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Jamie Hersch Is Breaking News and Glass Ceilings

“In the past few years, I think we’ve all been encouraged to kind of have our own voice.”

Derek Futterman

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With every tick of the clock, the NHL trade deadline draws closer as organizations decide whether or not to add pieces to compete for a Stanley Cup championship. Whether teams elect to make deals ahead of deadline day or wait until the final seconds, the landscape of the league is subject to change at a moment’s notice and fans are on edge to learn and react to breaking news. It is adrenaline garnered off the ice, and a feeling that Jamie Hersch and those at NHL Network typically experience as spring nears its bloom.

Hersch grew up as a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but she closely follows the NHL and the evolution of the game working for this league-owned broadcast entity. Throughout each program, she has the freedom to express her opinion, implement analysts as she sees fit and collaborate in segments to present a compelling, on-air product. Much like developing strategy at the trade deadline, Hersch continues to ruminate over her career – filled with relocations, special events and other trials and tribulations – to serve as a role model for women in sports media and catalyze a new normal.

Over the last year, Hersch has experimented working as a play-by-play announcer for select showcase games on NHL Network, something she never thought possible; that is, until someone recommended she try it. The suggestion came after she voiced a desire to hear more women call live sporting events. “Someone kind of called my bluff on that,” Hersch explained pertaining to how she started to think about working at the craft.

Through preparation at home, in the studio and in the studio parking lot before her shift, she has quickly honed her craft, augmented her versatility and set an example for women everywhere.

“No one ever told me you can’t call games because you’re a woman, but I think I never had that example in my mind as an option for me because it hasn’t really been done,” Hersch said. “….I’m having the time of my life.”

In this new wrinkle to her broadcasting career, Hersch has had to spend an immense amount of time preparing for games, which she satisfies by reading articles, reviewing statistics and learning background information about the players and personnel. She calls the games remotely off of a monitor from NHL Network’s studios in Secaucus, N.J. and pairs with an analyst to break down the action. The preparation for this type of role, however, is nuanced and intricate, demanding pliability and alacrity to rapidly adjust and tailor the broadcast to the story of the game – all while keeping informed about the movement of the puck.

Within her preparation, Hersch tries not to depend on studying line charts considering forward and defensive units often change over the course of a game. As a result, it is nearly impossible to guarantee consistency unless a line is well-established and invariably productive, giving the coaching staff no reason to alter it. Moreover, it is critical to know information about each of the players whether they are a superstar or a healthy scratch, along with their tendencies – just in case they end up becoming the primary storyline of the contest or a last-minute addition.

“I’ve always believed that the separation is in the preparation,” she added. “….I know that if I’ve put in my time and prepared to my utmost, then I can go into a game confident that I know what I’m talking about.”

With each broadcast, Hersch estimates she spends about 20 hours in total studying, whereas hosting studio programming and reporting takes considerably less time since it comes much more naturally to her. Growing up in Champlain, Minn., Hersch has early memories watching Minnesota Vikings football games with her father, along with keeping score of Minnesota Twins’ baseball under her grandfather’s tutelage. One of the first times she thought about pursuing a career in sports media came from watching Michele Tafoya, former sideline reporter on Monday Night Football, present information to enhance the broadcast from the field.

“[She] really stood out to me as a component, capable woman speaking about football just as eloquently and knowledgeably as any of the guys,” Hersch said. “I remember really being struck by that as a girl and thinking, ‘Oh wow, I could do something like that; I think that would be really fun.’”

In high school, Hersch demonstrated an indefatigable drive to attain her goal and began attending football practices as a student-media member. Accompanied by her friend who desired to work in film, the duo recorded interviews with players and coaches, along with collecting other B-roll to compile into video reports that aired on the school’s morning news program, The Rebel Report.

Shortly thereafter, she submitted her work to the Minnesota State High School League, an organization that offered her a chance to work as a student sideline reporter. Eventually, Hersch found herself reporting from state hockey, football and basketball tournaments as a high school student, her penchant for sports and journalism evident on news networks across the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Simultaneously, she was a member of the school’s softball, basketball and volleyball teams, affording her recondite perspectives garnered by athletes.

Captivated by its broadcast journalism program, Hersch attended college at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Once per week, she participated in a newscast resembling professional working conditions, including a morning editorial meeting, shooting stories as a “one-man band” and editing the piece in time for the show. Additionally, she had the chance to anchor some of the programs, sometimes pivoting to breaking news in the process, along with reporting on the esteemed USC Trojans football program.

“I always say it was like a first job because it allowed me to get that experience of actually reporting live and having to work under incredible deadlines and go out there and actually get the story,” Hersch said. “I did that on the news side, but I also always loved sports.”

Out of school, Hersch relocated to Madison, Wis. where she began anchoring a weekend news program and serving as a multimedia journalist with WKOW-TV. Being in the state capital, Hersch was frequently assigned to cover gubernatorial stories, such as those pertaining to the Wisconsin state legislature. While she was grateful to receive chances to go on the air, she desired to tell feature stories that she found excitement in reporting, drawing her back to the world of sports.

“My time in news taught me that I only want to work in sports,” Hersch said. “It takes a really special type of person to be able to handle the grind of a daily news reporter job in terms of the content that you’re covering.”

Hersch transitioned into anchoring and reporting on sports on WKOW-TV where she covered teams including the Milwaukee Brewers, Green Bay Packers and University of Wisconsin Badgers. Through this work, she was able to attend events including the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, Super Bowl XLV and the National League Championship Series. Additionally, she had the chance to return to Los Angeles, Calif. to cover the Badgers in the Rose Bowl for three consecutive years (2011-2013), creating lifelong memories and building vast on-field reporting experience.

Weeks after the 2013 Rose Bowl, Hersch announced she would return home to cover the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Wild in a dual media role with Fox Sports North (today known as Bally Sports North). During the baseball season, Hersch was a reporter, traveling with the Twins and enterprising stories to present during the broadcast.

Conversely, the start of hockey season was indicative of transitioning into hosting studio coverage, through which she previewed and subsequently recapped Wild games. In addition to staying on the pulse of the team, she was responsible for eliciting comprehensive, succinct analyses from panelists and, when necessary, conducting interviews.

“The person you’re interviewing, I think, can very quickly know if you’re just nodding your head and waiting to ask your next question,” Hersch said. “I think it’s disrespectful almost to not listen to the answer when they’re taking the time to give you an interview. Not only that, but then sometimes they might say something really interesting or really ridiculous and you can ask a follow-up question if you are listening to the answer.”

The two jobs, which are currently held by Audra Martin, have a stark contrast in how they are executed; however, their broader goals align in keeping the fan informed and engaged. Although Hersch preferred her time as a studio host for Wild broadcasts because of the extended time to effectively report a story, being able to maintain a constant presence around the Twins gave her unparalleled access. The tradeoff of having the potential to divulge stories that, without traveling, may have otherwise gone undetected was in the way the information was delivered.

“You have about 20 to 30 seconds that they want you to get all the information you can in that time and then talk back to the action because you don’t want to miss a hit in baseball or a goal in hockey,” Hersch explained. “[The roles] are completely different just in terms of the length of time that you kind of have a voice.”

While baseball has instituted several new roles ahead of the 2023 season to speed up the pace of play – which have largely been successful in spring training – the game of hockey at its core is predicated on dynamic action. Whether it is the addition of a pitch clock, larger bases or limiting defensive shifts, baseball is attempting to modernize tradition and ingratiate itself towards a younger audience. There is a definitive strategy involved in finding ways to innovate and position teams and leagues for success regardless of the varying tempos of different sports.

“I’ve thought about maybe trying baseball in the future, and it couldn’t be more different than hockey,” Hersch said. “Hockey is non-stop action [where] every second, something could happen; whereas baseball is a lot more methodical.”

Hersch affirms that being a woman in sports media evinces heightened expectations and conspicuous misogyny from consumers and some colleagues. Despite many women entering the industry in a variety of different roles, Hersch believes they are held to a higher standard and expected to be flawless. While she knows these expectations are prejudiced, they motivate her to show up informed, alert and ready for each broadcast.

“I think credibility as a woman in sports is so, so hard to build and so easy to lose,” Hersch said. “I feel it’s my responsibility almost not just as a woman, but someone who cares about their job, to make sure I do my homework, do my research and go in prepared as much as possible [for] every single show. One slip-up that may have been easy to overlook if you’re a man can be very easily turned against you as a woman.”

Following her stint with Fox Sports North, along with working as a sideline reporter for the Big Ten Network’s presentations of football and hockey games, Hersch joined NHL Network as a studio host. Leaving home was not an easy decision for Hersch and it disappointed fans of Minneapolis-St. Paul sports; however, it gave her the opportunity to appear on a national stage.

As the host of On The Fly, a nightly recap show with highlights, news, analysis and interviews, Hersch brings fans action from around the league in less than an hour (when factoring in commercials). She has also contributed to Quick Pitch, the baseball recap show on MLB Network, which usually requires summarizing 15 or more games per episode. Certain game days in hockey have considerably fewer matchups on the slate, meaning more time per episode to explore games in detail and focused preparation.

Sometimes, the network pairs Hersch with a studio analyst to break down aspects of contests to be able to dive deeper into the program. She generally does not leave the studio until 2 a.m. EST, coinciding with the completion of games on the West Coast, but finds that working on a show in this format keeps her thoroughly immersed in the sport.

“To be able to tune in and watch a one-hour recap show, you literally see almost every goal [and] every big save, and we try to sprinkle in a lot of relevant information as well,” Hersch said. “It’s exciting; it’s fast-paced; we’re only showing the very best of each and every night.”

During her time at the network, Hersch has also hosted NHL Tonight, a national show featuring hockey analysts and insiders discussing the game in a more protracted format, often centering around the night’s action. As hockey seeks to market its superstars and entice younger demographics, Hersch hopes network programming plays a role in growing the game no matter the viewer.

“I think we do a good job, or at least we try to, of balancing both generating interest from people that really know the game and want to know even more [while] also making it very applicable to people who are just tuning in because they’re trying to learn more about hockey or maybe another team because they only follow one team,” Hersch explained. “We try to do a good job of covering all 32 teams in the league and making it fun in the process.”

Over the years, Hersch’s hosting style has evolved to a place where she is able to let her personality shine through. Moreover, she interacts with her colleagues on the air, fostering compelling conversation surrounding hockey aimed at retaining viewers by imbuing the show with entertainment-value. It took time for Hersch to become comfortable displaying her personality on camera, but she has found a way to gradually grow accustomed to expand her on-air presence and exhibit her versatility.

“In the past few years, I think we’ve all been encouraged to kind of have our own voice,” Hersch said. “….All of us as hosts, I think now we tend to be a little more open and fluid with the more, I guess, traditional style of hosting.”

Amid the continued trend of cutting the cord and consuming content through OTT providers and direct-to-consumer platforms, the future of regional sports networks is very much up in the air. With the expected bankruptcy claim of Diamond Sports Group; the recent news that Warner Bros. Discovery is looking to divest its assets in the business; and NBCUniversal planning to stream its RSNs on Peacock, the business and coverage of teams is changing.

In the near future, it is entirely reasonable to surmise teams may own their own broadcast network, as is the case with Monumental Sports and Entertainment – owners of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the regional sports network, NBC Sports Washington.

In working on a regional sports network prior to joining NHL Network, Hersch enjoyed focusing her coverage on hometown teams. Yet she was unable to go genuinely in-depth with some of the topics around the league, making subpar seasons challenging in terms of retaining interest. 

Now at the national level, Hersch has a plethora of teams to discuss and a roster of expert analysts and contributors to confer information from and instantiate working chemistry. In other words, she is able to examine timely storylines whether they pertain to the Montréal Canadiens, Seattle Kraken or any team in-between – free of the repudiation or suppression from expressing a point of view.

“Having that freedom to criticize teams when they’re not doing as well and maybe some changes should be made… is a much more sensitive topic when you’re working for a regional sports network because you are partners with that team,” Hersch said. “….I think it’s a lot better to just be able to speak your mind and kind of just for our analysts to be able to call it like they see it and they don’t have to sugarcoat it. That’s, I think, liberating from a national perspective.”

Throughout her career in sports media, establishing and maintaining relationships at all levels of the industry has been imperative for collaboration and success. Whether it is members of the crew, on-air colleagues, producers or executives, she is grateful to have a team of people around her assisting in all facets of the production. It reminds Hersch of her formative days in the industry when she was effectively her own production crew, capturing stories in the field while serving all roles from director to production assistant.

Furthermore, Hersch views the hockey community as familial in the sense that there is a predominant sense of professional congeniality around the league. For example, she points to a pattern of fired coaches quickly being hired by other organizations, ensuring they remain part of the game and still lend their expertise.

Even though the game is played with the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup in mind, the action on and around the ice genuinely extends beyond a frigorific clash. It is encapsulated in the proceedings of NHL All-Star Weekend, a gathering of players, personnel and fans where they exude their passion for the game.

“It’s one of my favorite events ever because everyone is just relaxed and everyone knows that they’re just there for fun and to celebrate the game and there’s nothing really on the line,” Hersch said. “It takes the pressure off of everything, and you end up getting to talk to some of the biggest players in the game who would normally be really stressed out.”

On March 8, Hersch will be part of an all-women program on NHL Network on International Women’s Day alongside colleagues Jackie Redmond and Lauren Gardner. The first time the network aired such a broadcast in 2018, Hersch was nervous whether she and the other women would be able to carry it, but her fears were quickly assuaged thanks to their knowledge and abilities as media professionals.

“It’s been so much fun to kind of watch it grow over the years and evolve into kind of just a regular NHL Now that happens to be hosted by all-women and have women contributing in various roles on- and off-camera. It’s no longer this big deal, pressure-cooker show that it [once] was.”

In the past, Hersch was motivated to excel in order to continue improving and satisfy her ego and other self-serving interests. Today, she is a mother of two children and looks to set a positive example for them as both a woman in sports media and a working mother. Being a parent has changed Hersch, and renewed her perspective on the impact she garners in the industry.

“I posted a video that my husband took of me calling a game and my kids watching,” Hersch said. “I’m getting emotional thinking about it because it’s so special to me to have them be able to see that. I think that it’s really cool [for them] to know that women have a voice in sports just as much as men do, and I think they’ll grow up knowing that’s completely normal. That’s a really beautiful thing to me.”

Entering any broadcasting assignment prepared and ready to perform at a high level in any role is a fundamental aspect of durability and productivity. By gaining as many repetitions as possible and possessing an acute awareness of sports and the business world, established and aspiring professionals alike can stay ahead of the curve and avoid mayhem at the last minute. Hersch will host trade deadline coverage on NHL Tonight this Friday at 7 p.m. EST, where she will recap all of the transactions around the league, guiding and contributing to the discussion as the playoffs move closer.

“It’s fun to talk about winning teams,” Hersch said. “Every single night, we’ve got plenty of winning teams to talk about.”

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I Love ‘The Dynasty’ AND I Hate the New England Patriots

In the end, the real reason I am writing this column is to encourage content creators to keep doing these sorts of shows. Keep them coming.

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Bill Belichick picture with the graphic for The Dynasty documentary
Courtesy: Apple TV+

I have a confession to make to start out this week’s column. When I first saw the previews for ‘The Dynasty’ on Apple TV+ about the New England Patriots, I threw up a little in my mouth. No way was I going to dedicate any of my precious time to watching a series about Belichick’s cheaters.

I was born and raised in St. Louis. You might be familiar – middle of the country, have that arch thing and yep, two-time losers of NFL franchises. So, if you think YOU hate the Patriots, imagine being me.

In February of 2002, I was doing on-air work with KFNS in St. Louis, co-hosting morning drive and doing football shows on the weekends. I had also been doing play-by-play for a local basketball team and traveled with them, so when it came time to decide who would get to travel to the Super Bowl and who had to stay back, I drew the short straw and stayed.

Financially, this was actually a great deal for me. Pretty much all the other hosts got to go to New Orleans and our sales team had sold a ton of remotes for the days leading up to the game. I recall doing a remote that Saturday morning from a closed business, being rented by someone just to sell merchandise. You know the typical remote setup of a table and two folding chairs? This had no second chair and no table. I believe we were getting power from the business next door.

Then came game day. The Rams were favored by 14 points. I did the pregame show from a packed bar and had several of our other hosts on live from New Orleans. The atmosphere was incredible. If you knew St. Louis pro football history up until this point, you would understand why everyone was in complete disbelief that in a few hours, the Rams – a team from St. Louis – was going to win its second Super Bowl in three years.

Then, the game happened. Instead of the Rams being labeled as a “dynasty,” it was the Patriots and Tom Brady who were being celebrated.

And I still had to do a postgame show. Live from an emptying bar with no atmosphere in it whatsoever. My cohorts scheduled to join me down in Louisiana were of little help. One of them had lost his voice during the game and the other was too despondent to say much.

Then spygate, deflategate, a couple of dynasties, and as I said, I hate the New England Patriots with a passion.

However, when ‘The Dynasty’ came out and I saw the comments being made about it on X and heard several sports radio stations mentioning it, and realized how much I love good storytelling, especially when it has to do with sports and hearing the behind-the-scenes stuff that was going on. So, I decided I would watch it, but I would “hate watch” it. You know, fully prepared to dump all over it and not enjoy it, but see it so I know what others are talking about.

I wrote not that long ago about the NASCAR show on Netflix. It truly inspired me to at least have an interest in what is happening in racing as I am now aware of more of the drivers, and their stories, than ever before.

Similarly, with ‘The Dynasty’ you get a better feel for what was going on with the Patriots from the beginning. Bill Belichick was who he was and pretty much didn’t change. That guy you saw at the press conferences who avoided as many questions as he answered, that’s just him. He is a football coach, he cares about football. His focus is on winning the next game and he doesn’t really care what your agenda is.

He might put on a suit for your cameras, but he isn’t talking about topics he doesn’t want to discuss. He isn’t going to “play the game” and say things just to give out a sound bite. If he is willing to talk on a subject, he gives you his honest answers in short sentences. He saw coaching his team as his job and didn’t really feel the need to talk any more than he had to about most things. I believe when analyzing games becomes Belichick’s job, he will be really good at hard-core, nuts and bolts football talk.

On the other hand, I am wathcing Tom Brady and realizing he could really be special as a football analyst. He reminds me more of Kurt Warner than I thought, in that he is so good at talking about and explaining football. He isn’t doing it from a place of ‘Hey, look at me, I won all of these rings, I am the expert on this stuff.’ He is talking to the audience and saying what he feels in a very natural way. But, there is a lot of passion behind what he is saying and that is a good thing. You can tell he absolutely loves the game.

The more I watch Brady I also think about how much he must really want to do analyst work and be great at it. Why else would he do it? He can do anything he wants to do, go anywhere he wants to go, be with pretty much anyone he wants to be with. And, you automatically know that somewhere between 40-50% of the people are going to be nasty to you just for doing it.

In the end, the real reason I am writing this column is to encourage content creators to keep doing these sorts of shows. Keep them coming. The NASCAR one was great. I am getting in to the F1 racing show, which started several years ago. The shows about the Lakers, especially the HBO show, Winning Time, were fantastic. Apple’s Lionel Messi one was another that was really well done. ‘Full Swing’ and ‘Quarterback’ from Netflix were excellent. Netflix announced recently there will be one on the downfall of the Montreal Expos that I can’t wait for. Inject these in my veins. Give me all of them!

I love this era we are in when it comes to content. So much so, I will even watch when it’s about a team that I absolutely hate.

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The Best Thing I Heard This Week

I love podcasts. I love the industry because it is all based around listener choice. What is it you want to dive into? There’s a podcast for that.

Sports media is of course of great interest to me and the national guys who do sports media podcasts really do an excellent job. I will miss the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, which Sports Business Journal and the New York Post had been doing. I look forward to seeing what, if anything, might happen in the podcast space now that Andrew Marchand has moved to The Athletic and John Ourand is with Puck. The SI Media with Jimmy Traina podcast is also a great listen each week and this week Gregg Giannotti of WFAN was his guest. Really a good listen.

Austin Karp from Sports Business Journal is who has taken over the Sports Business Journal and New York Post podcast, which is now known as The Sports Media Podcast. He was the guest on the Sports Media with Richard Deitsch podcast recently, which is another I never miss.

Having the two of them on one show allowed them to cover a lot of ground. Of note, I thought the part of the conversation where both said they believe the NFL will soon add at least one more streaming-exclusive playoff game was quite interesting.

You can listen to the episode by clicking here.

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In Case You Missed It

Last Wednesday, BSM’s Derek Futterman profiled 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh’s Colin Dunlap who is set to receive the Champions Award at the upcoming BSM Summit in New York. Derek shared the story that earned Dunlap the award, which involed him assisting a caller who had called in on the topic of West Virginia head basketball coach Bob Huggins and his struggles with alcohol. The caller shared his story and ultimately said that if he didn’t get some with his own alcohol problems, his wife was going to leave him. Dunlap offered to help him find a treatment plan and went out of his way to assist the listener.

When you read the article, you learn more about Colin Dunlap and find out this wasn’t an isolated incident, it is more of just who he is. Read more about a host going out of his way to use his platform in the best way possible by clicking here.

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Kaylee Hartung Balances ‘Thursday Night Football’ and NBC ‘Today’

“Two years in, I think I’m at a place where I’m proud of the relationships that I’ve built and proud of how hard I’ve worked.”

Derek Futterman

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Kaylee Hartung
Courtesy: Nathan Congleton, NBC

In a regular season matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers, there had been significant history made by halftime. After two quarters of play, the Chargers found themselves down in the contest 42-0, a record deficit by an NFL team through half of regulation play. The score rendered collective aghast around the league and left fans stunned, and it was up to the Amazon Prime Video broadcast of Thursday Night Football to contextualize and synthesize just what was happening. Sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung was expecting her pre-scheduled interview with Chargers head coach Brandon Staley to be fully upended, awaiting a team representative to deliver the update.

Nonetheless, Hartung made eye contact with Staley and could tell that he was walking over for the interview. She was thoroughly surprised and knew that his team was in the midst of significant tribulation but grateful that he respected her and the aspect of the broadcast for which she is responsible. Hartung surmises that coaches generally do not want to talk to her at halftime because they usually address the team and review plans for the remaining stretch of gameplay. As a result, she aims to be succinct and direct in her questioning to gain real-time insight, a short endeavor with a lasting impact.

“I’m not a reporter who ever wants to ask a ‘gotcha’ question to a subject, no matter who that subject is,” Hartung said. “I want people I interview to tell me exactly what they mean and give me insight into what they’re thinking. That’s how I think of it is, ‘How can I help the millions of people watching learn something in this moment when I’m the only person who can ask that coach that question?’”

Much to Hartung’s astonishment, Staley eloquently responded to her query related to the team’s substandard play. The Chargers ended up losing the game 63-21, and Staley was relieved of his head coaching duties the very next day. Of course, the team was battling a short week between games since they were playing on Thursday Night Football on Amazon. The OTT streaming platform landed the package of games in an 11-year agreement reportedly worth about $1 billion annually. The pact, however, came into effect one year early because of a willingness by previous rightsholder FOX Sports to exit its contract.

Prime Video was tasked with putting together a strong broadcast team of commentators and production personnel to execute the league’s first-ever regular streaming-based platform, enlisting the assistance of award-winning producer Fred Gaudelli. With play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and color commentator Kirk Herbstreit, the company compiled an experienced lead commentary booth.

As the search to continue building the lineup persisted, Hartung was in conversations with the company about the sideline reporting role. After the initial surprise of being contacted for the job when she had not reported on the sidelines for five years, Hartung met with the executives involved and was convinced the opportunity was right for her.

“Amazon was never trying to reinvent the wheel in doing this; they wanted to deliver,” Hartung said. “From the very beginning, their vision was to deliver a broadcast to the quality that NFL fans not only expect but demand, and I think we’re doing that.”

When Hartung was 10 years old, she and her family endured the loss of her father after he was involved in a plane crash at an airshow in Baton Rouge, La. As the family was mourning, the faint volume of CNN encompassed part of the setting to simply provide noise. Suddenly, a brief 30-second anchor voiceover recalled the plane crash and provided relatively superficial details. At the time, Hartung did not understand why the news outlet was not reporting on her father, what he accomplished and the life he lived. The rapid news report caused Hartung to ponder over infusing stories with more details and humane aspects.

Since her mother worked at the Louisiana State University Tiger Athletic Foundation, Hartung frequently had field-level access and behind-the-scenes opportunities surrounding the sports teams. At the same time, Hartung had remained passionate about news media and watched NBC TODAY, going so far as to write a paper in seventh grade saying that she would one day work on the show. Fast forward to last fall and Hartung finds herself as a correspondent for the program, frequently making multiple appearances per week and balancing it with her other related obligations.

Although Hartung was in her second year on Thursday Night Football, it was the first where she had to balance the work with NBC TODAY. Even though she had to sacrifice significant amounts of sleep on certain days, it allowed her to remain true to her roots as a news reporter while also covering sports. For much of her career, Hartung had to reluctantly make a choice between these niches but ultimately fluctuated between the two because of her passions for both.

“I think I’m very lucky to get to cover both, and I’ve been working my whole career to get to cover both and now I’m finally able to, and that for me is a personal win because I don’t want to just be a sports reporter or just be a news reporter,” Hartung explained. “I want to be a great reporter, and I think there are incredible stories to be told on both sides of that coin.”

CBS News Face the Nation reporter Bob Schieffer was sending Hartung’s work with the property to Sean McManus, who at the time was serving as president of CBS News and CBS Sports. She eventually received a call from the CBS College Sports Network to gauge her interest in being a sideline reporter for college games, a proposition she did not pass up.

The company had a newspath affiliate program involving correspondents in different bureaus, and she was looking to be accepted into the rotation. When she assumed that CBS News was not interested in granting her this chance, she auditioned with and eventually joined the ESPN-affiliated Longhorn Network.

The first contract she inked with the entity – a two-year deal with a third-year option – ensured five appearances on ESPN. By the conclusion of her first year, she exceeded that total nine times over and flourished at the company. Hartung was part of the launch of SEC Network in 2014 and treasured building something from the ground up, an opportunity she invested time and effort to effectuate.

As her career has continued, Hartung has recognized how fundamental it is to remain ready for the next opportunity – even if it seems premature at times. Despite not being ready to leave ESPN, the call from CNN to serve as a correspondent was a summons back to news she answered. In the ensuing two years, Hartung affirmed that she consistently showed up on the worst day of people’s lives and navigated through initial uncertainty and discomfort.

“It was very infrequent that I smiled through two years on television at CNN, and so frequently people would ask, ‘Do you miss sports?,’ and my answer was a resounding ‘Yes’ with every time I was asked that question, but I think those two years at CNN for me were just an incredible learning experience,” Hartung stated. “I’m very proud of what I did in the situations I showed up in and the way I could serve the people whose stories I told, but I didn’t feel like I was being the fullest version of myself.”

Hartung continued her work as a correspondent for ABC News beginning in 2019, contributing to programs such as World News Tonight, Good Morning America and Nightline. Although she was enthusiastic about the role, she recognized that Amazon Prime Video and Thursday Night Football was the right chance to assimilate back into sports media. Reflecting back on the 2022-23 season, it is evident to Hartung how much she has grown in the role.

“I’ll be completely honest and say I was terrified [in] Season 1,” Hartung said. “I hadn’t been on the sidelines in five years and I was nervous. I was nervous with every game, with every time that red light came on knowing how big of an opportunity this was, knowing how badly I wanted to be great and knowing how many eyeballs were watching.”

Since Hartung had not covered the NFL before, she needed to establish relationships and develop sources around the league to compile strong, comprehensive and accurate reports. Simultaneously, she was assimilating into a new role with new colleagues and working to foster friendships and chemistry with her teammates. When they were in Houston for their first preseason game together, she vividly remembers a moment of bonding that served in constructing the current product.

“We all walk back into the hotel lobby after the game and everybody’s kind of looking around like, ‘What do we do next? Where do we go?,’ and there’s a bar in the hotel lobby, and before you know it, we’re all sitting around a table, last call comes, Al’s telling stories and we’re asking the hotel, ‘How much longer can we stay?,’ because we don’t want to go anywhere,” Hartung recalled. “That was Week 1 and guess what? That happens every week – it doesn’t get old.”

Even though Hartung presumes she and her colleagues are suffering withdrawals from not being able to spend quality time with one another, she reflects on the year with gratitude and excitement. Amazon generated a 24% increase in total viewers from the previous season, averaging 11.86 million viewers across its 15-game slate according to data from Nielsen Media Research. All of those contests finished ahead of other programming on broadcast and cable television, including the first-ever NFL Black Friday Football contest. Part of that success can evidently be linked to Hartung, who is collecting and disseminating information to enhance the overall presentation.

“Your credibility is everything in this industry whether you’re covering news or sports,” Hartung said. “Two years in, I think I’m at a place where I’m proud of the relationships that I’ve built and proud of how hard I’ve worked.”

Hartung’s football work week begins on Sunday and is largely focused on the two teams she has coming up on Thursday night. Because of the detail required in her job, she makes sure to watch full games and meticulously takes notes from the sideline reports for the previous week. In the days beforehand, Hartung catches up on sleep and prepares for the week ahead, which is filled with meetings, interviews and collaboration.

“The most fervent fans of those teams don’t want to hear the same stories told a week later, right?,” Hartung said. “You want to keep building whatever storylines exist, so if my two teams are playing at the same time on Sunday, I’ll watch one game in real time and follow the other.”

On Monday morning, Hartung has a Zoom call with the broadcast’s producer and director, along with two producers dedicated to the sideline role and a former NFL athletic trainer. The session is a review of the week prior so they can position themselves for sustained performance and improvement and the first of several meetings ahead of the Thursday night broadcast.

By the time Tuesday approaches, she is on the phone with Michaels and Herbstreit to speak with head coaches, quarterbacks and other star players involved in the game. There are also times where Hartung has to interview players unannounced because of their tight schedules, underscoring the necessity of remaining on standby.

In addition to her Thursday Night Football work, Hartung is compiling and reporting on separate stories for NBC TODAY, achieving a delicate balance of two esteemed entities. On most weekday mornings, she is awake by 2:30 a.m. and tries to accrue respite whenever she can, including on airplanes although she tries to avoid red-eye flights.

“I’m always to the city that we’re in by Wednesday morning, go to practice and then have dinner with the crew on Wednesday night,” Hartung explained. “I have a sideline production meeting on Wednesday night where we go through all of my material that I’ve gathered through my own calls and whatnot, and then our big production meeting Thursday morning and kickoff Thursday night.”

Over the course of the game, Hartung has several stories prepared and is ready to interject with her reports when called upon. The key is finishing by the time the ball is snapped so Michaels can deliver play-by-play of the action. Everything changes, however, when there is a significant injury that can alter a season, let alone the ongoing game, for a football team.

“It is reporting in its most elemental and basic form where you’ve got to get the questions answered that are clearly [at the] top of everyone’s mind and concern,” Hartung said. “….You go in with as much of a plan as you can have and then you throw it all out the window and the game breaks out.”

During the week, Hartung apologizes to every player she speaks with because of the condensed week that they are facing. While part of the job of sideline reporters is to bring casual and die-hard fans newfound information and insights about their team, she understands the difficulties in amassing the totality of that material in a five-day span. Hartung is devoted to carrying out her responsibilities without taking shortcuts to achieve the final story, yearning for others to avoid the feeling she had while mourning the loss of her father.

“When they hear their story told, do they feel like I did that justice?,” Hartung said. “….It’s about how you make people feel. Whether you’re the subject or you’re the viewer, it’s about how you make people feel.”

Hartung was in Las Vegas reporting on Super Bowl LVIII for NBC TODAY, delivering updates and following both the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs throughout the week. Coming off a strong regular season for Thursday Night Football and joining NBC Sports for two playoff games – including the Peacock exclusive NFL Wild Card contest – she had to adapt her reporting style to news. There are several occurrences when Hartung reports on sports for the morning show, adapting her approach while displaying her knowledge and rapport with several teams and leagues.

“The stories you’re telling are different, and it kind of goes back to the way you want to make fans care about the games; the way you want to help raise that level of investment fans have – and when I say fans, I mean the TODAY show audience,” Hartung said. “I really enjoy that I get to help the TODAY show audience invest more in their care of the NFL.”

Part of the Thursday Night Football game crew attended Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas and celebrated when reports emerged that the outlet had landed the rights to exclusively stream an NFL playoff game next season. Prime Video is reportedly paying $150 million for the contest, which will take place during the Wild Card round. It remains unknown whether it will be the only streaming-exclusive presentation.

“I think it’s a credit to the work that we’ve put in through these two seasons,” Hartung said. “Our crew with a playoff game – it’ll be good TV. I love the way I feel like our crew on the whole is different and is unique in the scheme of the NFL broadcasts, and I think that we have a certain level of excitement and enthusiasm for the game each week that a playoff game will only heighten.”

As Hartung continues to excel as a news and sports reporter, she wants to be an asset to her colleagues and overall consumption audience. There have been moments in her career where she has struggled internally with confidence, one of which was her assimilation to covering the NFL.

At the conclusion of the first year of Prime Video’s presentation of Thursday Night Football, Gaudelli bestowed Hartung with the most improved player award. Humbly accepting the honor, she regarded it as a compliment and excitedly anticipated the second year. With innovation abound and a plethora of possibilities ahead, Hartung looks to perpetually improve both on set and along the gridiron.

“I feel fulfilled professionally right now in a way that I am just so grateful for,” Hartung articulated. “It sounds so cheesy when I say it that way, but it’s true. I’m quite literally getting to live out a dream, and I just hope I get to stay on this ride for as long as possible.”

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Day Spent With: ESPN Radio

“Every show that comes out has to hit our expectation to make sure we’re living up to the standard and what our audience is expecting.”

Derek Futterman

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Day Spent With – ESPN Radio

For our fifth Day Spent With feature, we sent Derek Futterman to Bristol, CT to learn what goes into a full day of programming at the ESPN Radio network. My thanks to Justin Craig and the entire management and on-air teams for making him feel welcome and providing full access to everything he needed.

If there’s one thing I love about Mr. Craig, and he was like this as a producer, he is always well prepared. In arranging the schedule for Derek’s visit, his entire day from 8am-6pm was accounted for. From meeting with the shows to PR to zoom calls with ESPN NY/ESPN LA to individual manager meetings, if there were issues to explore and people to meet, they were on his schedule. That type of detail is what sets great programmers apart. It’s why JC is one of the best.

Still planned for this series are days spent with sports television shows, a market manager, a social media manager, and a media buyer. We also left room for one additional project should something interesting come up. If you or your brand wish to be involved and have an idea you want to pitch, please email [email protected].

Now without further adieu, here’s Derek Futterman’s Day Spent With the ESPN Radio network.

– Jason Barrett

Some snow is still present on the ground at ESPN Headquarters in Bristol, CT, slowly melting away after a Nor’easter recently blanketed 13 inches worth of flurries above the town. Aside from a more strenuous commute though, this doesn’t slow down anyone on the 120-acre campus the network has called home since 1979. Beyond the entry gates are two adjacent digital centers, each containing colossal television and video production facilities with state-of-the-art technology. In the distance is the ESPN teleport farm that communicates with satellites to distribute programs to several million homes around the world. There are also plenty of network interfaces around the campus capable of disseminating audiovisual content via digital channels.

On this particular morning, two control rooms are filled with producers, directors and coordinators operating First Take on ESPN and the UnSportsmanLike simulcast from ESPN Radio on ESPN2. There are also researchers and loggers monitoring the news cycle and compiling information for use across network properties, always ready to react to breaking news or haste developments.

Up the stairs on the second floor are studios used for award-winning television broadcast institutions, including Sunday NFL Countdown, Outside the Lines and the network’s flagship program, SportsCenter. The original desk, chairs and backdrop are on display in the building next door, accessible by a skybridge spanning over a heated outdoor patio.

The journey towards the ESPN Radio studios continues through several hallways adorned with production facilities, offices and sports memorabilia. Those inside the building complex have transformed and innovated sports media as we know it, seeking to live up to its mission statement and providing value to consumers and partners. Turn a corner and down a long hallway displays a sign with the ESPN Radio logo, identifying the primary location of the division that was first established in 1992.

The radio section of the building contains several studios and control rooms, many featuring radio boards and remotely-operated cameras. There are microphones outfitted with the ESPN Radio mic flag, the heralded letters carrying ethos and prestige serving as a reminder of its sublime history and ongoing journey.

Outside of the studio where the network launched Mike & Mike is the office of Justin Craig, senior director of network talk and operations responsible for overseeing the ESPN Radio vertical. Although his days include several meetings and managerial tasks, he has not lost sight of the formatics and fundamentals of radio broadcasting and connecting with listeners.

“Every show that comes out has to hit our expectation to make sure we’re living up to the standard of what our audience is expecting,” Craig said. “There is an expectation that we’re providing them the information that they need with the personality they expect.”

Craig occupies an office previously used by Stephen A. Smith with a clear view of the fight song corridor dedicated to college football. On the top of a writable wall, he has enumerated ‘relevancy, relatability, ratings/revenue and relationships,’ adding them all together to reach a summation equivalent to ‘results.’ All of these factors ascribe the audience, which patronizes the programming and offers feedback in the form of compliments, criticisms and suggestions.

“You have to make sure that you’re focused on putting content out there that is smart, curious and focused on making a person that’s listening want to listen longer,” Craig said. “I’m going to get my impressions and my audience to stick if I’m interesting, curious and if they can learn something along the way.”

A New Sound on ESPN Radio

The top right corner of the wall has the ESPN Radio lineup listed for reference, which was revamped last fall featuring a blend of established and new radio hosts. While the network opted to alter its complete programming slate, the move was necessitated by company layoffs and a deeper radio partnership with Good Karma Brands.

Morning radio co-hosts Keyshawn Johnson and Max Kellerman were affected by these layoffs, while co-host Jay Williams re-signed with the outlet but moved away from the weekday radio lineup. Evan Cohen, Michelle Smallmon and Chris Canty were installed into mornings, hosting the new simulcast program, UnSportsmanLike, commencing a new era for ESPN Radio and its affiliates.

Megan Judge, senior director of marketing and events for ESPN’s audio portfolio, explained that the hosts of the show have immense talent but are still becoming familiar to a national audience. As a result, the company has adopted a personality-driven approach to promote their content to consumers to help showcase the program. Judge is ultimately focused on demonstrating the value of being an ESPN Radio affiliate by leveraging their properties and personalities to help drive ratings and revenue growth.

“With UnSportsmanLike, we have the ingredients to bake an incredible cake,” Judge said. “Chris, Evan and Michelle are true professionals; they’re fantastic at what they do; their chemistry is great.”

Even though the program films at the ESPN South Seaport Studios in New York City while being produced in Bristol, the synergy between the crew is hardly inconspicuous. Show producer Nuno Teixeira is at the studio by 4am and listens to SportsCenter All Night in addition to sound from the night before. Before the start of the show, he brainstorms with his colleagues and amends the rundown that has been compiled from the prior day. The program then begins its four-hour foray with regular communication between the radio and television productions for the program.

As the show reaches its conclusion, associate producer Pat Costello and board operator JoVante Lawrence complete several tasks, including editing audio and uploading clips. Television producer Mark Morales takes the walk from the digital center to the radio facilities to participate in a brief post-show meeting before watching as the hosts record audio promos for the next day. Craig and other executives routinely offer assistance and suggestions for the programs – which also comes through weekly listening sessions with every show – but they ultimately trust their employees to execute the job for which they were hired.

“I do my best not to hover because you have to entrust upon them, but you’re educating across the way by listening, chiming in [and] by offering up feedback on a regular basis,” Craig said. “That’s why I so appreciate the listening sessions that we do for everyone to continue that bond and partnership with each and every person that we have here.”

Good Karma Brands and ESPN Radio

Cohen also works for Good Karma Brands as its vice president of content, responsible for interfacing with market managers and content directors to benefit fans, partners and teammates. The media conglomerate owns several ESPN-affiliated stations in cities such as Chicago, Milwaukee and West Palm Beach, possessing control over operations and content. The company also operates ESPN New York 98.7 under a local marketing agreement (LMA) and handles marketing and sales, responsibilities for which Cohen is not directly responsible. The New York and Los Angeles-based ESPN Radio affiliates continue to manage their own content after each lost its program directors – Ryan Hurley and Amanda Brown, respectively – during the aforementioned company layoffs.

ESPN New York is set to depart its 98.7 FM frequency that it has been leasing from Emmis Communications since 2012, a decision made by Good Karma Brands that will end the LMA. Data compiled by Good Karma Brands demonstrates that 60% of ESPN New York listenership occurs outside of terrestrial radio.

Although ESPN New York recently lost the New York Jets to Q104.3 and iHeartMedia, it has retained the MSG Radio Network consisting of the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, focusing on digital distribution enabled through its last media rights extension. At the same time, the station’s programming will remain available on the 1050 AM frequency owned by Good Karma Brands, a refined proposition those at ESPN are preparing to actualize.

“I feel we’re just going to do the same content and our listeners will find us no matter where we are, but my challenges as a programmer may be different from those of a seller,” said Jonathan Winthrop, manager of audio operations at ESPN New York. “I don’t necessarily have to convince anyone other than the audience where we are. A seller may have to convince their current clients that nothing’s changing [and that] we’re going to do the same robust numbers regardless of where we’re putting our content out.”

Winthrop frequently meets with Craig to discuss the content and strategy, along with relaying information from Good Karma Brands. Additionally, he and Greg Bergman, manager of audio operations for ESPN LA 710, speak several times a week pertaining to the trajectory of the outlet. Bergman shared that he had constructive one-on-one meetings to help talent improve and expressed that the station is in its best place in years with everyone pulling in the same direction.

Last summer, Good Karma Brands assumed responsibility over operations and sales for ESPN Radio and the company’s podcast entities. Shortly thereafter, Good Karma Brands founder and chief executive officer Craig Karmazin and president Steve Politziner traveled to Bristol to meet ESPN staff. After the typical introductions and pleasantries, Karmazin asked a question and received a straightforward response from a member of ESPN that was largely expected.

“Craig just kind of paused and he said, ‘Is that a real no or is that an assumed no?,’” Judge recalled. “It’s a simple question, but it sort of put me back on my heels that I think with where audio falls in the priority list for ESPN and the day-to-day of being part of a really, really, really big organization, I think we had gotten into the habit of taking assumed no’s or sometimes not even asking the questions internally about, ‘Could we do this?,’ or, ‘What if we tried to make this happen?’”

Since partnering with Good Karma Brands, Judge has detected both a new energy and new sense of possibility within the building. While outside critics have argued previously that ESPN Radio was losing some of its luster, internal operations carried optimism and excitement surrounding the expansion of a decades-long business venture. Craig believes that the entity is consistently evolving and possesses cognizance over the importance of consumer accessibility.

“Find me a location that is exactly the same now as it was back then, and I’ll find you a product that’s having challenges,” Craig said. “I’m thrilled with the direction that we’re headed.”

The Daily Grind at ESPN Radio

The broadcast of UnSportsmanLike coincides with the national morning television program, Get Up!, hosted by Mike Greenberg emanating from New York City. Greenberg’s setup, however, is somewhat unconventional in that he immediately makes the transition from television to radio within one minute. Because of this expeditious turnaround, he communicates with producer Brendan ‘Bubba’ Peregrin throughout Get Up! to prepare for his radio program. Furthermore, program co-host Paul ‘Hembo’ Hembekides diligently monitors the news cycle from Seaport and safeguards against overlooking key developments.

“[Greenberg has] been doing this longer than anybody, so the challenge was figuring out how to get everything switched over at Seaport in that minute SportsCenter and show open, but a lot of the topics are the same,” said Liam Chapman, program director for weekday shows at ESPN Radio. “If it works on Get Up!, it will work on radio.”

Chapman has worked at ESPN for over two decades, during which he has produced Mike & Mike and overseen programs such as Bart & Hahn and The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. Today, he is responsible for network scheduling along with #Greeny, Carlin vs. Joe and Freddie and Harry. ESPN Radio does not receive PPM ratings until several months after a ratings book, but even so, he emphasized how the sample size is not ideal for the amount of people who have the meter. As a result, a lot of the evaluation of his program relies on other qualitative metrics that implement his avidity and ear for radio.

“We all learned from Bruce Gilbert about the personalities to bring in, so for me it’s basically, ‘How do I feel? How do the hosts feel? How does Justin and the rest of the management team feel and how does the production team feel?,’ and I think this is the best we’ve felt about a full lineup in a good number of years.”

Before the start of Carlin vs. Joe, Chapman takes part in a pre-show meeting with the hosts and producers of the program. Throughout the half-hour discussion, there are several ideas brought forth for consideration, including creating a list of what producer Evan Wilner would do for $600, inspired by former late-night host David Letterman.

About 20 minutes before the show, everyone checks the rundown and makes the necessary adjustments to the lineup. Of course, that does not predicate any potential news, something Wilner emphasized to his colleagues in the early days of the program. Being situated within ESPN on its Bristol campus has advantages in this regard that facilitates adapting to real-time developments.

“We might only have four minutes in a break, but we will figure out exactly how to re-route the entire plan if need be,” Fortenbaugh said. “It’s a very fluid show.”

Fortenbaugh is largely working from Bristol where he also appears on various television programs such as ESPN BET Live, First Take and SportsCenter. Conversely, Carlin hosts the program remotely, a pattern that continues down the rest of the lineup. All of the hosts outside of a typical studio setup, which includes both Amber Wilson and Ian Fitzsimmons on the evening program, have the necessary technology to work effectively.

Remote Events, Studio Operations and Production

Outside of its talk programming, ESPN Radio broadcasts approximately 270 live play-by-play events annually, such as out-of-market NFL games, MLB postseason play and several NBA matchups among other properties. With the sheer volume of obligations in this department, Pete Ciccone is working several months ahead of time to make sure things are set and always maintaining a broad perspective. As the program director of remote events, he schedules update anchors and monitors station operations while ensuring fans are properly informed so they can intuitively find the game.

“Not every sport is the same in terms of distribution,” Ciccone said. “Most of them, thankfully, are on hundreds of affiliates as well as SiriusXM and our ESPN app, but it’s not one size fits all.”

Tim Thomas is involved in shaping the network’s messaging in his role as production director. Throughout the day, he is fielding requests from ESPN Radio properties and creating show opens, rejoins and general station imaging. Cayman Kelly is the primary station voice and someone who Thomas works closely with. No piece of production usually exceeds a 30-second duration, something Thomas attributes to dwindling attention spans.

There is clear cohesion and collaboration taking place daily across departments to create informative and entertaining content. Most of the talent pre-pandemic were Bristol-based and in studio for interviews and appearances, a point to which Chapman believes the network has returned. Despite Harry Douglas hosting his afternoon radio program remotely, the technology in the studios minimized latency and permitted real-time interaction with on-site co-host Freddie Coleman.

Coleman welcomed ESPN betting analyst Erin Dolan to the Freddie and Harry show for an in-person interview, taking place shortly after she finished filming ESPN BET Live. Since the show has taken the air, Dolan, along with many other ESPN personalities, have been situated in the radio studios for guest spots and provide unique insights and perspectives on sports news. Show producer Shannon Penn has an outline of Dolan’s segment loaded into AP ENPS, which allows Coleman to reference it in real time and keep things on schedule.

“Even though Harry wasn’t there, the chemistry between Erin and Freddie was so good and the chemistry between Freddie and Harry is so good that it just makes for a better interview,” Chapman said. “All the interviews in studio just are better, and I think it’s because of the face-to-face.”

Weeknights and Weekends on ESPN Radio

The studios are situated in a central location on campus that provides ease of access to other areas around the network. Furthermore, there is updated technology and streaming functionality both for audio and video, positioning each for success.

The people within these studios, however, represent the engine that keeps the train moving forward at all hours of the day to provide over 9,000 hours of talk and event content every year. With affiliates around the country in most of the top marketplaces, it is imperative that the network recognizes the time difference and broadly appeals to the target audience. Continuing its content flow for weeknight shows – Amber & Ian, GameNight and SportsCenter All Night is Mike Urrunaga – who works hours outside of the standard 9 to 5.

Urrunaga frequently attends meetings in the late-morning before arriving on campus in the afternoon to meet with producers and monitor new developments. In addition to the fans, the weeknight programs are integral resources for the morning shows to utilize as they prepare to take the air at dawn.

“We’re very much trying to generate, ‘Okay, here are some topics that you would want to talk about that you can talk about,’” Urrunaga said. “We look at the rundowns that they have setup in the afternoon to be like, ‘Okay, is there something that they are looking at that we can add to depending on what’s going on in the evening?’”

Stosh Cienki, who is the program director of weekend shows for ESPN Radio, works to deepen listener relationships and progress conversations that took place during the weekdays. His work week begins on Wednesday and runs through late Sunday night. His responsibilities include listening sessions, scheduling, planning future events and of course, meetings. Along with his weekend duties, Cienki serves as a mentor to his colleagues, offering advice to streamline their development and processes.

“A lot of the producers we have here are young,” Cienki said. “As someone who’s been here as long as I have and having gone through many different shows, that’s an area where I probably have the biggest impact – just trying to develop guys who have only been here a year or two and show them the right way to prep and get ready for these things.”

Serving Sports Fans. Anytime. Anywhere.

At the end of the day, several ESPN Radio staffers drive across the street to a full-size gym owned by the network to participate in a company-wide volleyball league. The intramural offering is one of several during the year and something Craig found out ahead of last season. Having played volleyball in the past and being recruited by his colleagues, he decided to participate and has subsequently demonstrated his skills on the court. Stepping away from the speakers and connecting outside of the building ultimately fosters friendships and builds rapport, intangible features of the new lineup those at ESPN Radio hopes it is emitting to consumers.

“It’s cool because you want to have those outside-of-the-office activities that allow that camaraderie,” Craig said. “Talk about a culture – that’s where your culture is created.”

While the management team of ESPN Radio has a wide array of responsibilities, everything ultimately centers back to what Craig has prominently displayed in his office. In order to produce successful results, there is a harmonious consensus that relevancy, relatability, ratings/revenue and relationships are the means that comprise the whole.

This is put into effect through a strong workplace culture that promotes friendships, teamwork and a sense of belonging combined with discernible passion for the craft. Those involved in the ESPN Radio operation genuinely enjoy their occupation and look forward to connecting with listeners by remaining dedicated to the the company’s overarching objective, “Serving sports fans. Anytime. Anywhere.”

“Many hosts have said it over the years – this is the toy store of life – and I consider it the universal language,” Craig said. “Everybody speaks sports in some capacity, but it’s the relatability aspect that gets them to stick around and want to do more, but you have to create that culture within the building and have strong leaders in it that are willing to help everybody grow and succeed.”

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