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An Open Letter To The Class of 2016 (And Beyond)

Jason Barrett

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When you’re in a management role, you receive inquiries for employment on a daily basis. Heck, sometimes it’s on an hourly basis. Job seekers have many different approaches and strategies for getting the attention of a hiring manager, and depending on the style of the individual who’s making the decision, it may or may not work.

I’ve often been asked for feedback on what to submit on a demo, how to craft an email, and who to reach out to when chasing opportunities and I usually tell each person that there’s no particular formula and the results will vary. Some programmers prefer longer demos that are unedited. Others like shorter “best of” clips that get right to the point. One executive wants a quick one paragraph introduction, and the other prefers a cover letter, resume, references and extensive details about your background.

oneThese are important factors to remember when you’re pursuing an opportunity. All that matters is finding that one person and company who’s willing to give you a shot. Don’t take the rejections personally. Sometimes openings don’t exist, the fit isn’t there, or a manager doesn’t like you or believe in you. You can waste a lot of energy wondering why you’re not getting the nod, but that’s valuable time you could be spending on chasing the next situation.

It’s well documented that Michael Jordan didn’t make his High School basketball team, Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round, and 24 players went ahead of Mike Trout in the 2009 MLB Draft. I think they all turned out alright. If you prefer an industry example, watch this video of Adam Schefter talking about his climb up the ladder. If the top NFL Insider in our industry had to go through tough moments, you likely will too.

There is though one misunderstanding that I do want to address. A number of young people today are of the belief that by going to college and pursuing a broadcasting or journalism degree, it will open up the door for landing an opportunity.

Newsflash – it doesn’t!

graduateYes education is important, and a degree has great value, but if you think you’re going to land a job on the air with an established radio station or produce one of their top shows simply because you went to college, received your degree, worked at the campus radio station, and are smart and love sports, prepare to be disappointed.

What a degree often does is help you get inside the building. But so does going to a broadcasting school, having a relationship in the industry, or knocking on the door and refusing to take no for an answer. It’s what you do once you’re in the building that determines whether or not you stick around and get a bigger break.

One person who has a great read on this subject is Matt Sammon, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Director of Broadcasting and Programming. As you’d expect, working for a sports franchise attracts a lot of interest and Matt deals with it on a regular basis. There are certain things a college student or young person can do to stand out when trying to get their foot in the door and Matt’s taken the time to share his advice on the best ways to do it.

That Degree Alone Won’t Get You a Job in Sports Broadcasting

If you’re one of the handful of people who have followed my blog, you know I’m willing to offer advice to aspiring young broadcasters any day. You also know I’ve been very vocal in the past with some less than prepared intern candidates not once, but twice. Well I’m glad to say after a recent intern fair at Amalie Arena, the intern candidates were well-dressed and I even got a few samples of the lost art of a cover letter.

But with some candidates, I saw an issue I’ve seen not just in recent years, but one that has been around for as long as I can remember. A candidate is months away from graduating, and is solely counting on his or her degree to land a job. It doesn’t work that way, but I’m happy to provide some direction for you.

That Degree Is Valuable

degreeDon’t get me wrong, there is a value to having a college degree or even a broadcasting school certification. That piece of paper shows you were instructed on the basics, and I can tell you some things I picked up in college 20 years ago are still utilized today. Having a degree or certification from a reputable school can help you get a foot in the door, but make sure you have a major that puts you right in front of that door, and a minor that you can either “fall back” on or supplement that major degree.

I majored in broadcast communications, and minored in management, and thankfully that education paid off to where I’m in both fields. But if I ever needed to do something other than manage in broadcasting, or if I ever needed to do some management outside of broadcasting, I have the documentation that says I can do that. But more importantly, I have experience, and THAT is the key to accelerating your career.

ANY Experience Helps

experienceI know what you’re saying college students, “I don’t have 20 years of experience!” Guess what, when I was starting out, neither did I! But believe it or not, I didn’t just stay out late and sleep in late while I was in college (please believe it). I worked, and even though the broadcasting business has changed since I went to college, there are still opportunities out there. It’s hard to balance a school schedule and a work schedule, especially when a lot of that work falls in to the “volunteer” category, but nothing brings me down more than a college senior with absolutely no experience looking for that internship in the final semester. And I can tell you, I’m not the only person in this position who feels the same. Yes, the internship is the big link between college and the real world, but you can’t come in totally cold.

We All Are Fans of Sports, But You Need More Than That

knowSome of us are fans of the team we’re working for. But simply knowing a lot about our favorite team or favorite sport didn’t clinch the job. Knowledge of a particular sport or team you want to work for is helpful, but experience in any form of journalism or broadcasting trumps that. The encyclopedia-like memory, or collection of team memorabilia, is the icing on the cake if you can convince us you can carry out the simple tasks the job demands.

Utilize Your School’s Resources

resourcesYou (or your parents) are paying a ton of money for you to attend that reputable school. You (and not likely your parents) will be paying off student loans out the wazoo for the next 20 years of your life. While you’re in school, use those facilities you’re paying for and will continue to pay for. If you want to get into broadcasting, sign up to work at the student radio station or TV station. If you’re into print journalism, sign up to work at the student newspaper or yearbook. Yes, these are “old school” mediums in a digital age, but a lot of schools have made the shift to digital while continuing to teach the journalism basics that are sorely lacking from a lot of what’s out there on the digital playground.

The shift at the radio station will suck (my first shift was Sunday mornings from 1-6 a.m.). You’re going to be pulling cable at the TV station, and you’re going to get the less-than-desirable assignment for the newspaper. Take it. Take it and ask for more. This is where you’re going to learn, where you’ll make mistakes, where you’ll find your style and personality. Don’t turn down any opportunity, even if it’s unpaid or “just” for credit.

The Earlier You Start, The Better

earlyWhile this was titled for the class of 2016, it’s better suited for 2017 and beyond. One reason why I chose the University of Alabama for my college experience, was that I could work at the student radio station as soon as I got there (and as long as I maintained a good GPA which wasn’t an issue). You will learn a lot working for the school, but nothing replaces that real-world experience of an internship, which most are done for college credit. As soon as you make that fateful decision to go in to broadcasting (God bless you), check with your adviser on how the school does internships and how soon you can get one.

I was fortunate to work an internship the summer after my freshman year, and again the summer after my sophomore year. The second internship lasted 2 weeks before the station decided to hire me part-time. Those two summers prepared me to do some of my finest work at the school in my junior and senior years, preparing me to enter that real-world job search during my senior year. The time for an internship is not when you have 6 months left in your education, although all is not lost if that is the case for you. The time is heading in to your junior or senior year if possible, with the experience you have picked up working at a school facility.

Why Wait Until Graduation, When You Can Work Now?

whywaitIf you’re fortunate enough to find paid part-time work in your field while you’re at school, by all means take it. Don’t fret over the format, the network affiliation, the hours or the pay. I worked part-time in a classic rock station, a news/sports talk station, a public radio station, a hot AC station. Very little of my work then was in sports, but I can’t tell you how much that experience in different formats, doing various jobs on and off the air helped me do what I do now.

Now times have changed, and unfortunately a lot of the entry level jobs I had while in college have dried up, especially in large markets. There still are opportunities in fringe markets and smaller markets. And while entry level jobs in traditional broadcast outlets have dried up, there are new outlets with new opportunities including website writing, video production, and podcasting. You want to work with a legitimate company, but don’t get wrapped up in how big the company is or if the job pays you enough. Work is work, experience is experience, and even a part-time wage buys you plenty of ramen noodles (and I’m told, beer).

If You Can’t Land That Official Job, Make Your Own Work

createTechnology is amazing these days– portable, affordable, and for the most part durable. If you can’t get that gig at your college calling basketball games, go find an open area in the seats and record your call in to an mp3 recorder. Ask the local high school if you can cover their football team, or call up the nearest minor league baseball team to see if they have a spot for you in the press box. You’re probably doing this for free, but nine times out of ten these teams will be thrilled someone is showing interest in their product. You’ll get a seat in the press box, and game notes, and support. Suddenly that turns in to interview opportunities with coaches and players, and more importantly you build up contacts and connections who undoubtedly will be helpful down the line.

I will give an intern or a job candidate a second look if they have 6 months of “freelance” work with the Capital City Capitals compared to nothing at all. At the very least you’re showing initiative to make something out of limited opportunities. And the same can be done if you want to host a show– start your own podcast. I don’t care if 4 people listen to it on average… you’re working out the kinks. If you want to do video work, shoot your own stand-ups. Make your own feature stories. Edit your own 30-second highlight videos (note I said 30-second, not 8 minutes and 47 seconds set to your Limp Bizkit megamix). Your iPhone camera work won’t be perfect, but again it’s something to get your feet wet.

NOTHING Is Given

givenI can’t stress this enough. Unless you know someone who knows someone who owes someone a favor, and that is very rare, you’re not just going to suddenly wake up one day and have that dream job. In fact, you won’t just be dropped on to the path of the dream job. You have to work for it, and that includes less than glorious work, little or no pay, and forget about 9-5 hours Monday through Friday. There is sacrifice to get to where you want to go, and it doesn’t happen quickly.

And I’m going to break this to you right now: you’re not good enough to turn down any good opportunities. That also goes for those of you who are a few years removed from college. Just because you’re 28 doesn’t mean you can put your nose in the air because the job isn’t 100% perfect.

You got this far, GO DO some of the things I suggested, and gradually get to where you want to be. Don’t just sit across from me with a resume full of summer wait jobs, telling me how big of a fan you are of the team I work for. I’m not a big fan of your prospects.

Matt Sammon is the Director of Broadcasting/Programming for the Tampa Bay Lightning. You can reach him on Twitter @SammonSez or by email at MattSammonSez@Gmail.com.

Barrett Blogs

California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing this and who it’s for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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Jimmy Powers, Raj Sharan, Matt Berger and John Goforth Added to 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

“BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. Individual tickets are reduced to $224.99 until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET.

Jason Barrett

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In less than a hundred days, the BSM Summit will return to Los Angeles for two-days of networking, learning, laughing, and celebrating. The conference hasn’t been held on the west coast since 2019, and we’re looking forward to returning to the city of angels on March 21-22, 2023, and bringing together sports media professionals at the Founders Club, located inside the Galen Center at the University of Southern California.

For those of you who haven’t purchased your ticket(s) yet, BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. From today (Monday) through Friday 11:59pm ET, individual tickets are reduced to $224.99. If you’re planning to come, and want to make sure you’re in the room, take advantage of the extra savings and secure your seat. To buy tickets, reserve your hotel room, and learn more about the Summit’s speakers, click here.

We’ve previously announced twenty one (21) participants who will join us on stage at the 2023 BSM Summit. Today, we’re excited to expand our lineup by welcoming four (4) more additions to March’s industry spectacular.

First, BSM is thrilled to have two accomplished sports radio programmers contributing to the event. Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit will make his Summit debut in L.A.. Fresh off of a Marconi victory earlier this fall, The Ticket’s brand manager will share his insights on the present and future of sports radio on one of our programming panels. Also taking part in that panel will be the leader of 104.3 The Fan in Denver, Raj Sharan. Raj appeared on stage at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC, and we look forward to having him return to lend his voice to an important sports radio programming discussion.

But programming won’t be the only thing we invest time in out west. Growing a business, more specifically, a digital business will be part of our conference agenda as well.

When it comes to maximizing digital revenue, few brands understand the space better than Barstool Sports. Charged with growing the brand’s revenue is Senior Vice President and Head of Sales Matt Berger, and we’re looking forward to having Matt join us for a conversation that will focus on monetizing digital opportunities. Before joining Barstool, Matt sold for Bleacher Report/House of Highlights. He’s also worked for Warner Brothers and the Walt Disney Company. We’re excited to have him share his wisdom with the room.

Also taking part in our digital sales panel will be John Goforth of Magellan AI. John knows the radio business well from having served previously as a sales manager and salesperson. Since leaving traditional media and joining Magellan AI, John has studied the podcasting advertising space and learned who the top spenders are, who’s making big moves with their podcast advertising budgets, and which publishers are best positioned to benefit. Having his expertise on stage will help many in the room with trying to better understand the digital sales space.

There are other speaker announcements still to come. We have some big things planned, which I’m hoping to reveal in January and February. I want to thank ESPN Radio, FOX Sports, Showtime, and Point to Point Marketing for coming on board as partners of the 2023 BSM Summit. The support we’ve received heading into Los Angeles has been tremendous, and we greatly appreciate it. If you’re looking to be associated with the Summit as an event partner, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

That’s all for now, but be sure to take advantage of the Summit Holiday Sale. You have until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET to take advantage of discounted tickets. Happy Holidays!

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