sports programmer of our time.
Personally Mark has been my mentor, coach, and a huge part of my success in the business. He’s taught me to believe in myself and as one of the only African-American sports programmers in the business, he’s instilled in me to go out and find other great programmers and talent of diverse backgrounds and help them achieve as I have. Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I am today, without Mark Chernoff. He will be missed greatly.
Andy Roth, 92.3 The Fan, Program Director: All of us in the radio business know that there are many who have helped us along the way. I know I would not be where I am today, or have the radio knowledge I have today, without Mark. He never said no to scheduling time or spending time in person just to talk. Mark always wanted to understand you, the problems you may be having and what he could to to help, even while doing everything else in his life.
As far as WFAN goes, it’s not just a radio station to me. It’s a family. Mark made sure that the staff led by Eric Spitz and Steve Cohen would help manage, teach and grow the WFAN culture. That also included intern managing skills of Eddie Scozzare and board teaching from people like Joan Chin and Dov Kramer. This group-managing style allowed me to be more confident in what I do and I’ve brought that with me to every job since 2000. I hope I can live up to the standards Mark Chernoff and the WFAN family created.
Adam Schein, SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Host, former WFAN Host: It’s still crazy to think that Mark Chernoff is retiring! His genius and leadership has been synonymous with WFAN forever. It’s not hyperbole to call him the most important sports radio programmer in the history of sports radio.
On a personal note, I loved working for him. He listens to everything firsthand. I love that. I remember when I did my first ever overnight show on WFAN on March 11, 2001. Mark called me immediately after the show in the control room to tell me how much he enjoyed it and that he’d be in touch for more shows. I’ll never forget that call and the words of wisdom and confidence. I’ll also never forget the calls to offer me my childhood dream job of hosting afternoon drive. It meant the world.
Mark’s radio background was in music, and he used to stress to me all the time to “play the hits” while hosting. Baseball talk drove a show on WFAN, especially when I hosted for him from 2001-2006. He wanted you to come out of breaks with what people wanted to hear, and understand the cadence and flow of a show, how to use calls and pound the phones, etc.. He also had an innate ability of knowing when to communicate with his hosts and when it was best to let them roll. WFAN is the greatest local sports radio station in the country today, and that’s because of Mark. What an incredible run!
Amy Lawrence, CBS Sports Radio Overnight Host: As Mark Chernoff moves onto the next phase of his storied career, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the last nine plus years with him at CBS Sports Radio Network. I can say unequivocally he is the best boss I’ve ever had. He not only offered me an incredible opportunity to join a brand new radio venture in 2013, but he believed in me enough to invest in me as a host and personality.
Mark is an unwavering ally; as a female in sports radio, I don’t take that lightly. He never asked me to be anyone other than AMY. He never wanted me to be “one of the guys” or more like my male counterparts. His confidence in me has been invaluable. He taught me to trust my instincts and take risks, and he gave me the freedom to be creative and unique. I am proud to call him a friend and thankful for the professional and personal lessons I’ve learned from him.
Thank you, Mark! Just as you’ve supported me, I will support you as you move forward.
Zach Gelb, CBS Sports Radio Host: I’m not usually a Mount Rushmore guy, but it’s so obvious to say that Mark Chernoff is on WFAN’s Mount Rushmore. He is an absolute legend and has been the backbone of WFAN for decades. He is a tremendous leader, program director and most importantly, a friend. I’ve known Mark literally since I was born, and he’s been critiquing my radio tapes since I was in high school. Even with his busy schedule, he’s always been willing to help a young talk show host. I’m forever grateful that he hired me to host a daily national sports radio show at CBS Sports Radio. I will always cherish our time working together and wish him nothing but the best moving forward. Hopefully he can sleep in late now and not rush to wake up at 3:45 AM to immediately run, deal with headaches from talent and listen to the radio! Congrats Mark and thank you!
Jody McDonald, longtime WFAN host: The best thing about working for Mark Chernoff, ego was never a problem, yours or his! I was schooled by my dad at an early age, “there should never be a reason to be an A.K. (That’s A** Kisser). Stand on your own hard work and talent“. A tenant I’ve worked by my whole life. That worked great for me working under Mark. Even though he has been tasked with handling some BIG stars with BIG egos, he never needed to hear how great he was at his job. No ego stroking necessary, even though it was probably deserved. He judged everyone by how good they were behind the mic and not much else. As fair and as straight a shooter as I’ve ever had the pleasure working for!
Gavin Spittle, 105.3 The Fan, Program Director: In 1995, I received a typed email from Mark letting me know what I needed to work on. I was a kid out of college and I still have that letter. He didn’t need to do that. I now try my best to carry that torch and help others. Mark has always been a tremendous resource and friend. He’s always there for you. What an amazing career and more importantly Mark, you are an amazing person.
Jimmy Powers, 97.1 The Ticket, Program Director: Mark Chernoff has been a pioneer in the sports talk format and a true inspiration to so many Program Directors across the country over the years. He’s had an amazing career in the industry – building one of the most iconic brands in the country, WFAN, while doing so in the #1 market in the country! Congratulations Mark, well deserved! Cheers to you!
Adam Klug, 97.3 The Fan, Program Director: In a world where almost nothing can be unanimously agreed upon, I believe anyone you ask within the sports talk radio industry would agree that Mark Chernoff played a major role in shaping the landscape of our format that exists today. From running the first ever and most influential sports talk radio station in the country’s biggest market, to helping launch CBS Sports Radio, as well as positively affecting the careers of so many, Mark Chernoff is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in sports talk radio history.
Mark was always generous with his time and knowledge when we worked together, and recommended me for the position that I’m in today with 97.3 The Fan in San Diego. He has been an important mentor to me as I’ve grown into a role that I had never held before. Mark is never too busy to answer my phone calls or respond to emails and listen to what I’m going through and offer advice based on his own experiences. I wish him nothing but the best as he begins the next chapter of his career.
Two Great Formats, One Kickass Supersite
“This is a strategic move aimed at making things easier for the reader, and showcasing the best of two great brands and formats on one kickass supersite.”
It’s an exciting day for all of us at BSM and BNM, because today marks the start of something special. Yes we have an awesome new look and layout for our content, made possible by the great Andy Drake. I encourage you to sift thru a few of the different tabs at the top of the website. You’ll find popular features from our writers in the Originals section, podcasts we’ve produced over the years, the Member Directory featuring nearly forty radio professionals, access points to content from all twenty four of our writers, and shortcuts to our sports and news media sections. We’ve even built three columns to the right on the main page to make it easier to maneuver thru daily sports and news content, and the latest columns from our writing teams.
If you were reading carefully, you picked up on my use of BNM in the first sentence, and the word news in the last sentence. And if you browsed the website today, you likely noticed news and sports are now presented in the same location.
I took the risk and launched Barrett News Media eight months ago. We came out of the gate with a staff of twelve, which was twelve more than Barrett Sports Media had when it was born in September 2015. Like with most new brands, tweaks were needed, and lessons were learned. I initially wanted to put BNM and BSM under the same roof, but there were too many unknowns. For that reason, I launched the brand as a separate entity.
I had to find out if my interest in news would remain high or fade out after a few months. I had to learn if our staff would produce content consistently or leave us plugging holes regularly. I had to discover if media stories would remain hot after a heated presidential election. As important as those all were, one mattered even more – would anyone read our work?
After studying the peaks and valleys of our news brand for nearly a year, I know that people will consume our content if it’s original, interesting, and timely. But asking them to follow us in two different places is a tall order. It’s also harder to reach people in the news media space because social media activity is lighter due to a lack of trust in big tech, and some folks in the format still don’t know me.
Since launching, I’ve overseen two websites, two staffs, two email addresses, and multiple social media accounts, worrying about maintaining separation when I had no reason to worry in the first place. Newspapers have spent decades blending sports and news, online brands across the internet do the same today, and Chrissy Paradis, Pete Mundo, Rick Schultz, Douglas Pucci, Ryan Maguire, Ryan Hedrick, Eduardo Razo and Jordan Bondurant have done more than enough good work to deserve having their material presented to the most amount of people.
So now we move forward as one unit, fully dedicated to serving both the sports and news/talk formats in one location. We will continue prioritizing columns from experienced professionals, the latest industry news, and original ideas that spark interest and discussion. Our email blasts will come from one source, social media promotion will emanate from our BSM channels, and all of our website content will be housed in one spot. If visitors type in the URL for BarrettNewsMedia.com it will automatically redirect to the BSM website.
To help us manage the content cycle and strengthen our brands further, I am pleased to announce a few new additions. First, Troy Coverdale joins BNM as Editor, McGraw Milhaven as a weekly columnist, and Jordan Bondurant and Ryan Hedrick add opportunities to write feature stories multiple times per month. Meanwhile, BSM will gain the writing talents of Ryan Maguire, and semi-regular contributions from Rob Taylor and Scott Seidenberg. Kate Constable and Ricky Keeler will also get more involved writing features. I also plan to add one more news writer soon to fill Brandon Contes’ position.
The new look of the website has me fired up and excited about the possibilities ahead. A big tip of the cap to Point To Point Marketing, Core Image Studio, and the great Jim Cutler for helping us pull this off. I’m eager to increase connections with news radio and television professionals, and showcase their great work. With that in mind, if you have a news tip or story idea for either of our brands, send it by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. With the website makeover complete, I’ll now focus on the next project – the 2021 BSM Summit. I’ll have news to share next week on that endeavor, so stay tuned.
If you’re a fan of what we do for sports media coverage, have no fear. The same great content experience you’ve come to enjoy for the past six years is not affected. If news radio/television coverage interests you but didn’t know much about BNM, now you’ll be able to access the content without jumping thru extra hoops. This is a strategic move aimed at making things easier for the reader, and showcasing the best of two great brands and formats. I’m pleased with BNM’s start, but know that if we can do a few things for the brand that we’ve done for BSM, it’ll make the content experience better, the industry relationships stronger, and the work more meaningful. And that is the reason we do this in the first place.
Thank you for continuing to visit, and afford us the opportunity to inform and entertain you. We understand the media business and are passionate about it, and that’s reflected in our team’s writing. Some you may know that about. Others you may not. But having them all under one roof should make your ability to find out a whole lot easier.
BSM’s Sports Media MVP Tournament Bracket
“The field of 64 for the BSM Sports Media MVP Tournament is now set! “
The field of 64 for the BSM Sports Media MVP Tournament is now set!
Congratulations to ESPN’s Jeff Passan on knocking off FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal to earn the final entry in this year’s tournament. To see the full schedule of when matchups will take place, scroll down below.
A reminder, all voting for each round of the tournament will be done on Twitter thru @sportsradiopd. The people’s votes determine who advances, and who goes home. Be sure to print off your bracket, make your picks, and follow along to see how they stack up against the actual results.
As I mentioned previously, there are no layups in this tournament. Round 1 features many difficult and compelling matchups. Those who advance will have even harder matchups awaiting them in future rounds. There will likely be debate over who should’ve made the list that didn’t, and who deserved a higher or lower ranking. We expect that noise, and welcome it. But this is the bracket, we feel good about it, and whoever wins this tournament, will have gone down a long tough road to earn the voters respect, and ultimately the MVP championship.
So, let’s have some fun, and find out who is the MVP of the Sports Media industry.
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