Connect with us

BSM Writers

Emily Kaplan is On the Clock During the NHL Season

“There’s only two things in the world that you can control: How hard you work; and how you treat other people.”

Derek Futterman



Courtesy: ESPN Images

Drifting through the gelid, frosted roads of Regina, Saskatchewan on a luminous winter day in the comfort of his Ford pickup truck, Connor Bedard is en route to the rink. He is the consensus No. 1 prospect in professional hockey drawing comparisons to Wayne Gretzky and is preparing to lace up his skates in the National Hockey League next season. ESPN reporter Emily Kaplan was in the backseat. The effort it took to get into that car started last summer. 

Kaplan connected with the young phenom’s agent and gradually engendered a professional relationship. She was told that Bedard, who is 17, would not agree to many media requests during the season, but Kaplan knew her end goal: to land a sit-down interview.

For one thing, Kaplan is indefatigable in her quest to augment her extensive skill set and enhance The Walt Disney Company’s fourth stint in producing national broadcasts of NHL games. As the rinkside reporter for the NHL on ESPN, she logs several miles traveling around the arena for each contest in order to conduct interviews and divulge critical information. 

She garners a wide array of responsibilities on a typical game day. She appears across ESPN programming, writes extended columns and feature stories and communicates with sources to break news, genuinely rendering her among the network’s most versatile talents.

When Kaplan ultimately landed Bedard for an interview in March, she and her colleagues made sure to produce a variety of different content. In addition to a sit-down interview, Kaplan spent time with Bedard in his truck and at the rink, all of which was captured on video. She then worked with one of the network’s video editors to write and ultimately voice a script for a 10-minute visual feature and also penned a 2500-word article detailing the experience.

“I’m always thinking of different opportunities because we are a multimedia company,” Kaplan said. “How can we take one piece of access or the opportunities that I get and share that across all of our audience and all of our platforms?”

When she is reporting in prime time, Kaplan often finds herself up against the clock, trying to convey the necessary information to viewers interspersed throughout the game action. When she is on the road, she returns to the hotel or sometimes catches a flight, relaxing and reflecting on her performance with purpose. Usually, there is little time for rest before the process begins all over again, especially during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I do understand that this is a grind of a time,” Kaplan said. “I’m probably not going to get the doctor’s recommended sleep every night. Planes are never conducive for sleep or hydration, and I just kind of have to live with it and accept it.”

Emily Kaplan in studio for ESPN's hockey coverage.
Courtesy ESPN Images

As the sun rose in Montclair, NJ. each morning, Emily Kaplan awoke and grabbed the morning newspaper to diligently read the sports section. Pouring over columns, statistics, standings and a litany of other information. She paired what she retained with observations gathered from watching games with her family. Her ultimate goal was to become a sportswriter. It was why she chose to attend Penn State University specifically because it was the only institution with a dedicated sports journalism major.

“My first week on campus, I was already asking people how I could try out for the school paper,” Kaplan said. “I wrote for the sports section of The Daily Collegian, which was our daily newspaper. I did that for two years, [and I] also dabbled as a columnist for a bit.”

Her journalism career, however, began long before her first week on campus, as she wrote columns for The Montclair Times. One of the local newspaper readers happened to be Sports Illustrated writer Peter King – who was also a friend of Kaplan’s father. He quickly took notice of her and reached out to offer words of encouragement. When she was in high school, King arranged for Kaplan to meet with a player and manager following an independent league baseball game. She ended up writing an error-free story on a deadline, a feat that impressed King and kept her on his radar.

Kaplan was at Penn State University during the time when allegations of child sex abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky began to come to light. Being a young journalist, she covered the team for The Philadelphia Inquirer as its on-campus correspondent and also provided other professional outlets an invaluable voice. From there, she joined the Associated Press where she worked as a stringer and continued to gain real-world experience and build her network. Throughout her years in college, she kept in touch with King and sometimes performed a variety of “odd jobs,” including transcribing interviews and researching for stories.

“He was just such a great sounding board for me as I navigated how to break into this field,” Kaplan said of King. “When he graduated, he had started his website on Sports Illustrated – the MMQB – and gave me some really good opportunities to write there.”

She wrote a variety of stories for the Sports Illustrated NFL coverage. Starting fresh off an internship at The Boston Globe, Kaplan had a deft knowledge of sports reporting at the local level and knew how to perform investigative journalism. From spending 24 hours with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to speaking with FOX reporter Erin Andrews about her civil trial and cervical cancer diagnosis; to chronicling the journey of Danny Watkins from football player to firefighter, Kaplan compiled a vast portfolio of penetrating, shrewd storytelling.

One story in particular she considers herself proud of involved former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. After a slew of events transpired involving the first-round draft pick that ultimately led him to be cut by the Browns, King tasked Kaplan to travel to Kernville, Texas to speak with people in his life. He wanted her to find a different, untold angle and she spent a week in the area to do so. 

Stationed in Austin, Texas, Kaplan fastidiously accumulated substantive details about Manziel, who was a perplexing and captivating public figure. In the end, she published a comprehensive article on the Heisman winner’s situation and what others had to say about him, drawing national intrigue and uncovering new knowledge.

“There’s only two things in the world that you can control: How hard you work; and how you treat other people,” Kaplan said. “I made sure that my work ethic was my number one defining characteristic. I’d always make the extra calls. I’d always try to find different angles or different people to talk to and make sure I got as much information as possible.”

Both of those factors assisted her in landing a job with ESPN in 2017 as one of two NHL beat reporters, but she joined the “Worldwide Leader” knowing it did not hold the league’s media rights. The possibility intrigued her because of a nascent ardor for hockey and the chance it provided to establish herself as a beat reporter. As she became more comfortable and settled into the role, ESPN and the NHL agreed to a seven-year media rights contract – and everything changed.

From the beginning, her goal was to get close to the action. When ESPN was trying to determine its broadcasters, reporters and contributors who would appear on the games, Kaplan’s hand shot up to ask for a chance at sideline reporting. Although she had reservations about people not getting to know her nor being able to tell a nuanced story, she bet on herself.

Twenty seconds on the clock. That is often all the time Kaplan has to present information or divulge a story to broadcast viewers, and being succinct in storytelling after writing protracted stories with extensive research and meticulous edits was an initial challenge. 

If she’s at a game, Kaplan is usually on the run. She does standup reports, interviews players in the tunnel and coaches on the bench and attends press conferences. The interviews with the coaches are particularly distinctive since they take place during a media timeout in the midst of the game.

“I have such a limited amount of time because we really are showing that clip as an entry point out of a TV break back into game action,” Kaplan said. “I think most times we get between 30 and 60 seconds, and I just want to make sure I’m as concise as possible in my questions and as direct as possible to get the most information out of them to support the broadcast.”

After the three stars of the game are announced, Kaplan is oftentimes interviewing a player from the winning team, usually doing so on the bench. It is at this time when her questions are designed to extrapolate facets of the player’s personality. Once the interview concludes, she makes it a point to thank players in their native language – a practice whose origin she cannot identify, but something she feels is essential in fostering professional relationships.

“I’m cognizant when I talk to guys where English is their second language of just how big of an ask that is [to put] themselves out there in something they’re not necessarily fully comfortable with in a lot of situations and trying their hardest,” Kaplan said. “My goal [has] always just been to humanize the game… It’s not very hard for me just to look up how to say, ‘Thank you,’ in the six or seven languages that NHL players typically speak.”

Emily Kaplan interviews Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson after a game.
Courtesy ESPN Images

There are times, however, when Kaplan feels she is not always treated like a peer by the men around her. Men have the opportunity to interact in different ways, such as going to have drinks with sources at a bar. Rumors would flow abound if a woman followed suit. It causes her to feel “othered” and can make her job as a reporter more difficult than it genuinely has to be.

“The athletes I feel like sometimes are a little too cautious around me or don’t really know what to make of me,” Kaplan said. “Those are the areas where being a woman, I do find to be a little challenging because I’m just trying to say, ‘Hey look, I’m just a human being. I’m normal. This is a job I’m trying to do and we can completely coexist and help each other out,’ but sometimes it’s not as natural as it would be just for two guys to have that social agreement.”

Through it all, she has received immense support and assistance from her broadcast colleagues, Sean McDonough and Ray Ferraro. Having them by her side is something she considers a lucky break.

“Sean is just such a consummate professional,” Kaplan said. “He does such a fantastic job just documenting the game in a way that feels really significant and gives it a big-game feel. He’s constantly empowering me as well. I know he’s had so much experience across so many sports covering so many big events.”

With Ferraro in particular, Kaplan has the ability to interact with him during intermissions since he is situated between the benches for most games. It is an atypical setup for a hockey broadcast, but one that works in Kaplan’s favor since it gives her a chance to discuss the game, ideas for questions and evaluate the broadcast piecemeal.

“I can vent to him. He can vent to me,” Kaplan said. “It’s a really great relationship in that way.”

Transitioning into the limelight and becoming a public figure was a stark change from writing, and with it brought heightened tangible criticism regarding her performance. There were moments during the first year where it truly bothered her. As a journalist, Kaplan asked herself “Why?” Through self-reflection and experience, she found the answer and has consequently diminished the people from whom she takes feedback. 

“While I’m there to serve the fans, I’m not there to please everyone,” Kaplan said. “I understand that people have different opinions of how I should do my job, but I’m only going to do the job the way I see fit.”

Even so, being able to define what encompasses a successful day of reporting is nearly impossible to definitively quantify, and one of the reasons she frequently seeks feedback. There are points throughout the year where Kaplan meets with executives about her performance and how she can improve, but through it all makes sure she remains objective and committed to reporting the facts.

“ESPN is a news-gathering organization, and we have a news desk that, to me, [is] sacred,” Kaplan said. “What they say is true because what we present to the fans is really important. Because I have a journalistic background, I’m constantly double-checking [and] making sure I feel super sound about my information.”

Kaplan is interested in shedding the stopwatch in the future, potentially considering chances to be an analyst or proffer her opinions on hockey. For now though, her next challenge will be more effectively demonstrating her personality as the clock ticks onward. She fears that some of her reports come off as “robotic,” and recognizes her sarcasm, sense of humor and inclination to engage in lighthearted banter.

“In the same way that I’m trying to bring out the characters of the game and really humanize them and create connectivity for the viewers to the players, I think that’s also important on the broadcast side as well,” Kaplan said. “As I get more comfortable in this, I think I’m starting to learn where to pick my spots [and] where to show some more personality, but it’s something I’m absolutely working on.”

The Stanley Cup Playoffs last for almost two months, and Kaplan is nearing the end of her bustling broadcast season. Over the course of a year, she travels to a majority of the NHL arenas, taking her across the United States and Canada, and also attends morning skates, practices and other pertinent team events. She considers herself fortunate to be in a position that keeps her close to the ice, but understands that working in sports media can, at times, be utterly exhausting.

Because of this, it is imperative Kaplan takes time away from the rink each day to recharge and ensure she is in the right headspace and has the bandwidth to properly do her job. When she arrives though, Kaplan is alert and ready for the chance to create moments that penetrate the bounds of time. Here, the stopwatch is shattered.

Emily Kaplan interviews Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon after the team's 2022 Stanley Cup victory.
Courtesy ESPN Images

“Being on the ice when the Avalanche are passing around the Stanley Cup and being the first person to interview the captain and the star players and the GM [and] the coach of that team – that’s an opportunity that I’ll never take lightly.”

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

BSM Writers

As Media Changes, Bob Costas Hopes Standards Remain

“Some people are cynics, and they confuse cynicism alone with insight. That’s not me.”

Derek Futterman



Courtesy: Bob Costas

Growing up in New York, Bob Costas frequently listened to broadcasters such as Red Barber, Mel Allen and Marv Albert call games on the radio. To him, their voices were inseparable from the players. Although he idolized Mickey Mantle, Costas knew the only way he would pass through the Yankee Stadium gates without charge would be by working in the press box. Recognizing that many national broadcasters began their careers by working in radio, he searched for an esteemed college program to accentuate his pursuit of a media career. Once Costas picked up a New York Knicks yearbook and learned that Glickman and Albert had both attended Syracuse University, his mind was, somewhat consequentially, made up.

“When I got there, I didn’t know for sure if I wanted to be a writer or a broadcaster,” Costas said. “Almost as soon as I got there as a freshman, I started getting airshifts doing sports reports and whatnot on the campus radio station. I felt like this was something that I enjoyed and I might have a knack for.”

Costas on the Air

Costas was fond of a specific type of sports broadcasting early in his career, one promulgated by Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker wherein an announcer is more than just someone who documents the game. It led Costas to espouse a multifaceted approach with shades of humor, journalistic elements and some historical references.

“[They] were essayists and at times journalists,” Costas said. “Not just announcers, but journalists with a respect for and a command of language with the occasional literate touch [and] I admired those people. I think I was influenced by them in that they showed me that was an avenue [and] that not every good broadcaster had to be generic.”

When Costas graduated from college, he was hired at KMOX radio by general manager Rob Hyland. He was assigned to be the new play-by-play announcer for the American Basketball Association’s (ABA) Spirit of St. Louis, and later called Missouri Tigers college basketball. 

In 1976, Al Michaels was slated to be a regional football play-by-play announcer for CBS Sports, but ended up signing a contract with ABC less than one week before the regular season. It left the network with no one to call an opening week game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers from historic Lambeau Field, resulting in CBS Sports calling Hyland to inquire about a potential replacement.

“Mr. Hyland said, ‘We’ve got a young guy here. We think he’s pretty good. He’s 24 and looks like he’s 15,’” Costas recalled. “They said, ‘Send him to Green Bay,’ and I signed a one-game contract for $500 to go to Green Bay.”

Costas continued calling regional games for CBS Sports while working at KMOX, being used every so often on football and basketball coverage. It gave him additional exposure in various marketplaces around the United States, and ultimately prepared him to join NBC Sports. By the end of 1981 though, Bryant Gumbel departed the sports division to join Jane Pauley and Chris Wallace as a co-host on TODAY. As a result, Costas was elevated to become a more visible part of NBC’s football coverage. He eventually started hosting the pregame show for the NFL on NBC, and had to learn the mechanics of the studio and how to read from a teleprompter.

“For the first several years that I did it, I didn’t use a teleprompter at all,” Costas said. “I just had notes and ad-libbed around those notes, but then as the production became more sophisticated, they’d want a specific cue to roll in B-roll or whatever, and I began using the prompter for that. I still ad-libbed in and around it because I felt more comfortable doing that.”

Costas on America’s Pastime

Costas continued hosting studio coverage for football, but had also impressed network executives when hosting NBC’s coverage of the 1983 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Earlier that season, he had started broadcasting games with Tony Kubek on Game of the Week, a partner to which he credits accentuating his development. Kubek introduced Costas to key figures around the sport, such as players, general managers and scouts, implicitly communicating the trust he garnered in his abilities.

Throughout his career, the composition and expectations of the audience have altered, requiring Costas to adapt the way in which he calls a game. Research departments compile tedious amounts of information for broadcasters to consider, and it is in their purview to determine what deserves emphasis. When sabermetrics first began to pervade into the everyday vernacular of the sport, Costas had Bill James on KMOX to discuss his theories and baseball abstract, and he considers himself an early adopter of the metrics.

Costas is familiar with postseason baseball as a fan and broadcaster, appearing on World Series broadcasts five different times either as a host or play-by-play announcer. Through his lifetime, he has seen and embraced the evolution of the sport. Yet he is frequently labeled as a “traditionalist.” That led to extensive criticism regarding how he called last year’s American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Guardians on TBS.

“If it ever gets to the point in a broadcast where the statistician eclipses the storyteller, then some of the elements of romance and legend that are part of baseball are lost,” Costas expressed. “What you’re looking to do is strike a balance between those two things. They all have their purpose, but it’s a matter of balance.”

In addition to baseball, Costas also covered basketball with NBC, helping further cement the Association into the collective awareness of the viewing public. He was elevated to lead play-by-play announcer for the 1997-98 season and called three NBA Finals, including one of the most consequential shots in the history of the game. Costas, who announced games locally for the Bulls on WGN-TV during the 1979-80 season, punctuated Michael Jordan’s championship-winning basket in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. Although he no longer calls basketball, Costas is a fan of the game and regularly tunes into the NBA Finals while staying aware of ratings.

“A good portion of it is on cable,” Costas said of league broadcasts. “There are very large rights fees paid, so that explains the league’s willingness to go in that direction, and the quality of the broadcasts are generally very, very high. There’s no criticism of the way the games are presented, but it’s less present in the minds of the casual fan than it was in the ‘80s or ‘90s.”

Costas on Reporting

When Costas was at NBC, he was presented with a proposal from producer Dick Ebersol about starting his own late-night talk show, entering a space where sportscasters had not often frequented. While he looks back at that stage of his career with a sense of appreciation, he turned down the program multiple times. Once he reluctantly agreed to host the show, Costas welcomed guests including Paul McCartney, Don Rickles and Mel Brooks among others for longform, insightful interviews.

“It wasn’t confined to five minutes or a quick soundbite,” Costas said. “I think I was well-suited to that format, and once I got my footing after the first few months of doing it, I realized that even though I hadn’t planned anything in that area, it was something that I was suited to do.”

As a journalist, Costas affirms that it is his responsibility to address uncomfortable subjects with his audience in an objective manner. Through this approach, people feel empowered to formulate their own opinions and contribute to the discourse, especially since they do not have to start the entire conversation. In working as the prime-time host of the Olympic Games on NBC for 24 years, Costas had to balance highlighting the competition with bringing light to international affairs and global issues.

“Some people are cynics, and they confuse cynicism alone with insight. That’s not me,” Costas said. “But I hope that I’ve had a healthy skepticism, and I’ve never thought there was any contradiction between embracing the drama; the theater; the human interest [and] the occasionally and genuinely moving and touching things that can happen in sports… and then turning a journalistic eye towards what’s happening within those same events or those same sports.”

Before Costas took over the hosting role from Jim McKay in 1992, they had a lengthy conversation about the duty of the host and how integral the person is in the network’s coverage. It requires being familiar with notable athletes while also having the dexterity to seamlessly pivot, take a briefing and discuss unexpected occurrences. For example, during Costas’ second Summer Olympics in 1996, he had to cover the Centennial Park bombing. At the same time, he needed to know about the competitions and the significance of certain milestones the athletes achieved.

When Costas inked his final contract with NBC in 2012, he insisted that a stipulation be placed that the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil would be the final time he would host the games on the network. At the time, Costas was also hosting Football Night in America on NBC, which led into Sunday Night Football broadcasts with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. The network suggested he take on an emeritus role similar to what Tom Brokaw did as a newscaster, a proposal to which Costas obliged.

Costas has hosted two different nationally syndicated radio programs during his career – Costas Coast to Coast (1986-1996) and Costas on the Radio (2006-2009) it’s a parallel path to the ones takes by some of the biggest names to follow in his footsteps in sports media.

Stephen A. Smith, for example, is a featured commentator on ESPN’s First Take, broadcasts an alternate telecast for select NBA matchups, appears on NBA Countdown and hosts his own podcast titled The Stephen A. Smith Show. He does all of this while building his own production company, occasionally guest starring on television shows and ensuring he is well-positioned for the future. Smith has not been shy about his desire to expand beyond sports, pondering trying to host a late-night talk show of his own. Costas, it should be noted, is the only person to ever win Emmy awards in news, sports and entertainment. He has amassed a total of 28 throughout his illustrious career, the most wins in the history of sports media. Nonetheless, he believes discussing more than sports takes a specific archetype and is not a route all personalities are inclined to forge.

“You could name a lot of people that do one thing, but they do it extraordinarily well,” Costas said. “They don’t have to check every box…. I just had varied interests, and I guess people identified that I had varying abilities, and so I was able to do that.”

Costas has been on MLB Network since its launch in 2009. This followed an eight-year run with HBO as the host of On the Record, which was later revamped into Costas NOW, but he departed the premium television network when they insisted he grant them “cable exclusivity.” He desperately wanted to join MLB Network because of his passion and interest in the game – and ultimately ended up doing so – but not before making a monumental decision about his future.

“It was a really difficult choice because HBO was the gold standard when it came to sports journalism,” Costas said. “But given my love of baseball and given the fact that NBC hadn’t had it since 2000, I went with the baseball network.”

Costas on the Gridiron

Costas’ infatuation with baseball was contrasted with a perceived indignation towards football, although Costas affirms that was not the case. He had generally been allowed to express his opinions about different topics on radio programs or television shows, but there was a point where it became too much. 

After he went on CNN to discuss the topic of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) following remarks he made at the University of Maryland about football having adverse mental effects, Costas was removed from the NBC’s Super Bowl LII broadcast. The decision did not bother him, as he had been assigned to host the Super Bowl without any prior knowledge before it was publicly announced. In fact, he was somewhat apathetic towards the proceedings.

“What I did suggest was I could make a more significant contribution if, during the course of a six-hour Super Bowl pregame show, you carved out 15 to 20 minutes for a real journalistic interview with Roger Goodell,” Costas shared. “That would be good programming, and it would be solid journalistically, but Goodell declined. So then that left me with no role that I was interested in for the Super Bowl.”

The ambivalent feelings Costas had towards the sport precipitated his exit from the network, officially parting ways in January 2019 and moving to the next stage of his career. Upon his exit though, Costas knew his previous roles were in good hands with Mike Tirico at the helm. The plan from the beginning was to have Tirico assume the host role of both prime-time Olympics coverage and Football Night in America. Once Al Michaels left NBC Sports to join the incipient Thursday Night Football property at Amazon Prime Video, Tirico was duly named the new play-by-play announcer on Sunday Night Football. It was one transaction in a deluge of broadcast movement in the final offseason before the start of the NFL’s new national media rights deal, reportedly worth over $110 billion over 11 years.

“The NFL doesn’t just reign over sports TV; it reigns over all of television and over all of American entertainment,” Costas said. “It’s the only thing that consistently aggregates audiences of that size, and therefore it isn’t just valuable to the networks; it’s indispensable to the networks.”

With these sizable media rights agreements comes substantial compensation for on-air talent. ESPN is reportedly paying Joe Buck and Troy Aikman a combined $33 million to serve as the Monday Night Football broadcast tandem, a figure some people would consider overpaying. Costas does not view it that way, instead perceiving broadcasters as harbingers of credibility.

“When you think about a company spending billions and billions of dollars for a property like they do with football, and then add on all the production costs, why should it surprise anybody that they’re willing to pay a very high premium to get Joe Buck or to retain Jim Nantz or to retain Tony Romo?,” Costas articulated. “Not doing so would be the equivalent of, ‘You spend $5,000 on a suit, but now you’re not going to splurge for the tie or the belt.’ These are accessories to a larger investment, and they’re important accessories.”

ESPN announced it was signing Pat McAfee to a multiyear, multi-million dollar contract to bring his eponymous show to its linear and digital platforms. McAfee conducted the negotiations independently and will still retain full creative control over the show in its new phase. The move, however, received considerable backlash from those inside and outside of ESPN since it occurred amid Disney CEO Bob Iger’s directive to lay off 7,000 employees across all divisions of the company. On several occasions, sports media pundits and personalities alike have expressed that ESPN concentrates its attention on a small sector of talent while neglecting everyone else. While FOX Corporation, Paramount Global and various other companies have engaged in layoffs this year, none made a hire with the star appeal,  gravitas, and price tag of McAfee.

“Someone like McAfee; he moves the needle,” Costas said. “He moves it, I guess, [on] various platforms – YouTube, as well as ESPN now, so he can make a difference so that’s what they’re paying for.”

Costas on Modern Media

An existential question those in the media industry are grappling with is how to offset the effects felt by cord-cutting. In the first quarter of 2023, cable, satellite and internet providers experienced a loss of 2.3 million customers, and the latest Nielsen Media Research Total Audience Report says 34% of consumption derives from streaming services. With digital forms of media and over-the-top (OTT) platforms taking precedence in the marketplace, companies must establish alternate revenue streams while continuing to innovate. 

CNN laid off employees last year, and its parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, will reportedly be laying off additional employees during the summer months. Costas joined the company in 2020 as a correspondent for CNN. Earlier this week, Costas appeared on the network to talk about the merger between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf, which marked a seminal moment in the history of the game.

Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Executive Officer David Zaslav recently relieved CNN chief executive officer Chris Licht of his duties as CEO following a pernicious feature in The Atlantic. It only worsened a dwindling company morale predicated by several controversial decisions regarding coverage, casting and the network’s commitment to journalistic integrity.

While Costas expressed that he had a “cordial, but not deep relationship” with Licht and did not have shrewd insight into the decision to part ways with the embattled CEO, he does understand the shifts in news viewership and how its subject matter can penetrate into sports media. 

For years, consumers regarded MSNBC as being biased to left-leaning politics, FOX News having bias towards right-leaning politics and CNN as nonpartisan, although that sentiment has somewhat changed.

“There’s a battle for viewership, and there’s some thought that people only want to go to the places that reinforce what they already believe,” Costas said. “‘Feed me the same meal every time over and over,’ and now CNN is trying to chart a different course more down the middle. Maybe you have to be more partisan in order to attract a larger cable audience; I underline ‘maybe’ because my insight into this is not as valuable as a lot of other people who are closer to it.”

The fractionalized media landscape, whether it be pertaining to news coverage, morning sports debate shows or afternoon drive programs, has, perhaps, engendered more disparate audiences than ever before. People tend to stick with outlets they know will provide them with information and coverage more favorable to their own points of view, and there is somewhat of an implicit chilling effect associated with channel surfing in certain scenarios. Viewers are obstinate towards programs that reinforce their points of view and hesitant to change, sometimes creating misinformation or, worse, disinformation.

“I think one of the most important courses that should be taught beginning fairly early – probably at the junior high school level and certainly continuing through college – is media literacy,” Costas opined, “which is not telling you what to think, but helping you to navigate this crazy jigsaw puzzle that’s out there.”

There are many people following the business of sports media, but a smaller group of people who tend to break news and report on the beat itself. While there are reporters specialized in different niches of the industry, there are others who indolently parse stories and/or spin aspects of it to render it compatible with their platform.

Established reporters and outlets certainly engage in some level of repurposing; however, these entities safeguard what they are disseminating is true and take accountability for their mistakes. Conversely, there are perpetrators who transmogrify things into engrossing headlines designed to attract traffic. It is disheartening for journalists such as Costas.

“Many sites now, and this is true in sports perhaps especially, [are] just aggregators,” Costas said. “They do no reporting; there doesn’t appear to be any editor overseeing any of it. They just look for stuff wherever it might appear, and then they repurpose it, and almost always, the context, the tone [and] the nuance is lost. At best, it’s reduced to primary colors. At worst, it’s totally misrepresented for clicks.”

In the past, Costas remembers genuine local programming which was exclusive to certain geographical areas. Because of the advent of the internet and social media though, nothing is truly local since people from around the world can consume content live or on demand. While this has brought many people together and improved cultural perceptions, ethnocentrism persists and has hindered accurate comprehension.

“If what you say is inevitably going to some extent be distorted where ‘A’ won’t just become ‘B,’ but it might become ‘X,’ ‘Y’ or ‘Z’ by the time it’s gone through all of its iterations, you sort of say to yourself, ‘What’s the point?,’” Costas elucidated. “Sports is not brain surgery – but you can make a more or less thoughtful point when asked a question, but if it’s then going to be seen, heard or read by more people than heard it initially, and if it’s going to be mangled in the process, it’s almost like a fool’s game to be part of that.”

Costas on the Future

The term ‘pretentious’ is wholly inaccurate in describing Costas. He does not view himself as a visionary and knows that he will not be an “active participant” in the industry that much longer, but is reassured regarding the direction of sports broadcasting. He looks at revered announcers such as Jim Nantz and is able to effectively identify similarities with Curt Gowdy. Although the degree of information available to people has certainly shifted, play-by-play announcing, at its core, remains similar to the on-air product people first heard in 1929, although the lexicon and flow of a broadcast are somewhat different.

“The essentials of the craft remain the same,” Costas said. “If you’re talking about sports talk radio; if you’re talking about the internet’s coverage of sports, that in some cases bears no resemblance to the notions that people of my generation had about credibility and quality of presentation. No one’s saying that sports coverage is masterpiece theater or something that should be taught at a Ph.D. class at Princeton [University], but it can be done more or less thoughtfully. It can be done more or less credibly, and we see wide variations now in how it’s done.”

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

There is Nothing Old School About a Human Touch in Radio Sales

“Digital buyers are different, and that’s okay. They may not be the right buyer for you to sell to anyway.”

Jeff Caves



Courtesy: Shutterstock

We are not dumb or dumber when it comes to buying radio advertising. Being a radio ad sales rep is old school to some advertising buyers. To others, we write the book on how to get advertising done. Find those clients! 

The digital automated ad buying platform AudioGo described selling radio ads as old school and wrote that automated buying is smarter. I am sure that is true for some buyers who have grown up with tech and automation, namely programmatic buying, and have changed their view of a radio salesperson. They don’t see the unique value radio sales reps bring to the process. 

Digital buyers are different, and that’s okay. They may not be the right buyer for you to sell to anyway. Plenty of other local direct clients are not ready for algorithms to automate ad buys. They want a human touch, a helping hand, and the kind of expertise that no algorithm can replace. YOU. Radio salespeople add value to these types of clients. Here is why we do and how we are not the “dumb and dumber” of media of buying. 


A radio salesperson offers specific solutions to meet a client’s goals with the right target audience and within their budget. We allow real-time interaction to understand the client’s business better, so we can match up the perfect advertising strategy. We are the ultimate live FAQs page. Building strong client relationships is critical. How can trust, collaboration, and a long-term partnership be created based on algorithms?


Most successful Radio salespeople have invaluable expertise and industry knowledge they picked up through years of experience. Twenty percent of the reps do eighty percent of the business. The vets know all about 6a-8a, 4p-6p, and live endorsement spots. 

We get the nuances of radio advertising, like shifting audience demographics, programming trends, and effective messaging strategies. We can advise a client to make a much more informed (and time-saving) decision that can maximize the impact of their ad campaigns. No algorithm can see that.


Automated programmatic buying may offer convenience, but it isn’t too custom of a solution. We tailor advertising campaigns to meet the unique needs of each client. We take in specific target audience preferences, locations, and competitive market trends to produce effective strategies. We listen to real-time feedback and get results. Algorithms rely on predefined parameters and can’t customize. 


Buying advertising can be complex, with regulations, industry standards, and market trends constantly changing. Radio salespeople have the experience to anticipate roadblocks and offer proactive solutions. Additionally, we can provide insight into budgeting, negotiation, and buying other media. Algorithms lack intuition and can’t maneuver fast enough to handle the unknown. 

While automation and algorithms have their place with certain buyers, remind yourself of the value you offer clients. You provide personalized consultation, industry expertise, customized solutions, and the ability to navigate. You are indispensable to the right buyers. Now find them! 

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Vic Lombardi Turns Nuggets Disrespect into Great Content

“I keep telling people they’re going to go where the money is. The money is the Lakers and the big city teams. The Nuggets don’t sell.” 

Tyler McComas



courtesy of Vic Lombardi

There was a feeling of Denver vs. Everyone during the 10 days that separated the end of the Western Conference Finals and Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The word “boring” was being used to describe what it was going to be like watching the Nuggets play for an NBA title. It didn’t sit well with Denver media and sports fans, as the unfair tag was being consistently referenced by certain members of the national sports media.

Vic Lombardi of Altitude Sports Radio in Denver, along with several of his co-workers, decided to fight against a narrative they found uneducated and unfair. In their eyes, all you had to do this season was to actually watch the Nuggets to find them interesting.  

“We assume everyone else knows what we know,” said Lombardi. “We assume that the rest of the country is watching. And all this has done, to be honest with you, has proven that a lot of national folks don’t watch as carefully as they say they do. Because if they watched they wouldn’t be as surprised as they are right now.”

There was even an on-air spat with Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated on the Altitude Sports Radio airwaves. During an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show, Mannix said there weren’t any compelling or interesting storylines surrounding the Nuggets first-ever NBA Finals appearance.

Lombardi, along with other hosts at Altitude Sports Radio took exception to the comment and fired back with their thoughts. A few days later, Mannix appeared on the station to defend his position and stick up for what he thought was accurate. Though the tensions were high during the back-and-forth it was incredible content for the station. 

But Lombardi says he doesn’t take the spats, whether they’re public or private, all that seriously when other fellow media members. 

“The arguments, if they’re anything, they’re all in fun,” said Lombardi. “I don’t take this stuff personally. We had a little back and forth with Chris Mannix. That was fun. I actually saw him in Denver when he came out for media. I respect anyone who’s willing to make their point on the air. It’s not the media’s job, it’s not your job as a host or a writer to tell me what I find compelling or interesting. We’re all from different parts with different needs and you can’t tell me what I desire. Let me pick that. Chase a story because the public may learn something. We’re curious by nature, that’s why we got into this business. All I ask is be more curious.”

The entire team at Altitude Sports Radio did an incredible job of sticking up for their own market and creating memorable content out of it. That should be celebrated inside the station’s walls. None of the outrage was forced; it was all genuine. But what’s the lesson to learn here from media folks, both local and national with this story? 

“I think the takeaway is number one, it’s a business,” said Lombardi. “I keep telling people they’re going to go where the money is. The money is the Lakers and the big city teams. The Nuggets don’t sell. 

“Well, you start selling when you start winning. They’ve got to sort of earn their way into that club. I think with what the Nuggets have done recently, and hopefully with what they’re about to do, they’re at the adult table. The media business is not unlike anything else. The biggest common denominator is what sells. I get that. I just don’t understand why a team like this, with the most unique player most people have ever seen, why wouldn’t that sell?”

Maybe it’s still not selling nationally, but locally in Denver, Nuggets talk is on fire. For years, the Denver market has been seen as one where the Broncos and NFL rule. The Nuggets have not been close to the top of Denver sports fans’ interests and have probably fallen routinely behind the Avalanche. 

But there’s been a real craving for Nuggets talk during this historic run. Granted, it didn’t just start two weeks ago, there’s been momentum building for the team ever since Nikola Jokic started asserting himself as one of the best players in the NBA. But there’s more than just an appetite for the Broncos in the city and the past few years have shown it. 

“I think it’s just proven to people in the city that the town is much different than it was 10, 20, 30 years ago,” said Lombardi. “The Broncos continue to rule this town and will do so because the NFL is the NFL. But I can tell you this. There are sports fans outside the NFL. I’m born and raised in Denver and I always believed, what’s so wrong about being an ardent fan of every sport? If you’re a fan, you’re a fan. There’s nothing I hate more than territorializing sports. Like, ‘oh I’m just a football fan’. Or, ‘oh I’m just a hockey fan’. Why? Sports crosses all borders and boundaries.”

Lombardi and Altitude Sports Radio have settled into local coverage of the NBA Finals, rather than fighting with a national narrative. The payoff for the entire ride has been very rewarding for the station. It included what Lombardi called the “highest of highs” when the Nuggets beat the Lakers on their own floor. It even included one of the biggest events the city has seen in the last five years, when the Nuggets hosted its first-ever NBA Finals game last week. 

The last few weeks could even be considered one of the most rewarding times in station history for Altitude Sports Radio. 

“Our ratings have never been higher,” said Lombardi. “It’s a great display of, sometimes in the media, we think we know what the listener wants. We think we do and we try to force feed them. I think the national folks do that, but so do the local folks. You think they know, but if you give them a nice diet, they’ll choose what they want. And that’s what we’ve done.”

Sign up for the BSM 8@8

The Top 8 Sports Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox, every morning at 8am ET.

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading






Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2023 Barrett Media.