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Radio Can’t Tell Its Story By Dictating How It Gets Told

Jason Barrett




Control. It’s a word which is at the forefront of many conversations inside the sports radio industry. It’s part of every contract negotiation, content decision, advertising sale, internal policy, and day to day business decision.

If you scour the nation, you’ll find hosts and producers in each building making decisions today on a variety of challenging situations. Among them are whether to aggressively challenge their local teams or soften their opinions to gain favor. Booking guests and tackling sensitive subjects with them or accepting restrictions and avoiding tough questions to protect future relationships. Last but not least, deciding whether to be honest and authentic on the air and on social media, knowing that if they explore topics unrelated to sports it could result in a loss of audience and/or advertisers.

In most situations, people in position of power use it properly. But when it ends up in the wrong hands, a small brush fire can turn into a blazing inferno.

If you’ve read my columns for the past 3 years, you’re well aware that I’m a free speech advocate. I believe in being transparent, offering unfiltered opinions, and putting the interests of the audience first. Sometimes that’s not popular with members in the industry, but I don’t believe silencing people makes anyone better. In fact, I think you learn more about yourself and your brand when you’re exposed to critical commentary and differing styles and opinions.

I recall Mike Valenti of 97.1 The Ticket making this point a few years ago after the Detroit Lions left his radio station. The team was bothered by Valenti and The Ticket not offering enough of a pro-Lions slant, and when addressing their departure, Valenti summed it up perfectly: “Play the games, win games, I say nice things. Play the games, lose games, I say mean things.”

That’s how it works in a performance based media business which operates under the public eye. If your ratings are good and your brand steers clear of controversy, you’re bound to earn favorable press. If you produce poor results or bring unwanted negative attention to the station you’re employed by, the local headlines will likely be less flattering.

Let me make this clear. I love the sports radio business. It’s been my life’s work for the past two decades. I respect those who work hard to deliver meaningful content, and welcome outspoken personalities who give me a reason to tune in rather than filling the room with less important noise. I recognize the challenges every operation faces in trying to generate higher revenue, and despite an imperfect ratings system, I still value the numbers and believe there are strategic ways to help grow your performance.

I take great pride in championing this format’s cause and working with many great stations and people as an independent resource. There are many great leaders in this business today who have incredible ears and eyes for talent, and love the industry as much as I do. Due to working for one employer though, most don’t have the amount of time that I do to listen, watch and study brands across the country, and address topics that are of importance to the future of our business from a neutral position.

What bothers me though is when I see situations arise inside the industry which put it in position to endure future problems.

Case in point, dictating terms to media reporters on how to write and report about a station and/or its personalities is a disaster waiting to happen. PR people might think they’re retaining control when they offer access with conditions such as sitting in on an interview or approving a story before it hits the press, but that just sets off an unnecessary alarm. You are essentially taking a match, striking it against a rough surface, and expecting it not to light.

Over the past two months I’ve been informed of multiple incidents where radio companies have tried influencing how reporters should cover them. What they fail to take into account is that most media reporters approach stories with their bullshit detectors on. They know drama produces clicks and stations only want one side of a story to be shared, the one that serves their best interests. By attempting to influence a reporter’s ability to tell a story, you are giving them more reason to negatively position your brand and people. This is how most host’s react when a local team pushes for a positive spin after putting lipstick on an unwanted pig.

Ask yourself this, why would an independent writer/reporter, who collects a paycheck from another outlet, sell the positives of your brand, when you’re attempting to limit their ability to tell a complete story? They won’t. As a matter of fact, they’ll likely go further down the negative road because your PR department made it personal when they attempted to restrict them.

Take a look around and you’ll find roughly 700-800 sports stations employing thousands of people. Many have strong opinions and share them with an audience for 40-45 minutes an hour, 3-4 hours per day. If these people can be trusted to candidly speak to thousands of your listeners and on behalf of your brand’s business partners, then you should have enough faith in them to handle themselves professionally during a conversation with a media reporter. If you try to dictate who they can talk to and which topics are fair game, you better be ready for an avalanche of stories to follow which are less friendly and citing ‘sources close to the situation.’

Fortunately I haven’t had many try that approach with me. Those who have know that censoring my views is not an option regardless of any business affiliation. I’ve taken my share of calls from folks who weren’t thrilled with certain topics I’ve written about but that comes with the territory when you write opinionated content on a format comprised of passionate and sometimes sensitive and egotistical people. In most cases, those who complain seldom make contact when something positive about their brand, people or company is published.

I’d like to think that I conduct myself professionally and sell the benefits of this business a lot more than the negatives. Yes I have clients that I work with and sometimes they’re involved in situations which are less than flattering. When they arise, I report the news since this platform is one where sports radio people turn to for news and opinion. In those situations I may refrain from adding my personal opinion because I not only respect those I’m working with and understand the issue a lot deeper, but I also believe too many on the outside looking in tend to sensationalize specific moments rather than evaluate a brand or individual’s full body of work.

The reason I chose to explore this topic is because I think it’s important for radio professionals involved in the day to day decision making of their brands to understand the importance of providing trust, flexibility and transparency to their people. Hosts don’t want to be told what to say and how to say it on your airwaves, and the same is expected when working with outside media members who report on your business. You can arm them with information, and if you respect them and treat them well, they may even give you the benefit of doubt from time to time. However, you’ll never have full control over their editorial decisions.

I realize some stories are going to make your blood boil. When details are shared about situations you’re not proud of, it can be very frustrating inside the office. But if you’re going to ask the audience and advertising community to take into account your entire body of work when your brand is connected to something unpopular, then you’ve got to be willing to offer the same courtesy to those who provide a benefit to your brand, even if it means having to drive over a few speed bumps along the way.

For starters, I’d recommend spending a few minutes educating yourself on the way the Chicago Cubs did business a few years ago. The franchise introduced an honesty policy, letting their fans know they weren’t going to be good for a while. By being transparent in the short-term and working on a viable long-term solution, they made people and the media a part of the process. That ultimately made the reward of a World Series title in 2016 that much sweeter.

Can you image a radio station telling its audience and advertisers, “We’ll be honest with you, our ratings aren’t very good. We’re not giving you enough return on your investment.” Fat chance of that happening. But when you address negatives in a truthful manner and offer humility and future solutions, it becomes harder to root against you.

Each company has to decide how to manage its employees. Some will provide free reign. Others want to place a leash around an individuals neck and connect them to a chain. Restrictions may be necessary for some formats and people, but I think that as a whole, the better approach is offering flexibility and trust. If someone commits a violation then you make an adjustment. But doing so in advance, and without merit, often results in a larger mess.

Ironically, industry leaders often preach about their success stories not being told enough. They challenge outside forces to pay more attention to the good work they’re doing and give radio the respect it deserves. But if there’s one way to guarantee that story never being shared in the press, it’s by instructing the writer how to tell it.

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

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

Jason Barrett




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Barrett




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Barrett




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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