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Rome Deserves Call From The National Radio Hall of Fame

Jason Barrett

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As sports fans, we often rely on the eye test to tell us if someone is a hall of famer. Stats provide evidence of an individual’s greatness. So too does being excellent in a sport for a lengthy period of time. If you can include a few championships, that’s usually enough to end the conversation and earn permanent recognition among the game’s elite.

In the sports radio business, it’s much tougher to depend on evidence because ratings and revenue can fluctuate, employers can change, and a host’s ability to deliver an entertaining show is viewed differently by each listener. One might point to a host’s longevity and use that as a barometer of being worthy of hall of fame consideration, but being able to last is far different than making a consistent impact.

If you were to look at the list of sports broadcasters who have made the National Radio Hall of Fame you’d find that most have been play by play announcers. To date, there haven’t been any modern day sports talk show hosts recognized who have been part of the sports format’s explosion over the past thirty years. Not Mike Francesa. Not Mike and Mike. Not Dan Patrick. Nobody.

Now before you take aim at the Hall of Fame for that, pump the brakes. Being nominated is supposed to be special, and the selection committee takes their responsibility very seriously. Sports may allow stats compilers to get in, and other players to earn consideration after local media members have continued making a case for why they deserve an extra look, but earning a place among the best in any profession is supposed to be difficult.

To illustrate that point, the National Radio Hall of Fame takes the best of the best from all formats, and puts them up for nomination. You may immediately think “Mike Francesa is a Hall of Famer” and you might be right, but if for example he was on the ballot at the same time as Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, Don Imus and Scott Shannon, and you could only vote once or twice, that would make it a much harder decision.

One of the cool things the National Radio Hall of Fame does is they allow people to be involved in their voting process. Fans are given a chance to vote twice, and it benefits each nominee to make their audience aware of their being considered for the prestigious honor of joining broadcasting’s finest. This year fans can vote by logging on to RadioVote.com or texting 800 to 9600 to show their support for specific nominees.

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As far as the sports format is concerned, one man is on this year’s ballot and it’s well deserved. Jim Rome has been one of the most successful and respected personalities to operate in this business, and during his three decades of excellence he’s created a legion of fans (The Clones) and fictional sports combat zone (The Jungle), introduced a different style of sports lingo, elevated national syndication for sports radio shows, and demonstrated what a multi-platform approach looks like before it became the trendy way to describe being involved in different areas of the industry.

I learned while taping a podcast with Jim in California last year that despite his success, he’s not someone to pat himself on the back. He’s still driven to do great work, appreciates where he is in today’s radio climate, and doesn’t lose sight of where it all started and what lies ahead.

Jim is not going to climb to the top of the mountain and shout to the masses that he deserves entry into the hall of fame. That’s not his style. But he’s also not the one writing this column, I am. Therefore I’m going to share my two cents and I know many will agree, Jim Rome deserves to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

To make that happen, members of the sports radio community have to get involved. All you have to do is log on to the website or send in a text to cast your vote. Whether you’ve been a lifelong fan of Jim’s or considered his program not in line with your personal tastes, it’s impossible to deny his impact on the sports format. It’s time one of the best in our format becomes the first modern day sports talk show host to be recognized for his accomplishments and contributions to our business.

I reached out last week to Jim to get a sense of how he was feeling about the process and what it’s felt like being included in conversation for one of our industry’s highest honors, and below are the results of that conversation.

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BSM: Having done this as long as you have, when did the idea of your life’s work being recognized first enter your mind?

Rome: It really hasn’t, Jason. I really don’t look at this Hall of Fame nomination as a recognition of my life’s work. It’s a tremendous honor and its humbling but I’m still in the fight. And I’m about the grind. Every single day. And I love it. I’m looking to stay as competitive and relevant as long as I possibly can. I’m not looking for any off-ramp. I’m looking to continue to improve, evolve, re-invent and continue crushing it for years to come. I want to win for the people I work for, the sponsors I work with and for the people who dial in every day to listen and/or watch our shows. I’ll probably take the time to recognize my life’s work when I put the mic down or they come and rip it out of my hands, but for now, I have way too much work to do to stop and think about it!

BSM: In sports, many look at numbers to decide if someone’s Hall of Fame worthy. In radio we can see how long you’ve hosted a show but we don’t always know your ratings and revenue numbers. When you think of an individual or team show in radio being hall of fame caliber, what do you feel they should’ve accomplished in order to earn that honor?

Rome: I think you’re right. I’m not really sure what the criteria should be or what makes someone a Radio Hall of Famer. But I think you have to start with your audience. Do you have a large and loyal, if not rabid, audience? Obviously, market share plays into this but so does longevity and cultural relevance. Have you left any mark on the genre? Have you opened any doors for others to enter the space and experience success on their own? Have you given back? And paid it forward. I’d like to think I’ve done all those things. And if it’s good enough to warrant an induction into something as prestigious an institution as the National Radio Hall of Fame, then that’s one of the best things ever. If not, I’m just going to keep banging away, loving and respecting the opportunity. It’s an amazing industry and I’ve never loved and appreciated it more than I do right now.

BSM: In terms of your legacy and impact on the sports radio format, what do you feel are your most memorable accomplishments and lasting marks on our business?

Rome: I appreciate the suggestion that I may have made a lasting mark on the business. If so, I think the thing that might make me different is that I was different. And honestly, that was by design. I always knew I wanted to do this. I just didn’t know how I was going to do this. Why would anyone ever consider giving me a radio show? Or a TV show? I wasn’t a professional athlete. No one knew who I was. I was just a guy. So I formulated a plan that I committed too. A contract with myself, if you will. I would try to get in and get on by being different. Instead of spewing stats and box scores, I was going crack open the mic and just let it rip. The show would be opinion based. It would have a distinct point of view. And it would be aggressive. And at that time, that was unusual. Athletes and non-athletes alike have told me in the years since they either loved it or hated it, but they had never really heard anything like it. In terms of accomplishments, I always been proud of the first time we busted out, took the show on the road, and created the Jungle World Tour. We hit places like Detroit, Houston, Tampa, Cleveland, Kansas City, Buffalo, Arizona, and packed arenas and to feel that kind of love nationwide blew my mind. And again, I take great pride in the people who have worked for me, called the program or appeared on the program who have gone on to kill it in the industry as well. That has been nothing short of awesome to watch.

BSM: Aside from yourself, who’s the one sports radio talent in America not currently in the Hall of Fame who you believe should be in it?

Rome: That’s easy. My man, Boomer Esiason. I’ve never seen athlete make the transition as seamlessly from the field to the broadcast booth. I’m not sure how Boomer would feel about what I’m about to say, but I think his career off the field compares favorably or better to it on the field. And he was a damn good player. A league MVP. But I’m talking about a guy who has been a morning KILLER in the most important radio market in the world for years. And a television personality to match. And the guy is an absolute animal in the way he attacks the grind. NO. DAYS. OFF. And he’s not just talking football. He’s everywhere. Not to mention everything he’s giving back with the work he does with his foundation. Boomer Esiason is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word.

BSM: How do you think the evaluation of sports radio hosts will change over the next 10-20 years when the HOF considers whether or not a host or show is worthy of being inducted?

Rome: That’s a very interesting question because the industry is changing every single day. More and more people are entering the space in more and more different ways. The National Radio Hall of Fame will probably have to consider podcasters in the near future because there are so many people putting out quality content on a daily basis and drawing huge, tangible numbers from it. Crushing the iTunes charts is just as impressive as crushing the ratings book and the affiliate lists. And most young, hungry broadcasters who can bring something different to it aren’t going to wait to work their way up from a call screener to a host when they can open up the microphone app on their iPhone and start knocking out shows immediately. So I think the evaluation over the next decade or two will start to broaden. Difference makers always get noticed. No matter where they are.

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BSM: On a personal level, what would earning a spot in the National Radio Hall of Fame mean to you?

Rome: You have to understand, my first paid radio gig was for 30 days. THIRTY. At the time, I was selling telephone systems, or trying to, in and around Los Angeles and just getting my head handed to me. And this was after I tried to sell dictation equipment and did even worse. Desperate, I called a guy I worked for while in college, John Palminteri back in Santa Barbara and said, “I’m getting my ass kicked down here. I can’t sell a thing. Is there ANYTHING you have for me to do?!” He said, “The guy who does our traffic reports is going home for Christmas break. I’ve got 30 hours a week, $5 bucks an hour, no benefits.” I said, “I’ll take it. See you Monday.” And left Los Angeles, moved back to Santa Barbara and put my head down. 30 years later, here we are and I’m talking to you about a nomination to the National Radio Hall of Fame?! The whole thing is unbelievably surreal to me. Truth is, getting in would mean a helluva lot to me. Especially because my category is decided by a vote of the listener. Nothing would be more fitting than if the Jungle Clones somehow pulled this off. Nothing would make me more proud if we all went in together.

BSM: How can fans and industry professionals help you spread the word to earn a place among radio’s elite?

Rome: Thanks so much for asking. The best way to spread the word is to go to my Twitter profile where I have pinned all the information on how to vote. I’m not totally comfortable stumping for the vote but I want to make it as easy as possible. It’s right there and I’d encourage anyone to retweet it if they’re so inclined. There are two ways to vote and you are allowed to vote twice. First, you can text 800 to 96000. And then you can go to RadioVote.com and vote there as well. I can’t tell you how much all the support I have already received and will continue to receive, means to me. Induction or no induction, it’s been an incredibly humbling experience. Something I’ll never forget. Thanks a million for the time, Jason.

Barrett Blogs

Julie Talbott to Receive The Jeff Smulyan Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“The best leaders are the ones who empower their people, work with their talent, and study situations to determine where room for growth exists.”

Jason Barrett

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Each year at the BSM Summit, we take time to recognize some of the true difference makers in the sports media industry. It’s become a special part of the event, and it reminds everyone in the room of what’s possible if you do your job well and create impact.

Four awards in total are presented over the two-day event thanks to our friends at Premiere Networks. Each award has a different focus.

The Jeff Smulyan Award is presented to a radio industry executive who has led by example, taken risks, produced results, and made a significant difference for the sports radio business. The Mark Chernoff Award is given to sports radio’s top programmer. The Mike and the Mad Dog Award is presented to the top local sports radio show in America. And The Champions Award along with a financial contribution from BSM is given to an industry member who has used their platform to make a difference for others.

Since we began taking the Summit live in 2019, Mitch Rosen and Rick Radzik have been recognized as winners of the Mark Chernoff Award. Adam Schefter and the team of Keith Murphy and Andy Fales have been recipients of the Champions Award. And the top rated combination of Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti received the first ever Mike and the Mad Dog Award at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC.

Which brings us to the Jeff Smulyan Award.

A number of top notch executives have joined us to accept this honor over the years. It started in Los Angeles with Kraig Kitchin, continued in New York City with Dan Mason, and then Traug Keller took home the honor during our last show, which also took place in the big apple.

As we looked to 2023, the goal was to identify someone who’s been active in growing their company’s footprint across the sports radio industry. Equally important was someone who has the full confidence and trust of their people, a track record of delivering results, and has uncovered new business opportunities to lead their company forward.

After a brief conversation, Jeff and I knew exactly who the right person was.

It is my honor to announce and congratulate Julie Talbott, President of Premiere Networks on being named our recipient of the 2023 Jeff Smulyan Award. Julie will be present in Los Angeles at the Founders Club at the Galen Center at USC to accept the honor at the 2023 BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023.

“I’m humbled and honored to receive this award – especially with Jeff Smulyan’s name associated with it. I’ve been a fan of his throughout the years” shared Julie Talbott. “Premiere Networks and FOX Sports Radio are dedicated to delivering the best multiplatform sports audio content the industry has to offer, and this award truly recognizes the amazing efforts of our entire team, who I couldn’t be more proud of.  Thanks to Jason Barrett and BSM for this incredible honor.” 

“I have known Julie for many, many years and our industry doesn’t have a better ambassador than her” added Jeff Smulyan. “She has worked tirelessly to build Premiere into a remarkable enterprise and she has made legions of friends and admirers along the way. She is so deserving of this award and I couldn’t be happier that my friend, Julie Talbott is the winner of the 2023 Jeff Smulyan Award. Nothing makes me happier than to present it to her this March at USC!” 

“FOX Sports Radio’s growth under Julie’s watchful eye has been impressive, but when combined with Premiere’s performance and reach, and seizing opportunities in the digital space by launching strong brands such as The Volume, in partnership with Colin Cowherd, you start to see how she’s put her magical touch on the industry,” explained BSM President Jason Barrett. “The best leaders are the ones who empower their people, work with their talent, and study situations to determine where room for growth exists, and few have the respect, trust, and confidence of their people better than Julie Talbott.”

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Omaha Productions, The Volume, Dirty Mo Media and Silver Tribe Media to Appear at the 2023 BSM Summit

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is five months away but the process to build sports media’s annual industry event continues. We’ve already announced 11 participants for our next show including Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome and Joy Taylor, but by the time this show takes place, attendees can expect to hear from 50-60 people as the agenda becomes action packed.

I do want to share one thing for those inquiring about speaking. Though I appreciate the interest, I’m selective in who we feature on stage because it’s important to keep the show fresh and full of actionable content. There are tons of smart people in this industry but I can’t accommodate everyone. I try to create sessions that benefit radio, digital and television executives, programmers, general managers, talent, agents, salespeople, production staff, etc. and to do that, we’ve got to cover a lot of different subjects over a two-day span. My goal is to send folks home with ideas and information to improve their brands, while providing a space for groups and individuals to meet since it opens the door to additional business. We’ve been fortunate to have good support and participation over our past four events, and I’m expecting this one to be even bigger and better.

Before I announce the latest additions to our speaker lineup, I want to thank Premiere Networks for their continued support of the Summit. They’ve been wonderful partners for years, and I appreciate them joining us to create the annual Awards ceremony. It is always a hit with attendees. More to come soon on this year’s honorees.

I’d also like to thank Harker Research for returning as a partner of the event, and MRN Radio for signing on as a new partner. Harker has sponsored all of our live events, and MRN has been in attendance for those shows. Having their support makes a difference. They join Premiere Networks, Stone Voiceovers and Core Image Studio as Summit partners. If you haven’t secured a sponsorship but would like to be, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com. She can update you on what we still have available.

As far as the content is concerned, I’m excited to announce a very cool session we’re adding which will include involvement from Omaha Productions, The Volume, Dirty Mo Media, and Silver Tribe Media.

Everywhere you look these days, athletes are taking more control of their own messaging. They’re also more interested in content creation and are investing in people to help build today and tomorrow’s sports media empires. Whether it’s been Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or broadcasters such as Colin Cowherd, Bill Simmons, Dave Portnoy and Pat McAfee, the era of personality-led audio networks has arrived. This session will examine where we are, where we’re going, what’s been learned, and how it will affect change across traditional media moving forward.

Jack Rose of Silver Tribe Media will moderate the session. Joining him on stage will be Logan Swaim, Head of Content at The Volume. Richelle Markazene, Head of Audio for Omaha Productions, and Mike Davis, President and Executive Producer of Dirty Mo Media. Each of these folks have great insight and experience with leading personality-built brands, and Jack’s understanding of the media landscape through his work with Michael Klein’s company make him an ideal fit to guide the conversation. This is a session that traditional media folks are going to want to be present for.

If you haven’t purchased a ticket or booked your hotel room, don’t wait until the last minute. Everything you need to be in attendance for the Summit is available at BSMSummit.com. We are excited to host the show at The Founders Club at the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California. This is a great location and the biggest room we’ve run our conference in yet. I’m hoping to see you there.

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Jeff Smulyan, Mark Chernoff, Scott Shapiro, Scott Sutherland and Evan Cohen To Participate at 2023 BSM Summit

“The 2023 BSM Summit is a two-day media industry conference designed to help broadcasting professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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Building an annual sports media conference is no day at the beach. It takes months to assemble and involves a lot of different steps. We analyze what matters to those attending, brainstorm ideas, create a sketch of the show to make sure there’s enough variety to satisfy different segments of the industry, pursue tons of speakers who have experience and an ability to add something unique or valuable on stage, and create sales decks and talk to existing and potential clients about supporting the show. If all of it doesn’t flow seamlessly, we run the risk of not delivering the type of event I expect us to.

Fortunately, over the years we’ve put together a pretty good conference. I’m proud of how it’s grown and that’s only possible because we’ve had great support across the industry. If you work in sports media and value learning, relationship building, and connecting with teammates, peers and competitors, this is an event you need to be at. It’s one that companies looking to reach sports broadcasting professionals should be involved in from an advertising standpoint too. Though there’s a lot of work still to be done, when we arrive in Los Angeles for the 2023 BSM Summit at USC’s Founders Club at the Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023, I’m expecting our team will deliver another top-notch performance.

To help us make that happen, I’m thrilled to share that we’ll have participation from some of the industry’s most accomplished broadcasting professionals. Joining us on site for our awards ceremonies will be the man who started the sports talk format, Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan. Also making the trip to the west coast will be former WFAN program director and CBS Radio/Entercom/Audacy sports format captain Mark Chernoff. Both men are honored annually with awards in their names. We’ll reveal the winners of both of those awards in the weeks and months ahead.

Additionally, I’m pleased to welcome back Scott Sutherland. Scott serves as the Executive Vice President of Regional Media Operations for Bonneville International Corporation, and is responsible for the strategic development and business growth of the company’s market leading sports brands in Phoenix, Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Sacramento. Also returning to the Summit is FOX Sports Radio’s Vice President of Programming Scott Shapiro. Scott is charged with guiding FOX Sports Radio’s daily content strategy, and always enjoys lending his perspective on key issues facing talent, brands, and content leaders.

I realize many of you reading this who work in the industry are last minute planners. That’s ok, but I’d encourage you to reserve your hotel room in advance if you wish to stay close to the Galen Center. Our hotel partner is the USC Hotel, and you can learn more about the discounted rate we’ve established for attendees by clicking here.

The 2023 BSM Summit is a two-day media industry conference designed to help broadcasting professionals. The sports media industry is rapidly changing and the more we can learn from one another and take advantage of information and relationships, the better it’ll serve us moving forward. To attend this show, you must be involved in the media business whether it’s on-air, digital, behind the scenes, in management, sales, ad buying, talent representation or something else. We will also allow college students to attend the show in person if they are pursuing a future in sports broadcasting. Details on student tickets will be made available closer to the holidays.

In the meantime, if you want to make sure you have a seat in the room to enjoy the sessions and network with industry professionals, purchase your ticket(s) by visiting BSMSummit.com. I look forward to seeing you there.

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