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Broadcasting School Advice From Jeremie Poplin



One of the great things about the sports radio business is that everyone seems to have a different story to how they ultimately achieved success in the host seat. Some, such as Darren McKee of 104.3 The Fan in Denver, had the privilege of a diploma from a high-profile school such as Syracuse attached to his resume in his early 20’s. Others, such as Christopher Gabriel of 940 ESPN in Fresno, bounced around with odd jobs and an acting career before finally pursuing his passion of sports radio.

Jeremie “Pop” Poplin is another that has his own unique story in sports radio. However, he may be one of the few that’s done it via a broadcasting school. In college at Tulsa Community College, Poplin will honestly tell you he was interested most days with the afternoon sports talk in town, rather than his upcoming classes for the day.

“I got bit by the radio bug early,” said Poplin. “Like, I can remember Chris Plank wasn’t in radio for very long and doing his afternoon show here at The Buzz in Tulsa. I would make it a point to listen to that non-stop. I was a huge Art Bell fan at night and Jim Rome during the day. Man, I would skip class, would skip algebra to listen to Rome in the parking lot. I was just fascinated by it. I was young and got to the point where I was done with school and saw a commercial on television for American Broadcasting School. I was like, you know, let’s just go for it and see what happens.”

There’s not just one particular avenue an individual must take to get into sports radio. That’s the beauty of it. Poplin is a living example that you don’t have to go to Syracuse, Missouri, Northwestern, or any other major 4-year institution to achieve success in the field.  His rise to show host and PD at The Buzz in Tulsa shows that attending a broadcast school can certainly get you into the business. But with that being said, does it mean it’s still the right way to go?

Maybe you’re 34 years old and have a family but want to finally explore the sports radio format. Or, you could be an early college student like Poplin was when he decided to attend a broadcast school. No matter your situation, this article is intended for the ones that have thought about going with the alternative option of a local broadcast school. Is it worth your time? Can you get a job out of it? Will you learn the necessary tools to be successful? To learn all those answers I asked Poplin himself how much the school serves its students.

TM: Why do you think going to a broadcasting school was the best for you at that time?

JP: At the time? Man, that’s a good question. It’s tough, because I felt that’s what was consuming me. I had this want and this desire…maybe it was ill-sided because I wanted this fast track, you know what I mean?

I wanted it so bad and I knew that once I got involved with it that I was going to be all the way in. I wanted that to encompass everything I was doing. I just wanted a fast track at the time, I was always a talk radio guy and the thought of being on the air on living that life was a magical thing to me. Even when I was in school, I thought that even the music route would be okay, but I always wanted to be in the talk format, specifically sports.

TM: How hands-on was the broadcasting school early on? Did you have to wait long to be doing the things you wanted?

JP: At first, it was a lot of technical stuff, like you’re trying to learn FCC rules and regulations. But then, they basically put you in a production room and you would pretend you were coming out of a song, do a stop set and then throw it back to music. Obviously, for the first week you’re going to be terrible, but you were in front of a mic before a couple of days. To get completed and done didn’t even take an entire year, in a lot of ways it was like a vo-tech.

One thing they did say is that they would help you with job placement, which they never really did at all. The thing is, I figured out once you got in there that the curriculum is driven by all music stuff. You basically had to go and create a scenario to where you would do anything other than music, so I would go in and basically fake like I was in a sports talk produced commercial. I would write my own copy for commercials like that and it’s what got me more comfortable in the talk format. But yeah, everything was pointed towards music.

TM: Did they have quality equipment and professors on hand?

JP: They had equipment, it was pretty basic though because I was learning on CD’s and carts. They would give you a cassette and you would record on it for your air checks. It was very basic at the time, but keep in mind that right before I turned 21, that’s when internet radio was just starting and they had one studio that would broadcast 24 hours a day over the internet and that was it, because that was on the very forefront of that. That kind of gives you an idea.

I was learning on carts and everything else, and that was older technology. When I got my first job, I quickly realized nobody used carts anymore at all. It was just very basic. They had seven studios you could go in, you had a curriculum throughout the day where you did have instructors. But there was just so many people there, that it was hard for the instructors to give anyone individualized instructions. From what I remember, there seemed to be only one instructor that really put time and the effort to make you feel comfortable with the progress you were making. You were really kind of on your own. They left you to your own and would air check you once a week.

TM: So, the idea behind going to a broadcast school at that time was to be able to skip all the entry level classes at a college and move right into hands-on work?

JP: Yeah, it was. Don’t get me wrong, I made the most important relationship of my life at the school when I met my wife there. She was in radio, too. I don’t want to skip over that process, because that changed my life in meeting her there. But, at the time, yeah that was exactly it.

I would go to a regular class in college and think, what am I doing? This isn’t fun and I was just burned out. I saw the commercials for the broadcast school and it just felt right.

Now, revisionist history. Clearly now I regret not going the other route, but yeah at the time, it was definitely the thought. It was, I’ve already had enough history, I took speech classes at the time that intrigued me, but I wanted to get to it and do it right away.

TM: Do you know of any other successful people in sports radio that were either in class with you at the same time, or went to the Tulsa branch at some point?

JP: No, I mean I know other people in radio that went there, but sports talk wise, no I don’t of any at all.

TM: For instance, let’s say you’re 34 years old, have a family, and wanting to finally pursue sports radio for the first time. Would a broadcast school be the perfect route to go?

JP: I think it’s different, I mean I know there’s the Ohio School of Broadcasting and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. But I don’t know what the experiences are like at those two places and how different the curriculum is. I’m just going off what my experience was and I feel like it would be okay to get your foot in the door for more of a music format, if you want to go that way. But if you’re just looking a talk format, man, I learned probably more in my first year working at a real radio station than I did my entire time at the broadcast school. Because, quite frankly, I walked into a great situation as an entry level board op, learning and watching guys that have the reputation of being incredible on-air performers.

Guys like Michael DelGiorno who made his name in Tulsa and is in Nashville currently. I still say today that Chris Plank on the air is one of the more incredible talking talents and interviewers that I’ve ever been around. I had a chance to sit back and learn from incredibly talented hosts and really learn the talk format. I learned more as a board op and paying attention than I did at the broadcasting school.

TM: You’ve risen to become a show host and PD at The Buzz, so let’s say you have a position open with two younger candidates. One went to a 4-year college and the other went to a broadcast school. Under this scenario, their talent level seems very similar on an air check. Do you favor hiring the 4-year graduate in that case?

JP: Honestly, I think it comes down to their personality and how they do face-to-face. I’ll you this, I’m not going to sit there and say I’d lean one way or the other if their air checks are similar. I do feel like now there’s no more advantages of coming out of a 4-year university with all the resources they have. What we have in our state with what Oklahoma State and Oklahoma does with their programs, I mean, you get a pretty incredible leg up, in my opinion, now, much more than ever.

I think it’s changed so much in the past 10-15 years. I do feel those kids have a leg up, but by no means anyway geared in favoritism towards someone who comes out of a 4-year. A lot of it for me is still going to depend on worth ethic, drive and personality.

TM: Let’s go back to the kid that wanted to go to the car in the school parking lot and listen to Jim Rome instead of going to class. What would you tell him now? Would you tell him to do it all over again? Yes, your wife was involved, but just in terms of a career aspect.

JP: There are two ways to look at it in my opinion. Obviously not changing anything because I met my wife, but I think now that I have a daughter, and my wife and I have talked about this before, I would tell him to go back into class at TCC. There’s plenty of time for that and there’s some unbelievable things coming down the road, as far as the platform itself. So yeah, I would absolutely tell that person to go back in class and pay attention. Just because you feel like that in the short-term, I think you would benefit much more in the longer run from doing that.

I will always carry it with me that I didn’t finish a 4-year and it’s a chip on my shoulder that fuels me to work harder, but it’s kind of a double-edged sword that’s helped me in so many ways. But yet, I still feel like I carry this giant hindrance that I didn’t do it.

BSM Writers

Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.



USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.



One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74



This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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