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You Can’t Put a Price On The Value of An Unpaid Internship

“Prioritizing earnings early on over experience is a big mistake.”

Jason Barrett

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Social media can be a mixture of a vacation in paradise or a long stay in the sewer. Allow me to explain.

On one hand, the ability to share your content with folks who’d otherwise not know about it has great value. As a consumer of content, you also have the ability to learn about a lot of different things to improve your education. More importantly though, you’re given a chance to connect with others, and take part in conversations about subjects you have an interest in. That’s the paradise part.

The flipside, otherwise referred to as the sewer, is that a simple harmless post can turn into unnecessary drama. What started as a call to people to make them aware of an opportunity turns into having to defend your intentions and credibility to those who don’t know you, don’t follow you, have no connection to your profession, yet suddenly think they are the judge and jury assigned to your case. When you learn you’ve been going back and forth with @bitchfaceloser and @TeamStretchNuts and engaging with others with no desire to work in your profession who just want to stir the pot and preach from their morale high horse, it makes you feel like you wasted important time defending your reputation when it never should have been required in the first place.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I came across a simple tweet from Jane Slater of the NFL Network.

The tweet itself made it clear, the person retained for the internship would be entering into an unpaid situation. That’s when the chaos ensued.

Immediately after Jane posted the tweet which was intended for people who are in need of experience, she was attacked. In some cases, she had to even deal with personal shots being taken at her family. This was all due to her sharing information with her followers about a possible unpaid gig. Nobody forced anyone to accept the position, it was simply there if a person looking to eventually work in the business wanted to gain some reps, build some relationships, and invest their time contributing to an NFL draft project.

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To be fair, there were a number of people who commented and said they wished the opportunity had been available when they started. Broadcasters also jumped into the discussion sharing stories of their early days and what it took to get to the level many of them are now at.

Which brings me to my own story.

I have what I have today because I once accepted an unpaid internship. I shared a thread on Twitter late last night where I pointed out that I spent my first six months in radio working for free. Would I have preferred to be paid? Of course, but if I declined that opportunity and the chance to get my foot in the door, that internship wouldn’t have turned into a job, the reps I gained to improve at my craft would not have been available, and the recommendations I received from my peers later in my career when I pursued other positions wouldn’t have been offered. I did jobs I didn’t love, and worked many crummy shifts, but everything I’ve done in radio today connects to those first four years where I learned every aspect of the business. I didn’t know it then but I’m thankful that I placed a greater value on investing my time in the studio and office versus worrying about if I was receiving my worth or not.

That’s one big mistake I’ve seen a lot of people make – prioritizing earnings early on over experience. It takes many hours of practice to become good at something. I programmed 5 radio stations in 4 cities over a 15 year period and have consulted many more over the past 5 years. Time after time I see and hear the same stories. If you expect a company to pay you to work as an intern when you don’t have the skills needed to do the job, why wouldn’t they just hire someone PT who’s more experienced?

The fact that many broadcast groups offer compensation for internships today is great, and if you can be paid to learn, awesome, take advantage of it. But it’s not your place to tell others what they should or shouldn’t accept. During your early years in this business, reps and relationships are what you need most. Every day you step foot in that building is a chance to make progress towards achieving your goals. You only gain that by being on the inside. If getting in there is only an option thru an unpaid internship and someone wants to take it, why is that an issue? It’s their life, their career, and they should decide what is and isn’t valuable to them, not someone on social media with no investment in their future.

Secondly, nobody ‘deserves’ anything. Watch the ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ and get back to me afterwards on what one deserves. I saw that mentioned in one of the tweets to Jane, and after looking at other issues on social media about unpaid internships I saw some even try to compare it to slavery. That’s ridiculous and an insult to slaves. Slaves had no choice. One choosing whether to accept or decline an internship is far different than what people went thru physically and mentally a long time ago.

Seven Life Lessons from "The Pursuit of Happyness" Movie •

If you say you want to work in sports media, and you’re leaning towards passing on it because the first step pays $0 instead of $100-$200 per week, I think you’ll have a difficult road ahead. This is a business where fair or unfair, people pay a heavy price to do what they love. You’ll face years of struggle, miss out on important birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, maybe even relocate, and chances are you’ll question if it’s worth it many times. You may even do what I did once and leave for a few months, seeking a better paying job, only to discover it’s your passion and true love, and making less to do what you enjoy versus making more to do something you don’t is worth the trade off.

I’m not letting companies off the hook entirely. Many don’t do enough to compensate people in the building who aren’t the top ratings and revenue producers. Execs like to preach how important the ratings are, yet I saw folks who were #1-#2 in their markets lose jobs during the pandemic. It reminded me again that anyone who tells you it’s about ratings is full of it. We value ratings in programming because we’re competitive, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s about what you cost the company vs. what your market takes in. The more you make, the bigger the bullseye on your back. I also think some groups search too quickly for what to cut instead of what to keep or invest in to grow. Short-term thinking causes long-term problems. That unfortunately hurts our business too much.

That aside, if you think broadcast groups are going to expand their payrolls for folks who’ve yet to spend a minute in a building and aren’t ready yet to impact the bottom line, prepare to be disappointed. You can tell me that your time is valuable, you’re ‘entitled’ to make a living, and even point out how many millions the broadcast company you want to work at makes, but they have what you don’t – the platform, the opportunity, the experience, and an endless list of people chasing the same dream. If you want to be a rock star or actor, these challenges exist in those professions too.

Furthermore, if you had an unpaid internship and didn’t benefit from it let me ask you a few questions. Did you make the most of your time in the building or did you spend time hanging out, watching, and assuming others will find you for jobs instead of the latter? Were you someone that people wanted to be around and was accepting of critical feedback or were you tough to deal with? How many times did you talk to the boss in the building or the key talent to seek their advice on what you can do to put yourself on the path to a future position? Were you willing to relocate when jobs were available or did you limit yourself to one specific region? If I asked people you interned for to weigh in, would they agree with your version of the facts or claim you subscribe to an alternative truth? The bottom line, nobody owes you anything beyond that invite into the building. What you do with it while you’re there has a lot to do with where you’ll go next.

If you’re in college or just breaking into the business, you may hate hearing this. Maybe you’ll take aim at me like some did to Jane and you’ll call me out of touch, old fashioned, old school, heck maybe even old. I’ll use a different word – experienced. I’ve seen many thrive, some struggle to find their way and blame the business for their shortcomings, and a whole lot more throw in the towel because they weren’t willing to pay the price early on. This business is not for everyone. Some won’t think it’s worth it. Others will use it as the first step towards building a career. We all have choices to make. Whichever you choose, I hope it works out and you find happiness in it.

Barrett Blogs

Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing this and who it’s for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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