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Emily Kaplan is On the Clock During the NHL Season

“There’s only two things in the world that you can control: How hard you work; and how you treat other people.”

Derek Futterman



Courtesy: ESPN Images

Drifting through the gelid, frosted roads of Regina, Saskatchewan on a luminous winter day in the comfort of his Ford pickup truck, Connor Bedard is en route to the rink. He is the consensus No. 1 prospect in professional hockey drawing comparisons to Wayne Gretzky and is preparing to lace up his skates in the National Hockey League next season. ESPN reporter Emily Kaplan was in the backseat. The effort it took to get into that car started last summer. 

Kaplan connected with the young phenom’s agent and gradually engendered a professional relationship. She was told that Bedard, who is 17, would not agree to many media requests during the season, but Kaplan knew her end goal: to land a sit-down interview.

For one thing, Kaplan is indefatigable in her quest to augment her extensive skill set and enhance The Walt Disney Company’s fourth stint in producing national broadcasts of NHL games. As the rinkside reporter for the NHL on ESPN, she logs several miles traveling around the arena for each contest in order to conduct interviews and divulge critical information. 

She garners a wide array of responsibilities on a typical game day. She appears across ESPN programming, writes extended columns and feature stories and communicates with sources to break news, genuinely rendering her among the network’s most versatile talents.

When Kaplan ultimately landed Bedard for an interview in March, she and her colleagues made sure to produce a variety of different content. In addition to a sit-down interview, Kaplan spent time with Bedard in his truck and at the rink, all of which was captured on video. She then worked with one of the network’s video editors to write and ultimately voice a script for a 10-minute visual feature and also penned a 2500-word article detailing the experience.

“I’m always thinking of different opportunities because we are a multimedia company,” Kaplan said. “How can we take one piece of access or the opportunities that I get and share that across all of our audience and all of our platforms?”

When she is reporting in prime time, Kaplan often finds herself up against the clock, trying to convey the necessary information to viewers interspersed throughout the game action. When she is on the road, she returns to the hotel or sometimes catches a flight, relaxing and reflecting on her performance with purpose. Usually, there is little time for rest before the process begins all over again, especially during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I do understand that this is a grind of a time,” Kaplan said. “I’m probably not going to get the doctor’s recommended sleep every night. Planes are never conducive for sleep or hydration, and I just kind of have to live with it and accept it.”

Emily Kaplan in studio for ESPN's hockey coverage.
Courtesy ESPN Images

As the sun rose in Montclair, NJ. each morning, Emily Kaplan awoke and grabbed the morning newspaper to diligently read the sports section. Pouring over columns, statistics, standings and a litany of other information. She paired what she retained with observations gathered from watching games with her family. Her ultimate goal was to become a sportswriter. It was why she chose to attend Penn State University specifically because it was the only institution with a dedicated sports journalism major.

“My first week on campus, I was already asking people how I could try out for the school paper,” Kaplan said. “I wrote for the sports section of The Daily Collegian, which was our daily newspaper. I did that for two years, [and I] also dabbled as a columnist for a bit.”

Her journalism career, however, began long before her first week on campus, as she wrote columns for The Montclair Times. One of the local newspaper readers happened to be Sports Illustrated writer Peter King – who was also a friend of Kaplan’s father. He quickly took notice of her and reached out to offer words of encouragement. When she was in high school, King arranged for Kaplan to meet with a player and manager following an independent league baseball game. She ended up writing an error-free story on a deadline, a feat that impressed King and kept her on his radar.

Kaplan was at Penn State University during the time when allegations of child sex abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky began to come to light. Being a young journalist, she covered the team for The Philadelphia Inquirer as its on-campus correspondent and also provided other professional outlets an invaluable voice. From there, she joined the Associated Press where she worked as a stringer and continued to gain real-world experience and build her network. Throughout her years in college, she kept in touch with King and sometimes performed a variety of “odd jobs,” including transcribing interviews and researching for stories.

“He was just such a great sounding board for me as I navigated how to break into this field,” Kaplan said of King. “When he graduated, he had started his website on Sports Illustrated – the MMQB – and gave me some really good opportunities to write there.”

She wrote a variety of stories for the Sports Illustrated NFL coverage. Starting fresh off an internship at The Boston Globe, Kaplan had a deft knowledge of sports reporting at the local level and knew how to perform investigative journalism. From spending 24 hours with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to speaking with FOX reporter Erin Andrews about her civil trial and cervical cancer diagnosis; to chronicling the journey of Danny Watkins from football player to firefighter, Kaplan compiled a vast portfolio of penetrating, shrewd storytelling.

One story in particular she considers herself proud of involved former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. After a slew of events transpired involving the first-round draft pick that ultimately led him to be cut by the Browns, King tasked Kaplan to travel to Kernville, Texas to speak with people in his life. He wanted her to find a different, untold angle and she spent a week in the area to do so. 

Stationed in Austin, Texas, Kaplan fastidiously accumulated substantive details about Manziel, who was a perplexing and captivating public figure. In the end, she published a comprehensive article on the Heisman winner’s situation and what others had to say about him, drawing national intrigue and uncovering new knowledge.

“There’s only two things in the world that you can control: How hard you work; and how you treat other people,” Kaplan said. “I made sure that my work ethic was my number one defining characteristic. I’d always make the extra calls. I’d always try to find different angles or different people to talk to and make sure I got as much information as possible.”

Both of those factors assisted her in landing a job with ESPN in 2017 as one of two NHL beat reporters, but she joined the “Worldwide Leader” knowing it did not hold the league’s media rights. The possibility intrigued her because of a nascent ardor for hockey and the chance it provided to establish herself as a beat reporter. As she became more comfortable and settled into the role, ESPN and the NHL agreed to a seven-year media rights contract – and everything changed.

From the beginning, her goal was to get close to the action. When ESPN was trying to determine its broadcasters, reporters and contributors who would appear on the games, Kaplan’s hand shot up to ask for a chance at sideline reporting. Although she had reservations about people not getting to know her nor being able to tell a nuanced story, she bet on herself.

Twenty seconds on the clock. That is often all the time Kaplan has to present information or divulge a story to broadcast viewers, and being succinct in storytelling after writing protracted stories with extensive research and meticulous edits was an initial challenge. 

If she’s at a game, Kaplan is usually on the run. She does standup reports, interviews players in the tunnel and coaches on the bench and attends press conferences. The interviews with the coaches are particularly distinctive since they take place during a media timeout in the midst of the game.

“I have such a limited amount of time because we really are showing that clip as an entry point out of a TV break back into game action,” Kaplan said. “I think most times we get between 30 and 60 seconds, and I just want to make sure I’m as concise as possible in my questions and as direct as possible to get the most information out of them to support the broadcast.”

After the three stars of the game are announced, Kaplan is oftentimes interviewing a player from the winning team, usually doing so on the bench. It is at this time when her questions are designed to extrapolate facets of the player’s personality. Once the interview concludes, she makes it a point to thank players in their native language – a practice whose origin she cannot identify, but something she feels is essential in fostering professional relationships.

“I’m cognizant when I talk to guys where English is their second language of just how big of an ask that is [to put] themselves out there in something they’re not necessarily fully comfortable with in a lot of situations and trying their hardest,” Kaplan said. “My goal [has] always just been to humanize the game… It’s not very hard for me just to look up how to say, ‘Thank you,’ in the six or seven languages that NHL players typically speak.”

Emily Kaplan interviews Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson after a game.
Courtesy ESPN Images

There are times, however, when Kaplan feels she is not always treated like a peer by the men around her. Men have the opportunity to interact in different ways, such as going to have drinks with sources at a bar. Rumors would flow abound if a woman followed suit. It causes her to feel “othered” and can make her job as a reporter more difficult than it genuinely has to be.

“The athletes I feel like sometimes are a little too cautious around me or don’t really know what to make of me,” Kaplan said. “Those are the areas where being a woman, I do find to be a little challenging because I’m just trying to say, ‘Hey look, I’m just a human being. I’m normal. This is a job I’m trying to do and we can completely coexist and help each other out,’ but sometimes it’s not as natural as it would be just for two guys to have that social agreement.”

Through it all, she has received immense support and assistance from her broadcast colleagues, Sean McDonough and Ray Ferraro. Having them by her side is something she considers a lucky break.

“Sean is just such a consummate professional,” Kaplan said. “He does such a fantastic job just documenting the game in a way that feels really significant and gives it a big-game feel. He’s constantly empowering me as well. I know he’s had so much experience across so many sports covering so many big events.”

With Ferraro in particular, Kaplan has the ability to interact with him during intermissions since he is situated between the benches for most games. It is an atypical setup for a hockey broadcast, but one that works in Kaplan’s favor since it gives her a chance to discuss the game, ideas for questions and evaluate the broadcast piecemeal.

“I can vent to him. He can vent to me,” Kaplan said. “It’s a really great relationship in that way.”

Transitioning into the limelight and becoming a public figure was a stark change from writing, and with it brought heightened tangible criticism regarding her performance. There were moments during the first year where it truly bothered her. As a journalist, Kaplan asked herself “Why?” Through self-reflection and experience, she found the answer and has consequently diminished the people from whom she takes feedback. 

“While I’m there to serve the fans, I’m not there to please everyone,” Kaplan said. “I understand that people have different opinions of how I should do my job, but I’m only going to do the job the way I see fit.”

Even so, being able to define what encompasses a successful day of reporting is nearly impossible to definitively quantify, and one of the reasons she frequently seeks feedback. There are points throughout the year where Kaplan meets with executives about her performance and how she can improve, but through it all makes sure she remains objective and committed to reporting the facts.

“ESPN is a news-gathering organization, and we have a news desk that, to me, [is] sacred,” Kaplan said. “What they say is true because what we present to the fans is really important. Because I have a journalistic background, I’m constantly double-checking [and] making sure I feel super sound about my information.”

Kaplan is interested in shedding the stopwatch in the future, potentially considering chances to be an analyst or proffer her opinions on hockey. For now though, her next challenge will be more effectively demonstrating her personality as the clock ticks onward. She fears that some of her reports come off as “robotic,” and recognizes her sarcasm, sense of humor and inclination to engage in lighthearted banter.

“In the same way that I’m trying to bring out the characters of the game and really humanize them and create connectivity for the viewers to the players, I think that’s also important on the broadcast side as well,” Kaplan said. “As I get more comfortable in this, I think I’m starting to learn where to pick my spots [and] where to show some more personality, but it’s something I’m absolutely working on.”

The Stanley Cup Playoffs last for almost two months, and Kaplan is nearing the end of her bustling broadcast season. Over the course of a year, she travels to a majority of the NHL arenas, taking her across the United States and Canada, and also attends morning skates, practices and other pertinent team events. She considers herself fortunate to be in a position that keeps her close to the ice, but understands that working in sports media can, at times, be utterly exhausting.

Because of this, it is imperative Kaplan takes time away from the rink each day to recharge and ensure she is in the right headspace and has the bandwidth to properly do her job. When she arrives though, Kaplan is alert and ready for the chance to create moments that penetrate the bounds of time. Here, the stopwatch is shattered.

Emily Kaplan interviews Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon after the team's 2022 Stanley Cup victory.
Courtesy ESPN Images

“Being on the ice when the Avalanche are passing around the Stanley Cup and being the first person to interview the captain and the star players and the GM [and] the coach of that team – that’s an opportunity that I’ll never take lightly.”

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Matt McClearin is Not Just Filling a Void at The Ticket

“As much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

Derek Futterman



Matt McClearin
Courtesy: Matt McClearin

Norm Hitzges is considered an industry pioneer, helping establish morning sports talk radio in the Dallas area. Spending a total of 48 years in the format, he made an immense contribution to the field. When Hitzges officially retired in June, there were questions surrounding who would move into the midday slot on Sportsradio 96.7 and 1310 The Ticket to work alongside host Donovan Lewis. The station eventually made the decision to bring one of its own home in Matt McClearin, and he has excelled in the assignment since officially taking over in August.

McClearin, a Texas native who grew up listening to Hitzges and other programs on the outlet, is living his dream with the medium he set his sights on from the time he was young. Over the years, he had a chance to be around Hitzges and saw his elite level of preparation and congeniality firsthand.

“One of the kindest humans I think that I’ve ever met,” McClearin said of Hitzges, “especially in this business, and that says a lot, I think, about how to carry yourself. Even when you have success and get to a certain level, [knowing] the right way to treat people and the right way to go about your daily business.”

It is safe to say that Hitzges had an impact on everyone at The Ticket, and it is a legacy that McClearin hopes to further perpetuate. Every time he walks into the studios, it is not lost on him the magnitude of the assignment he has been entrusted with, and he remains focused and driven on realizing his full potential.

Reaching this point took endurance and patience, but the timing ultimately ended up working out in his best interest. Growing up in the metroplex, The Ticket was a fundamental part of the sports sound and represented McClearin’s innate ambition.

McClearin was selected by station management to work in paid positions for two years while attending Texas State University – production director and program director – which entailed 20 to 25 hours per week within the offices and studio. In addition to working on job-specific functions, he also used the time to perfect his editing skills and board operating procedures and gain on-air repetitions. By the time he graduated and sought to apply for a job, he surmised that possessing versatility would engender a larger swath of chances to become immersed in the craft.

“Originally, [I was] kind of practicing the craft as much as [I] could and learning as much as I could,” McClearin said. “I could increase [my] value, I think, of being able to walk into a radio station in Dallas in a Top 5 market and say, ‘I can run the board; I can do production [and] I can do on-air stuff,’ but not just talk.”

By happenstance, he learned that The Ticket was looking for a part-time sports anchor to fill in for various shows, leading him to send his demo reel to the outlet. After some conversations with station management, McClearin officially joined the team and became immersed in refining his on-air skillset with guidance from program director Jeff Catlin.

“He’s very hands-on [by], early on, giving you a lot of constructive criticism and helping you to learn the ins and outs and proper formatics and how to set up each segment correctly,” McClearin said of Catlin. “Doing things like that and having those opportunities [are things] I always enjoyed.”

McClearin eventually began working as a pregame and postgame studio host for Dallas Stars broadcasts. Moreover, he would attend Dallas Cowboys games and collect audio from the players and coaches to edit and send back to the radio station to be used across its programming.

Working hard and going the extra mile helped separate McClearin from his competition both inside and outside of the radio station, ultimately earning him a weekend show with Scot Harrison. His candid assessments of the local teams and ability to delegate on the show, indifferent towards whether or not he is the center of attention, have rendered his hosting abilities conducive to success.

“I’m just a big believer in being who you are and being real and presenting that on the air,” McClearin said, “so no matter what you’re going through or what’s different about you, there are listeners out there that can connect with that and understand that you’re being real.”

The program remained a fixture on the weekends before both hosts were offered the chance to become part of the weekday programming lineup, following sports radio luminary Paul Finebaum. This opening, however, would require McClearin and Harrison to pick up and move to Birmingham so they could broadcast from the studios of Jox 94.5.

Both hosts eventually agreed and spent the next three-and-a-half years on the outlet, growing a new audience and becoming an indispensable part of the evenings in the area. There are certain instances in any business that are fugacious and unexpected in nature though, and the show cancellation in 2016 was an example of such.

McClearin returned to Dallas to work as a part-time radio host on ESPN Radio 103.3 FM, an extraordinary circumstance in that he was in the same building he used to work in with The Ticket. The station was operating under a local marketing agreement (LMA) with Cumulus Media and competing with the very outlet they were sharing the building with, cultivating a professional atmosphere mired by the ratings. The onset of the global pandemic caused the station to shutter.

“It was one of those things where you’ve just got to believe in what you’re doing and believe that there’s an appeal to what you’re doing,” McClearin said. “You get hired for a reason, and you continue to perform and try to grow what we were doing at the time.”

Catlin continued to serve as a mentor for McClearin during his years away from The Ticket, a venerable radio professional who has helped further build the outlet into a local powerhouse. The station frequently posts stellar ratings each quarter, representing a place where McClearin feels he can grow his brand and show to unrealized heights.

“The goal is to be No. 1 in the ratings in our [demographic] and to continue that,” McClearin said. “That’s something that I think drives me every day. When you’re not No. 1, you want to know, ‘Okay, well why aren’t we No. 1?,’ and when you get to that point, the question then becomes, ‘Okay, well how do we maintain this and continue to go and be better and bigger than what we were the previous month?’”

Before he ultimately returned to The Ticket to work with Lewis in the midday time slot, there was a bit of irony in that he, once again, called Birmingham home. When McClearin’s original program was canceled, he felt as if he had assimilated into the city and found his niche. He was disappointed in the outcome and always thought of the area in a favorable light, which then led to his phone ringing with a call from program director Ryan Haney.

As fortune would have it, Haney asked McClearin if he would be interested in returning to the station to host a solo program as part of a refreshed local lineup. Without hesitation, he conveyed that he would be interested in making a comeback in the locale, a full-circle moment filled with feelings of both satisfaction and gratitude.

“I never thought that I would go back to Alabama, much less work for the same station that, five years prior, had made the decision to let, at the time, Scot Harrison and I go,” McClearin said. “….I never wanted to leave in the first place, [so] I was really, really happy and I’m very fortunate that Ryan believed in me and gave me that opportunity to come back.”

The dynamic of the show differed the second time around in that he was the primary host, yet he also had help from John Saber and Conrad Van Order. Being around the Birmingham audience for a second time gave him more chances to talk about college football, basketball and other sports topics dominating the local and national scene.

Moving from one marketplace more focused on professional teams to one that was dominated by college sports, he furthered his abilities and worked to finish at the top of the ratings.

“I say the things that I actually believe in and I talk about the things that I really do to where, yes, sometimes I think I probably do some weird things and I’m a different type of person, but that’s just my personality and I have my quirks and my eccentricities,” McClearin said. “Again, I think if I present that and that is me, then the audience understands that and I think it comes across that way.”

Just as he thought during his initial stint in Birmingham, McClearin was prepared to stay in the marketplace for the long haul and try to further cement his name in the radio airwaves. Being able to reconnect with the audience and discuss meaningful, impactful topics was validating and worthwhile for him, and he was especially steadfast to the outlet. After all, he never had a particular interest in voyaging to television and still, to this day, concentrates his efforts on growing and maintaining the sports radio format.

“My brain just doesn’t think like that in those three-minute little quips that you do,” McClearin said. “TV is just so much more structured and short than radio, where we can have a 15-minute segment and have a real conversation.”

The only way McClearin was going to leave the station was if The Ticket came along, and sure enough, an opening became available concurrent with Hitzges’ retirement. While he enjoyed his time in Birmingham, he doubled down on his commitment to the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace for the long run in making this move and conceding a solo program for a new co-host.

“When I got the call and went through the process with Jeff Catlin, [it] was a little bit surreal because it truly is a dream coming true,” McClearin said. “I found out that they’re going to put me with Donovan Lewis is kind of when Norm Hitzges decided to retire and I was going to walk in, [and] it’s really such a new show. Donovan and Norm had had such success for a while.”

As soon as McClearin took the air with Lewis for the first time, he felt an instant connection. Just a few months into the program, both hosts know there is plenty of room for growth and consistent improvement to create enthralling and proprietary content that will amplify cume and serve the community.

“We both are just two people, I think, that really care about the listener [and] what we’re putting together each and every day to make it the best that we can,” McClearin said. “So far, it’s been really easy and it’s been just – as much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

The Ticket is in competition with 105.3 The Fan in the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace, along with other media outlets across various platforms. Whereas the Birmingham market releases its ratings through quarterly diaries, Dallas has monthly figures through PPM, but he makes sure the influx of quantitative data does not command his mindset.

“We can all see the ratings that the two main sports stations here have – they’re very healthy ratings and I think there’s a real hunger,” McClearin said. “A lot of that is football-driven – the Cowboys, nationally, are crazy relevant. All the [networks with] NBC and ABC and FOX and everybody; they always want to put them on because the Cowboys drive the needle. Well, they also drive the needle in Dallas very, very much so.”

Understanding and capitalizing on the reach and relevance of the Cowboys helps these local programs gain further traction. Arriving unprepared equates to marketplace malfeasance.

“Prep is very important to me, and I like to try to come into the pre-show meeting that I have with Donovan and our producer Travis every day with my own ideas, but also, ‘Okay, Donnie, what do you think?,’ and then, ‘Travis, what do you think about that?,’” McClearin said. “From that and our own individual prep, we kind of do the show prep together [to present] the in-depth segments that we roll out.”

The majority of content focuses on the Cowboys since they are the team that exhorts the most interest in the area, but there are plenty of other storylines within the landscape. The Texas Rangers are headed to the Major League Baseball postseason for the first time since 2016, while the Dallas Mavericks organization enters its first full season with superstar guard tandem Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving. Sometimes, sports fans do not want to solely listen to discussions about the teams themselves but rather hear about other pertinent topics in which they may be interested.

“I like to call them, I guess, lifestyle segments because I don’t think anybody, even the most passionate sports fan, only does sports in their life,” McClearin said. “We all have relationships and we have TV shows that we like to watch, and we went to the store and [some] random thing happened. We incorporate that, I think, into the show, and I think that’s The Ticket itself. It’s a very real station that has real conversations with a focus on sports.”

Everything throughout McClearin’s professional journey has centered on reaching this moment, and he wants to maximize the opportunity he has earned by bringing his best to the air on a daily basis.

From the onset, he knew where he wanted to end up and took the necessary steps to get there, even if it meant enduring some difficult setbacks. By taking advantage of every opportunity in his purview, he has made it in front of the microphone, and he has no plans on going anywhere at any time soon.

“I want to continue to grow the audience and have as many people enjoy doing what I love to do as possible,” McClearin said. “I get a lot of motivation from that [and] just the excitement of driving into the station every day and the excitement of when that light comes on and it’s time for the show. It’s like being on stage to me; it’s almost like you just get kind of high off of that feeling, and I love it.”

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3 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Guest

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

Avatar photo



In my formative years of sports talk, the legendary Rush Limbaugh was at the absolute height of his popularity. Limbaugh had a very simple formula, nobody could argue against the success of that formula. Each hour was pretty much the same; a monologue or two, a sound bite, a few phone callers, and lengthy reactions to those calls. One thing that was absent was a guest, Limbaugh almost never had a guest on his show.

He was once asked about that and maintained there isn’t a guest that has the same passion for his show as he does so, why hand the show over to someone without that passion? It is an intriguing and thought-provoking strategy.

Each show has a unique approach to guests; the type that work, the length of the interview, the times they should be on. There is no cookie-cutter approach that works for every show in every market. I do think a strategy for a show as it relates to guests is absolutely crucial. Scheduling them without first answering a few “whys” would be a critical mistake. We only get so much time with each listener, few things can run them off like a bad one.

More on the “whys” in a moment but I first need to address what I believe to be a misconception. I often hear that a show is good because “it gets great guests”. That may be a plus for the listener but I refuse to believe it is what makes a show great.

Ultimately, a show is great because the entire production is entertaining. Guests are only part of what makes a show entertaining. Even two in an hour on a show still leaves the hosts having to fill the majority of the time. If they aren’t entertaining hosts, there isn’t a guest alive that makes the show good. All of that gets me to the “Whys”.

Why is this guest on?

There must be a reason to hand part of your show over to a guest. They must be extremely entertaining, covering a topic that is of great interest to your audience, or be someone you know beyond a shadow of a doubt your audience loves.

If you can get at least two of those three, you have a winner.

Otherwise, it feels like a segment filler and I think most audience members can spot a segment filler from miles away. I get it, I’ve done small market shows solo before and felt like I was the only one listening. I know the appeal of having someone to help fill a segment.

The truth is, it does more harm than good if it isn’t entertaining.

Why does this guest want to be on?

Every guest you have on has an ulterior motive. It is part of the transaction: They scratch your back and they get something out of it. The more they feel they get out of it, the more likely they are to give you a better interview.

Having someone who understands the value of a spot on your show will exponentially increase the interest and effort of that guest in their given segment. Simply put, if they’re not into it, the segment isn’t going to work.

I’ve seen shows chase the “big name guest” and the big name has very little interest in the interview. It shows. We once had a former athlete turned analyst on our show who was doing the interview on speakerphone while he was packing for a trip. He could not have been less interested in doing the interview and I still don’t know why he agreed. It was a show killer.

I don’t care how big the name is, if the big name just goes through the motions, it will be a failure.

Why is this YOUR guest?

Most topics you’ll discuss on a show have numerous possibilities tied to them. Rarely is there only one guest that can discuss that topic. Try finding the person who has the best chemistry with your show. Show chemistry matters when selecting hosts, I think it should matter just as much when selecting guests. It is likely your show has a unique personality of its own, lean into that when you are selecting guests.

As an example, my show is far more likely to discuss a player’s haircut rather than his NextGen Stats. When we have someone on, it is important to us that they understand that and isn’t thrown off by it. That is an understanding of the chemistry of the show and the importance of that to the audience. I think every booking has to be viewed through that prism.

Ultimately, I have always believed having no guest is far better than having a bad guest. If people are consuming your show, they already value your opinion and insight, don’t lend that audience trust to someone who will not value it to some extent. Rush Limbaugh may have taken it to extremes, he was good at that, and he was also correct in his assessment.

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

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Gregg Giannotti is Living the Dream at WFAN

“I don’t take it for granted. I appreciate every show, every hour and every minute.”

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Gregg Giannotti
Courtesy: Audacy

When Gregg Giannotti was hired as an intern at WFAN in 2005, he had big dreams. His ultimate objective was to not just one day get on the air at the legendary all-sports radio station, but to occupy a portion of WFAN’s prime real estate. 

In radio industry terms that means morning drive, middays, or afternoon drive and the Long Island native would embark on a career path that has taken him to the co-host chair of the Boomer & Gio morning show on WFAN and simulcast on CBS Sports Network.

“You never really know if it’s going to happen,” said Giannotti. “When it does happen, it’s sort of a shock and it took me at least six months to a year to realize that I was actually doing it and then you want to make sure that you keep doing it because this business is very fickle.”

After graduating from the WFAN newsroom, Giannotti became a full-time employee in 2007, becoming a board op and then a producer, most notably for Joe & Evan, hosted by Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. In 2008, he had his first opportunity to host a show on WFAN and then in 2010, he left New York to help launch 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. After six months as the evening host, Giannotti was promoted to host the morning show, a program that became the top-rated sports show in town. 

After five years in Pittsburgh, Gregg Giannotti returned home to New York to co-host the morning show with Brian Jones on CBS Sports Radio, and then in 2017 he moved down the hall on the 10th floor of 345 Hudson Street in New York City when he was named to replace Craig Carton as co-host of WFAN’s morning show.

“The fact that now I’m sitting here in year six with Boomer and it’s so comfortable, it feels so good and we all trust one another and we all really enjoy seeing each other,” said Giannotti.  “After the tumultuous way that everything started, the cliché is that it’s a dream come true but it really is. This is all I ever wanted to do.”

And he’s doing it with people who have had a big impact on his life and his career.

The legendary Eddie Scozzare, who hired Giannotti as an intern, serves as Boomer & Gio’s board op and is best known for his ability to play the appropriate “drops” at just the right time.

Morning show update anchor Jerry Recco, who will also fill in as host when Giannotti and/or Boomer are off, trained Gio in the newsroom during his internship.

Giannotti has always been a big fan of producer Al Dukes who has enjoyed a storied career and is a student of radio.

And then, of course, there’s his co-host, former NFL MVP and fellow native Long Islander Boomer Esiason.

When Gregg Giannotti joined the WFAN morning show, he had big shoes to fill in replacing Carton, whose arrest and prison sentence sent shockwaves through the station and the industry.

Boomer & Carton was a successful show for a decade and radio listeners can be creatures of habit. The audience loved the show and then, all of a sudden, there was someone new sitting next to Boomer.

When Giannotti took up residence in that chair vacated by Carton, he knew he had a huge responsibility.

“It was up to me to make sure that the audience didn’t leave and wanted to be a part of what we were doing,” said Giannotti. “You go from that day in 2017 where no one knew what their future was going to be and things were scary for a lot of people and their opportunities. You couldn’t have written a better script for the comeback story for Craig and how Boomer & Carton turned into Boomer & Gio and the radio station didn’t skip a beat in morning drive.”

Giannotti has been a smashing success because, as many people in the industry will tell you, he “gets it”. He has a clear understanding of what should go into a show, particularly a morning show, and that means knowing who your audience is.

Growing up on Long Island listening to WFAN certainly gave Giannotti a leg up on others who may have aspired to work at the nation’s first all-sports radio station.

“I grew up as one of those guys who would get in the car and have a miserable commute and put on WFAN,” said Giannotti. “What you try to do is to understand what your audience wants, what they’re expecting out of you, and in morning drive, you want to entertain. There’s a lot of times where you have to know the spot that you’re in and understand who you are and who your audience is.”

Being entertaining during a morning show is vitally important to being a success. The discussion is not always about sports and there are times during the year when the sports world, especially locally, could be going through a slow period. That’s when a morning show has to spend some time on pop culture, radio station drama, and politics and doing whatever needs to be done to keep the listeners engaged.

Gregg Giannotti was clearly born with the gift of gab and the ability to entertain, a trait that began in fourth grade when he started making fun of his teachers and doing something that he has been known for throughout his career…doing impressions.

“There’s an ability to entertain that I think some people have and some people don’t,” said Giannotti. “There’s an ability that some people are born with that can do it and some can’t.”

Clearly, Giannotti is in the category of those who can.

His long list of impersonations includes long-time legendary WFAN host Joe Benigno.

“Benigno is probably the easiest one,” said Giannotti. “It always gets a laugh and I think it’s the most authentic and the one that sounds the best so it’s definitely at the very top.”

Giannotti also gets everyone laughing with his impersonations of former WFAN hosts Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo but at the top of the list now is a New York sports executive.

“My favorite, if I could just pick one, is when I do the Sean Marks, the GM of the Brooklyn Nets, and his Australian/New Zealand accent when he treats (WFAN host) Evan Roberts like a little kid,” said Giannotti.

There are different paths to being a success in the radio industry. With technology today, there are those who go down the road of being a YouTube sensation or hosting a podcast in order to get noticed.  For Gregg Giannotti, the choice was to leave New York for Pittsburgh and work his way back home.

He will always cherish his five years at 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh.

“It was the best thing that I ever could have done because I took that risk,” said Giannotti. “I really needed that in my career to get me to where I am now because it was essentially like going to college to learn how to deal with all of the major things you have to deal with when you’re doing big-time drive time radio. It was perfect. I could have stayed there if things didn’t work out the way they did with my wife being from there. I had dreams of getting back to New York that I couldn’t let die.” 

And those dreams have indeed come true for Gregg Giannotti with the success of Boomer & Gio on WFAN.

“I don’t take it for granted,” said Giannotti. “I appreciate every show, every hour, and every minute.”

To succeed, you have to dream big and follow the correct career path. You also have to have the talent to entertain. Gregg Giannotti has certainly checked all of those boxes and the results speak for themselves.

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