Connect with us

Barrett Blogs

When Talent Gain Influence In The Hiring Process

Jason Barrett



Professional sports are an excellent teacher for understanding how a quest for power can rip apart an organization. When too much control is placed in the wrong hands, good situations turn into nightmares. Just look at the St. Louis Rams, Denver Broncos, and Philadelphia Eagles under Mike Martz, Josh McDaniels, and Chip Kelly.

But for every individual who sends a franchise into a downward spiral, there are leaders like Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, and Pat Riley who remind us that great results can be achieved when power is placed in capable hands.

In the radio business, the person making the final call on key decisions is often the Program Director or General/Market Manager. Some PD’s have strong vision, excellent decision making skills, and are empowered to do their jobs. Everyone inside the organization knows that it’s their way or the highway.

In a few other instances, programmers are hired who are great caretakers, and schedule makers, but not equipped at making important hiring decisions. Some PD’s get hired because they’re willing to concede control to a GM who wishes to decide all key programming decisions.

GM’s can operate very differently. Some put their trust in their programmers, allow them to make decisions, and hold them accountable to their decisions and results. Others are fixated on picking the talent, seeing their names in print, and taking advantage of their power.

It may seem exciting, but when you put your fingerprints on a decision it can be exhausting and extremely stressful. Not everyone is good at it. Even great ones make mistakes. I find that most who have success, do so after they’ve failed once or twice.

In most situations where talent need to be hired, there are plenty of qualified applicants. However, there’s only room for one individual. Making a move that delivers results is all that matters to your employer, advertisers, and the people inside your building. One wrong step, and it’s your ass.

The normal process involves the PD and GM, but when bigger shows and personalities enter the equation, one can make a case that including your top performers is good business. Some staff members may get jealous or annoyed, and listeners may object or get angry when they hear that a key on-air figure has veto power or influence over a big on-air decision, but, you’re not in the popularity business, you’re in the ratings and results business. To involve your best talent, and make sure they’re invested is important, and necessary.

To be clear, not every personality in your company deserves a voice in the decision making process. Just because a show had a good year in the ratings, doesn’t mean they’ve earned the respect of being included in big picture conversations. I’m a big believer in trust, long-term relationships, and track records. If a show has exceeded expectation for a lengthy period of time, beat the competition, generated revenue, developed trust, executed the game plan I’ve asked them to operate, and built a profile as the show of record locally or nationally, I’m more likely to bring them into my inner circle.

Gaining input from shows that have helped you earn a couple of raises and contract extensions is smart. It makes your people feel valued, and respected. It also shows that you share a common goal of making a good decision that will put the show in position to earn future success.

Anyone who has the power to hire or fire an employee, loves the challenge of making the final call. To relinquish that power or allow another individual to influence your opinion might be hard to stomach. But one thing PD’s and GM’s forget, is that nobody has a better read on why a show works than those doing the show on a daily basis. They don’t prep with the show, hang out with the cast outside of work, or understand the highs and lows of the relationship until issues are brought to their attention. If the right ingredients aren’t supplied for the crew to make an award winning meal, everyone starves.

This doesn’t mean your top people will have all of the information that you do, or the vision to see the things that only you can. But, hearing their feedback should matter. As long as they understand that the final call comes from the top, and the goal is to continue winning, they’ll respect, and appreciate you more for hearing them out.

What triggered my interest in this topic was something I read last week.

Having an inside track on sports television news has never been my area of expertise, but when radio people are involved my ears perk up. A few weeks ago, Skip Bayless announced he was leaving “First Take” on ESPN. Fox Sports 1 is expected to become his new home, thanks to a sound relationship with Jamie Horowitz, and a whole lot of Benjamin Franklin’s.

That leaves Stephen A. Smith without a partner once the NBA Finals are over. Which leads to the following question, who will fill Skip’s void?

Mike McCarthy of the Sporting News wrote an excellent piece which gives people an idea of how involved Stephen A. Smith will be in the final decision of who becomes his permanent partner on “First Take”.

Upon hearing that news and tweeting about it, I received a number of emails and social media messages asking “how could ESPN grant executive power to Stephen A.”? I heard the same exact thing when Chris “Mad Dog” Russo left WFAN, and Mike Francesa was given the same respect from CBS New York executives.

In both cases, if I was currently running ESPN, or WFAN when Russo left, I’d do the exact same thing.

You reward performers who bring you big ratings, and bigger revenues over a sustained period of time. Having their full support and buy in is critical. That doesn’t mean you have to hire the person they like most, but if you keep them removed, and put someone into the studio that you like, and they don’t, a future trip to the unemployment office will await you.

Can you imagine if “Mike & Mike” were split up? Or some of the top local sports radio shows in America, such as “Valenti & Foster”, “Toucher & Rich”, “Boomer & Carton”, “The Musers”, and “Waddle & Silvy” were separated? Do you think any of those shows would have a chance at future success, if their station’s excluded the holdovers of each program from the process?

It’s hard enough replicating success when the original version of a program has been altered. The odds fall less in your favor if you place a stop sign in front of your most important talent during critical times. Without their blessing, and complete investment in the future direction of the show, you’re dead man walking.

So why is ESPN giving Stephen A. Smith this type of respect? Here are a few things to consider.

  • Precedent – Before Stephen A. was added permanently to “First Take”, executives sought Skip Bayless’ feedback and support. The show was rotating co-hosts, but reached a point where it needed consistency. Having their key star (Skip) buy into the concept, and sign off on his partner was important. Judging by the decision that Skip and ESPN executives made, it was a good one. Skip earned that respect, and now Stephen A. has too. The goal now is to have the next decision turn out the same way as the last one did.
  • Ratings Success – Whether the show turns your stomach, or soothes your soul, it’s been a ratings hit, and continues to get stronger. The show has been built around Stephen A. and Skip’s personalities, so having the right combination is critical. If Stephen A. doesn’t believe he can find common ground with someone, and create a conversation that is must-watch television, he deserves the right to say so. That should matter when determining who to hire.
  • Loyalty – By no means is Stephen A. Smith hurting financially. ESPN re-signed him last year for a reported 3-3.5 million dollars per year. You may feel he’s overpaid, but that’s the going rate for high profile sports television talent, especially ones who move the needle. If Bayless can warrant close to 6 million annually from Fox Sports 1, don’t you think Smith could get the same? One can argue that he brings more to the table than Bayless. He hosts a national radio show, and appears on SportsCenter, and NFL and NBA programming. Skip is rarely seen outside of “First Take”. Stephen knew there were options out there, but he remained loyal to ESPN. When a big show that he’s involved in experiences adversity, loyalty should be reciprocated.
  • Pressure – With Skip off to FS1, all eyes will be on Stephen A. If the ratings slip, or his on-air relationship with his new partner seems fractured, critics will be out for blood. TV executives can push their own guy or girl, but if the connection isn’t there, the program is doomed. Chemistry, comfortability, passion, and a willingness to engage in heated conversations without things getting personal are all part of the job description. Nobody knows how to execute the show better than the two men who have done it. If Smith feels a connection to someone outside the company is what the show needs to enjoy future success, it’s management’s job to figure out how to make it happen. The main priority should be making sure the show succeeds, not worrying about who they win with.

If “First Take” falls apart in the future, do you think the blame is going to be directed at John Skipper, Norby Williamson, or John Wildhack? Not a chance. The public will point their finger in Smith’s direction.

ESPN may wish to make headlines by signing the biggest name, excite employees by rewarding an internal candidate who’s well liked, or please advertisers by choosing someone they’re comfortable with, but when it’s showtime, nobody will know the fit better than Stephen A. If the conversation isn’t natural, the vibe and chemistry feels forced, or mutual respect isn’t shared, the only thing guaranteed is cancellation.

Which is why ESPN is making a smart decision by involving one of their most high profile stars in the final process. Executives may love the thrill of making the final call, but when this much is on the line, you owe it to yourself, your company, and your best talent to make sure they’re heavily involved.

A few weeks ago I mentioned four candidates for the opening. I later learned of a fifth. Four of the options had radio connections. They were Max Kellerman, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Brandon Tierney, and Doug Gottlieb. Will Cain was the one television candidate.

I know that trust, chemistry, on-air connection, and a healthy relationship off camera with Stephen will be important, which is why I have a tough time believing Will Cain will be the choice. Will is very talented, and may have support from management, but he doesn’t have history with Stephen A. I can’t picture Stephen placing the fate of the program in Cain’s hands, unless he’s forced into it.

I could be wrong. I’ve never claimed to be nostradamus, especially when it comes to television hires, but, I believe Russo, Tierney, and Kellerman hold the advantage. They’re comfortable debating him, have his respect and prior experience working with him, bring the edge, volume, and style that the show is known for, and share similar interests from living, and/or growing up in the same area.

What will be interesting to see, is whether or not Stephen has the courage to take a risk and bet on someone like Tierney who he has excellent chemistry with, rather than take the safer path with someone like Kellerman. Both are excellent, and offer something fresh, and different than Skip. Max has the internal advantage, and higher profile. BT requires going outside the company, and developing another network star.

The scenario with Russo is also intriguing because Chris is a high profile talent, who’s older than Stephen (so was Skip), and not afraid to mix it up. He’s the one guy best suited for keeping the show similar to where it was previously, although his sound is different, and his knowledge is superior to Skip’s. He’s also earned Stephen’s trust due to hiring him at SiriusXM. The downside is that he’d likely command a higher price tag which probably doesn’t excite ESPN.

The five candidates I’ve listed remain strong options, but there will likely be others who emerge in this process. One of the outside candidates could very well become the choice. The question is, who will Stephen A. love the most?

The only one he should be giving his heart to at this point is ESPN. After all, they’ve given him greater influence behind closed doors than they do on their own airwaves. Now they need to make sure that his decision making skills are in line with Bill Belichick’s not Chip Kelly’s.

Under The Radar:

  • 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland has hired Landry Locker to produce the morning show with Ken Carman and Anthony Lima. Locker previously worked for ESPN 103.3 and Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket in Dallas as an Assistant Program Director, Producer, and Host.
  • Dave “Deuce” Mason, who was recently let go by KHTK in Sacramento, was brought in to do some fill-in work at rival station ESPN 1320. Mason stepped in last Thursday with Whitey Gleason of “The Rise Guys” while co-host Mark Kreidler was off. Whether it will lead to future fill-ins or additional opportunities in unclear at this time.
  • Congratulations is in order for Mike Taylor who recently signed a multi-year extension to continue hosting mornings at The Ticket 760 in San Antonio.

Barrett Blogs

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.

Continue Reading

Barrett Blogs

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.

Continue Reading

Barrett Blogs

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.

Continue Reading


Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2023 Barrett Media.