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Why Losing a Job Can Be The Best Thing For Your Career

Jason Barrett

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There’s an old saying in the media business that you haven’t worked in the industry until you’ve been fired.

The first time that line was uttered to me I thought it was ridiculous. I was naive and believed that if you showed up, worked hard, delivered results, and treated your co-workers well, that would be enough to keep you employed.

Then I learned the hard way why it’s called the radio “business“.

Jason studioEarly in my career, I was working for a radio station in Poughkeepsie, NY. The morning show I was producing and providing news reports for wasn’t producing the numbers that upper management were looking for. After making numerous changes to try and elevate the ratings, our General Manager felt a change was necessary, so he cut ties with my crew, and hired a new morning show.

I had a good relationship with the boss so I figured I’d earn the benefit of the doubt to stick around. I was called into his upstairs office and sat down for an important conversation. Little did I realize entering his room that day that it would be the last time I did so.

He was very direct, and honest and told me that because the morning crew I had worked with did not deliver large enough numbers to command the business that the company needed to succeed, he had to bring in new talent to fix the problem. The challenge was that their addition would cost the company more, and increasing the budget was not an option, which meant having to trim salary in other areas.

I was then told that the only way to offset the added talent increases would be to let me go because my salary was too high. I would be replaced by someone with less experience, who’d make less, and that person would approach the situation with a fresh perspective, and great enthusiasm, which is something I’d not have been able to provide if faced with a major pay cut.

I sat there befuddled, trying to comprehend what was happening, and realized that a decision had been made, and it was now up to me to decide how I would let it define me.

I looked my boss in the eyes, shook his hand, thanked him for the opportunity, wished him the best with the new show, and promised him that he had not heard the last from me. He thanked me for my service, and told me he had confidence I would land on my feet and go on to do even bigger things in the future, and he hoped I’d remember the place where I started once I did.

As I packed up my office and left the building, I couldn’t understand why he’d praise me, and talk about my future being bright. All I could mutter to myself was “If you think I’m destined for bigger things, and recognize I do great work, then why am I heading home right now“?

Once I got into my house, and had a few days to digest what had changed in my professional life, I began to put the pieces together, and figure out where I wanted to take my career. I then started pursuing opportunities that I felt aligned with my goals, and I contemplated relocating for the first time in my career.

It took 2 months to gain employment in another market two hours away, and while that stint was rather brief, it became an important stop gap. The time spent there (Albany, NY) allowed me to detach myself from my previous situation, get my mind right, gain my confidence back, and put my focus into doing great work that would put me on the map and help me make a difference on a larger level.

As luck would have it, less than 6 months after moving to Albany, I was hired by ESPN Radio in Bristol, CT, and everything that I had gone through during the previous year became learning material and a big part of my maturation as a professional.

Jason and DPI remember driving to Bristol prior to my first day of work, and having some time to reflect on everything I had endured during the early part of my career. One of the most memorable and important parts of that journey was being fired. Had I not gone through that difficult period, I’d not have landed in the best situation of my career. Instead I would have remained where I was, doing good work, but not relentlessly pursuing my dreams, and making bigger contributions.

I also was able to step back and appreciate how I was terminated. That may sound crazy, but there is a certain way of cutting ties with someone that determines how they remember an individual and their experiences with a particular company.

What I valued from my discussion when I was let go, was that there was no promise of future possibilities, no smoke blown up my ass before parting ways, and there was no ridicule or sign of disrespect.

I was dealt with man to man, in a respectful but firm way, and that not only helped me gain more respect for my former boss, but it made it easy for me to want to keep open a line of communication with him. I’ve tried to remember that approach and use it when I’ve had to be in the same situation.

Terminating someone is never easy, especially when you form a working relationship with them and respect their work. Although I’ve handled some difficult situations well, I’ve also gone through experiences that I wish I managed differently. I’m proud of the fact that I haven’t mastered the way to let people go, because it’s not an area of the profession that I enjoy or seek to become an expert in.

Unless you’ve been in position to cut ties with an individual, it’s hard to understand what it feels like. People don’t see how it affects you the night before or the days/weeks leading up to it. You may want to be yourself around the office but that’s a lot easier said than done.

Contrary to what some may think, bosses wrestle with the conflict of having to do what’s necessary for business, versus thinking about how it will impact the individual’s future and their family. Most employees forget that the person delivering the message, usually isn’t acting alone in the decision process. They just happen to be the one saddled with the responsibility.

firedWhen a boss is charged with being the bearer of bad news, they’re often given instruction of how the company wants something handled. While it’s certainly smart to abide by your employer’s wishes, there are times where you have to step back, and say “screw it, this doesn’t feel right” and get the message across in your own way.

From the receiving end, when you’re hit with news that’s going to change your professional future, it’s impossible to see how it can be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes when we work somewhere, we get comfortable and stop thinking about other possibilities, and it can almost feel like we’re cheating on our employer by even considering other options.

What we lose sight of during those times is that tomorrow is not promised, and the years of service you’ve previously given to a company, don’t guarantee the next few.

As the events of the past two days at ESPN have unfolded, I can’t help but think back on what I went through and offer it as a positive reminder to everyone who is preparing for the next chapter in their careers.

The relationships you’ve created will remain with you, the impact you’ve had on others and the results you’ve produced can not be taken away, and the talents you possess will help guide you to a future opportunity that will make sense for you personally and professionally.

I know it can be difficult to think ahead when you’re focused on today, but if you have talent, confidence, passion, a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, and faith in yourself and your abilities, good things will happen.

dpsIf there’s one thing I know for sure, and this has been echoed by numerous people inside the media industry, there is life after ESPN.

Whether it’s been Rich Eisen, Colin Cowherd, Craig Kilborn, Bill Simmons, Dan Patrick, Bruce Gilbert, and Scott Masteller, or Charlie Steiner, John Seibel, Larry Beil, Rob Dibble, Michael Kim, Darren Smith, and Scott Shapiro, there are plenty of opportunities out there.

Your career isn’t over when you leave the four letter network. In many cases it’s just beginning.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at ESPN, and I’m sure many of the people who are experiencing these layoffs feel the same way. It’s a great operation, with a lot of great people, and no company has invested more in sports programming during my lifetime than ESPN. The work that gets done in front and behind the camera and microphone is second to none, and when operating from a position of strength, it can be a very special place.

However, we’re seeing a major shift in the way sports fans consume content, and those changes are making it harder for companies to operate the way they’re used to. We can all sit here and assess blame for why the company has lost viewers and money, but providing solutions to the issues is what will determine if the company rebounds and has future opportunities available to pursue.

Is there some greed involved in this situation? Yes. Have the costs for rights deals for LIVE sporting events gotten out of hand? Absolutely. But expecting a business to not want to generate the largest profit possible, and sports leagues to give their partners a discount because it might impact their personnel head count is unrealistic. It’s also beyond your control and not worth investing your personal energies in.

jbdylanWhat you can decide though is how you will learn from the experience, and rebound from it. 10 months ago I chose to leave a great position in San Francisco with no assurances that I’d land on my feet. By taking that risk, I now have my son living with me, my family close by, and I’ve started my own company and am enjoying every minute of running it.

There are many other great stories too of people who have gone on to make a giant impact in sports media after they had been written off at ESPN or another employer. You could be the next, but it starts by building off of your last experience, not dwelling on the past.

If we’ve learned anything over the years from watching sports, movies, documentaries and sitcoms, America loves a good comeback story. Now it’s up to you to create it. The biggest challenge of your career starts now.

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 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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