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Keys To Being a Good Interviewer

“You may not know John Sawatsky’s name or face but if you watch any of ESPN’s programming, his work is on display every single night.”

Jason Barrett

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During my 20+ years in the sports media business I’ve learned from many great leaders, personalities, friends and rivals. I subscribe to the theory that you should always keep looking for ways to challenge yourself, and one area where improvements can be made in our business is when it comes to conducting interviews.

While spending 2+ years at ESPN in Bristol, CT, I had a chance to sit opposite Dan Patrick on a daily basis. I learned what a good interview should sound like. In my humbled opinion Dan is one of the best of all time when it comes to interviewing people.

Equally as important and even more of a factor on my growth were the training sessions I had a chance to participate in with the architect of interviewing John Sawatsky. Most people won’t know John by name or face but if you watch NFL Live, Baseball Tonight, SportsCenter or any other form of ESPN programming, his work is on display every single night.

John created a workshop built around eliminating what he referred to as the “7 Deadly Sins of Interviewing” and in this blog I’m going to take you through each of those sins and explain why his methods make sense. Most of what’s laid out below is what John passed on during the training sessions but I’ve since changed some of the audio samples and a few of the teachings to make it more adaptable to my style and those I’ve worked with.

Keys To Being a Good Interviewer

Interviewing is one area of journalism that has NOT improved over time. Everything else has, but this is one skill that has gone down. The question and interview are two different things and have different designs. Questions are very powerful and fragile and are in place to generate response and receive information. The interview as a whole is supposed to contain a series of questions which will help us better understand and learn new information about the individual or subject we are speaking with.

Yet often the broadcaster sleepwalks through interviews and throws any questions out there without a specific purpose. In certain situations the interviewer aims to become the star of the conversation and create conflict and visual drama which for the entertainment portion of television or radio may be good but for the purpose of the interview doesn’t deliver what it was intended to do.

Part I: The Question

We look at a car and we don’t know how it works. We like it until it breaks down. The mechanic knows how to fix it. The mechanic is professionally trained and knows about the moving parts. You are the mechanic for your interview. You need to know the moving parts for when your interview breaks down.

Why did CBS fall flat in interviewing Phil Mickelson after the Masters?

We blame the car — it’s a lousy car. “No one can make Phil interesting.”

The answers you get are a function of the question asked.

Every question has two purposes: big and little.

Your question is the only tool. No one HAS to talk to us. We have to rely on questions. We use the question to move it along from Point A to Point B. Each question is moving it forward. That movement is the Big Purpose.

The question’s small purpose is to gather information incrementally. But the big purpose and small purpose are separate. Like the transmission and engine of car. You need both, but they are completely different.

Simply defined: A question is an inquiry into something.

If you can name something, you can deal with it. The name “West Coast Offense” communicates meaning without having to describe the whole system. So we will define terms.

Question = Topic + Query

If you understand that, you can ask questions with amazing precision. Think of a non-digital camera. The lens determines what’s in the picture. The shutter makes the camera operate. Lens is your topic – what you’re looking at. Shutter is the query – what does the work.

DEADLY SIN #1 — NO QUERY

About 20 percent of what we ask doesn’t have a catalyst, an engine.

EXAMPLE – Barbara Walters with “The Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin’s Wife

Q: “You’ve lost him and you feel that you were blessed”

A: “I feel I was so blessed”

The query could be, “How can you feel blessed by losing the one you love most” or “Why do you believe you were blessed when you’ve just lost the one who mattered most to you”?

Both examples put the guest in a position to describe and explain rather than confirm or ignore. The content is a result of the process. Rapport is great, but it’s not necessary. A statement proclaims something. A question creates a demand. We have to make our questions do the work to get people to talk to us.

EXAMPLE – Texas Rangers OF Josh Hamilton on ESPN

Q: “When you were in the worst of the worst it just took over”

A: Consumed me. I was basically killing myself inside.

How could the question have been asked to get Hamilton to elaborate further?

EX: “What led to this disease getting the better of you?” “Why was this disease able to take control of you?” “How did this become as bad as it did?”

Once again, if the question asked is delivered with the intention of getting the subject to describe, explain and inform, we’ll learn more new information and deliver better results.

The query is akin to blocking and tackling. It’s basic to making everything work.

DEADLY SIN #2 — DOUBLE-BARRELED QUESTIONS

This is even more popular as a sin than the first deadly sin. This is when the interviewer elects to present the guest with two questions at once. Almost every time the guest is going to select the less challenging portion of the discussion.

EXAMPLE – Katie Couric with Barack Obama

Q: If you believe Afghanistan is the central front in the war on terror, why was this your first trip there and why didn’t you hold a single hearing as chairman of a sub-committe that oversees the fighting force there?

A: Actually the sub committee that I chair is the European sub-committee, and any issues related to Afghanistan were always dealt with in the full committee. Precisely because it’s so important. That’s not a matter that you would deal with in a sub-committee setting.

Obama goes to the one he prefers. People default to the safest, most favorable, least dangerous question.

EXAMPLE – Keith Olbermann with Hillary Clinton.

Q: What do you think of the draft Gore stories and do you think even after all this time that you’ll wind up facing him still in the primaries?

A: I’m hoping he wins and I’m waiting to hear the announcement from the Nobel committee and I hope that we give that well deserved honor to VP Gore.

We typically do this because we are in rush, want to narrow or broaden focus, want to get the story in, for dramatic effect (especially on TV). A single barrel question hanging out there doesn’t seem like that much. Often it’s because we are trying to overcome our own internal doubt about our first question. Sometimes it’s because we want to hear our own voice. And sometimes we just don’t know what the question is.

Those are only some of the reasons. Sometime you just build up too much momentum. You have to slow down before a stop sign. When we finish the question, our voice drops. Sometimes the second question is just to get the voice from 50 mph to 0. But the damage is done. The double barreled question gives the subject a ramp off the highway. You do not want to do that.

DEADLY SIN #3 — OVERLOADING

A question can’t support a topic that is too broad, or multiple topics. “What do you think about sports?” is just too broad. In the case of overloading, this is when the interviewer tries to jam 3-4 and sometimes even 5-6 questions into one exchange. Once again you’ll find the guest picks and chooses what part they wish to respond to.

EXAMPLE – Bill O’Reilly Interview of Howard Stern

Q:  So 80-100 million a year go into your corporation. You go on Sirius the satellite radio channel. How are they going to make a profit? How many people are going to go over and what are they like, $50 bucks for a subscription?

A: Is it my problem if they make a profit? Is that my worry? They paid me to go there and entertain the people and that’s what I’ll do

Howard gets defensive and answers the first part and never addresses the challenges of expecting consumers to pay for the product or touching on what he believes the future growth of the company will be due to his arrival.

EXAMPLE – Steve Kroft’s interview with Bill Clinton after the Jennifer Flowers rumors surface

Q: You said that your marriage has had problems. What do you mean by that? Does that mean you were separated? You had communication problems? You contemplated divorce? Adultery?

A: I think the American people, at least those who have been married know exactly what that means.

Clinton is bombarded with too many things at once to address anything specifically so once again the guest gravitates to the area that’s easiest to deal with.

Overloading is a cousin to the double barrel. Using the pizza principle: Usually the more toppings the better, for more flavor. With questions, less is more.

DEADLY SIN #4 — REMARKS

This is the most common violation of interviewing. Any time you put remarks OF ANY KIND in a question then you are offering another off ramp to the highway you’re trying to stay on. YOU DON”T NEED REMARKS. If you feel like you need to make a remark, then the question is flawed. You need to break up the question into several questions.

Newton’s Law: every action creates an equal and opposite reaction. There are no neutral remarks. Everything makes an impact.

Think of a fax machine. It has two functions: send and receive. Don’t go into send mode — giving information — when you want to receive information.

EXAMPLE: Mike Francesa with Joe Girardi

Q: Everyone talks about a fast start. It’s been so hard for the Yankees to get off to a fast start in the last 4-5 years. It’s part of being a veteran team. I don’t think it’s that I think it’s just probably being lucky health-wise and also getting your pitching ready to be ready on opening day. When you think about getting off to a fast start which I know you’d like to do I think it’s about getting your pitching ready.

A: I wholeheartedly agree. We have to get our pitching ready and we need to make sure all of our starters are ready to go and our bullpen is healthy and pitching is going to keep us in games.

Francesa simply dominates the discussion with his opinion and doesn’t ask Girardi to enlighten him at all about the club’s lack of getting off to a fast start. Instead he’s looking for validation to his opinion from Girardi which he receives but the end result is :30 seconds of chatter with nothing new learned from the guest.

EX: “Why has this team had such a difficult time getting off to a fast start?” “What adjustments have you made to make sure this team doesn’t come out of the gate slow this season?”

EXAMPLE: Sean Hannity interview with Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska

Q: I am mad at the Republican party. As a matter of fact I am re-registering in NY as a conservative. I consider myself as a Reagan conservative. I predicted year out that they would lose power in 2006 because I believe they’ve abandoned their principles on spending. They haven’t given a solution to our energy dependence. They haven’t controlled our nation’s borders. The earmarks they’ve got worse than the democrats. If republicans continue down this path they deserve to lose don’t they.

A: Well sure because the power is in the hands of the party that controls the congress in the white house.

The final part of the question gives them an out. The power comes from focusing a topic and subjecting it to them. When people want to escape questions, they will resort to a volume answer — they will take on a different premise. In this question, all Hannity did was get Hagel to agree with his opinion. Not once did he ask Hagel to provide insight or opinion on how he viewed the republican’s efforts. He didn’t ask him how he felt they were matching up to the democrats in the eyes of the public. Instead he just sought validation to his opinion. The result = no insight learned from the guest.

DEADLY SIN #5 — TRIGGER WORDS

Often when we interview a guest there are certain stories that emerge that we have to ask about. If we don’t we compromise our credibility. When difficult areas of a conversation arise it’s extremely important to stay neutral. By leading your question in a specific direction you place yourself in a position to have the interview go south!

EXAMPLE: John Stossel interviews pro wrestler Dr. D David Schultz.

Q: I’ll ask you the standard question. I think it’s fake.

A:: [Smacks him hard, Stossel falls down] – You think it’s fake huh?

Who attacked whom? This was a physical attack from the wrestler. But Stossel instigated, and those can be lasting and deep.

EXAMPLE: Andrew Dice Clay on CNN (there is foul language in this clip)

Q: You were a headline guy and now you’re coming back

A: I’m still a headline guy

Q: For a while you popped out but now you’re coming back

A: Coming back? It’s what I do.

Q: You were running a gym for a while. Tell us about that?

A: Running a gym? You’re supposed to be a news guy, where are you getting your information from? This is ridiculous, I come on CNN and the guy doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.

Every question is made up of words that each have independent meanings. Sometimes people will react to the meaning of a word. The trigger word eats the question. It sets someone off. You put a trigger word in your question, and you can just forget that the subject will answer.

DEADLY SIN #6 — HYPERBOLE

What is hyperbole? This is what comedians do. It’s great at driving home a point.

Leno: It was so cold that the accuser at Duke changed her story, she now said it was the ice hockey team.

When you’re hungry, you’re starved. When you’re bored, you’re bored to tears. Really? No one takes it literally. We use hyperbole all the time. It can be useful as long as it does not mislead. Was the shot really heard round the world? No, but this makes our copy colorful and gets the point across, so there’s a role for hyperbole — and that hyperbole is when we are in “send mode. ”

Think about a voice over. It’s job is to paint a picture and excite you BUT Hyperbole is bad if you are in receive mode. If you put hyperbole in a question, you are done. The focus becomes the excess in your question. And that excess is the exit ramp. We are communicators. We receive and send. That’s all we do. The problem is that each are governed by opposite principles. What makes you good in one makes you bad in another.

TV –the journalists who are the most colorful are usually the worst interviewers. They can send but can’t receive. The great exporters are lousy importers.

EXAMPLE: Ed Bradley with Michael Jordan

Q: There were times when you’d elevate to take your shot and it was like you had another gear up there. Like you were flying.

A: Well we all fly. Some just fly higher than others.

What is Jordan supposed to do with that question? It’s small talk with no purpose.

EXAMPLE: Barbara Walters interviewing Jon Benet Ramsey’s parents

Q: They call Jon Benet a six year old Lolita, a pint sized sex kitten.

A: That didn’t come from Jon Benet.

What do you expect a mother and father to say when asked a question like that? If the question was “How does it make you feel when you hear people say that your daughter was a 6 year old pint-sized sex kitten”? This now makes it about their feelings towards the question instead of disagreeing with the characterization of their daughter and based on the question, you’re likely to get a strong response.

If you put hyperbole in your question, you will get understatement in your answers.

DEADLY SIN #7 — CLOSED QUERIES

This is the worst one and as John Sawatsky would say “it has a special place in hell.” We ask twice as many closed queries than open ones. A closed query is a yes/no question. A closed query only works with an absolute topic — a topic that, like a coin, can only be one or the other. Heads or tails. No in between.

EXAMPLE: Larry King Interviews Paris Hilton

Q: Purpose of jail is to teach a lesson. Did it work with you?

A: It was a very traumatic experience but I feel like God makes everything happen for a reason

Q: Think it changed you?

A: Yeah definitely

Q: Read a lot?

A: A lot. I received fan mail from all around the world. So many letters.

Q: Nicole Ritchie. How’s she doing?

A: She’s doing great

This interview with Paris was a classic case of having a flawed plan from the start. The easy response is to suggest that Paris isn’t a good interview but listen closely to the questions and you’ll find that she’s led to pointless places and never put in a position to have to provide detail. Of all the interviews I’ve listened to in my life this one ranks right up there among the worst of all-time!

When interviewers land big opportunities and fail to take advantage of them, it can lead to national criticism from other media outlets. The last thing you want is to be professionally embarrassed for doing a poor job. Take a listen to the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News the following night and how they reacted to King’s interview.

Great interviews are ones that bring surprises, something we didn’t already know or didn’t expect. What is the problem with using a closed query for a topic that is not absolute? First, let’s look at the moving parts inside a query that work together for an effective question. (Don’t think about this in terms of content — that’s the paint on the car. We’re talking about the engine).

Review:
Topic + Query = Question

If a topic is not absolute, it must be relative. Almost all of our topics are relative. What we are trying to find out in most interviews is beyond absolute information. We want people to describe change that is incremental. A relative topic would be the position of a door. It could be open at different stages — half open, barely ajar. If you simply want to know if the door is locked or unlocked, then go ahead and use a closed query. Topics such as fairness, power, freedom, justice are matters of degree. Great reporters listen to what the person values and get them to go further than they have ever gone.

What poor interviewers do: when they don’t get answers, they blame the subject. But it’s the interviewer’s fault. Why not go for the confession? Isn’t that the best story to be gotten?

Here’s the danger of using closed queries with relative topics: The tougher the topic, the more your subject feels backed into a corner. You have given them only one extreme or the other. Morality is really good or really bad? No, there are many shades in between.

If you are trying to understand someone, especially on a sensitive subject, you must use an open query to create a safe zone for your subject to explain their side. With a closed query, a subject often answers a closed query with one of the two extremes offered. But once they have chosen their extreme — the yes or no — they can’t move. They’ll lose face. They are going to deny to protect themselves. They are not going to feel safe to explain themselves. This can even damage gathering information on a fluffy subject.

Conclusion

Have a game plan and ask open ended questions and put your guests in positions that require them to share their insights with you. The goal is to create an atmosphere which is neutral and invites the guest to speak about themselves and what they know while steering them in the direction you wish to take them in. Remember, you can still be tough with your questioning while being fair and you will always get a better response when asking questions that request an answer.

This is a game of percentages and while nothing is guaranteed, you will win more times than not by following these methods. Nobody bats .1000 but if a hitter could bat .400 instead of .300 they’d use the advantages every time up to the plate, interviewing is no different.

Here are two interviews that contain great questions and a smart strategy. You’ll find the momentum continues moving forward with each question, the guest is put in position to describe and explain and each interviewer keeps a neutral position which leads to gaining the information they seek.

Suzy Kolber of ESPN with former Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receiver Chad Johnson

John Sawatsky’s classic Beaver Interview example from Canada

Keys to being a better interviewer

The Primary Impulses
Safe
Favorable
Easy

The Intruders
Social
Professional
Personal

Communication/Journalism
Inputter                                     Outputter

Interviewer
Micro    Macro

Question = Topic + Query

Deadly Sin #1 = No Query
Deadly Sin #2 = Double Barreled Question
Deadly Sin # 3 = Overloading
Deadly Sin # 4 = Remarks
Deadly Sin # 5 = Trigger Words
Deadly Sin # 6 = Hyperbole
Deadly Sin # 7 = Closed Question

Verb Non-Starters = Do, Does, Did, Have, Has, Had, Is, Are, Was, Were, Will, Would, Can, Could, Should

  • Chart a Path
  • Set a Goal – Choose a direction
  • Locate the starting point – Before change/conflict/contrast
  • Connect the dots – struggle/reason
  • Select a route – When/What
  • Do It – Forward/Backward, On/Off, Enhance/Advance
  • Mop Up – U-Turns, Tangents, Less Important Stuff, Hunches, The Left Overs

Goal = To discover and scrutinize the change

Top 10 Questions 
10. What’s an example?
9. How did you deal with that?
8. What were the options?
7. What was the turning point?
6. In what way?
5. How would you characterize that?
4. Why is that?
3. What is it like?
2. What do you mean?
1. What happened?

Honorable Mentions
What is the effect?
What are the implications?
What do you make of it?
How does it manifest itself?
How did you feel?
What went thru your mind?
What was your reaction?
How did you arrive at that?
How does that work?

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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