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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

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

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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