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No Fence Sitting Allowed

Jason Barrett




When you listen to sports talk radio today you’re likely to find a number of different styles in the personalities you hear on the air. That’s what makes each host unique. What shouldn’t be disputable though is the understanding and importance of giving an opinion!

Search around the country and listen to some different stations and personalities and see if you can pinpoint the following types of hosts.

  • A) The caller-driven host who puts the power of the show in the audience’s hands.
  • B) The guest heavy host who fills a 9 segment show with 7-8 guests.
  • C) The comedic host who offers jokes, bits, parody songs and downplays the importance of a serious topic. They often sound uninformed or uninterested in sports talk.
  • D) The stats/historian host who crunches numbers, shares old stories and is quick to highlight everyone else’s opinions and use them as a shield to avoid giving their own.
  • E) The strong opinionated personality who speaks their mind confidently and earns praise from supporters and criticism from detractors.

barkleyThe beauty of this format is that there are multiple ways to inform and entertain but of the 5 styles listed above, I find myself more drawn to E. The host who has something to say and defends their position with good sound evidence and is willing to engage in a compelling conversation with callers, guests, texts, tweets and colleagues, will always catch my attention first. I don’t have to agree with you, I just need to be moved by your opinion.

I can’t even count how many times I tune into a show somewhere across the country and hear a personality say “we’re going to talk about the Super Bowl” or “let’s chat about these coaching changes” and then spends the majority of a segment reading off the information and waiting for calls without providing their own point of view on the topic. It absolutely drives me nuts.

Of course you’re going to talk about the Super Bowl or coaching changes if they’re a timely story but why does it matter to you? What do you want me to think about? Be specific.

manincarPeople are usually in a car dealing with non-stop traffic, aggravated from a long day at work and they want a mental distraction to make them laugh, help them learn or get their blood pumping. Your style, presentation and view on the relevant material is what they care about when they put you on. If the subject matter is broad and you don’t define your position, they’re going to lose interest.

Anytime you’re on the air, you’re expected to share your perspective on the news, not break the news. That’s what reporters do and what sports updates, your website and Twitter are for. What you think of the information matters more than the information itself. Your opinion is what grabs people’s attention.

20 years ago people in sports talk focused on the result of a ball game and did the typical box score breakdown segments. Today the world is much different. People care much more about what happens outside the lines than what happens inside the lines. Case in point, there’s been more talk this week about the Patriots deflating footballs than the actual game itself vs. the Colts. Last year at this time, people spent more time discussing Richard Sherman’s post-game interview than they did recapping the Seahawks-49ers game. Need any more proof?

interesting2I understand that every personality does prep work and values their credibility so being right and informed is important but rather than worry about being right, the bigger focus should be on making people think and being interesting. That starts with a strong informed opinion and having the courage to stand by it and defend it with smart rationale and great research.

What sometimes worries me about our format’s future is when I hear newer broadcasters coming up the ladder, not focused on delivering opinion and instead worried about how many guests they have booked or how many people have called their show. To this day I have never hired someone who set a record for most calls taken on a show and I’ve never hired a host based on their guest list. I care more about what they do with a guest and caller than how many they can get.

I’m not going to say guests, calls, being funny and having information doesn’t matter because of course they do. They’re all valuable parts of a show but when you step back and look at a 9-12 segment show, there should be more focus put on delivering opinion on the content/stories of the day and telling the audience why you feel the way you do than anything else. The opinion is your main course, the guests, calls, soundbytes and extra bits of entertainment are your sides and appetizers.

fencesitting2During my years as a PD I’ve told a number of hosts that there is no “No Fence Sitting” allowed. I recognize that the only thing we control is our words and if we don’t take positions, defend them strongly and make our audience think, then we’re just background noise and people can find that in many different places. Standing out from the clutter is not easy and it’s even harder if you don’t take strong defined positions on relevant material.

The last thing you should want to be as a personality trying to connect with an audience is the equivalent of elevator music. Our job is to be clear, concise and definitive with where we stand on various issues and confident enough in our own skin to defend them, while also being open minded to hear the other side of the discussion.

Does it matter if the listener disagrees? No. What about if a team, player or front office executive doesn’t like it? Are they paying your check or controlling your brain? No. So stand up for yourself but be smart enough to avoid getting personal and open enough to give them a forum to counter your point of view. Good banter on a topic with multiple viewpoints makes for compelling discussion.

opinions2What if your peers think you’re crazy? Just be crazy enough to have a position and good rationale for why you feel how you do and they’ll get over it or come around to your way of thinking. It’s about delivering interesting content and when you are firm with your thoughts and prepared with information to support your position, more people will connect with you than tune you out and after all, that’s the name of the game.

Sometimes personalities lose sight of this and need to be reminded how important it is and to get their attention over the years I’ve been known to dish out a few silly gimmicks that get their attention. In a few instances I’ve pulled out a green pillow and offered it to a few hosts so their asses would be well protected while sitting on the fence. Usually it’s led to a good laugh and a host realizing that they need to be more authoritative and not dance around the subject.

I’ve also given out a few nails and dollar bills to let a person know they nailed an opinion or provided something great and I’ve given out a compass to ask them if they knew where they were going with their stance. While it may be hokey, the point is to make one think of how their position has come across on the air. Most hosts forget that nobody wants them to succeed more than the PD that put them in the studio in the first place but sometimes even the best need a reminder that something wasn’t as sharp or as strong as it could be.

comfortzoneBased on my experience, usually it’s athletes who are just transitioning into the format who take the most time getting comfortable in this arena. Fortunately though, once you tell them they’re quick to adapt because they appreciate and respect coaching and want to make an impression rather than sound too guarded. That said, being comfortable taking strong positions does take some people time and while it may not always feel great, it’s critical to one’s presentation.

If there’s one thing to leave you with, it’s to remember to always have something to say and a good sound reason for why you feel the way you do. Listeners can get information from a myriad of places but those who stand out are the ones who are confident and comfortable enough to give an opinion and make it interesting.

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Rachel Nichols and Baron Davis Headline Final Speaker Announcements For the 2023 BSM Summit

“I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.”

Jason Barrett




The 2023 BSM Summit schedule is set. After months of planning and talking to everyone across the industry, I’m ecstatic to roll out next week’s agenda including making one final announcement involving seven great additions to our conference.

For starters, it is a pleasure to welcome Showtime’s Rachel Nichols to the BSM Summit. I’ve admired her work on television for years, and am thrilled to have her guiding a session which I think many in the room are going to really enjoy.

Rachel’s guest will be former NBA star Baron Davis. Baron runs his own company, Baron Davis Enterprises, and he has been active in investing in media brands, and exploring ways to evolve the industry. Among his areas of passion, athletes taking more control of their brands, and the media industry needing to improve its track record with diversity. I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.

Also joining the Summit are a few longtime industry friends. For starters, VSiN’s program director Jon Goulet is someone who I’ve known and worked with, and he understands the sports betting audio space extremely well. Jon and BetQL VP of Programming Mitch Rosen will spend time with another industry friend, Bryan Curtis of The Ringer. Collectively they’ll examine the state of sports betting audio on Tuesday March 21st from 3:35p-4:10p, and what they look for when it comes to sports betting talent, and how they determine what is and isn’t success in the sports gambling content world.

With Mitch taking part in the sports betting panel, Jeff Rickard of WFNZ in Charlotte steps into The Programmer’s Panel alongside Jimmy Powers, John Mamola and Raj Sharan. The session is scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 9:10a-9:45a PT. Ironically, all four of these programmers work for different companies, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they differ and where they align while navigating through a few sports radio programming topics.

Next, I’m excited to introduce a social media session with Karlo Sy Su of ESPN Los Angeles and Matthew Demeke of AM 570 LA Sports. If you look at the performance of their brands on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, they’ve each delivered strong audiences and engagement. I’m looking forward to hosting this one and learning about their processes, how they decide which platforms to focus on most, what they consider a social media win when analyzing social statistics, and how they develop their content process. Given our location, we’re calling the session ‘Social Media Goes Hollywood‘. It’s scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 3:35-4:10 PT.

I realize you’re not going to remember all of these session speakers and times off the top of your head, so to make it easier, log on to and scroll down past our speakers. That’s where you’ll find our detailed list of sessions/times and activities planned each day. We have eighteen sessions, two awards ceremonies, and two parties. Our kickoff party is presented by the WWE and takes place Monday March 20th from 7p-9p at the 1880 Founders Room. The ESPN Radio After Party takes place Tuesday March 21st from 6p-8p at the Lab Gastropub. Both party locations are in walking distance of the USC Hotel and our conference venue.

As an added bonus, thanks to the generosity of our friends at WWE, we will be giving away a pair of tickets to the first night of WrestleMania, and a WWE title at our kickoff party. WrestleMania takes place this year in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium on March 25-26. You must be present at the kickoff party to win either prize.

We’ll have more to share next week including providing an ongoing blog with session news and notes for our readers. We’ll also have a ton of content available on our social media channels so if you’re not following @BSMStaff on Twitter, @BarrettSportsMedia on Facebook or @BarrettMedia on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for?

The focus now shifts to finishing our creative for next week’s show, sending information to our speakers for their sessions, and finalizing our attendees list. For those who are attending, we’ll be sending out an email on Friday or Saturday with a complete list of names of who’s coming so you can plan meetings in advance.

If you forgot to buy your ticket after seeing months of promotion about the event and meant to do so, you can still do that, but it costs more. Students on the other hand can take advantage of a low rate established for college kids at

Putting this event together isn’t easy, but I’m extremely pleased with how it’s come together. We have a lot of smart, talented, and accomplished people making time to be part of this, and I appreciate each and every one of them for doing so. Now, it’s all about the execution. Hope to see you next week in LA.

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Sports Broadcasting Icon Al Michaels To Be Honored at the 2023 BSM Summit

“This is a man who has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer.”

Jason Barrett




If you work in the sports media industry you’ve likely heard someone along the way utter the phrase “don’t bury the lead“. I’m usually good about following that advice but I didn’t do that at our 2022 BSM Summit.

We introduced the greatest tandem in sports radio history, Mike Francesa and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo and it was a special half hour. Mike and the Mad Dog were reunited after seven years apart and every individual at the event knew they were witnessing something magical on stage. I created a Mike and the Mad Dog Award for the event, which went to Felger and Mazz, who were the absolute right choice to win it. Even Chris remarked ‘that’s the right call‘.

But I learned quickly that although the intention was right in honoring the industry’s current top performing show, when you have legends in the room and they’re in their element, the last thing you want to do is overcrowd them. The connection Mike and Chris had on the air became the gold standard by which we measure successful sports talk shows, and they didn’t need an award created to deliver a special moment, just two mics and 20-30 minutes of stage time.

As I began thinking about the 2023 BSM Summit, I knew there was an opportunity to build on what we started last year with Mike and Chris, and after talking to a few people who I trust and respect, the decision of who we would recognize became crystal clear. I believe it’s important to honor the greats in our business because those who leave a permanent mark on our industry deserve it. The man we’ve selected has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer. He’s worked with the best of the best inside the booth, has helped elevate the presentation and execution of in-game content for ABC, NBC and Amazon, and his call of the Miracle on Ice, the US Olympic hockey team’s 1980 gold medal win over Russia remains one of the best calls in the history of sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored and privileged to share that Al Michaels will join us on Wednesday March 22nd at the 2023 BSM Summit for our awards presentation, where we will present him with BSM’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michaels is one of America’s most respected sports broadcasting voices, known for his exceptional work on Monday Night Football (1986-2005), Sunday Night Football (2006-2022) and Thursday Night Football (2022-Present). He’s called the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Hagler-Hearns, the Olympics, the Indy 500, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown races, College Football and Basketball games, Golf, and more. He’s even held roles as the voice of the University of Hawaii, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants, and was in the booth in 1989 when an earthquake rocked the Bay Area during Game 3 of the A’s-Giants world series.

The Brooklyn native turned Los Angeles resident has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and owns a ton of hardware including five sports Emmy’s, three NSMA Sportscaster of the Year honors, the 2013 Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award distributed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award given out by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Though his trophy case may be full, we’re excited to add another to his collection to show our appreciation and respect for the impact he’s made on the sports media business.

A quick reminder, the BSM Summit takes place on Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California. Tickets are on-sale at

Be advised, we have started adding sessions and times on the website. As always, the schedule is subject to change. Our final agenda will be posted by the end of next week. In addition, attendees will receive an email by next Friday with details of who will be in attendance. We hope to see you there.

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Rob Parker, Brian Long, Sean Thompson and Matt Fishman Join The BSM Summit Speaker Lineup

“I’m excited to welcome a few folks who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.”

Jason Barrett




As we gear up for our 5th annual BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023, I’m starting to get a better feel for how the final puzzle may look. When this process starts I have no idea how it’s going to turn out because so much depends on who says yes and no. Many who’ve attended over the years have complimented our lineups, and I appreciate it because I put a lot of time and effort into featuring a strong mix of professionals from different areas of the industry. Though I’m proud of the work we do and the schedule we deliver, there are so many things pursued leading up to the event that I can’t help but wonder ‘what if this or that had worked out?’

One thing that some folks don’t understand if they haven’t been to the show before is that this is not a talent conference. It’s a sports media business conference. That means we feature radio, TV and digital executives, programmers, researchers, sales professionals, and yes, talent. I believe on-air performers are vital to the industry’s success and I want the best of the best sharing their wisdom with everyone in the room, but we’re also not going to do two full days of on-air conversations. Being successful in sports media requires understanding the on-air side and the business side, and we do our best to offer a blend of both.

For today’s announcement, I’m excited to welcome a few sports media pros who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.

First, Rob Parker is someone who has made a name for himself as a radio host, writer, TV commentator, and teacher. He’s currently heard weeknights on FOX Sports Radio, teaches students at USC Annenberg, writes for Deadspin, and is helping MLBBro gain awareness and a bigger mainstream media presence covering Major League Baseball. He’s experienced, smart, and never short on opinion. I’m looking forward to having him join Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score/BetQL, and Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports Radio for a session titled “Aircheck On Campus“. They’ll take the stage together on Wednesday March 22nd from 2:10-2:45.

My next three speakers, all come from the sports radio programming department.

Matt Fishman is the Director of Content for ESPN 850 Cleveland. Fishman has been with the brand since January 2020 following stints at SiriusXM, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 670 The Score in Chicago. He even wrote for BSM for a few years.

Sean Thompson is responsible for programming decisions at Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM. He joined the well respected Phoenix brand after more than a decade in Atlanta at 92.9 The Game. Sean has also worked in affiliate relations for Westwood One, and on the air and as a programmer in music radio for Good Karma Brands in Madison, WI.

Brian Long is the program director of both San Diego Sports 760 and KOGO 600 in San Diego. In addition to guiding two of the top talk brands in his market, he has also managed Seattle Sports 710, and served as the Assistant Program Director for ESPN LA 710.

Matt, Sean, and Brian will be part of one of our final sessions on day two of the Summit. The Last Call which yours truly is hosting, will explore unique revenue opportunities created by local brands, and examine a few new ideas and missed opportunities that brands and managers may want to take advantage of in the future.

As of today, the Summit has more than forty accomplished professionals taking the stage at the Founders Club at USC’s Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023. I’ve got a few others still to announce as well, including a few cool giveaways planned for the WWE’s Kickoff party.

If you haven’t bought a ticket and wish to be in the room, visit The last day for ticket sales will be Monday March 13th. I’m hoping to release our final schedule of sessions on Tuesday March 14th. Hopefully I’ll see you in the city of angels.

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