One of the great sports radio brands in this country is 950 KJR in Seattle. The station could be nicknamed KRM due to Rich Moore working there full-time for nearly 25 years. Rich has one of the most unique career paths in this industry — he hasn’t worked in 17 different cities like many other people have. Some view it either as a gift or a curse. Rich sees it in a positive light.
It makes sense that he views his career path favorably because Rich is a big believer in positivity. He believes that positivity is a winning formula for his on-air talent. I wouldn’t put it past Rich to stress a spin-off message from a Dave Chappelle Show skit — when keepin’ it real goes right.
Rich’s intelligence is very easy to detect. He’s a smart dude for sure. His thoughts on programmers being scared to work on their weaknesses is something that also applies to many other employees. A handful of other insightful thoughts — like the qualities he loves most in a good sports talk host — are well worth your time reading. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: Where and when was your first gig in the sports radio business?
Rich Moore: I’m still in it. I’m a rarity in this business because I always had a passion for sports and radio. When I had that passion, the format hadn’t really come to life yet. Then when it started to come to life, I was young enough where I didn’t really pay attention to it, but I tried to get on the radio and do all of the radio broadcast schools et cetera.
My other passion — just sports in general — kind of led me to an opportunity when I was in college to work for a promotional company that basically did all of the promotions for the Sonics. I got hired and then the following year, one of those people from that company got hired by the Sonics — it was the daughter of Ackerley — to implement everything we did out-house, in-house. She brought me on board to do it.
I worked for the Sonics in the marketing department. Back then Ackerley owned KJR Sports Radio. I just started gravitating upstairs to the radio side and pretty much have done everything in the building for the radio station. I’m fortunate to have grown my career in Seattle in radio, but never have left my baby since day one, which has been 950 KJR. I’ve built and maintained and rebuilt that station almost since day one. I became full-time with that radio station in basically January of ‘94.
Noe: When you go that far back with the Sonics, what were your personal feelings when they moved?
Rich: If you’re ever fortunate to work for a team, it’s not just a job. If the team wins, obviously it’s a different environment. If the team loses, it’s a different environment. But you do feel like you’re a part of the team no matter what level you’re in. It wasn’t like being a fan even though I was of the Sonics. For me, I felt like I was part of that team in some shape or form. When I worked for them, that was the NBA Finals versus Jordan.
It probably affected me more than a fan. It’s been a bummer. It’s been a big part of my career not only because I worked for them, but we were the home of the Sonics on the radio side for many years — Kevin Calabro et cetera — and a big part of building the 950 KJR brand was based and built around the Sonics and their success. It’s affected me in numerous ways.
Noe: What do you think it would mean for what you do in the Pacific Northwest if Seattle is able to get an NBA team there again one day?
Rich: I’m one of those people that thinks it will never be like it was. I don’t have experience like in Cleveland or anything like that with a team coming and going, but it’ll never be like it was. There’s a giant hole and it needs to be filled. I think fans need to be validated with that and I think it will start a new era with a little bit of passion from the old era. Bottom line is we need an NBA team back in this town.
What’s interesting is I think the way that passion is and how long it extends. The NBA product isn’t necessarily the big great radio product anymore, right? It’s at night. Most of the games are on TV. But if the NBA came back I think the storyline would make it a pretty interesting experience for sure.
Noe: Without you having to move around very much — that’s very rare in the business — are you just thankful that you’ve never had to do that, or is there a small portion of you that says it might have been nice to experience a different part of the country for a little bit?
Rich: I feel like I’m wired in the sense where I always need to be challenged. I’ve just been really, really fortunate where I work, where I constantly had that next challenge, that next opportunity. Now I’m overseeing radio stations outside the format. I’ve been fortunate that way as far as my own career path.
Some people are adamant that you need to go places. Some people are saying you’re fortunate and there’s some value to completely being embedded and knowing your market for that long of time. I see both sides. Like I said, I’ve constantly been around new leadership or a new support staff where I’ve always seem to be able to pick up something or learn something from the next guy. The learning curve has been constant. My opportunities have been constant and my challenges have been constant.
I think at times I know there’s some advantages where if I had been in other markets I’d be better at what I do. But I also know I’m good at what I do because of how long I’ve been in the market and how well I know the market. The pressure or the stress or the goal of mine because of that is I’m a strong, strong believer of building up a network — sharing ideas and studying things from afar — and putting an ear to things. You should anyways, but that’s a big part of what I do, and I make sure I do it.
Noe: What have you learned, especially at the beginning when you were just growing into your role, where you look back now and you’re like, “Wow, I really should have known that beforehand”?
Rich: That’s a great question. I don’t know if I have the answer because it’s always in hindsight. I do think we always talk about you’ve got to evolve and you’ve got to adapt. From the days I got in the business we were cutting reel-to-reel tape and now we’re talking about podcasts. There’s such a long path in between there.
I do think there’s an advantage of evolving to when you’ve been an embedment in a market with a certain brand for so long. You know the people that you’re talking to, the people you have, in addition to the things you’ve got to evolve to. I think it makes it easier to do that to some extent. It’s such a big important part of our business is forming relationships with listeners and building up a brand that you’re affecting their listening habits everyday. Especially in the sports format because the pond we fish in of the men demo — we’re already fishing in a smaller pond. Having those P1’s and that loyal connection — having a better understanding of them and building that brand with them — I think it helps.
The thing I learned that I wish I would have known — this whole business is about people — so I think there’s things you learn by different talent and different people that you can apply to the next. You always go, “Man, if I would have known this when I was dealing with that morning show the first time around, I know I would have done things differently within a better place. I guess that would be the answer.
Noe: When you talk about evolving and adapting, if you apply that to sports radio it seems like we evolved and adapted toward topics that dipped into politics. Now it feels like we’re moving away from that because it might be a tune-out. Would you agree with that?
Rich: I totally would agree with that. The great thing about our business is that we’re so spontaneous. We can do things — if it works, we can pile it on quick. If it doesn’t work, we can pull it off and go in a different direction and half the people don’t even know. When it comes to the topic of politics and the level that it’s consumed us in the country. Debating how we do it. Do we do it? Do we not? Is it regional? Is it the market you’re in?
We all saw what NPR did and how many people that didn’t even consume spoken word were finding it and what it was doing to our ratings. Then we’re seeing what it’s doing to everyone’s lives from the headline stuff that you have to react to. We’re always late to decide what we’re going to do. It almost feels like once everyone figured out what we need to do, well now it’s trending back the other way.
I was just getting to a point where — just talking about the everyday topics that everybody is as it comes out as a personality — I was just getting open to. Lately I’ve started to see some research that early on it was saying it was trending that way. Now I’m seeing research it’s like, no, now it’s time to run from it again. I just think it was a tight window there. I do think it came, but I also think it’s going again.
Noe: How would you say the Pacific Northwest is different than other areas in the country when it comes to sports radio?
Rich: Well specifically with Seattle, we just don’t have a depth of history of teams and their success. Our baseball team and our NFL team are some of the newer teams in theory. We just don’t have the depth in history.
This market likes winners, good stories, and players they can relate to. They don’t care who. If the teams aren’t winning, or if the story is not there, there’s too many other things to go do. It’s a fast-paced city for the West Coast. We don’t have that deep-rooted loyalty because of the history of success or multiple teams.
Not having a major winter sport of NBA or hockey right now in the market, there’s nothing that’s luring people in there for a while. It allows people to check out. I told my staff in 2005 — I still remember to this day — we had a staff meeting before we were going to the Super Bowl to play the Steelers. I had done all this research. We were moving the whole station back to Detroit. Back then we were the only sports station in town. I said, “We’re going to own it. Here’s what we are doing.” We built this whole thing out and I said, “Hey, if we win this thing, it’s going to change the sports market and we’ve got to be prepared.”
We didn’t win. A lot of people think we got screwed, but it did affect us anyways. We raised our cume about 40 percent. We maintained that — I think it dipped down to 30 almost a year later. It did have an effect on it. That was the first sign of a popular sport that we had success in. It started to change how we could talk about failures or teams on the air.
This town, if you talk about firing coaches and trading players, it doesn’t go a long way like it might on the East Coast because the town wants to hear the positive things. Getting to that Super Bowl started to change that and by all means when the Seahawks finally won one, it elevated it to another level.
I think the struggling teams like the Mariners in town could probably attest to it because I think fans became more critical of them. This market, that’s where it comes from. A fan’s support and their passion, it’s increasing, but again with not having one or two more pro teams in the market, we need those to continue to put the depth of passion of sports fans in this market.
I think the other factor is — and I guess you could criticize me for not being in other markets at this point – but our part of the country — we’re similar to San Francisco. We’re fast growing, high tech, high intellect. It’s one of those expensive markets to live in and it’s really hard to capture and engage the audience.
If you look how we index in certain things, we might be the number two station in the market overall with total household income. Where you go to a sports talk station in the South and the Midwest, that may not be the case. They’ve got a little bit different passion of fans that are more willing to carry a PPM or to participate in contests. Out here we get those fans, but it feels like in that sense a little bit harder. It’s a little bit more compressed in the game of getting those listeners.
Noe: It seems like an L.A. vibe where you’ve got to be relevant for them to care. If you have teams that are underperforming, how do you instruct your on-air staff to connect with the audience if they have all these other options?
Rich: Fortunately or unfortunately, we’re not a radio station that’s built off play-by-play. We never were. We had the Sonics, that kind of got us going, but we’ve been built around personalities since day one. We’re live and local from 6a to 7p and we don’t have a major pro play-by-play partner. That’s kind of rare. Our philosophy is we want to be where the fans come and where the fans react.
We try to be as real as we can. We don’t want to talk down to our teams or our fans. We don’t want to be cynical to a point where it’s a turn off. We just really put an emphasis to try to get the vibe of the fans of how they’re reacting and how they’re thinking. It’s a complete turn off if the Mariners are struggling and it’s the middle of the summer and they’re not in it, because we’re so built around personalities, we really do push and strive of being as entertaining as we can in the lifestyle ways.
It’s not full overboard like guy talk, but we try to be as real and as connected to our audience as we possibly can and as entertaining as we can. If the Mariners are in a pennant race, they’re going to turn us on in the morning. If they’re not, they’re going to turn us on in the morning because we’re going to make them laugh, or we are going to make them feel good on the way to work. That’s kind of that tightrope that we walk. The access to the x’s and o’s. That’s gone. It’s all about personalities at that point.
Noe: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Rich: That’s funny because I think that question for me, my answers probably evolve like every four or five years. I still get a kick out of the sports bit, brainstorm idea. Something that’s topical, that’s engaging, that comes to life and you put it together. Then people are talking about it and then you become known for it. I think that’s just so cool.
The other part is, the part of our business nowadays is really putting pressure on us to add knowledgeable people. I’m fortunate to have a Mike Holmgren, a Cliff Avril, a Hugh Millen. Guys who have been executives, coaches, GM’s or Super Bowl champions on our staff. Then putting them all together and just get out of the way and let them talk. We always want to eavesdrop on that conversation in the bar. I think sometimes you get some pretty special stuff in that regard.
And then I’m a fan of play-by-play. Having play-by-play — we’ve had the Huskies, we’ve had the Sonics — so being part of magical broadcasts and putting them all together is fun because people are so emotionally involved. Overall I think you always want to be known for the one thing or things and to have listeners come up and be able to say, “Hey, I remember when, and that was so cool. That was awesome when you did that.” It’s pretty cool when you know you’re impacting people’s lives in that way.
Noe: You mentioned overseeing other formats — is there anything from a non-sports radio format that you’ve applied to sports radio?
Rich: Absolutely. I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to be Vice President of Programming about two and a half years ago. With that, I now oversee eight stations in our building — 3 FM’s, 3 AM’s — and then I’ve got my hands in some other things. Building a brand is so tricky. I’m just a big believer in this business that programmers just like to really gravitate to things that they do well. Partly because how fast we move and how fast things happen and what we have to get on the air. We have all kinds of report cards. We’ve got Nielsen and we’ve got listeners. Programmers are always scared to work on their weaknesses or things that make them uncomfortable. To me that’s becoming the secret sauce that makes radio stations better.
When you oversee other radio stations and how they build their brands, it’s easy to pick things out that you missed or you see that you need to add that might be out of your realm. It’s being able to reflect. You can’t reflect as easy when you’re only focusing on one station, but you get that opportunity overseeing the others. The other part is when you oversee that many radio stations, there’s so much more feedback. There’s so much more research. There’s so much more data that you just kind of say, “Oh, this could apply to me. I could steal that. Oh, this makes sense. Ahh, now I see a common theme here.” From a strategic standpoint for sure it’s been a huge advantage.
Noe: If you were building the ideal sports radio host what quality would you include that typically seems to be lacking with hosts?
Rich: I don’t know if there’s one thing. I really stress being real. There’s a lot of times people try to become a character. There’s a lot of times people want to be perceived one way. I just think day in and day out for someone to get a relationship with you on the air you’ve got to be as real as possible.
You’ve got to be self-deprecating. You’ve got to have high energy and how you present yourself. You can’t talk down to people. You’ve got to have some knowledge. You’ve got to entertain. You’ve got to have fun. I would say more and more and more and more, cynical scares me now. Cynical is negative. Negative is a bad tone and that formula doesn’t work anymore. I think there was a point where it did, but it just doesn’t. I like quick wit. I like storytelling. And I like real.
Noe: It’s funny to ask you about your goals or where you see yourself — you’ve been at the same place the whole time, man. (laughs) Where do you see yourself or where would you like to see yourself over the next 10 years?
Rich: No, it’s a great question. I’ve always been the guy that says, “I need the next thing, I need the next thing. That’s the next thing? I’m going to go get it.” I’m at a point where I have my hands in so many things I might still be molding that clay a little bit. But I’m so lucky, right? I still get to get my hands on a cool brand everyday and be a programmer, but on the other side I get to be behind the curtain and manage more of the bigger picture and the business side of things.
It’s like every programmer, if they leave being a program director and they come back, they always say, “Man, this is what I miss. I miss the day to day.” I’m fortunate to be doing both, but I’m also liking the aspect of overseeing multi formats of business operation and to that level as well. I could take more responsibility on from a management standpoint of the business side like that. I could also see myself putting more of a hyper focus on some key part of our business that’s about evolution or the next future of what our industry is going to be.
Jac Collinsworth Has Learned From The Best
“The way he would take all of the young people, myself included, under his wings. You couldn’t get this anywhere else.”
Jac Collinsworth got his first taste of Notre Dame football while watching his brother Austin play for the Fighting Irish. There was his brother playing on special teams and getting a chance to return kicks.
“I remember sitting in the stands for his first football game inside Notre Dame Stadium thinking this is the coolest thing I’ve been a part of,” said Collinsworth. “The history of this building and my brother is out there in a Notre Dame jersey.”
Not only did Jac eventually go to Notre Dame as well, but he just completed his first season as the play-by-play voice for Notre Dame Football on NBC. As a student, Jac was part of the NBC sideline production team during his four-year education at South Bend from 2013 to 2017 and he was the sideline reporter for the NBC broadcast of the Blue/Gold spring game in 2016 and 2017.
“To work on the broadcasts for four years — as an intern really — with Alex Flanagan and then with Kathryn Tappen for three years down there on the sideline and being in all those production meetings, it was such an invaluable piece of the journey for me.”
And now, the 27-year-old is the television voice of the Fighting Irish.
“To see it all come full circle and be up there in the booth, it was really a special experience every single game,” said Collinsworth.
After graduating from Notre Dame, Collinsworth joined ESPN where he was a correspondent for NFL Live and Sunday NFL Countdown while also hosting the ESPN-owned ACC Network’s football show The Huddle.
Jac then returned to NBC in 2020 and was part of the Notre Dame telecasts during the pregame show and halftime show for two seasons. Collinsworth had the opportunity to learn under veteran play-by-play voice Mike Tirico, especially during the production meetings.
Tirico became a mentor to Collinsworth.
“I felt like I was getting a graduate degree watching him handle those meetings,” said Collinsworth. “The way he would take all of the young people, myself included, under his wings. You couldn’t get this anywhere else. To be able to do that for two years and still have him as a close friend and somebody I can text…I text with him before every single game.”
Another huge mentor to Collinsworth has been the legendary Al Michaels, the former play-by-play voice for Sunday Night Football who is now calling the Thursday night package for Amazon.
“I talk to him all the time,” said Collinsworth. “I’ve had dinner with him. He invites me out to play golf. We just get on the phone and spent 45 minutes just breaking down everything. Every time that phone rings I don’t care what I’m in the middle of, I walk outside and I take that call.”
Collinsworth, the son of former Bengals wide receiver and current NFL Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth, first felt the broadcasting itch growing up in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky. It goes without saying that his father was a huge influence, but Jac remembers when Highlands High School was being renovated when he was in 7th and 8th grade.
The first part of the renovation was a brand-new broadcast facility.
“It was a studio that had these amazing cameras, a desk, lights and two sets,” recalled Collinsworth. “To this day, I’ve never seen a high school setup…I mean this is better than most college setups…a state of-the-art facility.”
The class was called “Introduction to Filmmaking” and Collinsworth started out wanted to be a cameraman.
“I became obsessed with running around the school and filming all this stuff whatever students were doing,” said Collinsworth.
From there, Jac gained experience in editing and producing but deep down inside he thought he wanted to be a cameraman…that was until his first taste of on-air experience.
“They started a rotation where everybody in the class had to try hosting the announcements live right before the final period of the day,” said Collinsworth.
And the rest is history.
An important part of Jac’s growth as a play-by-play announcer came last spring working NBC’s coverage of the United States Football League. Paired with Jason Garrett, Collinsworth was able to continue the learning process before taking over the Notre Dame duties. He appreciated the fact that these were really good football players that were among the best players on their college teams and could very well be in the NFL.
And just like for the players, the USFL was an opportunity for Jac to get better at his craft.
“Just continuing to learn the art form of calling a game,” said Collinsworth. “The timing and getting out of the way sometimes and letting the broadcast breathe and rising for those big moments.”
An incredibly big moment for Jack would be if the opportunity to work a game with his father ever presented himself. It’s something that he’s thought about and would love to see come to fruition somewhere down the road.
But if that happens, there could be a problem for the viewers.
“Would anybody be able to tell who is talking?” joked Jac.
Jac and his father sound so much alike it’s scary. In fact, during our twenty-minute phone conversation, I really had to pay attention to listen for any discernable difference between Jac and his dad and it was very hard to find any.
But it would still be fascinating to hear them work together.
“I think it would be a very cool experience,” said Jac. “We would have so much chemistry that it would be a crazy experience. I would love to do it. I’d be getting out of his way and let him make points and I wouldn’t be afraid to take a couple of shots at him. I think it would be damn entertaining.”
While their on-air roles are different, Jac has been able to learn a lot about broadcasting from his father. While he does — for the most part — give his son some space when it comes to work, Cris leaves Jac a note prior to each broadcast, mainly has it pertains to a specific aspect of a telecast like coming back from a break or the flow of a telecast.
But there’s one valuable lesson that Jac learned from his dad years ago that he has adopted for himself.
“Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned from him is, he is a worker man,” said Collinsworth. “He just works at this stuff.”
Jac would constantly see his father going through film at various hours during the day, but Cris would still pay close attention to his son’s studies at school and would let Jac know about it if he saw something wasn’t right.
Like when Jac would be having some difficulty with a math assignment.
“I’m like ‘Dad, this is calculus, I can’t figure out how to do this equation’,” said Jac. “He would put that clicker down and come up and he would be deep in the math book going through the chapters learning all this calculus that he hasn’t done in 40 years. I’d come down at six in the morning and he’d still be flipping through the math book while I’m eating breakfast and he’s teaching me the lesson to make sure I got it for the quiz.
“That’s how he was…just the work element is the biggest thing that I still use every day and I definitely got it from him.”
Aside from his football duties, Collinsworth has also been a NASCAR studio analyst for NBC and he’s also been the voice of Atlantic Ten Men’s Basketball and the Atlantic Ten Tournament. There’s something to be said for getting experience in multiple sports because each sport has its own pace and its own flow.
Some play-by-play voices specialize in one sport and some can handle multiple assignments. In Jac’s case, there’s one sport that stand above all the others.
“The rhythm, feel and flow of a football game is my favorite,” said Collinsworth. “Football has always been my first love and grew up around it. Basketball happens fast not to mention you’re on the court and you’re right there in the middle of it. I’ve called baseball games too and that’s a very slow game.”
Jac Collinsworth is still very early in his broadcasting career but he has great talent and he’s been rewarded with some amazing opportunities like Notre Dame Football and being part of NBC’s NFL coverage.
But he knows that he’s had some help along the way and he’s very grateful for it.
“I feel like I’m living out a dream and I feel like I’m standing on a lot of people’s shoulders that helped me get there,” said Collinsworth. “I think about a lot of people who didn’t need to but chose to help me when I was a kid. I feel like I have a great responsibility to take that advice and take it as far as I can and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
And it all started with a high school television studio and his willingness to try all different aspects of the business.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
Chris Kinard Has 106.7 The Fan, The Team 980 Primed For Continued Success
“Coming right out of the books and beating our direct competitor in the first month will always be something I’m proud of.”
When Jim Riggleman resigned as manager of the Washington Nationals in June 2011, it was the first time Chris Kinard thought the fanbase cared about the team.
Riggleman wanted the Nationals to pick up the option on his contract and effectively remove the “interim” tag from his job description, and once they declined to do so, he essentially packed up and left.
From the time he was young, Chris Kinard was interested in media, and he had early exposure in the industry since his uncle Lee worked as a television news anchor in Greensboro, N.C. The elder Kinard was the pioneer of the Good Morning Show on WFMY News 2 and was honored with the dedication of the main studio in his honor from where he worked since 1956.
By the time he was in fifth grade, Chris Kinard began listening to radio and realizing it may be a viable career path for him to pursue. He shadowed his uncle in 1996 to learn about news media and television broadcasting; however, he gravitated towards working in radio in part because of WJFK-FM, and had an affinity towards professional sports.
“A local morning show here in D.C. on a top 40 station was kind of my entry point,” Kinard said. “I listened to that show actually when it moved over to WJFK for years in middle school and high school.”
At the time, WJFK-FM was broadcasting in the talk format and was among the network of stations syndicating The Howard Stern Show and other programming targeted towards the male 25-54 demographic. Kinard was an avid listener of the station, tuning in to its programming for several hours a day over the course of many years.
Today, it is known as 106.7 The Fan and it is managed, along with Audacy’s cluster of radio stations by Kinard himself. He was responsible for flipping the station’s format from talk to sports in 2009 and has helped cement the brand as dominant in the ratings.
“Flipping the station to sports will always be a bittersweet thing for me,” Kinard said. “I grew up with the station [in] the previous format and I took a lot of pride in what we were doing at the time, but I think we launched with great success. Coming right out of the books and beating our direct competitor in the first month will always be something I’m proud of.”
During his freshman year at American University, he got word that The Sports Junkies were making a public appearance a few minutes away from his childhood home. Additionally, he found out the show was looking for people to volunteer to serve as interns, an opportunity he knew was simply too good to pass up.
Inherently shy, Kinard introduced himself with the hopes of landing an internship at WJFK-FM. A few weeks later, he received a phone call informing him that he was selected to work as an intern, a surreal opportunity for him to begin working in sports media. Little did he know he would still be working at the station, albeit in a more substantial role, 25 years later.
“When it started and when I was actually in the building and seeing the behind the scenes, I was kind of in awe,” Kinard said. “….I had no idea what I was doing really except that I really wanted to be there and couldn’t believe that I was and wanted to soak it all in.”
Three months later, one of the show’s producers who largely acted as a call screener left the station to pursue another opportunity in media. As a result, there was a gap to be filled, and since Kinard had been diligent and responsible as an intern, he was hired part-time to take over the role. At the conclusion of his sophomore year in college, he was hired full-time as the producer of The Sports Junkies – a development in his career he calls “fortuitous” initially difficult to foresee balancing with two years remaining to earn his undergraduate degree.
“It was a really kind of interesting conversation with my parents about whether to do it or not and how it would impact my schoolwork and that kind of thing,” Kinard said. “I just was determined to take that opportunity; I knew how scarce they were I guess just by seeing people who had been at the station and working part-time [for] several years who had left because they couldn’t get a full-time position.”
By the time he was in his junior and senior years, Kinard had valuable professional experience from working at WJFK-FM and also interning at the local ABC affiliate station. Although he participated in some of the student-run media outlets at the school, his mindset was to prioritize what he was doing off campus.
“I’m not sure that I actually got a lot out of college to be honest with you because I was doing it outside of school already just by kind of virtue of connections,” Kinard said. “Being in Washington, D.C. and all the opportunities that are available here, [that was] really… my focus more than anything else.”
During his first year as show producer, The Sports Junkies became nationally syndicated on Westwood One Radio and was achieving notoriety and high ratings within the marketplace. The show is hosted by four childhood best friends – John Auville, Eric Bickel, Jason Bishop, and John-Paul Flaim – who began the program on public access television in Bowie, Maryland before joining WJFK-FM as evening hosts in 1996. None of them had any formal broadcast training, instead utilizing their indelible chemistry and local background to auspiciously impact sports media.
“They’re very authentic,” Kinard expressed. “I think when people hear them, they can relate to them. They sound like every guy’s group of friends sound when you get together. I think they sound like our city; they sound like sports fans in Washington over the last 30 years.”
All four co-hosts recently inked four-year contract extensions to keep The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan, officially putting pen to paper together in studio earlier this month.
Since 2016, The Sports Junkies has been simulcast on NBC Sports Washington, and although listeners now have the ability to add a visual component to their experience, it did not change how any of the co-hosts approach the job. From the beginning, there was a mutual understanding that the show would still operate in the same way with the cameras serving the purpose of pulling back the metaphorical curtain.
“It is really a fast-paced show in terms of the camera switching and the direction of it because there’s four guys, so I think this show translates really well,” Kinard said. “There’s a lot going on because there are four hosts, not just two talking heads. There’s also two producers that chime in a lot. There’s a lot of movement, I think, within the show because of just how dynamic of a cast it is.”
Since its official shift to the sports talk format in 2009, 106.7 The Fan had primarily competed with The Team 980 to try to win in the ratings. In November 2020, Audacy, officially agreed to acquire various stations across the United States owned by Urban One, including The Team 980, effectively ending that competition. Part of Kinard’s job is to oversee both sports talk stations, which now compete with ESPN 630 DC.
“We have some really talented staff,” Kinard said. “I’m not sure we’ve ever had more talent under one roof than we have now. Having two stations in my market allows me to groom new people and give people opportunities quicker than I could with just one station.”
Moreover, he helped launch 1580 The Bet, a radio station broadcasting in the growing sports gambling format in partnership with the BetQL Audio Network and CBS Sports Radio. Its creation coincided with a nationwide effort by Audacy to better utilize certain signals to their full potential, and with the proliferation and legalization of sports betting in select states across the country, many of them flipped to this format.
“I think it was important to have the BetQL Network represented in Washington at a high level because of the proximity to the MGM National Harbor, which is just kind of 15 minutes away from the radio station,” Kinard said. “[It is] on a signal that, in the past, had not been a big ratings play, so that was a great opportunity to just kind of own sports in Washington – to have 106.7 The Fan; The Team 980; and 1580 The Bet all under one umbrella.”
A compelling draw to sports radio is live game broadcasts, and as brand manager of Audacy DC, Kinard is responsible for maintaining 106.7 The Fan’s relationship with the Washington Capitals and Washington Nationals. When the teams are doing well, it usually results in better metrics for the station.
“There’s a huge correlation between winning and listenership and also advertiser interest,” Kinard said. “There’s a segment of the fanbase, I think, that thinks that local sports radio roots against the teams. It’s not that we root for the teams necessarily, but if you ask any host probably on any radio station in America whether it’s better for their individual show’s success and their overall station success if the teams are successful, I think everyone’s going to say it’s way better.”
Prior to the start of this NFL season, Audacy DC parted ways with the Washington Commanders due to a disagreement regarding “the value of the broadcasts.” The Team 980 was previously owned by the Washington Commanders franchise itself and had been the flagship station of the team for several years through its sale to Urban One in 2019. The Fan had not had the radio broadcast rights to the Commanders since 2006 before it was broadcasting in the sports talk format, hence why The Sports Junkies co-host Eric Bickel stated that the station had had no relationship with the team for two decades.
Since the Commanders officially entered into a new partnership with iHeartRadio, its flagship station has been BIG 100, which airs a classic rock format. Consequently, The Team 980 had the opportunity to change its on-air strategy, airing five hours of pregame coverage every week followed by extensive postgame coverage. During the games themselves, the station has broadcast Burgundy & Gold Gameday Live, a show that has had stellar listenership thus far.
“I think play-by-play rights are really important and do have a ton of value, but only if it’s done in a way where there’s partnership on both sides but also an understanding on both sides that the team has a job to do and the radio station has a job to do,” Kinard expressed. “Our focus is just to continue to provide great talk and coverage of the teams.”
As media continues to evolve with changes in technology and consumption habits, Kinard remains optimistic about the future because of the influx of new talent and the leadership at Audacy.
“We have just a wealth of talent and content, and I think that content will cut through no matter what’s going on with technology,” he said. “I think that we will continue to push to make sure that we are on the platforms that we need to be on and that we own that content and can monetize it for the future. I don’t know how anyone could compete with that, so I’m really excited about it.”
Kinard’s vertical movement in the industry might not have been possible without finding a mentor in Michael Hughes, the station’s general manager. Over the years working in the industry, Kinard grasped that managers are often not thinking about the needs and wants of individuals because of the myriad of responsibilities they are juggling related to the entity as a whole over any given period of time.
As a result, it is essential for subordinates to communicate with their superiors, as they are “at the mercy of the communication [they] receive,” according to Kinard.
“I had a conversation with him about… wanting to be a program director,” Kinard said of Hughes. “I think he took that seriously and took that to heart and he said, ‘Well, let me help you be prepared for that when the time might come.’ It just so happened that it came less than a year later.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
Pete Thamel Was ESPN’s College Football Missing Link
His no-frills approach is refreshing in a time when many “insiders” view being as famous as the athletes they cover as a quasi-goal for their futures.
For a network often accused of “running” college football, it always seemed odd to me that ESPN never had that true news-breaking reporter it had for other sports. That is, until it hired Pete Thamel in January of this year.
ESPN poured resources into “insiders” like Adam Schefter, Adrian Wojnarowski, and Jeff Passan while it poured rights fees into the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC, and the College Football Playoff, but from the outside, it looked as if the network just wasn’t interested in having that same type of reporting for college football, which is truly puzzling.
When the entire postseason of the country’s arguably second favorite sport is centered around what is best for your television channel, you would think supplementing it with high level, national reporting would be a priority.
Maybe the right deals never came to fruition or maybe the value just wasn’t seen by the network until Thamel became available, but his contributions to ESPN’s college football coverage have been immeasurable.
In a day and age where reporters break news on Twitter and get around to eventually writing a story for their outlet’s website, Thamel flexed his reporting chops in a major way on Sunday. While the rest of the college football world was still pondering whether Ohio State should consider firing Ryan Day, Thamel dropped a bomb on the sport’s landscape by revealing Wisconsin had hired Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell to run their program. His initial tweet was accompanied by a link to ESPN’s website with further details about the move.
Pete Thamel was so convinced he was the first and potentially only person working on that ever-changing breaking news story, that he took the time to write the story, submit it through ESPN’s editorial staff, and then release the news before anyone else. In 2022, that’s the equivalent of mailing his story from side of the country to the other in order to break news. And yet, he was so far ahead of the game that he was able to take his time, gather his facts, and report an accurate, succinct story that would be of value to him and his network. What a novel concept.
One of Thamel’s best qualities as an “insider” is he — thus far — hasn’t been plagued by questions that have been a factor in the perception like his ESPN counterparts. Schefter, Wojnarowski, and Passan have each faced their own incidents during their time as the lead reporters for ESPN but Thamel, in my opinion, is unlikely to be pulled into those scenarios. It seems clear Thamel doesn’t release things for the benefit of anyone other than himself and the outlet he works for.
He doesn’t seem to be swayed by agents, athletic directors, coaches, boosters, or anyone else with skin in the game. His no-frills approach is refreshing in a time when many “insiders” view being as famous as the athletes they cover as a quasi-goal for their futures.
Last week, College GameDay host Rece Davis noted on the show’s podcast that Thamel brought “something to GameDay that GameDay’s desperately needed for years”, and he’s right. Not only did ESPN need a news breaker for it’s digital outlets, but it needed that presence on its pregame show.
And when you think about it, nearly ever other pregame show has that role filled. Schefter and Chris Mortensen hold that role for ESPN’s NFL coverage, FOX Sports has Jay Glazer in its NFL pregame show and Bruce Feldman for Big Noon Kickoff. It’s just an area ESPN lacked.
But they made a fantastic hire by bringing Thamel aboard, and his reporting will serve the worldwide leader well over the course of the following weeks as the college coaching carousel heats up.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.
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