Connect with us
BSM Summit
blank

BSM Writers

Audra Martin Continues To Be Shaped By Words From Steve Harvey

“He goes, ‘Exactly, and I will never be somebody’s Plan B. I’ll give you a year but if you’re here next season, I’ll fire you.’”

Derek Futterman

Published

on

blank

“Survey says”. Those are the familiar words heard on the hit syndicated game show Family Feud. Audra Martin was responsible for coordinating the survey answers and filling in the audience working in television production as an audience coordinator at the show.

What viewers at home do not see is what goes on during the commercial breaks when host Steve Harvey takes questions from the studio audience. During one taping, he was asked about what advice he would give aspiring industry professionals, and the answer he gave genuinely changed the course of Martin’s career.

“Steve said, ‘A lot of people think it’s a good idea to have Plan B. That, ‘Hey, I have something to fall back on if my dream doesn’t happen’,” Martin recalled. “He said, ‘In my opinion, that’s the worst thing you can do because you’re subconsciously telling yourself [that] it’s okay to settle for something less than your dream.’ And I’m listening to this backstage and I’m just like, ‘Oh no, I feel like he’s directly talking to me.’”

From the moment she was young, Audra Martin always had a penchant for sports, specifically baseball and hockey. Growing up in the Chicago area, she was an ardent fan of the Cubs, tuning in to most of their games throughout the season. When she was in high school, she played softball, volleyball, and was a member of the cheerleading team.

Additionally, she cultivated her skills in music at a young age, learning to play the violin when she was 3 and beginning to sing at 12 years old. Nonetheless, her goal always extended beyond direct performance in music or sports, instead seeking to be in front of the camera as a liaison between fans and their favorite teams.

“I’ve been a big competitor, but my favorite part about [sports broadcasting] is telling the stories outside of what you see on the field,” Martin said. “Don’t get me wrong – I love doing highlights and talking about all the action, but there’s nothing better than being able to tell the story about an athlete or something going on behind the scenes that fans wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to hear about.”

While covering baseball and hockey as a sports broadcaster was always her dream job, she was unsure just how realistic it was. When she was young, she saw some women reporters penetrating boundaries including Pam Oliver and Michele Tafoya but it seemed more like an anomaly rather than being normal. As she got older, more women began to break into the industry, but she instead decided to major in criminal justice upon her enrollment at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla.

She finished her freshman year in college with a 4.0 GPA and shortly thereafter received a letter from the dean’s office featuring restrictive majors, meaning that students had to meet certain qualifications to apply for them. Once she saw radio and television on the list, she decided to apply for it since it represented something of interest in her, deciding to focus on the craft she had been drawn to from a young age.

“When I got into the journalism program, a lot of my focus was on local news,” Martin said. “I had an internship with the local Fox affiliate. Honestly, I was competing against a lot of the guys in our class to do all the sports stories and anchor our sports broadcasts. It was a little difficult and I felt intimidated by it.”

Unlike many industry professionals, Martin did not immediately begin seriously pursuing a career as a reporter after her graduation. She did have the opportunity to report on games and compile feature stories for the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers for Fox Sports South; however, that was just on a fill-in basis. Sports broadcasting was always in the back of her mind as she worked in the front office for MLB’s Atlanta Braves, connecting with then-field reporter for New York Mets baseball on SNY and now lead play-by-play announcer for Fox Sports’ NFL coverage, Kevin Burkhardt.

“I ended up meeting Kevin and told him [of] my desire to do his job one day and he allowed me to shadow him the next time the Mets and the Braves were playing,” Martin said. “We kept in touch and he always has just kind of been the go-to person, plus I think he did a great job when he was a sideline reporter for the Mets.”

Her foray into sports broadcasting did not occur until after she went home from that taping of Family Feud and immediately wrote Harvey a letter discussing the impact his words had on her.

The next day, Martin gave the letter to Harvey’s manager who passed it along to him. Moments later, she found herself being called backstage to meet with Harvey, presumably about the note regarding what he had said the day before.

“I go backstage and I’m waiting outside Steve’s dressing room and he comes out and he has the letter and he asked me, ‘So what is it that you want to do?,’” Martin recalled. “I said, ‘I want to be a sports broadcaster.’ He was like, ‘Wow, okay. Why do you work here?’”

Once Harvey posed that question, Martin waxed poetic about how she was enamored with working at Family Feud and helping in the coordination of the show. Yet that was not the question Harvey asked her; instead, she inherently avoided directly answering his question, something the longtime comedian and game show host immediately picked up on. Again, he posed the question to her regarding why she was working at Family Feud.

“And I said, ‘I guess because you’re my Plan B,’” Martin told Harvey. “He goes, ‘Exactly, and I will never be somebody’s Plan B. I’ll give you a year but if you’re here next season, I’ll fire you.’”

Harvey had given Martin the necessary motivation and a vote of confidence to pursue her dream to become a sports broadcaster and that night, she immediately updated her résumé and went on to apply to every open television job in the country. She ended up hearing back from WAAY-TV, a news station in Huntsville, Alabama looking for someone to cover sports in the area as a reporter and also anchor studio coverage.

Once she accepted the job, she officially gave Harvey notice that she would not be returning next season to begin building her career in sports media.

Moving from a metropolitan area to a small market was an immense transition for Martin; after all, she had always been used to the environment of cities and only knew one person living in the area. The benefits to working in a small market though were that she had the flexibility to make mistakes and gain the repetitions essential for advancement in this competitive industry. She began in September in the midst of prime football season both at the high school and college levels but quickly faced significant adversity.

“My sports director actually ended up leaving a couple weeks after I started so I became a one-person sports department for months,” Martin said. “I think there was a stretch where I worked 40-something days straight because this is what you had to do, especially in Alabama…. It was exhausting and very challenging but I look back on it now and it was the best learning experience.”

One year later, Martin found an opening to return to a city – Nashville – to work at another news network, WKRN-TV, as a sports anchor and reporter. The sports department in Nashville, unlike Huntsville’s, had four people and more resources to efficiently and effectively tell stories.

Additionally, the city has two professional teams – the Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans – along with college sports at Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee. Nonetheless, working in local news was never Martin’s true “Plan A” and while she loved her job and colleagues in Nashville, looked for opportunities for career advancement.

“I knew when I got into the business that my ultimate goal was to work at a regional sports network,” Martin said. “There’s always been something about being part of a community and feeling like you’re part of the fanbase…. That just always had such appeal to me and it was always my dream.”

When working in Nashville, Martin received a phone call from her agent about an opening to host On The Fly at NHL Network, a highlights show recapping the day’s action in the National Hockey League. The chance to audition for the role coincided with her negotiation of a new contract, and following much deliberation, Martin decided to bet on herself by opting not to renew her deal in “The Music City.”

“I knew it was a big risk, but I felt like it was a risk I had to take,” Martin said. “Ultimately, I didn’t end up getting the job and I was devastated because now my future was so in flux.”

The job had been given to Jamie Hersch, who was previously reporting on baseball and hosting hockey coverage on Fox Sports North, now Bally Sports North. Hersch was beloved by fans in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area and she now needed to be replaced since she would be moving to work at NHL Network. Martin was apprehensive about her future but had the realization of Hersch’s job opening and was recommended by those at NHL Network to be considered for an audition.

A few days later, Martin auditioned and subsequently landed the job and after one day of shadowing veteran play-by-play announcer Tom Hanneman at a game, began fulfilling her dream job covering both baseball and hockey.

“My roles are different; that’s why I love my job so much because I get to host in the winter and then switch over to sideline reporting in the summer,” Martin said. “Both have the opportunity to be really in-touch with the fanbase. You feel invested; you can’t help but feel invested with the team. When they’re doing well, it’s fun to be a part of it; it’s fun to cover it every single day; it’s fun to be able to tell those stories and call those highlights.”

The immediate issue for Martin was two-fold in that the Twins posted a 103-loss season in her first season covering the team and that she put immense pressure on herself to replicate the hosting style of Hersch in an effort to be accepted and embraced by fans in the area. As a result, she struggled to find her own style and enjoy working in her “dream job.” Three years in, she had a realization that she needed to change her approach and recognize how fortunate she was to have landed in a major market working in sports media.

“Once I started showing my personality and once I got that confidence to just be who I am and do the show my way and have fun with it, I think things really started turning around,” Martin said. “That’s been my mantra I guess over the last few years – just to have fun with it.”

Although the Twins missed the playoffs this past season, Martin looks back on working more than 100 baseball games for the first time because Marney Gellner, the reporter with whom she split sideline reporting duties, was calling games for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. In spite of working more though, Martin feels she was able to keep up with the team and tell stories that would typically go unnoticed by those outside of the clubhouse.

“It was a bigger commitment this year which was great because I never felt like I was having to catch up,” Martin said. “I was around the team so much that even if I had a few days off, it was only a couple of days off at a time and I never felt like I missed a huge chunk. I really got to get in a good rhythm; I got to know the players well. This season was tough at the end but in the beginning, there was a lot of great baseball and a lot of fun stories to tell.”

As the summer months begin to dwindle away with plummeting temperatures and the appearance of snow on local weather forecasts, Martin transitions to hosting Wild Live, the studio coverage for Minnesota Wild hockey live game broadcasts. She recognizes the difference between hosting and sideline reporting, specifically the differences each role presents in how to tell stories.

“[With] hosting, I know it’s not my job to tell the stories,” she said. “I’m not the analyst. It’s my job to set up the analysts. I try to make sure whether I’m asking them a legitimate question or if I’m just setting them up for a conversation to begin, I try to make sure it’s not the same thing every day.”

The future of studio coverage is somewhat in flux as emerging technologies and changes in consumption patterns have given fans more control than ever before over their viewing and listening experiences. Local pregame and postgame coverage is evolving with the changing media landscape as it fights to remain a mainstay in sports media and avoid extinction, finding new ways to appeal to younger demographics and viewers at large.

“To me as a fan – and this was even before I got into hosting and even before I was in television – I liked watching the pre and postgame shows because it is centered [around] the team that I am rooting for or watching,” Martin expressed.

“It’s everything that I need to know in one condensed 30-minute format and I’m not necessarily having to listen to information about games that are being played on the other side of the country that I’m not really invested in.”

As her career continues to advance, Martin aims to stay in Minneapolis-St. Paul working in sports media and will work to continue establishing her own identity.. She does not rule out one day working with a national network but genuinely feels a sense of elation and pride towards what she is doing now and is remaining focused on finding new ways to tell stories and hone her craft.

“This industry is changing every single day and there’s going to be something new that might not make sense at the time or takes a while to get used to – but we can only get better if we embrace the new resources [and] embrace new technology,” Martin said. “….Be open-minded and don’t be afraid to try something new. It might not work perfectly every time but sometimes the best ideas are when you just think outside the box and you take a chance.”

The impact of advice and others’ belief in one’s ability to succeed in sports media or another competitive industry can be paramount in fostering a successful career. Martin recognizes how Steve Harvey changed her life in one afternoon and returned to Family Feud after she had been featured in a magazine that did a story about the women’s Final Four and how she was, at the time, the only woman sports reporter in Nashville.

With a copy of the magazine in hand, Martin found Harvey’s manager – and what happened next was memorable and a full-circle moment.

“Steve brought me backstage and he came out and he had tears in his eyes,” Martin said. “He made me sign the magazine and he kept the magazine. I don’t know what it was about needing to hear that from Steve but I just needed that kick in the butt I guess.”

Barrett Blogs

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

Jason Barrett

Published

on

blank

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.

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Does The Return of Bob Iger Mean to ESPN?

Demetri Ravanos

Published

on

blank

Demetri Ravanos has questions about Disney going back to the future with Bob Iger. This entire episode of Media Noise is all about what the change at the top of the Walt Disney Company indicates about the future of ESPN.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Is Realistic For FOX at the World Cup?

Demetri Ravanos

Published

on

blank

On this special holiday edition of Media Noise, Demetri Ravanos dives into the controversy and criticism surrounding FOX’s coverage of the World Cup in Qatar.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

Continue Reading
Advertisement blank
Advertisement blank

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2022 Barrett Media.