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James Rapien is Headed to Cleveland



It was supposed to be just another ordinary day at the station for James Rapien, show prepping and scheduling guests. He refused to let his mind wander from anything else outside the walls of ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati. But suddenly, his concentration was broken when his cell phone started to ring. It was a number that he instantly recognized.  

Applying and interviewing for other jobs is the nature of the business in sports radio. Like anything else, there’s a right and wrong way to handle such things, but bettering yourself and exploring new opportunities is common amongst hosts, producers and reporters. 

When Rapien picked up his phone to answer the incoming call that could change his career, he made sure he was respectful, by stepping aside his current duties to take the call. On the other end of the line was Andy Roth, program director at 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland. After going through several phone interviews, sending numerous sound clips and even making a trip to Cleveland to visit Roth, the hosts, producers and everyone else at the station, the phone call he’d been anxiously awaiting had arrived. 

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When you’re in the middle of the job interview process, it’s extremely tough not to let your mind wander and think about the possibility of landing the job. It’s even harder, when you’ve made it onto the final list of candidates. Though Rapien admitted it wasn’t easy to shut down those thoughts, he said, “even when you’re interviewing, work at your current employer doesn’t stop.” 

That’s a great piece of advice to anyone going through the interview process. Though it’s an exciting time, what good are you to your current position if you constantly get distracted by the thoughts of working for another station?  I give a lot of credit to the way Rapien handled himself as a professional throughout this process. Even though he was going through a potential career-changing moment, he worked just has hard as he did before. 

Rapien wasn’t just looking for any reason or excuse to get away from ESPN 1530 or the city of Cincinnati. He loves working there. He loves his co-workers. The city is where he and his fiancé have made a home. So when it came down to Roth calling Rapien the first time, the interview process was going both ways. 

“When interviewing with a station, you’re also interviewing them to make sure it’s a good fit for you.” That was another fantastic bit of advice that came from Rapien. When he initially saw the opening at 92.3 The Fan on social media and Barrett Sports Media, he was interested, but he wasn’t sure if the logistics, such as moving with his fiancé to Cleveland, would work out. He wasn’t about to just jump at the first opportunity that came about, he really wanted to make sure this was the right move for both personal and professional reasons. 

Soon after, Rapien came to the conclusion this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. So when Roth finally called after a long interview process to offer the reporter position, Rapien was sure this was the right fit for him. 

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TM: Was there a question during the interview process that surprised you?

JR: Sure, I think there’s always questions like that during the interview process. I’m not sure if one sticks out specifically, I would say, and I think this is the key to any interview, I’ve always treated them as it’s not about really going out of your way to impress the employer, it’s seeing if it’s a good fit for you.

I go into them interviewing the company, too. Am I interested in them? When someone asks me a question that throws me off, it truly doesn’t throw me off too much, because I’m going to answer honestly and the best way that I can.

If it’s a good fit, it ends up being a good fit. I think a lot of people, in any industry, put a lot of pressure on themselves during the interview process and do a lot of prep. I didn’t really do any practice questions, or anything like that. I wanted to be genuine. If they were interested in me, great. Obviously, it worked out well.

TM: How did you find out about the opening?

JR: I saw it on Twitter, I saw that the reporter was leaving. But also, I love and I also saw it there.

TM: What did you do to reach out? 

JR: I sent a resume and that’s it. You would love to have contacts and things like that, I knew one of the producers there and I just eventually applied there. Apparently, they must have liked me at least a little bit.  

TM: In terms of clips that you initially sent over, did you send a couple of segments? A full hour? How did you approach it?

JR: I sent clips of different things, me with someone else, me interviewing a couple of different people, intro to hours, but this is a reporter position, so writing came into it, as well. Things I’ve done on blogs, websites, and stuff like that I sent over. They’ve heard me, but they also needed to read me. But I also recorded some updates so they could hear my abilities in that area. 

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TM: Was there a moment throughout the interview process where you realized to yourself that you had a legit shot at getting the job?

JR: Yeah, I think after you get a call and then you eventually get a couple more, you let your minde wander a little bit. But to be honest, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I knew it would be a big move from Cincinnati. It’s my hometown and I think I’ve established a pretty decent role here with the station.

It was just kind of a feeling out process that we continued to have. It was exciting, sure, just the thought you could potentially be wanted for another position, but I don’t think there was ever a moment where I let myself get super excited. Of course I thought about, naturally you’re going to do that, but I didn’t want to get too excited, because you do so many interviews in this industry the last thing you want to do is get ahead of yourself and think you’ve locked up the position. I tried to stay as even-keel as I could. 

TM: Is it easier going through the interview process when you already have a job, versus being out of one and just praying you find work again?

JR: I think so. I wasn’t desperate or coming from a desperate place. I was coming from a place where I really like where I’m at, what I’m doing and the people I’m working with. But, naturally in this industry, you have to be open to listening and feeling things out. You have to be open to looking for other opportunities and exploring them when they present a great opportunity.

This felt like that. But absolutely, it’s much different and harder if I was coming from a more desperate place. I’ve been in that situation and it’s tough. The hard part is maintaining and not looking that way. It’s still realizing, oh, I’m not going to take this just because it’s offered, I’m going to take it because I think it’s a good opportunity for me. You just have to keep in mind that you’re gathering information on you, just like you’re gathering information on them. 

TM: It’s the nature of the business, guys leave and find new opportunities. But what’s the conversation like when you approach your current employer and tell them you’re accepting a position at another station? 

JR: My current employer, iHeart Media in Cincinnati, was just awesome throughout the process. From everyone I talked to about it, they totally understood and were excited for me. It wasn’t a, “Oh my goodness I can’t believe you’re leaving and taking that!” it was, “Wow. That’s awesome and a really good opportunity for you.”

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I’m grateful for that. I feel like that’s probably rare in this type of industry. This is where I was groomed and grew up in sports radio. They’ve seen me grow and were excited for me. I wasn’t nervous about telling them and I think that speaks to their character and how they view me and how I view them. 

TM: Did you list any references on your resume that worked at your employer?

JR: I didn’t include a natural reference area. Clearly, they saw I do a show with Mo Egger and that helped, but during the interview process I made it clear I do have them. My resume is a lot of little thing I’ve done, from play-by-play to writing for different websites, things like that. I’ve chosen, over time, to pick up little jobs like that to turn into resume builders. Naturally, everything is online these days and that’s how you apply. But no, references from the station weren’t on my initial list. 

BSM Writers

Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable

After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.



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Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.

Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.

The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)

OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.

What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:

Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did

This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.

I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.

I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.

What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.

I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.

“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”

Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.

“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “

“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”

OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.

However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on  YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.

“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of  his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.

“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”

Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.

That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.

Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”

I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.

I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.

I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.

By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”

Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:

Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”

If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 75



A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.

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BSM Writers

Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM

Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.



Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.

I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future. 

Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?

Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.

Bron Heussenstamm, CEO Bleav Podcast Network

How is advertising on Bleav different? 

We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content. 

What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see? 

The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space. 

SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like? 

We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide. 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?  

There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple. 

At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram. 

If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.

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