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Amber Wilson Gets To Marry All Her Skills

“Even when I had briefly gotten out of the business and I was practicing law full-time, which I was probably out of the business for about a year, I was still listening to sports radio all the time.”

Brian Noe

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Sports host by day. Lawyer by night. I’m not sure if this is written on Amber Wilson’s business cards, but I’m kind of thinking it should be. Being able to see every side of an issue is just one of the valuable skills Amber brings from the courtroom to her radio show. There aren’t many attorneys that also host a sports talk show in a major market. It’s one thing to practice law and do a little hosting in Sheboygan. It’s another thing to be a lawyer while also hosting a weekday show in Miami. 

INSIDER | Page 3 | AM 790 The Ticket

When Joy Taylor joined FS1 in 2016, Amber took over at 790 The Ticket. Amber now hosts middays with Jonathan Zaslow from 10am-2pm. In our conversation below Amber discusses a recent hot take from Jason Whitlock, her biggest sports radio influence, and what it was like to battle cancer.

Yeah, that happened too. I’m starting to wonder if Amber is partially an alien due to her excellent resume. This girl is flat-out impressive. 

Although it was tempting to only ask Amber questions about my beloved Miami Dolphins, I behaved. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: What is your sports radio resume that led to your current position at 790?

Amber Wilson: I started in television years ago. I majored in telecommunication journalism in college. My goal was always to be a sports broadcaster. That was my dream growing up. I was doing on-camera work for years. My first real full-time job was with CBSSports.com. It was CBS Sports Interactive at the time. I was their first web host so to speak at Florida. It was all on-camera work and we did a bunch of online streaming shows. That’s what brought me to South Florida. I was doing a show with Sid Rosenberg who used to host on 790 The Ticket. I used to go on his show once a week with him. That’s where I got my first taste of sports radio and I just loved it.

I always wanted to do radio but I always got pushed earlier in my career towards on-camera stuff. I think that there’s a bit of a bias with women, particularly with young women.

I was in my twenties at the time. I think everyone assumes you want to be on camera. Those were the jobs that came calling. I had a really hard time breaking into radio. I’m not sure people took me seriously that I really wanted to do radio even though it’s not as glamorous as TV. I just always felt like it would be really fitting for my personality. You can be super opinionated. The roles that I was getting on camera in my television career were very hosty. I just knew over the years that I didn’t enjoy that role quite as much. I started finding it a little intellectually understimulating, a little boring.

In my late twenties I decided to go to law school. I got my law degree. I became a lawyer. I was hosting a television show on our local CBS station in Miami that whole time alongside Stugotz from the Le Batard show. Just over the years there were multiple times I had done things on 790. Stugotz briefly hosted mornings on 790 with Marc Hochman. I had done a couple of shows there and I did a few shows in middays with Danny Kanell. Just over about a decade span I made appearances on 790 and I knew a lot of people at 790 from all those years of just being around media and working with so many people that had connections to 790.

When Joy Taylor decided to leave the morning show at 790 The Ticket, they asked me if I’d be interested in trying out. At the time my television show with Stugotz had ended because he had gone national with ESPN and they wouldn’t let him do it anymore. I was only practicing law full-time. My plan was to totally get out of the sports broadcasting business because of these hosty roles that I was getting. I had fun in my career but I just knew for me it left something to be desired. I was enjoying practicing law and I was enjoying the challenge.

I got the call that Joy Taylor left 790 to go to FS1 and I thought all right, you know what, I’ll try out. It’s the morning show. I can still practice law after the show. I loved it. They offered me the job and the rest is history. I started out on the morning show and now I’m in middays. They shuffled everything around about a year ago. I’ve been there overall for about five years.

BN: Does being a lawyer help you be a better sports radio host?

AW: 100 percent. When I was 12 years old I was watching the Jill Arringtons and the Melissa Starks of the world on the sidelines and that’s where I wanted to be when I grew up. Then I grew up and I realized that’s not at all the job that’s right for me personality wise. I knew I didn’t want to do sidelines. I knew I didn’t want to host. I’m really opinionated. I wanted to be the one giving the opinions. I wanted to be the one giving the analysis. I didn’t want to be asking other people for it.

Amber Wilson, Esq. on Twitter: "Radioing. Tune in.… "

Sports radio comes along and what’s amazing is I think if I had that sports radio opportunity on a full-time basis before I went and got my law degree, I don’t think I would have been as good at it. Since it came after I was a lawyer and after I got my law degree, it was the perfect timing because I like to think that I have a unique talent. I can argue any side of anything. I can see every side of every issue. I think that I have a unique ability to play devil’s advocate and move the conversation along and challenge people at times.

I still get to be me and I can still have fun. I can still joke around. It’s definitely not all serious. It doesn’t need to all be argument radio either. I get to kind of marry all of my skills. I think I’ve really refined those skills becoming a lawyer even more so. I think it’s a huge benefit.

BN: As a cancer survivor, what was that fight like for you?

AW: I was diagnosed with cancer eight months after I started at The Ticket in 2016. I was cancer free seven months later after a double mastectomy and numerous other surgeries to clear my margins. It came out of nowhere. I was 32 and I didn’t have any history of breast cancer I knew of in my family. I just happened to catch a lump one day and bam I have cancer.

I got diagnosed in November and I got told that I needed to have a double mastectomy and start the surgical treatment process in February. I had a few months where they were doing all of this testing. It takes a little while sometimes to come up with a treatment plan. I didn’t tell the public during that time that I had it.

I was the morning show co-host on The Ticket. At the time we were a three-person show. I did tell my co-hosts so that they were aware of what I was going through. I was obviously missing a lot of time. I shared it publicly about a week before I went to have my first surgery, which was the double mastectomy because I knew that was going to put me out for a month and a half. I wasn’t going to be able to do radio after that and so I had to explain. I was able to sit with it myself and adjust to my new reality for a few months privately. Then I was able to share my story. In doing so I hope that I helped some people and raised some awareness.

I tried to be really transparent about my journey once I was at a place where I was willing to share it with everybody just because I was so young and it was so unexpected and I was so healthy. I wanted people to know that it can happen to anybody and that you have to be aware and try to catch it early and do what you need to do to save your life. 790 was wonderful to me throughout that whole journey and just very understanding. I was very appreciative to everybody I worked with.

BN: I’m not challenging you, but what was behind you initially not wanting to reveal that you had cancer?

AW: Sometimes cancer is so aggressive or it’s so advanced that you start treatment the day you get diagnosed. But for most people if you catch it earlier then there’s a process of a bunch of testing and them figuring out what the best path is for you and what steps you’re going to need to take in terms of surgeries, chemo, radiation. You’re meeting with all of these different doctors. I was young so I was also doing fertility preservation. I hadn’t had kids yet at the time.

I didn’t really know what direction things were really going to go and how long I was going to be out of the show or if I was going to have to quit the show. I was getting treatment in Tampa that’s the best cancer hospital in this state even though obviously I was living in South Florida for the show. There was a lot of traveling and all of that. I just wanted to wait until I knew the game plan before I shared that journey publicly. I wanted to have answers because I knew there might be a lot of questions.

I had a conversation with my co-hosts and they didn’t want the show to become about that. None of us did. Through cancer I learned the importance of sports being an escape for people. I know it’s a cliché thing to say and that’s not to say that we never deal with serious issues in sports because of course those permeate into sports as well. But I do understand how people use sports as an escape because I certainly did during that time.

My life was all cancer outside of the show but I would go to work every day and I’d talk some sports. It wasn’t life or death and that was wonderful. I honestly just wanted to talk about the Heat or the Dolphins or some stuff that doesn’t matter at all in the grand scheme of life. That was important to me.

Íomhá

When I did share the news I shared it the week before I was gone for a while. The show then doesn’t take a very dark turn. It’s not like we have to sit on it for months and everyone’s always wondering what’s happening with me because I shared the news and then I started treatment. I was very open about what was happening with me on social media and allowed people to follow along that way. If they turned on the radio, we weren’t talking cancer all the time. That’s what I wanted to make sure we weren’t doing.

BN: Jason Whitlock recently shared an opinion that Maria Taylor and Katie Nolan are privileged because they’re good looking. When you hear someone express a point of view like that, what’s your response to it?

AW: There are a million — especially out here in South Florida — there are millions of beautiful women in the world and they can’t all do what Katie Nolan does and they can’t all do what Maria Taylor does. If they could, they’d be there. There’s one Katie Nolan. There’s one Maria Taylor. Every single person wants to be as successful as them.

There are quite literally hundreds of thousands of us who have spent our lives hoping to be as successful as they are and very few of us ever make it there. If all it took was looks then there’d be a whole lot of people there. Clearly it takes much, much more than that.

We never do this to men. We never look at a Kirk Herbstreit or any of these handsome men who are also on television and also incredibly successful. We never look at those men and say they’re just there because of their looks. You never hear that spoken about a man no matter how attractive the man is. We only do it to women. If the woman is attractive then she must not have anything else to offer. Generally, attractive people do better on television. That’s not exclusive to women. That is absolutely true with men as well. It’s only women that we minimize to their looks. That we assume there’s nothing else there.

Earlier in my career that used to bother me much more when I also struggled to get people to realize I had much more to offer. I do think becoming a lawyer changed that dramatically for me, but I shouldn’t have had to become a lawyer to be able to show that in sports broadcasting, which shouldn’t have anything to do with whether I have a law degree, or how many states I’m barred in, or what kind of fancy education I even have. That shouldn’t be necessary to show people that in sports broadcasting, I have intelligence, I have a lot to offer, and I know sports. 

BN: Do you think that Miami has been able to enjoy its great sports year during the pandemic?

AW: Oh yeah. We are living through a really difficult time. If you’re a sports fan and you happen to be in a city like Miami or Los Angeles, if you’re in a city where your teams are making a great postseason run, it gives you that little boost.

Sports are not life or death by any means — I discussed it earlier of course when we were talking about cancer — but sports can help people. They’re not life or death, but they give you something to root for. They give you happiness and they give you hope. We have been fortunate enough to benefit from that down here during a difficult time.

I really think that has helped people. You forget when you’re watching these Heat games that we’re living in a pandemic. Even if you’re watching it without fans and even if it’s happening in Orlando and even if none of us can be there during the NBA finals. All of that’s odd but at the end of the day once the ball is tipped it’s basketball and we’re all fans no matter what virus is spreading around. I think that’s been really great for people. It doesn’t look the same as it would in a regular year, but frankly it doesn’t feel that different.

Íomhá

BN: Who did you learn the most from in sports radio?

AW: I am a sports radio nut. That’s also very much helped me with my job. I was a sports radio nut before I ever myself went into it. I would consume sports radio every chance I got. I’m not a person who’s listening to music often in her car. Even when I had briefly gotten out of the business and I was practicing law full-time, which I was probably out of the business for about a year, I was still listening to sports radio all the time.

All that consumption certainly helped me. The people I most listened to were local. I would say that being down here and consuming so much sports radio that I have been most influenced in my style by the Le Batard show. That to me is the best show on sports radio.

I didn’t grow up listening to WFAN. I discovered sports radio when I moved to South Florida. Really for me I discovered sports radio at 790 even though I wasn’t yet working at 790. I would say overall probably that show in terms of style has been a big influence on me. That being said I’m not sure that there’s any particular person in the industry that I would say I modeled my style after.

I hear from guys in my business like my co-host grew up listening to Chris Russo, so you’ll hear that influence sometimes when he talks. I know there are a lot of people in the industry like that that grew up listening to those guys or Mike Francesa. They have a little bit of that style in them. I don’t know that there’s anybody who’s influenced me to that depth who I ever hear in the industry where I necessarily think is like me. But I think as a show, probably the Le Batard show overall.

BN: Your partner Zaslow loves Pearl Jam. Has that made you hate Pearl Jam?

AW: Yes. [Laughs] No, he loves Pearl Jam to an unreasonable degree and I don’t find it reasonable for anybody to like any music as much as he likes Pearl Jam as an adult. I’m very judgmental of his affinity for Pearl Jam.

I liked Pearl Jam like everybody did in the ‘90s when I was in middle school listening to the album with “Black”. That was about it because I’m pretty sure that was the last time Pearl Jam was really good.

Pearl Jam Share Holiday Songs To Streaming Services For First Time [Listen]

I always make fun of Zaslow. I always tell him on air he found all the music he likes around 1995 and then that was it. No more music forever. There are no artists after the mid-‘90s that Zaslow likes, knows about, cares about, cares for. He’s like ‘you know I like what I like’. It’s like he found all the music and he was like “Alright, I’m good. I’ve got my bands. For the rest of my life I’m good. I never need to adopt any more music into my world.”

BN: Is there anything in particular that you would like to accomplish going forward?  

AW: I think just for me I’m a person who likes to add to my repertoire so to speak. I like to diversify. Obviously I have the lawyer thing and the sports radio thing. I recently started doing things for a site called Sports Card Investor because sports cards are really, really hot right now. I’m getting into that medium a little bit just because I think it’s an interesting industry that’s on the rise. That hobby is having a resurgence.

I have re-signed with ESPN Radio for another year. I had a regular show here on the weekends with ESPN Radio, but with the pandemic, the landscape there changed. But I’m hoping that at some point we’re able to resume the regular weekend show there as well.

For me I think in the future it’s just about being multi-faceted and seeing what opportunities come my way that interest me. It’s probably staying in radio because ultimately I really, really do love the medium. If I was ever on television again, the dream would be to be on television in a radio type of capacity, like these shows that are simulcasted. I would hope not to have to give up that format. I really enjoy having to speak unscripted for four hours. It’s a challenge and I enjoy challenges.

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Rich Shertenlieb Enters New Era on WZLX: No Fred Toucher, No Music, No Guarantees

“It’s worked for me in the past and there’s no secret sauce. It’s just try to be entertaining every morning and work your ass off to do it right.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Rich Shertenlieb and WZLX logo in Boston
Boston photo: courtesy of Getty Images

It’s a time of change and transition for rock radio listeners in Boston. WZLX rolled out its new morning show last week featuring local icon Rich Shertenlieb. It’s not only a new adventure for the former Sports Hub morning man. It’s also the start of a new era for the station.

Kevin Karlson, the anchor of the station’s previous morning show, died in his sleep in October. It ended a nearly 20-year run on WZLX for Karlson, McKenzie & Heather. Pete McKenzie and Heather Ford carried on, but earlier this month, they were let go.

“I definitely have big shoes to fill,” Shertenlieb says of his new gig. “Kenny Young, who was a member of the previous show, I got to know him pretty well over these last couple of months. He is now our producer, and he couldn’t be more valuable to the show. He has been an awesome bridge between what was and what is now, and I love the guy to death. He is one of the more skilled people in radio when it comes to being a jack of all trades and it’s awesome that he’s there.”

After seventeen years together, Shertenlieb split from his radio partner Fred Toucher in November. They held down morning drive at 98.5 The Sports Hub since the station’s launch in 2009. The duo was an institution in Boston and their ratings proved it over and over again. 

There has to be a juicy story there, right? I mean, who walks away from that kind of success without a concrete reason? 

Speculation will continue to run rampant. After all, each twist and turn during the final days of Toucher & Rich were covered pretty extensively on this site and others. According to Shertenlieb though, no one ever crossed a red line. There is no moment when he realized the partnership could not be saved. He was just ready for something new.

“I mean, listen, it’s kind of boring because it’s not as scandalous as people might think that it is,” he says. “You only get a couple of times in your career to be able to reevaluate what you’re doing. I would sign long term contracts for about five years. And so, you only get about once every five years to sit and say, ‘I got a chance to try to do something else.’ When your contract comes up, you ask yourself a few questions. ‘Do I still absolutely love what I’m doing?’ and ‘Do I absolutely love where I’m doing it?’ And finally, ‘Is there another step I’d want to take?’ If any of those questions have any kind of doubt or cloud, then you owe it to yourself to at least explore what’s out there. And that’s what I did.”

Shertenlieb doesn’t hide from reality. It was scary to leave the familiarity behind. Even when apparent tension between he and Fred Toucher was impossible to hide, he never pinned blame for wondering what is next on the state of their relationship.

Listeners and social media followers did a lot of speculating about the show’s future in early 2023. Toucher missed extended time, first to deal with a vocal condition and then to focus on his mental health. They wanted to know what was going on in the Beasley Media offices after Toucher took to Twitter to say no one from the show’s cast had reached out to check on him during his absence. 

Rich Shertenlieb says that the conversations were never that interesting. He didn’t think it had to be a catalyst for drastic action.

“There was no discussion about the future of the show. I think that there was confusion. The guys on the show, I think, were confused about why he was saying stuff about us that obviously, we’re all looking at each other and going, ‘Well, this isn’t true. Why is he saying that? I don’t know what was going on there.’ That part was definitely strange, but there weren’t any conversations about the future of the show at all.”

When the decision was made to leave Toucher & Rich, Shertenlieb says he knew instantly that it would mean leaving 98.5 The Sports Hub. It wasn’t about hard feelings. It was about on-air real estate.

Shertenlieb didn’t want to join an existing show. He wanted to start something new with him at the center. Maybe it would work. Maybe it wouldn’t. Either way, he was comfortable with the consequences of his name being the only one on the marquee. Without a major overhaul, that wasn’t possible at his current station.

“I don’t think that that would be fair to anybody. I think that to achieve that they’d have to move people around and stuff like that. I don’t think that that would be fair. I do think that in fairness to everybody else that I worked with, I would have to go do that on my own.”

WZLX, Shertenlieb’s new home, is owned by iHeartMedia. The company made it clear to him that he was a priority. Bosses asked Shertenlieb who he wanted to work with and got those people on board. They presented him with the opportunity to launch a podcast network in the future. 

The company even acquiesced to Shertenlieb’s demand that the classic rock the station is known for disappear in morning drive.

“I’ve just looked around and I’ve seen that there’s really no morning show that is geared mostly towards guys that truly wins while also playing music. That’s the recipe that you have to go with, at least in mornings,” he says.

Music snobs aren’t totally left out of the new morning show. Shertenlieb loves rock music and makes it a part of the show’s regular discussions. He also notes that what is now considered “classic rock” is the music he grew up with and holds most dear, particularly Alice in Chains.

Listeners will hear Michael Hurley, who Shertenlieb calls “truly a gem” every day. Every host needs someone that gets all of his references and that’s what Hurley is for Shertenlieb. Throughout the week, former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, Meadowlark Media host Charlotte Wilder and Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal will all make appearances.

“I like having different personalities, different walks of life and people who are experts in different things to be able to rotate,” Shertenlieb says. “The great thing about everybody that I picked, whether it be Ted Johnson or Mike Girardi or Charlotte Wilder, is that even if they didn’t talk about the one thing they’re known to be an expert on, I would still love talking to these people about everything else in their life, because they’re just that interesting.”

Every new show faces challenges when it launches and The Rich Shertenlieb Show is no exception. His former partner has poked fun, his former competitor has taken shots, but Rich knows that no show gets launched as a finished product. That only comes from years of building chemistry amongst the people in studio and the people listening.

He isn’t shy about admitting that there is no guarantee that he is going to leapfrog anyone in the ratings. Sure, he has the know-how given the success he helped propel The Sports Hub to in morning drive. He also has the advantage of joining a station that already performs well.

“It’s hard work and patience,” Shertenlieb says when asked if he has thought about how he will pull ahead of The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Hardy or anyone else. “It’s worked for me in the past and there’s no secret sauce. It’s just try to be entertaining every morning and work your ass off to do it right.”

Shertenlieb knows that, for many Bostonians, he and Fred Toucher will forever be linked. He doesn’t run from that. He says he never considered leaving Boston for a “fresh start” when he decided to strike out on his own.

He doesn’t wish Toucher or The Sports Hub any ill-will. He insists that the titillating scandal everyone wants to hear about doesn’t exist. He isn’t “over sports.” It was just time to do something new.

New adventure comes with risk and uncertainty. Rich Shertenlieb is willing to embrace it and live with whatever it becomes.

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Which Areas of Executive Performance Should Be Known in Media Companies?

“How do we know if a CEO, executive, market manager or PD is outperforming or underperforming?”

Jason Barrett

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I read a great piece on Monday from Front Office Sports, which reflected on the NBA’s financial growth under Commissioner Adam Silver. Since taking control in 2014, Silver has more than doubled the NBA’s annual revenue to $12 billion from $4.8 billion. The league also set an all-time regular-season attendance record this year, and grew NBA franchise values to an average of $3.85 billion, according to Forbes. The worth of an organization alone is up 75% from 2019.

If I asked you to judge the Commissioner of the NBA and whether or not he was doing a good job, would those three categories get your attention? Adam Silver isn’t perfect in other areas, but if you more than double league revenues, increase attendance and fan interest, and elevate the value of the league’s franchises, few are going to want a different voice.

But what about in media circles? How do we know if a CEO, executive, market manager or PD is making a difference? Shouldn’t we know if our markets/companies are growing in revenue and value, and increasing audience?

Radio program directors get judged by their brand’s ratings (quarterly and annually), but that doesn’t tell the complete story. What if the PD shrinks expenses 25% and stays flat? Isn’t that progress? How about if they possess digital skills and quadrupled the brand’s social media following, video viewing, newsletter signups, and podcast downloads but ratings dropped 10%. Is that a win or a loss? What if the company they work for lost the rights to a key property that drove ratings growth. Is that on them or their employer?

GM’s are tasked with boosting local market revenues, controlling expenses, and making smart business decisions. Most people inside of a cluster though have no idea if they’re on top of those things. They judge the GM based on an individual relationship, and trust the company’s judgment. The issue with that, sometimes company’s aren’t plugged in. Other times they know things that folks on the local level don’t. Regardless, little information is available to people in the building to show if the GM’s plan is working.

On the executive level, revenue growth, stock price (if public), investments in technology, continuing key relationships, forming new partnerships, recruitment, and company PR are all part of the company’s progress report. CEO’s earn credit and blame for the overall performance of the company, but wins and losses depend on people. You can blame and change them or the CEO when results are missed, but sometimes that’s a reflection of other factors. For instance, if the economy is weak, the individual and their ability to perform may not be the issue.

Examining company value over a 10-year period should be part of the evaluation process for executive leadership. But whether they’ve crushed it or laid an egg, few inside organizations know those details. Should they? It’s easy to say yes, but radio isn’t the NBA. To expect similar progress is unrealistic. But to know how a company is growing or stalling beyond its stock price and year-to-year revenue would be helpful.

Aside from corporate leaders, many don’t know if their leaders are outperforming or underperforming expectations. We don’t look at enough areas of a position to determine if the right individual is in charge. For example, if your web traffic grew 10% but your social media audience declined 10% because article posts grew from 10 to 50 posts per day, is that a good or bad strategy? If a salesperson made budget because they got one big order from one client but did nothing else the rest of the month, is that acceptable? There should be multiple boxes to check to determine if someone is or isn’t successful in their position.

We should all be asking these questions, and challenging each other to help raise the bar. The best way to do that is through transparency. If everyone knows the score, the better equipped they are to make adjustments to win the game. That in turn inspires more confidence in those leading the company. Media folks are competitive by nature, and don’t like being tied to negative results. However, that also motivates people to perform better.

I doubt we’ll ever have information available the way it is with the Commissioner of the NBA. If we did, we’d know who the Adam Silver’s are in each company, and that would make our organizations stronger. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a boost in revenue, value and audience?

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Remembering Bill Walton

An industry giant was lost yesterday. Bill Walton passed away at the age of 71 following a battle with cancer. He was beloved by the sports media industry, thanks to his infectious personality, and ability to crack a joke, call something out or share a gem that left you smarter. Many have greater stories to share than mine but this was my favorite because I lived it.

It’s a Saturday night just after midnight, and I’m producing GameNight on ESPN Radio. John Seibel is hosting with Michael Kim, and Bill Walton calls in as scheduled. We bump back from break with Higher by Creed because Seibel wants to share the news that the band broke up. We welcome Bill to the show after the quick Creed story and try to transition to NBA talk but Bill wants more details on Credence Clearwater Revival’s breakup. John explains that it’s Creed, but Bill is so focused on CCR, that soon he’s telling 5-minutes worth of CCR stories.

We try to reset a few times to get on track but Bill keeps finding ways to connect CCR to Seibel’s words. The entire studio is crying laughing, and I tell John in his ear ‘don’t even try to talk hoops, just go with this.’ We do 12 minutes of CCR talk, laughing so hard it hurt, and wondering ‘was that radio gold or a train wreck?’ That was the beauty of Bill Walton. He kept you on your toes, went to places few did, but always kept you laughing and wanting to engage. Sports media has lost a larger than life character, great analyst, and gem of a human being.

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KNBR Fallout

I stand by everything I wrote last week and credit Cumulus Media for taking quick action in San Francisco. Yet seeing someone hurt their career is still sad. Larry Blumhagen, Bruce Gilbert and Dave Milner will find a strong, capable leader to move KNBR forward but for Adam Copeland it’s a blown opportunity.

I’m done discussing this issue but I want to make one thing clear. This was about unprofessional PD behavior, and a lack of understanding of how ratings work. I saw tweets raise the issue of race, which was embarrassing, and irresponsible. Some people say and do foolish things when they’re backed into a corner. Going down the diversity lane with me might be the dumbest decision yet.

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Thumbs Up

Charles Barkley: He hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that WBD CEO David Zaslav likely pissed off NBA Commissioner Adam Silver when he said that Turner didn’t need the NBA. Those comments in 2022 were meant to trigger a reaction. Sure enough, TNT is now in danger of losing a near three decade relationship with a popular sports league. Kudos to Barkley for calling out executives for dropping the ball on what should’ve been a TNT layup.

SKOR North: The Timberwolves haven’t answered the bell against Dallas, but SKOR North was more than ready entering the series. After Anthony Edwards told Charles Barkley ‘bring ya ass’ to Minnesota following a Game 7 win against Denver, the Hubbard Radio brand had digital billboards, merchandise, and a box truck out on the streets promoting its content, utilizing the famous Edwards quote. T-Wolves fever and leaning into the moment quickly helped SKOR increase revenue, attention, and crack the top-10 on the podcast charts with its show ‘Flagrant Howls’. Great work by all involved.

Stephen A. Smith: Nice job by Mr. SAS Productions on Up For Debate: The Evolution of Sports Media. Covering decades of the media industry in under two hours is impossible, but I watched all three episodes and enjoyed it. The guest list was beyond impressive. I can nitpick sports radio’s role in elevating debate style discussions not getting enough focus, and Jamie Horowitz and Skip Bayless deserving to be featured heavily given their roles with the shift to debate content, but if you watch a show looking for holes to poke, you’ll always find them, and miss out on being entertained. If you watch to learn more than you knew previously, you’ll appreciate it a lot more.

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Thumbs Down

Sports Emmys: The on-stage show and social media execution of the event was fantastic. The access given to media covering the show though left little to be desired. BSM covered the show, and was surprised by the lack of organization for pulling people aside for conversations. There was also no press working area or seats to view the show. Instead, press had to watch the show on a small monitor in the very back of the room for almost four hours. Given how awesome the Sports Emmys are, the media covering the show should be taken care of better. Hopefully this gets improved at the 2025 show.

WFAN: A phone number change? Say it ain’t so! New York sports radio fans know WFAN’s phone number better then their own. They also tend to be resistant to change. But they’ll get over this. It’s not a big deal. The only valid question is why make the change at all?

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Jobs

Barrett Media is interviewing potential writers to contribute to our expanded music radio industry coverage. Our brand relaunch takes place Monday July 15th. If you’ve programmed or hosted on music radio stations, enjoy writing, and have views and insights to share on the industry, email a resume and writing sample to [email protected]. Please do not DM on LinkedIn or social platforms. I won’t be answering messages through there.

1010 XL in Jacksonville has a cool opening for someone with creative social/video skills. The outlet is looking for a Digital Content Producer. Details can be found here.

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Steve Fifer Adds Local Programming Back to 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee

“I don’t think it’s an impossible dream to think we can be right back in this battle again.”

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Photo of Steve Fifer and a logo for 1250 The Fan
Photo Courtesy: Steve Fifer LinkedIn Profile

In August of 2022, local shows at 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee were discontinued in favor of national programming from CBS Sports Radio, now called Infinity Sports Network.  Steve Fifer has been with the station since the launch in January 2005 and while other hosts looked for hosting opportunities elsewhere, he stayed on becoming the station’s Assistant Program Director.  He learned the ropes on how the management side works, hosted local podcasts like “Curd and Long,” “Green and Growing” and “Spare/Time Bowling Show” and also did some fill-in hosting on stations in other markets.

While Fifer missed local shows, he had zero intentions of leaving the radio station.

“There were days along the way when big things would happen locally where it’s like man, I wish I had a talk show today,” said Fifer.  “I was asked before if I would want to leave and I didn’t want to leave.  I love the people who work in this building.  I had no inclination at any point to leave this building or go anywhere.”

That loyalty and patience has paid off for Fifer because a little over two years later, local programming is back.

This past March, Fifer helped turn the clock back just a little when he started hosting Milwaukee Bucks postgame shows on “The Fan” and the reaction was overwhelming.

“It was like the old days,” said Fifer.  “It was huge.  It was absolutely over the top huge. It gave me a lot of hope for the future going forward that a lot of the people who were listening before were right back in it again and a lot of social media right back in it again.” 

And then, the station announced the launch of Wisconsin Sports Daily, a live and local show weekdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. hosted by Fifer.  It didn’t take long for the station’s loyal listeners from the past to return and also offer Fifer some feedback on what the show should sound like.

“Everybody came with their ideas and opinions of what was missing in the market, what this show needs to be about and so forth,” said Fifer.  “It’s been a very positive experience for sure.”

And so has the experience learning the business side over the last 2 ½ years.  Fifer has worked closely with several Audacy executives including Mitch Rosen, Operations Director and Brand Manager of 670 The Score in Chicago and the Vice President of the BetQL Network.  While The Fan continued to carry national programming, Fifer was absorbing the business side of the industry like a sponge.

A lot of that knowledge came from Rosen.

“He’s taught me a lot about the business,” said Fifer.  “I’ve learned a lot from him as far as just more of the professional side of how to be a programmer, how to work with talent, how to work with producers and how to work with people outside of the company.  The last year and a half to two years, even though there hasn’t been local programming, I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot and matured a lot and I’m ready for the next step.”

And now that The Fan has taken those first couple of steps back into the local game with the Bucks postgame shows and now Wisconsin Sports Daily, perhaps it’s time to go “Back to the Future” and bring back some more local programming.

Is it possible?

Not only is it possible, it’s the vision.

“That’s the hope and the plan is to eventually over the course of time is to eventually get this thing back to close to where it was as far as doing more local programming,” said Fifer.  “That’s going to be a process.  It’s going to probably be baby steps here over the course of time to try and work its way back up again.  Hopefully, at some point in the future, we’re able to do that.”

That vision is not just to restore local programming to The Fan, but the vision also includes returning the station to dominance in a crowded Milwaukee sports radio landscape.

The Fan is one of four sports talk stations in town and the goal would eventually be to be on top.

“I don’t think it’s an impossible dream to think we can be right back in this battle again,” said Fifer.  “I think we will be and eventually be back to being number one again in this market.”

Steve Fifer has been a loyal soldier to Audacy and The Fan in Milwaukee.  He could have left when the station went national, but he stayed and now there is excitement over the return of a local show and what could lie ahead down the road.

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