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Nick Wilson is Ready for Cleveland’s Summer of LeBron

Tyler McComas

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A decision looms in the NBA that could change the landscape of the league for several years to come. That’s to be expected when the greatest basketball player of all-time (yeah, I said it) has an open run of where he can play next season. But if you think Lebron James’ decision just affects the Cleveland Cavaliers, the rest of the Eastern Conference or even his legacy, you’re sadly mistaken. 

Lebron’s decision affects the economy of northern Ohio, the growth of basketball around the area and certainly from a media perspective – the popularity of sports radio in Cleveland. Sure, hosts will still be able to rely on topics centered on the Cavs, as well as the Indians and Browns, but there’s no denying that losing the biggest star in the NBA would have a considerable effect on sports radio stations in the city. 

Though that seems grim, there’s actually a big silver lining for everyone associated with sports radio in Cleveland. Name any market in the country and you’ll find sports radio stations bracing for lower ratings in the summer. It’s natural and happens every year.

Cleveland, however, may be preparing for its biggest ratings push of the year in the months of June and July, which is something that’s usually unprecedented in a major city Why? Well, there’s no bigger story in sports today than where Lebron is going to play next season.

Most hosts across the country might be scrambling for topics to fill a show during the summer months, but hosts in Cleveland have the luxury of covering one of the biggest sports stories in the history of the city. Though the NBA Finals are over, Clevelanders haven’t tuned out sports radio. They’re locked in as ever to hear the latest reports and rumors on where King James is leaning. If Lebron does leave Cleveland, he won’t do so without giving sports radio a huge ratings boost.

However, there’s certainly a lot to be gained for stations in Cleveland if Lebron decides to stay in town. Yes, it keeps the Cavaliers as a national brand in the NBA, but it also keeps the market held in high regard. As Nicholas Wilson of 92.3 The Fan told me, young talent from across the country have flocked to Cleveland to cover the best basketball player on the planet. If Lebron does leave, would that same talent stay in the city? Would Cleveland still be on the radar for talented, up and comers in the business? 

As the decision looms, Wilson shares insight on how much is at stake in the next month for local stations like 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland. 

TM: Would you say this the biggest sports story in the history of Cleveland? 

NW: It’s up there. I’ll honestly say that the Cavs’ title two years ago is probably the biggest story in recent history. Lebron owns the biggest stories of the last 5-10 years along with the Indians World Series run. But if you look at the way this thing is going to build, seeing as we’re a month out, I think the optics of this are different than the decision to leave in 2010 and the decision to return in 2014. I think the average Clevelander knows that there’s a lot of speculation on Lebron’s future. 

I think it’s still going to be a Top 5-10 story in Cavaliers history, but I think it’s minimized a bit because the championship has already been won. People in Cleveland still want Lebron to be back, but the stakes don’t feel as big as they were in 2010. 

TM: You just alluded to the frustration level not being as high as 2010 if he leaves. But as a show host, are you rooting for the outbursts if he decides to leave town again? 

NW:  I’m not so foolish to not show self-interest, absolutely. Lebron is the ever-ripened fruit on the evergreen tree. He always gives you content. 

Selfishly, I want him to be back because he makes the Cavs more interesting, but I don’t know if there’s going to be the outburst. There’s always going to one or two guys that try to make their name by giving the take Lebron James let Cleveland down by going. There always will be. That probably holds true with fans as well, there’s people who have still not forgiven Lebron James for leaving in the first place. 

I don’t think you’re going to see the mass hysteria like when he left in 2010, or when he came back in 2014, but I still think even though there isn’t going to be the anger, even though those coals don’t burn as hot, I still do think, that for sports radio in the next month, we’ve got you there. People are more calm and rational this time around, but I still think they really want to see where he goes. 

TM: Do you consider this the biggest month of the past year for Cleveland sports radio? 

NW: It’s pretty up there. Look, it’s a Browns town so their season is always a big time for us. I would say the NFL Draft was huge for us as well as the NBA Finals. But I think Lebron’s future in Cleveland is a cottage industry, because it touches all aspects of the NBA offseason. 

It touches the NBA Draft, because the Cavs have the No. 8 pick. It touches the trade market because of Kevin Love and the questions of his trade value. It touches free agency, because Lebron is a free agent and the Cavs are going to have to go about that two different ways, depending where he ends up. From a sports radio perspective, you could not set up the next four weeks any more perfect than how they’re set up. 

TM: There are rumors that have already come out about Lebron’s next destination and others will come out in the next month. As a host, how do you sort through what’s worth bringing up on the air versus what doesn’t?

NW: This is the million dollar question. For me, I just always try to consider the source. Like, I love Gary Payton and he’s the one who originally said that Lebron James Jr. was going to enroll at a Los Angeles high school next year, but that dude talks as much as any human being in NBA history. Not that I refuse to believe the report, but there’s a part of me that can laugh about it a little more that Gary Payton would be the guy to break this kind of news.  

Having seen Lebron for so long, I think everything is automatically something that you can take a little skeptically, which I think makes it a little more fun. But I actually think that’s part of the on-air stuff. I think some of the best conversations that I’ve heard on Lebron James and his future, are do you trust this report? You cannot get two Clevelanders who trust the same source of information the exact same amount. It leads itself into a battle royale over things like where Lebron’s kid will go to high school. 

TM: Aside from Lebron himself, what kind of guests are you looking for in the next month to add insight to this story? 

NW: I really love the Cavs beat. Dave McMenamin, Jason Lloyd, Joe Vardon from the reporter perspective. I like all those guys. From the current player perspective, give me Richard Jefferson or Channing Frye. From Lebron’s camp, I would say it’s probably be Rich Paul. From Cavaliers historical, it’s Mark Price. It depends on the way you look at it, but I love listening to those number of perspectives for different reasons. Each one can give you an insight into Lebron that are so fascinating and so singular in terms of how they view him and the pursuit of his legacy.

TM: Let’s say Lebron doesn’t sign in Cleveland. Are they now on the back burner in terms of your topic list? 

NW: I don’t know way less Cavs, it’s interesting, because when Lebron left in 2010, there was still a lot of talk on the team because it galvanized people in a direction. The Cavs had been kind of listless, near the top of the Eastern Conference but never able to get over the hump or able to get another great player to town. 

So Lebron leaving that first time, there was an intense amount of interest for the first 16-18 months of the Cavaliers. Then, of course as rebuilding processes do, people fell by the wayside and the feeling toward Lebron lessened and lessened. I do think that any decision that he makes, for the first year, is going to galvanize people in one direction or the other. 

TM: In terms of capturing your audience, are the Browns poised to pick up where the Cavs fall of if Lebron leaves? 

NW: The Browns have been poised to pick off anybody from any audience, no matter Lebron James, the Indians, any national story, they’ve been poised to pick this thing off since they came back in 1999. As a matter of fact, it took Lebron coming back in 2014 to really kick the Browns off their mantle. Even though the Browns have lost an asinine amount of their fan base, for what’s happened the last three years, I still think the Browns are going to be king of this town if they start winning. 

What I will say, is if Lebron stays along with the championship expectations, I don’t think it’s going to be a clean victory by the Browns. At that point, it will probably be a similar ratio as to what it is now, but if Lebron leaves and Baker Mayfield turns out to be a nice quarterback and the Browns start to win, you could just say a prayer for the Indians and the Cavs because I may not get to talk about them for the next 5-6 years. 

TM: Does the allure of a sports radio job in Cleveland hinge on Lebron being in town? Especially with people that aren’t from the area?

NW: Oh absolutely. Cleveland is an interesting market because it’s very insulated and there’s a lot of people that have been doing it for several years. I do think for a lot of the younger guys, Lebron holds a lot of the intrigue. Some younger have to ask themselves, I’m going to follow the old trend of staying in Cleveland for your career, or are there other places where there might be more interesting teams or just as interesting cities as Cleveland without Lebron. 

Any young guy making his name in radio in Cleveland, has to think about that, because from the external standpoint, I get a lot of publicity just off the fact I’m in Cleveland and know a few people in radio. When they need someone to talk Cavs, boom, I’m on CBS or I’m on in Portland with my boy Chad. Just for me, who’s someone that’s broken through the Cleveland market in the last 5-7 years, if I’m getting attention like that I can only imagine what someone who’s been here longer or in any of the drive shifts is getting, publicity wise. 

I do think the intrigue factor with Lebron has been something that’s incalculable the last four years. I guarantee you, a young kid who just graduated college from Syracuse, who’s looking at two similar jobs, is saying, oh man, it would be cool to go and talk about Lebron. But if he leaves and we become Browns centric, it will be interesting to see what that does for the young professionals. 

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Should Broadcaster Salaries Be Made Public?

“If you were working in a smaller market, making 50K per year, and your salary got reported in the press and discussed in media circles, how would it sit with you?”

Jason Barrett

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Many are talking this week about ESPN’s reported offer of 5 years, $90 million dollars to retain Stephen A. Smith. Puck’s John Ourand broke the news last Thursday. It’s a hefty sum for Jimmy Pitaro to pay for a man many consider ESPN’s most important talent, but that number still won’t be enough to finalize a deal between the two parties. According to Ourand and other media reporters, Smith is seeking an annual salary of $25 million.

ESPN’s prior deals with Troy Aikman, Joe Buck, Pat McAfee, Scott Van Pelt, and Mike Greenberg show that Pitaro will pay premium dollars for premium talent. Smith is without question a premium star. His track record of success on First Take is well documented. He’s also consistently appeared on all shows and big network events, has created original programs that have produced interest, and he’s built a strong social presence in addition to his own media company, creating a landing spot should ESPN not reach the level he feels he deserves.

In this cluttered media environment of 2024, Smith continues to cut through. It’s not a surprise that he wants to be the highest paid talent at ESPN. He’s been saying it for months. The question is, should everyone know his or any talent’s business?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun for industry folks to talk about an individual’s earnings. Viewers, listeners and fans enjoy it too. Is so and so worth more or less? Where do they go if they don’t re-sign with the company? Which other talent deserves similar compensation? How will this deal affect the market for future free agents?

All of those questions make for good content. People will never not be interested in other people’s paychecks. It’s a key part of what drives daily debates and discussions in sports. The big difference though is players, coaches and executives know what they signed up for. Most media people don’t expect their income to be the focus of conversations on radio, TV, print or on digital platforms.

Exceptions exist of course for popular national hosts like Smith, game announcers like Buck and Aikman, and top performers in large local markets (ex: Mike and the Mad Dog, Joe Rogan, etc.). But what if this extended to everyone in radio, podcasting or television. How would you feel if your situation was being examined across the entire media business?

If you’re being paid $18 million per year, you’re likely prepared to handle these situations. However, if you were working in a smaller market, making 50K per year, and your salary got reported in the press and discussed in media circles, how would it sit with you? What if you’re a VP/GM and your annual salary and bonuses were publicly known? Would you be ok with your peers, competitors and friends knowing how much you get paid? What if people knew you were working without a contract, could be let go at anytime with 30-days notice, or that you took a big pay cut during your last negotiation. Would you want that information available?

Professionals on the outside of Stephen A. Smith’s sandbox would likely be uncomfortable with that information being released. Their employers wouldn’t like it either. But when information is publicly available, it does create a more competitive marketplace for talent. More suitors appear when they know a qualified broadcaster’s contract is expiring and they’re affordable.

Media folks on local levels often think about one or two landing spots if their situation changed with their current employer. But with limited options comes less leverage, which means a less likely chance of breaking the bank. If the whole world knows about your track record and annual income, you’d be stunned to learn who pays attention and how much more can be earned.

From an agent’s perspective, the more information available to use to help a client, the better. If the information though paints a client in a negative light, it can work the other way too. The same can be said of a company. If a GM has a good deal in place with a rising talent, do they really want the world to know they have a future star under control for 45-50K per year? Heck no. But if they’re trying to get out of a bad contract, they might not complain if outlets create noise for someone they wish to move on from.

I’m not advocating for salaries to be made public. I believe that what someone earns is between them and their employer, and you’re worth whatever a company will pay you that you’re willing to accept. You find out how much your employer values you during contract time, and rarely do companies make their final and best offer during the first conversation. It’s a process. Sometimes it’s easy, other times it’s painful, but it’s always just business. If you let it get personal, you’ll leave money on the table.

If you want to earn the most you can, start with gathering data that proves you’ve generated audience and revenue impact. Then make sure you have legitimate suitors interested in your services, and be willing to leave not just pretend you will. If you fear life without the brand you’re working for, decision makers will smell blood in the water. It will limit you every time. People don’t pay you more out of the goodness of their heart. They do so because they know your value to their bottom line.

If the relationship is sound between an employee and employer, and both can find common ground to move forward, a deal will get done. Would one side get more or less with the information being publicly available? Probably. The question is, can you be comfortable with that and is it really worth it?

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BNM Summit Speakers and Contest Update

The 2024 BNM Summit continues to add smart, talented professionals to our stellar lineup. I am thrilled today to announce the additions of Westwood One talk radio personality and Newsmax television host Chris Plante, and Cox Media Atlanta’s VP and Market Manager Jaleigh Long to our September conference in Washington D.C.. This now brings our speaker total to 28 with more still to come.

Chris Plante hosts the popular ‘The Chris Plante Show‘ from Washington, D.C.’s WMAL studios, syndicated nationwide by Westwood One. He spent 17 years covering breaking news, the Pentagon and national security issues, and is also seen weeknights at 10pm ET on Newsmax hosting “The Right Squad.” Chris will be part of a panel on Thursday morning September 5th. We’re thrilled to have him join us for this year’s show.

Jaleigh Long meanwhile operates behind the scenes. She’s charged with leading Cox Media Group’s Atlanta cluster, one of the company’s best. Under her watch, 95.5 WSB remains one of the news/talk format’s most successful brands. It is also one of the crown jewels of CMG’s portfolio. Having Jaleigh join Joel Oxley and Chris Oliviero for our Market Managers session on Wednesday September 4th will be a real treat for our attendees.

The BNM Summit takes place on September 4-5, 2024 at the Jack Morton Auditorium at George Washington University. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by clicking here. To become a conference sponsor, email Stephanie Eads at [email protected].

As we’ve done for each of our events, we’re giving college students an opportunity to attend the show, and meet and learn from industry professionals. Students in the DMV area who are enrolled for the fall semester can qualify for tickets by emailing the code FREE TIX to [email protected]. Emails will go out this week to local schools informing them of the opportunity for students.

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Thumbs Up

Tom Brady: If you have any doubts about Brady being good in the FOX booth, watch this clip. His recent appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd highlighted his intelligence, comfort level, and ability to explain the game. Having listened to many of his Monday morning chats on WEEI, he was always engaging, well spoken, smart, and invested in the conversation. The only thing that limited him was that he was an active player so he couldn’t be transparent. I’d be stunned if Tom wasn’t a massive success on FOX this fall.

Audacy/Chris Kinard: When Spike Eskin returned to Philadelphia to host afternoons on WIP, it left one remaining issue to be solved; who takes the baton as the next VP of Sports for the company. Audacy got this one right. CK has done a terrific job for years in DC, wearing many hats, always trying to move his brands and the business forward. He’s invested in the format, good with people, and someone other PD’s can confidently turn to for guidance. Great move.

Ric Bucher: It didn’t take long to learn where Ric stood on the Lakers hiring JJ Redick. He’s not sold, along with many others. But what stood out here was the reasoning, and the examples used to paint a picture of who Redick may or may not be, and what he’s up against. Just a solid, two-minute piece of analysis supported with a firm opinion. Well done, Ric.

WWE: Coming off of a strong Clash at the Castle PLE, the company followed up by delivering a homerun on RAW with the debut of the Wyatt Sicks, created a viral buzz with Joe Hendry’s appearance on NXT, and then introduced Jacob Fatu to the Bloodline angle on Friday night Smackdown after Drew McIntyre decimated CM Punk in front of his hometown crowd. The WWE hasn’t been this hot in over a decade. Paul Levesque and Nick Khan are on a heater. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thumbs Down

Cam Newton: The former Carolina Panthers QB questioned recently on his YouTube show why minorities don’t get paid the big money from networks like white players do. It was an interesting question that I’m sure some will be bothered by. Marcellus Wiley, Stephen A. Smith and Jason Whitlock addressed the issue and pointed out the obvious reasons – QB’s are treated differently especially those who won championships or played for high profile teams, and there’s a certain conformity, presentation and articulation expected on network TV.

If Patrick Mahomes retires one day and gets overlooked, I’ll be next to Newton asking ‘what’s going on?’ But let’s not use race to disguise the real issue, which is that Cam doesn’t fit the preferred type of hire by networks. And before you make it about executives not wanting to hire minority talent I’ll remind you that Louis Riddick, Charles Davis, Nate Burleson, Jonathan Vilma, Tiki Barber and Mike Tirico all have earned spots in the booth. If you want the bag, and the networks have it, it’s on you to adjust, not them.

ESPN Hiring Office: The College football season starts in just over two months. Lee Corso has been slowing down the past few years, and Pat McAfee generates attention every time he’s on the screen. Why is a deal with McAfee not done yet? College Gameday is one of the best sports shows on TV, and McAfee is a key part of it. This issue shouldn’t be lingering into the summer.

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Eavesdropping: The Fan Morning Show, 93.7 The Fan

“Thats right the Phillies are like the best team in baseball…and they gotta ask about Nick Sirianni acting a fool on the sideline? On June 21st?”

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Graphic for an Eavesdropping feature on The Fan Morning Show

A couple of years ago, 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh started making moves with its morning show that led them to where they are today. In May of 2022, Adam Crowley was named the producer of the show and in August of 2022, former NFL player Dorin Dickerson, who had worked for the station since 2017, was named a show co-host. About a year later in June 2023, the station announced show hosts Colin Dunlap and Chris Mack were out and Crowley and Dickerson would take over the show. With that version of the show about a year old, I thought it would be a good time to eavesdrop in on The Fan Morning Show.

Crowley and Dickerson are joined on the show by producer and update anchor Nicholas ‘Harry’ Callas and on this particular episode the show was celebrating Callas recently getting a promotion to being a full-time member of the staff. The show was planning a lunch together later in the day and one of the early topics that came up was about who would pay for the meal. The early interaction between the guys about this along with the technical difficulties they were having with Dickerson’s headsets gave you a pretty good indication of what you were in for over the course of the show.

As is the case sometimes with morning shows, sometimes the best stuff has nothing to do with the sports topics of the day, it is just whatever comes out of the hosts mouths when the first crack that microphone.

In this case, while the tech issues were being worked out, the guys hit on whether or not Callas would sweat through his shirt with no undershirt on, Callas’ plans to buy a $4,000 bus, Crowley asking for advice because his five-month-old baby was not sleeping well and whether or not Crowley used the word ‘solstice’ the day before.

For the record, he did use the word, despite being certain that he did not. Callas found the audio from the day before and played it and that is when the audience learned there was a $1,000 wager made on the issue. Turns out Callas was good with just having his lunch paid for that day, so that settled that discussion. Now, the headsets were working and with all of those quick topics out of the way it was time to talk some Pittsburgh sports.

The two hosts have no problems going back and forth on just about any sports topic or the inevitable life topics that come up. Both hosts are in their 30’s and have families while Callas is in his 20’s.

Dickerson’s football career began in western PA. He was a High School All American and Pennsylvania Player of the Year in 2005 at West Allegheny. He then moved on to play for the University of Pittsburgh and was a First-team All American tight end in 2009. Next came an opportunity to perform at the highest level, entering the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick of the Houston Texans in 2010. He also has worked on the Pitt radio team as an analyst and sideline reporter.

Crowley said the day before, Dickerson had posted his offer letters from high school on social media. “You tweeted out all of your offer letters yesterday, and I spent an embarrassing amount of time zooming in on all of these schools that offered you.”

This led to a discussion about Dickerson being recruited by Pete Carroll at USC and by Urban Meyer at Florida. “I will never forget Pete Carroll walking down the hallway…When he walked in, I was like wow,” Dickerson said. Crowley compared Carroll then to Nick Saban coming prior to his retirement. “Pete Carroll at that time transcended college football, he was a giant,” Crowley said.

This is why you want an athlete who has made it to the highest levels on your station. It was fun and insightful to hear Dickerson talk about his recruitment and about his reasoning behind why he chose to go to Pitt. “Best football decision I ever made in my life,” he said. He talked about making the decision that staying local would open doors for him in the future, something that has obviously paid off.

Crowley is passion personified. No matter the subject, it is clear he loves doing his job and trying to entertain and inform his audience. Half the batter sometimes to keeping an audience engaged is the passion with which you speak about the subject. Crowley has that on lock down. It is easy to get caught up in his passionate and aggressive takes at a lot of the topics of the day.

Even as they talk about the Pirates, who have lost about 60% of their games since 2000, Crowley does so with an energy that is infectious. This season, with the team hovering around .500 which puts them in the running for a Wild Card position, and the tremendous starting pitching they have had, there is actual hope, and you can tell the guys are happy they can talk about something different other than which star players the team will trade away next.

Crowley had mentioned a few times that, “It’s just the three of us today. No guests on the show, it is a Friday, and we are just having fun.”

The segments flowed well, and Crowley keeps it moving along. When they finish a segment, they go to a quick headlines report versus a full sports update and that generally led them to a live endorsement ad from one of the hosts.

On this day, the group spent an entire hour doing Pittsburgh Pirates report cards. Four different segments worth of throwing out player names, assigning them a letter grade and debating the merits of whatever grade they were given. If you were tuning in for heavy Pirates talk you got exactly what you were looking for. If you were not, you were out of luck.

There was some strong hockey talk in another segment as the Edmonton Oilers had evened the Stanley Cup Final series with the Florida Panthers at three games apiece after being down three games to none. “Let’s say they come back, and they win this series from down 3-0 to winning this thing, it is gonna be maybe the greatest postseason in the history of sports,” Crowley said. “And it would be the most legendary comeback in that sport’s history because of the guy who spearheaded it.” The hosts also kicked around the idea of Edmonton’s Connor McDavid winning the Conn Smythe trophies as the series MVP even if Edmonton doesn’t win.

A lot of Crowley’s takes are strong, he doesn’t waver on a lot of things while Dickerson seems to weigh both sides of a subject when he speaks. The two have developed really good chemistry and with Callas, sound like the proverbial buddies having a chat about sports.

They just as easily have a great conversation about the possibility of the NFL expanding its schedule to jumping over to which celebrities don’t seem to age and marveling at the likes of Selma Hayek and Marisa Tomei.

Dickerson again adds great perspective with the NFL schedule discussion. He said as a player he would not have been in favor of extending the regular season schedule. However, he did add, “I am ok with it now, I want more football. After the Super Bowl is kind of depressing. It gets more depressing now, because you are itching for it. If you extend it a little bit longer that takes away a little of the wait.”

Crowley added, “From our standpoint, from a talk radio standpoint our hot time of the year gets extended, so I like it. I used to be in the camp of less is more, not I am in the camp of more is more.”

The schedule talk was followed by another good discussion on the lengths of the seasons in other sports. About hockey’s season, Crowley said, “The Oilers and the Panthers will have played, literally, literally, their season is ten months long. From October all the way through June, are you kidding me? It’s absurd, that’s absurd.”

As they wrap up the week, a fun segment they do is called ‘Social Media’s Biggest Loser.’ While Matt Stafford’s wife, who admitted to dating the backup quarterback in college to get back at Stafford, was the winner, the hosts had more to say about another station in another market and what they were talking about.

Referring to a poll question he saw on social media from WIP in Philadelphia, Crowley said, “…We’re entertaining, we are having fun, we are enjoying a Friday. They are getting hot and heavy on Nick Sirianni’s sideline demeanor.”

“They’re just still irked that they got kicked out of the playoffs, they’re still mad about it,” Dickerson added. “Talk about the Phillies or something.”

“Thats right the Phillies are like the best team in baseball…and they gotta ask about Nick Sirianni acting a fool on the sideline? On June 21st? Who cares?”

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Jen Lada Has Built a Multiplatform Presence at ESPN

“I always say my job is to make the viewer care about somebody and root for somebody that they might ordinarily not root for or care about.”

Derek Futterman

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Jen Lada
Courtesy: Phil Ellsworth, ESPN Images

When Jen Lada appeared on Around the Horn earlier in the month, she became the 58th panelist to be part of the program since its launch in 2002. Facing off against three other panelists from around the country, she garnered a victory in her on-air debut and elicited plaudits from her colleagues. Throughout the program, Lada demonstrated her deft sports knowledge and nuanced opinions that have crafted her into a venerated, skilled reporter at the network.

Although she had appeared on many ESPN programs previously, Around the Horn represented a show to which she wanted to contribute for many years. In fact, she has memories of watching the show just out of Marquette University and remarking about its brilliance and ingenuity.

Utilizing reporters with comprehensive knowledge of various sports who have chronicled several events, the show provides them an opportunity to give their opinions on issues and engage in debate with their contemporaries. Lada earned a spot on the show by being persistent, continuing to express her proficiency in commentary and sports discussion. The journey to arrive at this stage of her career, through which she has realized high-level assignments and a presence both at the local and national level, required adaptability and fortitude, and she continues to never take opportunities for granted.

“It’s great that I won, but it just sets the bar really high for the next time I go out there, which is not something I’m afraid of,” Lada said. “I love a challenge, and I love proving to myself that I can keep trying new things and doing new things well, and I hope that if people see me as some sort of example in the industry, that that’s what they walk away with.”

The approach adopted by Lada within her multifarious career ventures is to develop and maintain versatility, always innovating within her approach to content. As she looks to build off her initial victory on Around the Horn, she aims to be more compendious in her discourse and applying a more succinct approach. Making the adjustment in order to deliver compelling, distinctive points quickly differs from her other work, but it is all ultimately centered on sports.

While studying at Marquette University, she observed her classmates having a conversation about the men’s basketball team and what had happened in a recent game. Lada, who at the time was dating a player on the team and cheerleading at games, began to give her thoughts and was subsequently asked if she had ever considered sportscasting.

“I didn’t know that women could be sportscasters,” Lada said. “It wasn’t on my radar as a real career that women held because there were so few of them at the time doing it, and so once I realized that that was something I could do, then I kind of turned all my attention to, ‘Well, how do I make this happen?’”

As Lada began to complete internships and navigate through the media industry, she learned to develop a thick skin and refined her conduct. Out of school, she had completed a year of a non-paid sports internship and was waitressing on the side to pay the bills. The first interview she took for a job at a television station in a top-10 market ended with her being sexually harassed. It was a jarring experience that disappointed Lada because of her propensity to give people the benefit of the doubt, and it also forced her to evaluate her own disposition.

“I think it’s only natural that you wonder how you contributed to the circumstance or what you could have done differently to maybe not put yourself in that space,” Lada said, “but I was very lucky that when I told my family about what had occurred, they very quickly knocked any notion of that out of my head.”

In navigating the industry with good intentions, Lada recognized that it is not her fault if other people fail at treating others professionally and create a misogynistic work environment. Receiving the lesson early in her career has made her more aware of the people to avoid, and she remains wary of advice given to women in the industry that they should just be nice. Lada was recently on a panel where someone advised a broadcast class that being nice would result in things working out for them in the future.

“I felt myself cringing internally because I don’t think that that is a luxury women are afforded,” Lada said. “I don’t think – maybe now is different, but when I was coming up, and I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years, there were people who preyed on niceness. And so the way that I would tweak that is to be professional; to carry yourself in a professional manner and recognize that sometimes being ‘traditionally nice’ puts a target on your back to be mistreated, and the best thing you can do is alert those people who would see you as a target that you’re not going to fall victim to that or you refuse to be victim to that.”

Lada joined ESPN in 2015 where she was hired to contribute to Colin Cowherd’s radio program. When Cowherd left the network and joined FOX Sports on a full-time basis, she started co-hosting a new, national program alongside Jorge Sedano. The show, however, had an evanescent run and left her feeling as if she had failed.

It took her a full year to recognize that she had been involved in a series of circumstances and decided to enact the necessary change, asking producers for advice and attending seminars. One of these was an interviewing course hosted by journalist John Sawatsky where he synthesized the art of the craft. Akin to when she was in college, she overheard in passing that the network needed more women in the features space.

“I was fortunate enough to have done a lot of features during my time in Milwaukee because we had a 9 p.m. newscast that required a local sports feature every night of the week, so between our three-person department, we had to fill that timeslot,” Lada said. “I had done a lot of lengthy sports features in Milwaukee [and] had a good foundation of what that job required.”

The meeting led to Lada doing features on an interim basis at the network and later granted her a spot on College GameDay, where she works as its features reporter. Lada presents stories every week to the audience that go beyond the gameplay and divulge a bigger picture.

“I always say my job is to make the viewer care about somebody and root for somebody that they might ordinarily not root for or care about,” Lada said. “One of the things that has occurred to me over the last few years is just what a skill is required to do that job well because not only are you preparing questions to ensure that you have all of the details and information, you’re also gathering perspective on what they’ve been through – the adversity and the situation that has led them to where they are now.”

Lada recently found herself in a high school classroom at 8 a.m. sitting with other students taking the ACT standardized test. She had to complete the exam as punishment for finishing last in fantasy football at ESPN Milwaukee this past season. After four hours, Lada emerged from the school and revealed her score this past week on the Jen, Gabe, and Chewy morning show. Hosting the local program alongside Gabe Neitzel and Mark Chmura, she has established chemistry over almost four years in the three-person format discussing hyperlocal topics.

“I try to be conversational,” Lada said. “We don’t lean on stats – obviously, we want to be accurate, and we want to be, again, fair to the subjects we’re talking about, but we try to also just be friends who are talking about what’s going on on any given day on the Milwaukee [and] Wisconsin sports scene.”

In balancing a variety of different roles, Lada has tried to master everything that she is doing, refraining from being content with her abilities. Although working in local radio regularly has been a newer role for her, she has grown into the job and has co-hosts who understand the subject matter and allow her to utilize her strengths.

“I just want to keep learning,” Lada said. “I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done, [and] I’m not complacent about the skills I have. I’m always interested in adding more jobs to the résumé, and I think that in this industry, you’re rewarded for versatility.”

Once College GameDay commences, Lada adds the responsibility of feature reporting on that program to her schedule and continues making appearances across additional ESPN programming. Lada hosted the Friday edition of College Football Live last season and has also filled in as a host on shows such as First Take and SportsCenter. Moreover, she continues to complete projects for SC Featured and is working on a documentary for E:60 scheduled to premiere later in the summer. 

Lada aims to keep showcasing her indefatigable work ethic and passion for the craft without slowing down. Whether it is hosting a podcast, taking part in more panels or writing essays, she is open to exploring new forms of disseminating stories.

“I have a lot of knowledge and experience rattling around my brain, [and] I think the next iteration is figuring out a way to continue passing those experiences on to the next generation.” Lada said. “I don’t ever want to gatekeep the secrets of success – I think that’s selfish – so as I continue to do the media work, I think the next phase for me is figuring out how to pass a lot of these lessons on to future broadcasting generations.”

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