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Ernie Johnson Is Trying To Get From Point A to Point B to Point C

“I think the key is always to know your role, know your material, know how to prepare, and know that the show is not about you.”

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Ernie Johnson

His work is well known. His bowties are instantly recognizable. The smile is always present, and why not, right?

When you’re Ernie Johnson and you host one of the best studio shows on television, there’s a lot of reason to laugh and be happy. Johnson is a versatile broadcaster, the kind you can plug into any situation and know the job will be done well. In addition to his work on TNT’s Inside the NBA, Johnson hosts Turner and CBS’ coverage of NCAA March Madness and is the lead play-byplay announcer for Turner’s coverage of Major League Baseball and the PGA Championship. It’s already a very impressive resume. Add to it the NFL, The British Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics and you have the complete package. 

Ernie Johnson Jr. | Bio | Premiere Speakers Bureau

During the shutdown of sports, Johnson is trying to stay busy while at the same time helping young journalists. He is not a fan of fake crowd noise and he has as much fun hosting with Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal as it looks like he does. 

I caught up with Johnson this week and he was kind enough to answer some questions. We started with his work in the NBA and as studio host of Inside the NBA

Andy Masur: In general, how much fun is it to host Inside the NBA on TNT? You guys seem to have a blast every time you’re on the air. 

Ernie Johnson: It’s as much fun to do as it appears on the screen. We all realize how fortunate we are to have a job that requires us to watch basketball and then talk about it.  I mean if you hear that job description who wouldn’t say “Sign me up!”? Kenny, Charles and I have been together for 20 years, Shaq for the last 8. 

With producers like Tim Kiely and Jeremy Levin, we’ve been able to come up with a show that broke out of the traditional mold of studio shows, so that it became very unpredictable, very spontaneous, freewheeling—call it what you will.  And we haven’t been afraid to venture outside the traditional boundaries and voice our opinions on social issues, politics, whatever topics the average fan was talking about, we were going to talk about too. 

AM: What are some of the keys to hosting alongside 3 high profile former players and entertaining personalities?

EJ: I think the key is always to know your role, know your material, know how to prepare, and know that the show is not about you. Working with Kenny, Charles, and Shaq is about as much fun as you can have in this job.   You just have to keep in mind that they’re the ones who played the game at the highest level.  Nobody in the audience cares what I think is going on in a team huddle with a second and a half to play, but these guys have all been there.  We need to hear from them. 

My role is to move the show along from point A to point B to point C, and be armed with the latest information from around the league which will spark conversation.  That information can be anything from a key stat to a quote from a player or coach which begs a response from our trio of NBA players.  I think the reason our show has been successful through the years is that no matter how “high profile” the personalities may be, nobody has tried to make the show about themselves.

Shaq, Charles Barkley fight over speaking time makes Ernie Johnson ...

AM: I know a lot of us in this business are looking for ways to stay active and relevant in the sports world.  Looking at your Twitter account I noticed you started “Ernie’s Journalism School”. How did that come about and how much fun was it for you? 

EJ: It was born out of a feeling of “okay, what do we do now?” which popped up in the first few days of the NBA’s suspension of play.  As a journalism student at the University of Georgia way back when, my favorite classes were those in which a professor would bring in a guest speaker who was already doing what I wanted to do one day.  We as students were able to fire away with any questions we had about what it’s like in the real world. Now after 40 years in the business, one of my favorite things to do is return to my Alma Mater and talk about our industry, and answer questions.  

So, I talked to Turner’s social media team, just asking what possibilities were out there, and they mentioned Twitter Live.  I’ve been on Twitter for years but never realized there was a Live element to it.  So, I just thought with so many college students’ lives turned upside down maybe I could give the journalism students out there an outlet to ask questions.  So I reached out to some of my friends and told them what I was thinking—a daily, hour long session—in which they would take questions the students could type in Live, and basically tell their stories—where they started—how they moved up—advice, that kind of thing.   

I just basically went through the contacts in my phone and was so pleased to get such positive response. So, students got to hear from the people they see on their screens, or whose stories they read, and ask ‘em anything they wanted.  I didn’t know at the time that it would run Monday through Friday for six weeks, but before it was all done the students had heard from about 35 different people who were in the business—from Scott Van Pelt to James Brown to Andrea Kremer to Brian Anderson, and on and on.  I’ll admit it too, I learned a lot, even after this long in the business.

AM: What a great idea! I’m wondering what kinds of things have you learned during this pandemic about the importance of sports in our society? I know I miss them greatly! 

EJ: I’ve always said that sports are a great distraction to the pressures of real life and that’s just been amplified during the course of the pandemic.  Even if you don’t sit down and watch an event from start to finish, you might have it on as background noise for whatever else you’re up to, and you’re checking back to see the score, who’s leading the tournament, that kind of thing.  I think you saw how much people miss live sports, watching something without knowing who’s gonna win, with The Match: Champions for Charity.  Sport just gives us that escape valve that’s been missing for months now.

AM: Along those lines, there’s been a lot of talk recently that network TV broadcasts will pump in fake crowd noise and perhaps use virtual fans during games held with no fans. What are your thoughts on that possibly happening? 

EJ: I vote ‘no’. We all realize the situation we’re in with no fans.  There’s no need to fake it.  It might be interesting to hear all the things you normally don’t during a telecast because they’re drowned out by crowd noise. 

Amen to that. 

A note about that golf event he referenced earlier in our conversation. Johnson was supposed to be in Florida for “The Match”, but didn’t attend for personal reasons. In an emotional segment before the broadcast he described the reasons. 

Sportscaster Ernie Johnson on Adopting His Son with Special Needs ...

His son Eric has dealt with Muscular Dystrophy for years and since 2011 he’s depended on a ventilator to breath. Johnson said his son would be at great risk of dying if he contracted COVID-19. Said Johnson in the piece aired before the event, “I just didn’t think it was worth the risk of bringing in an unseen foe into our house.”

Ernie Johnson, tremendous broadcaster and equally tremendous as a father.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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BSM Podcast

Media Noise: What Does The Return of Bob Iger Mean to ESPN?

Demetri Ravanos

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Demetri Ravanos has questions about Disney going back to the future with Bob Iger. This entire episode of Media Noise is all about what the change at the top of the Walt Disney Company indicates about the future of ESPN.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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