The sports radio medium isn’t crawling with hosts that have 15 years of college football coaching experience under their belt. Nigel Burton is one of the few who does. It’s part of a noteworthy background that Nigel brings to the airwaves in Portland, Oregon.
Coaches obviously have to be knowledgeable, but they also need to possess the ability to explain what they know in ways that other people can easily understand. It sounds like the foundation of a good sports radio host, doesn’t it?
Nigel hosts morning drive with Dan Sheldon on 620 Rip City Radio. Making the transition from the sideline to the studio is a topic of conversation below. Nigel also hits on many other interesting subjects like football being played during a pandemic, the most rewarding aspect of coaching, and how Colin Kaepernick surprised him following their days together at Nevada. Nigel is a compelling dude. He’s got an assortment of life experiences that help shape his wise perspective. His words and examples can help open eyes and minds. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: What does your coaching resume look like?
Nigel Burton: I coached for about 15 years, all Division I, FBS or FCS. I did a grad assistant at South Florida. I coached the secondary at Portland State. Then I coached the secondary at Oregon State. I was the defensive coordinator at Nevada and then I was the head coach at Portland State.
BN: What did you learn most from coaching?
NB: I think the one thing I learned was if you keep your standards high, like 99 percent of people will try to rise to whatever standard you keep. The other 1 percent will probably just go to jail. [Laughs] So don’t worry about it.
In terms of X’s and O’s, man, that’s a never-ending deal. You may think you have it down but that’s why all these coaches that have been doing it for 50 years are still doing clinics. You can always learn something new or a different way to do it. There are guys who can win championships running triple option or the Air Raid. There are guys who have won championships doing spread and guys will do it doing Two-Back Pro West Coast. It’s a never-ending process.
BN: What does your sports radio resume look like?
NB: That’s a little shorter. Sports radio has just been Rip City Radio since 2016. Obviously I had done interviews and things like that before. Pac-12 Network and NBC Sports Northwest — actually it started with NBC Sports Northwest, that’s how I kind of even got in. After I got fired from Portland State is when the Ducks made their run in the CFP and beat Florida State in Mariota’s last year there. That’s how I got into doing TV. Then I got Pac-12 Network that fall and then Rip City Radio the following fall.
BN: What did you learn early on about sports radio that you hadn’t known before you did it?
NB: Well I had to learn other sports as well as I knew football. The amount of study and prep, I guess I didn’t know getting into it. I’ve got a great co-host that I get along with even though sometimes it seems like we don’t. But I trust him. He just does a good job of bringing the best out of me in terms of knowing when to tell personal stories, when to get on the soapbox, and when to crack jokes. We just have good timing and good rapport.
BN: Is there anything you learned from Dan [Sheldon] just by doing a show alongside him for so long?
NB: A ton. I’ve learned a lot about basketball because that’s his forte. I learned a lot of just how to analyze it. I’ve learned a lot in terms of how things are seen from a media perspective. A lot of things I still see as a student-athlete or as a coach and he sees them from a media perspective. It’s just interesting how we can see the same thing, and yet from different angles.
BN: What’s something about football that media members who never coached tend to get wrong?
NB: I think a lot of media and people in general are just really jaded about the motivating factors of coaches. They see the Pete Carroll’s, the Nick Saban’s, and Jim Harbaugh making 9 million dollars. What they don’t realize is the amount of work and $10,000 jobs that are out there. The reason that these guys are coaching for the most part is because they love kids and they love the game.
There are clearly business aspects to it, but I’ve yet to meet somebody who got into it thinking “I’m doing this so I can make money.” Anybody who’s gotten into it for that doesn’t last very long.
I think they see a coach do something, a certain type of behavior, or make a decision and they automatically go to, oh it was because he made a business decision. A lot of times you have to make tough decisions that are actually in the best interest of either the team or the kids. I think people just think that it’s cut and dry, like “what’s best for me?” and things like that. I haven’t met a whole lot of guys who got into coaching and that’s the way they think.
BN: What’s the toughest decision you ever had to make as a coach?
NB: When to dismiss a kid or suspend him. Those are hard deals. I had to fire a guy that I was really close to on my staff. That might have actually been the worst because we were damn near best friends. Those are the hardest because — at least I did — I felt like I wanted to save everybody. When you finally get to the point where you’re like this is not salvageable, it’s just hard to come to that realization and then have to pull the trigger.
I suspended a kid one time who had just — it was like a thousand small cuts and after a while it had gotten to the other players and it had gotten to other guys on the staff. I suspended him for his last game as a senior. Looking back on it I actually regret it. I listened to some other people and as opposed to saying you know what, it’s the last game, he’s going to be gone, and maybe he grows up. I feel like now that’s something that will never be repairable. That’s unfortunate because my favorite part about coaching is seeing who they become after they leave and having that great relationship. That one will be soiled forever.
BN: Many players who retire try to fill that void with something else. How does it break down for you as a former coach? Does sports radio fill some of that void?
NB: It will never fill what coaching did because it’s like raising a kid versus babysitting. You raise a child, you can see all the hard work and all the crap you went through and all the good times. They’re your responsibility, and then you put them out in the world and you see them succeed, or even when they fail and they have to come back and they need help. It’s not the same as doing it from afar or stepping in every now and again. But I still get a fix. I still get to watch sports for a living and talk about it and have fun. It’s kind of all the good stuff. It’s the fun stuff. But the stuff that’s rewarding is the hard stuff and that’s the stuff that you miss.
BN: What’s your opinion about college football and the NFL playing during the pandemic?
NB: I totally understand the NFL because it’s a business. I think the NFL was going to play no matter what. As long as they can keep their players relatively safe; they’re getting paid for a risky job anyway.
College is a different animal because you have a responsibility to those kids’ parents and they’re still quasi kids. You have a different level of responsibility there. I feel like for the most part the way that the Pac-12 and the Big Ten handled things was the right way to do it.
I think there was a level of irresponsibility by just saying well we’re just going to play through it. All the quotes we heard about “we’ve got to run money through the state of Oklahoma” and “more concerned with guys playing than their long-term health.” There were too many questions to just forge ahead the way that a lot of conferences did.
You’ve got teams that now have a hundred kids who had COVID. That’s insane. Especially when you don’t know. You don’t really know what the long-term consequences are going to be. I think with what the Pac-12 and the Big Ten are doing now with daily tests and all these other built-in protocols to help with some of the long-term issues that we at least know about at this point. I think it was a much more responsible way to approach it.
BN: Are you good with college football moving ahead now that technology has changed?
NB: If everybody could have done what the NFL did and tested every single day back in July, then we would have been good. You could have isolated somebody quickly enough where that you didn’t get these issues that we’re seeing at – name the school – Kansas State, Syracuse, Florida State, Colorado State, LSU, Oklahoma, Missouri, Houston. It’s crazy.
When you’re only testing a portion of the student-athletes, not all of them, and you’re only doing it every couple of days or whatever; there was just too much time where someone could be put in harm’s way.
With that changing, I feel better about it. I don’t feel good with, “oh we’ll just all get in and it’ll be fine.” I think that’s asinine. That’s why to me I’ve always been against high school playing until this gets under control because high schools can’t test at all. The only reason that you haven’t seen bad results is because they’re not testing those kids at all. You just don’t even know. Unfortunately there are a lot of kids that I recruited who live with their grandparents, live with all kinds of people who are susceptible to this virus or dying. I scratch my head at that one, man. For what? Just play five months later. Who cares?
BN: What are you thoughts on player protests in the NFL and NBA, and the reaction to it?
NB: As long as they’re in America, they can do whatever the hell they want to do. This idea that you’re here to entertain me and I don’t want anything else – I don’t care about your family, I don’t care about what you go through, I just think it’s rooted in this idea that some people are only here for other people’s entertainment and I don’t care about your humanity. I think that’s rooted in — I’m sorry, I’m going to go ahead and say it — I think it’s rooted in white supremacy, that I don’t identify with you. I see you as different and you’re only here for this reason. So I don’t want to know anything else about you.
They don’t mind when they hear about these feel good parts of their story. What they don’t want to hear about are the things that a lot of these student-athletes and professional athletes have to go through when the lights turn off. That then changes their narrative of what a lot of people have been told their whole lives about America. “I would rather stay deaf, dumb, and blind to it” is what I think a lot of people’s rationale is, because it makes me sleep better at night or it makes me feel good about what my grandparents achieved or whatever.
I don’t know what their deal is. I could really give a crap about the reaction. If someone wants to talk about the things that are affecting their life and it’s rooted in truth, even if it’s their personal truth, then I’m all for it.
BN: Have you noticed a change in tone with how the sports media talks about social issues following George Floyd’s death?
NB: Yeah, night and day, because the bosses are listening. When Kap took a knee, I was coaching at Nevada when Kap played there. We’ve got all kinds of Kap stories.
There were like two offensive players that would come to my house all the time, Kap and this kid Marko Mitchell. Everybody else was all defensive guys. When Kap took a knee, it was personal for me because I know him. I heard all of these discouraging things — I had little white kids in Lake Oswego telling me how they hated Colin Kaepernick. I was like “What? You don’t even know who he is! Man, sit down, little boy; let me tell you who this kid is.”
There was this adamant, heels dug in, I don’t care what I’ve seen, and I think what changed with George Floyd and what changed with America was we didn’t have any distractions. We’re all in our homes and we had to deal with it. I couldn’t turn the channel and just watch sports because there were no sports to watch. I couldn’t turn the TV off and go to the movie theater and just watch a movie or watch a play because all of that was gone. We had to deal with it and that was different. Once the bosses couldn’t turn it off either, people started halfway paying attention and halfway listening. Now sports media was allowed to talk about it more because where else could people go?
BN: What would be the ideal reaction from white America to the things that have gone on in this country and player protests — what would you want it to be in a perfect world?
NB: I think everything that’s wrong with our country begins with a lack of acknowledgement. There are certain people in this country who want minorities, or people who deal with racial issues, or the Me Too movement or whatever, to just move on. It’s whataboutisms and all these other things. It’s like asking a sexual assault victim to just move on with their life without acknowledging what happened to them. That would never work.
The part that’s crazy is you use that analogy and people understand that. But somehow when it comes to race because we’re in such denial in this country about race and racism and our history that somehow it applies to sexual assault, it applies to domestic violence because those are issues that white people also deal with, but racism? No no no! That’s got to be something different. It’s like “No dude, not only is it the same, it might be worse.”
If you just ask me what would the perfect world be, it starts with acknowledgement. If America would ever acknowledge that and if white people would ever acknowledge it, then once you acknowledge it and you accept it, now we can start to talk about real remedies. But if you continue to lie to yourself that that’s not really what it is, you’re kind of spinning your wheels. You’ll never get to the real crux of the issue or how to fix things.
BN: When you go back to Colin Kaepernick and knowing him, was it the least bit surprising seeing what he did in 2016 by kneeling for the anthem?
NB: I was surprised actually. It’s different because I was a coach so I didn’t hang out with him. It’s like our kids. You know your kids, but do you know who they are when you’re not around? I don’t know ‘em. He wasn’t like a super boisterous guy. He was kind of a quiet, thoughtful dude. So that part wasn’t surprising, but I don’t recall hearing about a whole lot of conversations involving race. I don’t remember him being a political thought leader or anything like that. But when you look at his background, being biracial, being adopted by a white family, and if you know anything about [his hometown] Turlock [California], you can definitely see how his experiences will start to mold this person who would recognize that there are a lot of wrongs in the world.
He was always highly intelligent, one of the smartest dudes on our team. Everybody respected him. It was just surprising to see him put himself out there like that because that just wasn’t who he was. He wasn’t a guy who would try to stick out at an event. That wasn’t him. But then there are all of these other things that make you go “okay I get why he came to this conclusion.” A lot of us have. But that fortitude to put himself out there like that was wild.
BN: Looking forward in your career, is there anything that you would specifically like to do in sports media or beyond?
NB: I think I’d like to call games eventually. I’ve done it a few times, like the spring games and things. Mainly because I get tired of hearing guys who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. [Laughs] It’s funny because I’ve sat in so many different production meetings and when you get players who do analysis, they know their position. They might know something else, but they definitely don’t know all of it. It’s clear.
The beauty of being a coach is I’ve coached linebackers. I’ve coached secondary. I’ve had to school myself up on d-line play. I’ve had to study o-line play so I knew how to attack it. I had to understand how quarterbacks go through different progressions in different systems. I coached wide receivers for a short period of time. I coached every special team that there was.
You have this intricate knowledge of everything and so when I’ll listen to a d-lineman talk about how to catch a football, I’m like “Oh my God dude! What are you talking about?” That’s why I love quarterbacks because for the most part a quarterback has to have some understanding of what everybody is doing, getting guys lined up and how to read defenses, but even half the time they screw up. That’s why coaches to me are always really fun to listen to in the box because if you’ve got somebody who can communicate well, they can really tell you what’s happening. So I’d like to call games.
BN: What’s the percentage chance that you’d ever be a coach again?
NB: I don’t know, man. I’m still helping. I coach my kid’s youth teams. I’m going to coach at my kid’s high school and help to coach my daughter in basketball. I still get some of those little fixes. I don’t need to go back to working 100-hour weeks.
I coached a 6th grade football team and there was this one kid who drove everybody insane. I just kept talking to him. He would drive me nuts but I just kept talking to him. At the end of the year he ended up being a pretty good little player and he wrote me a card. I swear to God, I damn near started crying when I read this card. I still have that card. It was four years ago. The reason you do it is to affect young people’s lives and to get that fix of competitiveness. But it’s mainly about helping other kids achieve more than they could have on their own and being a positive influence on their lives. I can still get that. I don’t need to be making six figures or out recruiting to get that. So I don’t know, man. If I can still get it this way, then maybe not ever. We’ll see.
Don La Greca is Putting His Faith in the Audience to Find ‘The Michael Kay Show’ on ESPN New York
“I can’t stop from just laying it all out there and pouring my heart out in everything that I do.”
When a visitor travels to New York City, the presence of sports is undeniable. There are connections to the games virtually everywhere in the five boroughs, including within Central Park, Times Square and Grand Central Terminal, locations that are synonymous with the effervescent and pulse of the bustling locale. Whenever he is on the air in his home city, Don La Greca pulls no punches. He seeks to convey his passion and appreciation for the metropolis by always being genuine with his audience and seldom timid with what he has to say.
One day when La Greca was in St. Louis to call a matchup between the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues, he observed the rubicund complexion of the city. Concurrent with the St. Louis Cardinals’ appearance in the World Series, the water in the Kiener Plaza fountain was dyed red. Baseball overshadowed hockey, a regular occurrence in the Gateway to the West, something that La Greca knows would never happen in “The Big Apple” due to the vested rooting interests of different fan bases in one city.
“There’s nine professional sports teams – and that’s not counting the soccer teams and the WNBA and all of that – and it always seems like something’s going on [and] there’s so many different directions to go into,” La Greca said. “That just makes New York so special.”
One of the most difficult parts of preparing for an episode of The Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York is trying to determine the best opening topic that will appeal to the audience. On top of that, the program is simulcast to viewers on YES Network and remains a fixture in afternoon drive across multiple platforms. The show has been on the air for over 21 years on ESPN New York, with La Greca’s voice being the first heard on the station when it broadcast on the airwaves on 1050 AM. That has led to a run that he didn’t foresee taking place two decades ago.
Over the last several years, there have been various changes associated with ESPN Radio as a whole. Good Karma Brands purchased the 1050 AM frequency as part of a larger deal with ESPN for some of its local radio properties, and the outlet has been operating 98.7 ESPN under a local marketing agreement (LMA) between ESPN and Emmis Communications. The management structure of the outlet has changed due to these transactions, which was headlined by the departure of longtime station general manager Tim McCarthy.
“We’re not all together like we were before [the pandemic] where I can just walk down the hall and see my boss and see everybody together,” La Greca said, “so there’s that little kind of separation anxiety there, but the connection that I feel – I’ll see them at the suite at [Madison Square] Garden when I stop by – they’re good people; they’re so interested and invested in us doing well.”
Working in afternoon drive grants La Greca, along with co-hosts Michael Kay and Peter Rosenberg, the ability to react to breaking news and preview games that are set to take place that night. La Greca has worked in radio in parts of four decades and does not take his presence in a drive-time slot for granted, cherishing every day he is afforded the opportunity to go on the air.
“It’s where it’s all buzzing,” La Greca said. “I like afternoons better than mornings because I feel like mornings are more recapping the night before and having a little bit more fun; not as serious. I feel like afternoons is when things are happening.”
When the program first took the air in 2002, La Greca affirmed that he was told by ESPN New York management that he was going to be co-hosting with Kay. Conversely, he shared that Kay, the television play-by-play voice of the New York Yankees, was informed that La Greca was back at the ESPN New York studios to take over just in case his line dropped. After the first few days, La Greca became more confused and indignant towards the on-air arrangement before achieving clarity regarding the situation.
“We laughed later about the miscommunication or whatever, and then eventually I started doing updates on his show on a consistent basis,” La Greca said, “and he opened the door for me too because he didn’t have to talk to me; he didn’t have to bring me in. But it was the infancy of the radio station, so the calls weren’t hopping all the time, and he would ask me about this and that.”
As La Greca and Kay became more comfortable with one another, he eventually assumed responsibilities as a permanent co-host on the program. Even so, his name has never been included in the title of the show, something that does not affect his relationship with Kay. It does bother him when guests don’t realize the show includes more than just the eponymous co-host.
“Anybody that listens to the show knows what I do and how important my element is to the show, but it does bother me sometimes,” La Greca said. “We all have some sort of an ego where I wish there was a way that my name could be on the show, but at the end of the day it’s never been anything to make me want to leave or make any demands.”
Despite Kay and La Greca not being pleased with adding a third person to the show in 2015, management at ESPN New York informed them that it was going to happen either way. Early on, both co-hosts came to realize that Peter Rosenberg being included was a shrewd decision because of his versatile abilities and the elements he adds to the conversation. Rosenberg continues to co-host Ebro in the Morning on HOT 97 before appearing on The Michael Kay Show in afternoons, equating to seven-and-a-half hours on the air per day across the music and sports formats.
“We were able to build a nice rapport with each other, and I think Michael sensed that we were getting along and it just kind of came together so that when baseball season was over he was able to mesh,” La Greca said. “Michael works very well with people – you can tell with all the different analysts he has on television that he can work with anybody – so once he saw that we had built the chemistry, it was just easy for him to plug himself in.”
There are plenty of different sports to discuss during the course of the calendar year. Over the last decade though, professional football teams in the New York metropolitan area have largely struggled to compete for Super Bowl championships – let alone qualify for the playoffs.
“We kind of all just come to a common ground of what we think will kind of set the tone for the show and go from there,” La Greca said, “but if you look at it in the grand scheme of things, it just feels like any time you talk football, it’s the right direction to move because the phones light up [since] people just love the sport so much.”
La Greca is often associated with on-air rants; in fact, The Michael Kay Show once kept a counter marking the days without one of his verbal tirades. Whether it’s been comments made by Giants offensive tackle Evan Neal or Ed Kranepool being the “forever player” for the Mets, La Greca exhibits fervor and dedication towards the local teams. The rants serve as a visceral catharsis towards what he is feeling inside, and he is able to create a transformation for these sentiments into zealous vernacular for the topics at hand.
“When I rant, I feel like I’m being me,” La Greca said. “I’m giving my opinion on something, and I’m showing you exactly how I feel at that particular moment and I think the listener appreciates it.”
As a radio host, La Greca knows that he is unable to partake in what he refers to as “the game,” which involves instigating disagreement with his co-hosts related to certain topics. In ruminating on his place on the show, he tries to remain genuine to himself and the way he views sports. Exuding self-confidence and a dedication to honesty on the air, La Greca yearns to never waver from his approach and refrains from holding back.
“When people think that my rants are made-up, it bothers me because I lose control of myself,” La Greca said. “I’m like, ‘Geez, you think I’m making this up?’ I wish I had that kind of control because I can’t stop from just laying it all out there and just pouring my heart out in everything that I do.”
While The Michael Kay Show has a legion of loyal listeners and fans, the program has finished consistently behind WFAN in afternoons in the Nielsen ratings. La Greca and his colleagues currently go head-to-head with Evan Roberts and Tiki Barber, but previously competed against Craig Carton and Evan Roberts, and Mike Francesa prior to that. During his time at WFAN, Carton made it no secret that he took pleasure in beating ESPN New York, referring to the outlet as a joke that never took local radio seriously.
In viewing WFAN from afar, La Greca posits that the programs are being generated by the hosts’ interest in teams rather than discussing all the teams. Moreover, there have been instances in his opinion that reveal a deviation from what ESPN New York looks to accomplish within its programming.
“It feels like they’re going after it with the hanging up on Carl Banks and the morning show going after Gary Myers,” La Greca explained. “It just seems like they’re a little bit more aggressive, and if that works for them, that’s great.”
Before he joined ESPN New York, La Greca worked at WFAN where he provided overnight updates and occasionally contributed within dayparts. Being able to foster the tenacity to discuss sports on the air at such a young age came from always possessing an opinion. Although it bothered a lot of people when he was younger, his friends thought it was cool when he would become enraptured in mini-rants about different topics. For parts of 11 years, La Greca was employed at a pharmacy, which is where he learned of Art Rust Jr. and his sports talk show on ABC.
“I couldn’t believe there was somebody out there with a photographic memory who remembered all these things,” La Greca said. “I was like, ‘I could do that,’ and then the FAN came and it was like a dream come true.”
La Greca majored in communications at Ramapo College, taking six semesters to graduate because of his interminable commitment to the campus radio station. While he was an intern at KROCK, he met Maria Milito, a disk jockey who was married to Pete Walker, the owner of Phone Programs.
The connection helped him land a job with the company in New York City where he would place cassettes into a Marantz deck and load the program into another machine. After some time, La Greca moved to Sports Phone on Long Island where he worked as a supervisor, barely breaking even because of the funds he had to set aside for gas and tolls as part of his lengthy commute.
One day, he was betting on winning a football pool in order to make extra money but ended up losing, prompting him to go home and express his frustration by throwing things in his house. When his father discovered his son in an incensed state, he offered to help get him into the Public Service Enterprise Group, the company where he worked. That opportunity would start at $60,000 a year. La Greca realized then how hard he had been working to succeed in sports media and knew that he had to see his dream through, even if there were no guarantees.
“It wasn’t about the money,” La Greca said. “It was about just wanting to do what I wanted to do for a living, and so he understood that. He never bothered me again, and it really worked out.”
Following this epiphany, La Greca was introduced to Steve Malzberg, a talk show host at WABC. As it turns out, Malzberg was put in charge of hiring at Shadow Sports and helped catalyze La Greca being hired by 1010 WINS. People at WFAN heard him on the air at 1010 WINS and had him move to the all-sports outlet, but La Greca quickly realized that since the station was a desirable place to work, there was little movement. In the end, La Greca helped institute a new sports talk radio outlet upon Malzberg’s recommendation to ESPN management, and he has remained at ESPN New York ever since.
Come next August, ESPN New York will no longer broadcast on 98.7 FM. The station made a business decision, electing not to renew its lease. The Michael Kay Show, which first aired exclusively on 1050 AM, will return to its original radio home, in addition to being accessible through ESPN New York’s app, the YES Network, and other multimedia options. La Greca realizes that it will be strange, but hopes that people will continue to find the program as long as it provides content to suit people’s interests.
“It’s a different world, and I know AM’s a little different than it was back in the day but I also think streaming and podcasts and the app is way bigger than it was,” La Greca said, “so I have all the confidence in the world the audience will follow us wherever we go.”
While La Greca has cherished his time on the afternoon drive program – along with calling games across different sports on ESPN New York, hosting the Game Misconduct podcast and anchoring in-studio pregame and postgame shows – he desires to be a full-time play-by-play announcer, preferably for an NHL team in the New York metropolitan area. Leaving the city, he said, would not be an option unless the offer was very lucrative, prognosticating that he would spend every moment trying to return in that scenario. If the circumstances were right for him though, he would think about taking on the challenge since he feels he has reached his goal on sports talk radio.
“If I ever got offered a play-by-play gig and they said, ‘Listen, you couldn’t do The Michael Kay Show anymore,’ it’d be a tough decision but I think I would maybe move onto the play-by-play because that’s how much I love it and [would] be motivated by it,” La Greca said. “Hopefully I never have to make that decision.”
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Sports Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
3 Tips For Soon-to-Be Radio Free Agents
If you are prepared, you may be able to get through it. If you are not, it will only make matters worse. The following tips aren’t, by any means, a silver bullet but, perhaps they will be more helpful than harmful.
Almost everyone in the media business — whether it’s TV, radio, newspapers or what have you — has either been faced with the loss of a job or has faced the fear of the loss of a job. It isn’t easy, it isn’t pleasant, and it seems that it is a constant threat in our industry. Even if it isn’t you this time, it will likely be someone you know or work with. When it is not you, the gnawing feeling in your gut tells you it could have been, and it may be next time. With that in mind, anyone that works for a media company of any size should always be prepared to hit the reset button on their career.
When I was in corporate media, I saw several waves of layoffs and downsizing. I thank God I was never in the position of being on the receiving end of that difficult conversation but I have heard the fear of litigation has made those conversations cold and short. Your entire world can be turned upside down in one five-minute visit to the corner office and you’ll be left with your head spinning.
If you are prepared, you may be able to get through it. If you are not, it will only make matters worse. The following tips aren’t, by any means, a silver bullet but, perhaps they will be more helpful than harmful.
Get to know people in your industry. They are the most likely people to know where job openings are. It is unlikely someone sees that you have been terminated and a stranger immediately calls to let you know a job is open in another radio market. It is far more likely that someone with whom you have an association tells you where the next move could be. Even people you may never meet in person can be a valuable asset. They likely have been in your spot or fear being there one day.
How will they know you have been let go from your radio gig? Share it with the world. It may take swallowing a little pride to let everyone know your position has been eliminated but people will eventually figure it out anyway, you may as well control the narrative. Make a heartfelt announcement on social media so the world knows you are in the market for a new gig.
Share your contact info, your desire to work, and your level of willingness to move. Share all those things so the people in your network can know in the most efficient way possible and avoid you having to recount the same set of details 50 different times.
This is not meant to suggest you should promote yourself over your organization. I would also say you shouldn’t be shy about sharing your work as much as you can. Remember, a prospective employer will probably search your name before they do anything else. If the first thing they see is your quality work, that is a great first impression.
Tend to your social media feeds so they tell the story you want them to tell. It shouldn’t be just one shared piece of work after another. The work should be a part of it but mix in the personality to show who you really are.
Have you ever taken the time to search your own name online? (I’ve worked in the media long enough to know that answer was a very quick “yes”). Do the search again through the prism of a prospective employer. What does your Google search say about you?
Know Your Contract
It is imperative to have someone in your corner who knows what your contract says about your rights and the company’s rights in termination. In truth, it is imperative to have someone in your corner who knows what your entire contract says. Trust me, the radio company you work for has a very good attorney that knows what your contract says and they are far more interested in protecting their rights than yours.
Your termination may include a severance check and that check may come with a dance partner. In order to receive the severance, it is almost a guarantee you have to sign an accompanying document. Do you have any way of knowing what you are agreeing to with that signature? Of course not. Have someone in your world who can give you sound advice on how to proceed with that piece of your termination. It may mean it is in your best interest to surrender the severance. You will very likely be in no state of mind to clearly make that decision. Find someone who can be removed from the emotion of the moment.
When you see big radio stations like KNBR in San Francisco making deep cuts, it would only be natural to think your company, your station, may be next. It is never going to be an easy thing to deal with but it will be infinitely more difficult if you are completely unprepared.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
Barrett Media Names Dave Greene Chief Media Officer, Adds Perry Simon, And Reveals 2024 Plans
“I’ve spent most of the past 8 years reinvesting in content, staff, events, etc. and with Dave Greene on board, I’m confident we’ll take bigger steps in the right direction.”
Apologies in advance for the length of this column. Today is both exciting and important for yours truly. I’ve spent months analyzing every part of our business, interviewing candidates, and I’m anxious to share with our partners and readers what’s on the horizon for BSM and BNM as we get ready to enter 2024 and look ahead to 2025.
When I wrote my eight year anniversary column in September, I alluded to 2023 being a tough year. Business wise we’ve been strong but managing staff, content, and workload has been harder. Just yesterday I had to deal with a writer bolting without notice. It’s a pain in the ass. Creating and installing a content plan is easy, but if the algorithms change and your team isn’t passionate about the work or in the right roles, growth stalls. You either make changes or accept not being able to reach your goals. For me, the latter is not an option. I’m far too driven, invested and excited by what I do to accept the status quo. I expect us to grow, work hard, make a difference, and enjoy it. If it means having to rattle a few cages to get to where we need to be, then that’s what I’ll do.
The hardest part of 2023 has been knowing we had to move through the present to get to the future. I’ve had to be more protective of my time this year, saving it for clients, partners, staff, Summit planning, content analysis, creating advertising packages, and meeting with potential partners, attending business functions, recruiting staff, and taking a greater role in day-to-day content management. I’ve missed out on calls with friends who wanted to chat about the business, and reduced my writing and podcast involvement because it was necessary. BSM and BNM are both healthy, and as others vacated the space or slowed down, we’ve ramped up and continue to invest in strengthening our coverage.
Before I get into the specifics of what lies ahead, I want to recognize Garrett Searight, Alex Reynolds, Andy Drake, and Stephanie Eads for helping to keep the brand on track during the past few months. I also want to thank all of our writers for continuing to create great content. After the BNM Summit concluded in Nashville, there was so much to do and not enough time. Though it forced many of us to take on more than we wanted to, we got through it, and grew our traffic and impact. That’s a credit to our team, and the trust we’ve built with our audience.
Having set the table now, let me share what’s on the horizon, what’s ending, and where we’re hoping to go in 2024.
Chief Media Officer: I’ve gone through a long, extensive process to identify the right leader to help us grow Barrett Media. The conversations started in May and ran through November, and I had a chance to meet a lot of smart, talented people, and learn a lot about the way our brands are viewed by professional candidates. To everyone I had a chance to interact with along the way, thank you for the interest. It was a pleasure connecting with all of you.
But in the end, there was only one job to offer, and I’m excited to announce that we found exactly what we were looking for. It is my great pleasure to introduce Dave Greene as Barrett Media’s new Chief Media Officer.
The experience Dave brings with him to this position is extensive. He’s been an integral part of building the Podcast Heat Network alongside talented pro wrestling podcaster Conrad Thompson. The company has created, distributed, and monetized podcasts featuring star talents such as Ric Flair, Kurt Angle, Eric Bischoff, Jim Ross, Mick Foley, Jeff Jarrett and others. Before joining the Podcast Heat Network with Conrad, Dave spent two decades in the radio business, working as a VP/GM, GSM, PD, Owner, and and On-Air talent. He has worked for Audacy, Townsquare Media, Cumulus Media, and Flinn Broadcasting. Among the sports and news brands he’s had the pleasure of helping include KMOX and 590 The Fan in St. Louis, 610 Sports in Kansas City, The Ump and WVNN in Huntsville, and KHMO in Quincy. He’s also served as co-owner and publisher of St. Louis Sports magazine, and was one of our first weekly columnists when we started adding writers in 2017.
When I made the decision to add someone to help me manage the content and grow the company, I knew I’d be looking for a unicorn. I initially sought an Executive Editor but as this process moved along, I realized I needed a leader who provided more than just writing and broadcasting skills. They needed to be adept at content and sales, have a passion and ability to write, connected across the industry, experienced in event creation, and equally as important, they had to know our brands and see growth potential in our business the way that I do.
I took my time with this hire because it was too important to make a rushed or bad choice. Since launching BSM in 2015 and BNM in 2020, I’ve seen other comparable media outlets earn seven to eight figure valuations. We’re not at that level and may never be but I believe we’re on the right track to larger success. Though I have zero interest in selling BSM and BNM, and plan on running this company for 15 more years, it only makes sense to make our brands the best they can be, and elevate our value with each passing year. I’ve spent most of the past eight years reinvesting in content, staff, events, etc. and with Dave on board, I’m confident we’ll take bigger steps in the right direction.
Dave’s immediate focus will be to learn the staff, manage the day-to-day workflow, find and write news stories, add a weekly column, contribute on special projects, and execute our editorial calendar. Additionally he’ll work with Stephanie to improve our sales operation, and collaborate with me on new ways to grow events, traffic, newsletters, and audience data. After previously competing against each other in St. Louis, I’m looking forward to being on the side and working together to maximize the full potential of Barrett Media.
Internal Promotions: In addition to strengthening our team with Dave’s addition, I am equally excited to announce three internal promotions. First, I’m thrilled to elevate Alex Reynolds to the role of Digital Director of Barrett Media. Alex has served as our social media coordinator since August 2022, playing a key role in executing our social media strategy. Moving forward, he will continue overseeing our social media plan, while getting further involved in affiliate marketing, website/content partnerships, newsletter creation, podcast/video production, data analysis, and audience growth strategies for our social channels and newsletters. He will also write a brand new original series, ‘Social Studies‘, which debuts in January on BSM.
The second internal promotion I’m pleased to share involves Derek Futterman. Derek is being officially promoted to the role of Sports Media Reporter. Since joining BSM in May 2021, Derek has learned a ton as a Contributing Editor and News Writer. He started by occasionally writing stories, got further involved with daily news, and in the past few months, has taken on the challenge of writing features on executives and broadcasters. He’s covered industry events, the BSM Summit, established relationships, and continues to grow. I’m eager to help him take another step by having him produce three features per week, contribute to special projects, involving him as our backstage interviewer at the BSM Summit, and having him contribute to daily news, while additionally managing BSM’s Jobs section.
The final internal promotion involves Garrett Searight. Garrett joined us in August 2022 as an Editor, and worked his tail off but learned quickly, this is different from working inside of a radio station. Over the past few months he’s raised his game, and I’m pleased to promote him to Managing Editor of BNM starting January 1st. Garrett will report to myself and our Chief Media Officer while writing daily news, and two weekly features for BNM. He’ll also become the point person for our BNM columnists and features writers. We’ve seen BNM make major strides over the past year despite not having a dedicated leader. I can only imagine how much better the brand will be with Garrett fully focused on it. One thing that isn’t changing, he’ll continue to write his weekly sports media column for BSM, and manage BNM’s Jobs section.
Website Redesigns: You’ve likely noticed that BSM and BNM look different today. We have modified both websites to make it easier to find content. Our main pages are often filled with news stories, making it hard to find things. These new layouts allow us to feature six stories in the main sections, and nine in each of the key lower sections, sports/news radio, sports/news TV, and sports digital/media business. The site will also display better on mobile, and we’ve added a sports betting bar on BSM, conference calendars to the lower right of articles on both sites, and we’ve retained the media stock ticker on BNM. All are available for sponsorship. We’re also turning on the comments to allow readers to chime in on our stories.
BSM Writers: To help us elevate BSM in 2024, we’re adding a few new writers, adjusting roles of a few of our contributors, and saying goodbye to a few of our teammates.
Starting with the additions, I’m excited to welcome Moses Massena as a weekly columnist. Moses is a sports television veteran, who spent 14 years at MLB Network, working as a researcher, segment producer, and producer, winning 7 Sports Emmys for his contributions to “MLB Tonight”. He has also worked a producer at MSG Network, and served as a researcher for FOX & ESPN. His professional television career began with SNY from 2007-2009.
Next, I’m pleased to welcome Jeff Kotuby to BSM as a daily sports television writer. Jeff has written content for many broadcasting and pop culture sites, including The Streamable, eBaum’s World, Twin Galaxies, and more. He has already begun diving in on BSM, and I’m looking forward to our readers becoming more familiar with his contributions in the future.
Moving to the internal adjustments, starting in January, Jordan Bondurant will take on a more defined role writing news stories each night on sports digital matters. Garrett Searight will add local and national sports radio content until Dave has a handle on the daily content, and Peter Schwartz and Demetri Ravanos will continue writing weekly features and helping with original projects. Peter will also add a new monthly feature, ‘Where Are They Now?’, which will run the last week of each month starting in January.
Though most of the news is good, we do have to unfortunately share some bad. Brian Noe and Ricky Keeler will be leaving us at the end of December. Both have been with BSM for a long time and have done a great job for us. In Brian’s case, he was one of the first writers to join BSM in August 2017. We wish both of them well, and appreciate all of the contributions they’ve made to our coverage along the way.
I am still looking to add another weekly sports media columnist to BSM. The ideal candidate will have industry experience, a track record of success, and a passion to write about the business. If you or someone you know fits the bill, send a resume and writing sample to [email protected].
BNM Writers: BSM has earned a strong reputation in sports media circles, and we’re determined to make sure BNM is highly regarded as well. To help us continue making progress, we’re excited to announce a few additions. First, please join me in welcoming Perry Michael Simon to BNM as a weekly columnist. Perry’s column will be published every Thursday on the site starting on December 7th.
Perry served as VP and Editor/News-Talk-Sports/Podcast for AllAccess.com after previously working as a Program Director and Operations Manager for KLSX and KLYY in Los Angeles and New Jersey 101.5 in Trenton. His contributions to All Access were excellent, and his knowledge of the industry, and his willingness to challenge it helped many broadcasters learn, adjust, defend, and grow to appreciate his point of view. After a well deserved break following the shutdown of All Access, Perry is refreshed, refocused, and ready to offer his smart, snarky, and strong opinions on the media business. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for our readers.
In addition, BNM is pleased to announce the arrival of Krystina Alarcon Carroll. Krystina joins us in a hybrid role, writing two weekly features and adding a weekly column. She freelances currently for WPIX in New York and previously worked on live, streamed, and syndicated TV programs at NY1, Fox News Digital, Law & Crime Network, and Newsmax. We’re excited to add her to our team, and you can read her first story today on BNM.
As our readers recently learned, we’ve unfortunately had to say goodbye to Jim Avila. Jim did an excellent job for BNM but a great television opportunity came his way, and we wish him nothing but the best moving forward. Ryan Hedrick has also exited. I’m accepting resumes and writing samples from industry pros who have a passion to write daily news TV stories and weekly features. If interested, click here. We have more evaluations to make in the next month to make sure we’re built for success entering 2024. One thing for certain, we are going to keep building BNM and make sure news/talk media professionals have a daily destination to visit and enjoy reading about their format and business.
Two New Newsletters: Another exciting addition coming in 2024 will be the introduction of two new daily newsletters, the BSM Press Pass, and the BNM Wrap Up. We will distribute both starting on January 2nd. The BSM Press Pass will be delivered daily at 5pm ET. The BNM Wrap Up will go out at 6pm ET. We’ll have a different look and approach for both, which I think media folks will enjoy and find useful at the end of the work day.
With the arrival of the Press Pass and Wrap Up, we will continue sending out the BSM 8@8 at 8am ET. The BNM Rundown though will move to an earlier time, going out each morning at 9am ET. The same look, structure and valuable content will be available in both. If you haven’t signed up for BSM’s newsletters, go here. If you wish to receive BNM’s newsletters, go here.
Editorial Calendar: When BSM was born, I wrote and created a lot of features and original stories. From 5 Podcasts in 5 Days to the Sports Radio Draft, the Greatest SportsCenter Anchor Tournament, and a full-day spent with Mad Dog Sports Radio, creative pieces performed well for us. But as day-to-day news grew and our staff expanded, we got away from some of that. We’ve still done things like Meet The Podcasters and Countdown to Coverage, and they too have been well received, so in 2024, we’re going to put more focus on original projects on both BSM and BNM. We have an editorial calendar ready for 2024, and will begin reviewing plans on Tuesday during a zoom call with some of our staff. We’ve got some great things planned for BSM and BNM, so keep an eye out for it.
Member Directory: Since April 2020, we’ve featured the BSM Member Directory to help industry professionals and aspiring broadcasters display their work to PDs, agents, executives, etc.. All members receive jobs listings by email a few times per month, get featured in the BSM 8@8 newsletter, are promoted in content when they have career news to share, and our annual subscribers get a 20% discount on BSM Summit tickets. Memberships are $14.99 per month or $149.99 per year. For 2024, we’re going to explore new ways to deliver more value and grow our member base. Dave, Alex and I will be brainstorming ideas this month in hopes of introducing new benefits to existing and future members during Q1.
Jobs Listings: We’re often asked to post Jobs for companies due to our ability to reach the right people. Knowing how hard it is to find good help, and having used LinkedIn, Indeed and other sites myself, I know it’s not cheap. Other trades charge a few hundred dollars per month to promote openings, and starting today, we’re going to do the same except we’re keeping costs low. For $99 per month companies can now promote open positions through our websites. If you click on the Jobs tab on BSM or BNM, you’ll see the latest listings. If you use the dropdown menu and select ‘Place An Ad on BSM/BNM‘ it allows you to submit an ad and get it posted on the site within 24-hours. I’m hoping it’s helpful.
Ratings Reports: I know the ratings matter to PDs, hosts, and executives. Yet many get upset with the ups and downs of measurement. Maybe it’s not perfect, but this is your report card, and whenever we highlight the industry, it benefits broadcasters, advertisers and listeners. We’re going to write quarterly ratings reports next year for both sports and news/talk radio. We will not do monthlies. All I ask is that we receive the PPM Data reports for each quarter so we can be fair and accurate to all. We write these reports to showcase the strength of two valuable formats, and to recognize all who contributed to each brand’s success. Nielsen is still the king when it comes to measurement, and our stations don’t benefit if they don’t promote their wins to the rest of the business world. My thanks to Harker Bos Group for supporting these stories. I look forward to digging into the data to highlight those who are making an impact in 2024.
JB Column and Podcast: I acknowledged earlier that writing columns and hosting podcasts became harder in 2023. That said, I realize I have a voice that matters. Starting in January, I will begin writing a weekly column on BSM. I will also be bringing back The Jason Barrett Podcast for 26 episodes next year. Half of those episodes will focus on sports media. The other half will explore the news/talk space. We will also video the shows and make them available through the Barrett Media YouTube page. If I was going to do the podcast, I wanted to add a new layer to it. I think this will help us do that and I look forward to hosting it in April 2024. It’s possible that we’ll add other podcasts and video shows in the future, but for now, we’re going to take it one show at a time.
Return of Guest Columns: BSM and BNM have featured guest columns before from Craig Carton, Erick Erickson, Dan Zampillo, Mo Egger, and Bo Thompson just to name a few. I’d like see more media people use our platforms to highlight issues or causes that are important to them. Whether you’re an owner, executive, PD, salesperson, media buyer, host, agent, imager, producer, podcaster or social media director, if you have knowledge to share, and interest in writing a one-time guest piece for BSM or BNM, email [email protected].
BNM Top 20/BSM Top 20: Our two biggest traffic drivers of the year, the BSM Top 20 and the BNM Top 20 will continue to serve the sports and news/talk radio industries. A huge thanks to Steve Stone Voiceovers for signing on as the exclusive sponsor of the BSM Top 20, and JJ Surma Voiceovers for coming on board as the exclusive partner of the BNM Top 20. The BNM Top 20 of 2023 drops December 11-15 and December 18. Voting for industry executives expires later today. The BSM Top 20 of 2023 will be released February 5-9 and February 12. Voting for that series will start in late December, early January. We’re also looking at a few additional projects to recognize the best in the industry. More to come on that in 2024.
BSM/BNM Summits: The BSM Summit returns to NYC on March 13-14, 2024. We’ll be live at the Ailey Theater both days, and have announced 16 top speakers so far and have more still to come. You can purchase tickets to the show here. For those in the news/talk world, we’re going to host our second BNM Summit in September 2024. We’ve chosen the host city and venue and hope to announce our plans after wrapping up this year’s BNM Top 20. Running our next show two months before the election is going to be excited. Stay tuned!
For eight years, we’ve grown traffic, influence, events, consulting clients, and our writing team by following a simple philosophy, focus on serving the right audience, not the largest. When you commit to quality over quantity and refuse to chase clicks at the expense of relationships, you land in a much better spot. We are where we are today because of our consulting clients, advertising partners, and earned trust and respect with our readers and industry professionals.
That said, while we have proven our value to top talent, executives, agents, and media buyers, some marketing folks have been harder to reach. Stephanie Eads and I have attended many zoom calls and in-person meetings to share our story, and we’ve created packages large and small to accommodate all budgets. I’m hoping that as we enter 2024, those who have been slow to respond or who have stuck to doing the same things repeatedly, take a chance to discover why BSM or BNM should be part of their media mix.
In closing, I am ecstatic about adding Dave Greene to help us grow BSM and BNM. We have a lot of work ahead of us but I’m confident progress will be made. I appreciate everyone who visits our websites, receives our newsletters, attends our Summits, follows and shares our content on social media, and let’s others know about of our existence. Most importantly, I’m grateful to our consulting clients and advertising partners who give us the support we need to be able to continue doing this. We can’t raise the bar without you, and I’m fortunate to be in this position serving an industry I love, respect, believe in, and root for.
Here’s to Barrett Media’s future. 2024 is going to be awesome, and I’m glad to have you along for the ride!
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at [email protected].