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White Privilege? Stephen A. Smith Owes Steve Nash A Direct Apology

Stephen A. Smith erroneously said Blacks don’t receive NBA head-coaching jobs without previous experience, as Steve Nash did, then doubled down as executives from left-leaning ESPN sat still in a racially torn America.

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There are times, admittedly, when I feel sorry for ESPN as it slogs into a muddled future, rationalizes its plight with faux self-importance and leans so far left politically that no chiropractor can fix its crooked spine. Maybe Nielsen’s expanded metrics system, measuring “out of home’’ viewership for the first time, will be a ratings game-changer for live events and studio shows. But this is not a time for sympathy or hope.

Today, I am disgusted with the place.

Never has it entered my brainstream to make this type of remark: “The only reason (a team) hired (a coach) is because he’s Black.’’ During my eight years as a panelist on ESPN’s “Around The Horn,’’ such a flagrantly racist comment never would have made it to air. The producers would have halted the taping. I’d have been sent home and told never to return. And, of course, I would have deserved the entirety of professional punishment and accompanying public shame.

But the people who run the company and control the editorial product — Bob Iger, Jimmy Pitaro, Norby Williamson — are drowning these days in hypocrisy disguised as social awareness. They want equality, right? Then they should embrace equality for all races instead of allowing a Black network personality, the ubiquitous Stephen A. Smith, to say Steve Nash was hired to coach the Brooklyn Nets only because he is White.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no way around this. This is white privilege. This does not happen for a Black man,’’ Smith said on “First Take,’’ his weekday TV program. “No experience whatsoever? On any level as a coach? And you get the Brooklyn Nets job?”

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no way around this. This is convenient bigotry, race-baiting and truth-twisting of the worst kind. At a time when broadcast networks allow Black commentators to stoke the searing flames of racism without accountability or consequence, Smith was permitted to express a sweeping, headline-grabbing, social-media-inciting take without considering facts or circumstances. As one who has supported him in the past, I might wonder if it’s another example of his being overworked by a network that can’t get enough of him on its platforms. But this time, his lapse is too reckless and damaging to be pardoned.

When Smith says “this does not happen for a Black man,’’ he’s claiming that a White NBA great is being gifted an undeserving opportunity as a neophyte — Nash has no previous head-coaching experience — when such a raw chance never would be accorded a Black man in the league. Wrong. Wrong as one can be.

See Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers, 1994.

See Doc Rivers, Orlando Magic, 1999.

See Isiah Thomas, Indiana Pacers, 2000.

See Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors, 2011.

See Jason Kidd, Nets, 2013.

See Derek Fisher, New York Knicks, 2014.

Also see Tyronn Lue, Cleveland Cavaliers, 2016, who was a career assistant when summoned in midseason to replace a White head coach, David Blatt, a move that ended with LeBron James celebrating a historic Finals triumph over the Warriors.

In fact, in a list compiled by NBC Sports, nine of the last 16 NBA head coaches hired with no previous coaching experience have been Black. Does Smith realize that the last three coaches to win championships — Lue, Golden State’s Steve Kerr and Toronto’s Nick Nurse — were hired without NBA head-coaching experience? That the Nets have employed eight Black head coaches since 1989? Would you like to do research, Stephen A., before exacerbating the tempest of racial relations in a divided America? And would ESPN like to make a statement about on-air credibility by at least reprimanding Smith and showing that the network actually cares about the veracity of its content? Nah, the aforementioned executives lack the requisite political testicles, already driving on the shoulder of the left lane when the center lane always makes the most sense in sports TV.

During his incendiary fit, Smith should have known the hire was directly attached to Nash’s close working relationship with Nets superstar Kevin Durant, who is Black. Nash’s individual workout sessions with Durant were essential during their time together with Golden State, where Nash served as a player development consultant for five years. They traded trash-talk out of mutual reverence, a Hall of Famer and two-time league MVP trying to maximize the monstrous skills of a future Hall of Famer, compelling Durant to tell reporters in 2018, “He’s someone I can talk to about anything and somebody I really respect. His basketball mind is probably the best I’ve been around. He tries to simplify the game and keep me conscious of those things as well. It’s simplifying and keeping it easy for yourself. I’ve learned so much. So many people taught me how to play. He’s continued to teach me different things I can put in my game. I’m very grateful for him.”

When Nets owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks sought a head coach, guess whose voice in the organization weighed paramount? Durant’s voice, in concert with teammate Kyrie Irving’s voice. As a tag team, they signed lucrative contracts with the Nets last year knowing they’d influence coaching and roster decisions. It’s well worth emphasizing that Durant and Irving, both given to robust activism during their careers, didn’t let race interfere with the head coach they desired. If Smith knows anything about the NBA — and he has covered the league for decades — he’d have realized the strong links between Nash, Durant and Marks, who played with Nash in Phoenix and became a close friend. He also would have considered how Nash has rejected other coaching and front-office offers through the years, preoccupied with his GM duties for Canada’s national team, his Warriors role and Hollywood production interests. Plus, given Nash’s time with Golden State, who wouldn’t want to channel the culture of Kerr, whose teams only won three championships and went to five straight league Finals?

But Smith saw only one thing: a white face. And he wondered why Nash was appointed when seasoned Black coaches such as Lue and Jackson were available. So, this somehow became a case of “White privilege’’ when the facts scream otherwise. If we must go down White/Black separation highway — for the record, I’d much prefer we all got along in this world as equals — first-time White NBA head coaches such as Kerr, Nurse and even Larry Bird in the wayback machine all have fared quite well. And just as Rivers has enjoyed a stellar coaching career that might end with another league title, in the Disney World Bubble with the L.A. Clippers, most Black coaches on the neophyte list have not succeeded. I don’t draw much from such data, but I thought Stephen A. might want to deal in a few facts.

If the conversation never should “stick to sports,’’ especially in 2020, what sports can do in such cases is try color blindness. And maybe give Nash credit for being anything but another accomplished White guy getting a cushy break. He has paid a measure of coaching dues working for the Warriors and helping not only Durant but Steph Curry. Also, Smith might be surprised that Nash has used George Floyd as his Twitter profile picture since that horrific day in May, when Floyd was choked to death by a White police officer in Minneapolis.

Steve Nash will use his voice as Nets coach: 'It's important to support  this fight'

“As a human being, it’s hard to live with racial injustice,” Nash told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, a more responsible ESPN-employed voice in this instance than Smith. “It’s important for white people to take a deep look at what is occurring in our communities and what has been occurring for 400 years. A component of this conversation needs to be that white people need to not be offensive about white privilege or inequality. They just need to be honest, have those conversations and ask ourselves how we would feel if we had endured this 400-plus-year history. So, for me, it’s hurtful and it’s wrong. That’s why I have expressed my opinion on the matters because some of us are hurting and it’s not fair.”

It’s not as if the Nets didn’t consider Black candidates, such as interim head coach Jacque Vaughn, who will remain in Brooklyn as the league’s highest-paid assistant and would have been named permanent head coach had Nash rejected the Nets’ overtures. Vaughn, by the way, went 58-158 in 2 1/2 seasons as a head coach in Orlando. In a market where the dominant status of the dysfunctional Knicks never has been more vulnerable, the Nets went for the newsier hire. It’s a big story in New York, Nash coaching Durant and Irving; Lue or Vaughn coaching them is not a huge story, nor is it a huge story that retread Tom Thibodeau was hired by the Knicks. “After meeting with a number of highly accomplished coaching candidates from diverse backgrounds, we knew we had a difficult decision to make,” Marks said. “In Steve, we see a leader, communicator and mentor who will garner the respect of our players. I have had the privilege to know Steve for many years. One of the great on-court leaders in our game, I’ve witnessed firsthand his basketball acumen and selfless approach to prioritize team success. His instincts for the game, combined with an inherent ability to communicate with and unite players towards a common goal, will prepare us to compete at the highest levels of the league.”

I am not alone in admonishing Smith. “I was very disappointed in some of the guys talking about White privilege,” Charles Barkley said on TNT. “They’re like, `Well, this doesn’t happen to Black guys.’ And I’m like, `It happened to Doc Rivers. It happened to Jason Kidd. It happened to Derek Fisher.’ When you have a responsibility, especially when you have to talk about something as serious as race, you can’t be full of crap. You’ve got to be honest and fair. Steve Nash is a great player and a good dude. … Now, do we need more Black coaches in the NBA? Yes. Do we need more Black coaches in college football? Yes. Do we need more Black coaches in pro football? Yes. But this wasn’t the right time to say that today. Good luck to Steve Nash.”

Even Smith’s ESPN teammate, Jay Williams, fired back on Twitter: “Come on SA. Steve Nash being chosen over Mark Jackson/Ty Lue is not “White Privilege”.. 2 superstar black athletes ultimately made the decision & we know who they are and what they are about.”

At a time when people see color, count faces and point fingers, four Black NBA head coaches have lost gigs this season: Vaughn, Indiana’s Nate McMillan, New Orleans’ Alvin Gentry and the Knicks’ David Fizdale. In a 30-team league in which about 80 percent of the players are Black, there are seven head coaches of color — five are Black, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra is of Filipino descent, and Charlotte’s James Borrego is Hispanic. The number has slipped from the 14 minority head coaches during the 2012-13 season, meaning the four teams with vacancies will have pressure to hire Black coaches, with New Orleans and Philadelphia — which fired Brett Brown, who is White — interested in Lue. Most owners and general managers are not looking at race, not in the NBA. They would kill to find the next Rivers, so vital to the Clippers as a coach and to the league as a transcendent leader. Is it a problem that more Black assistants don’t get opportunities? Yes — and the Clippers’ Sam Cassell is among those who deserve shots right now. But unlike Magic Johnson in the ‘90s — a head-coaching hire comparable to the Nash appointment — there aren’t many retired Black superstars who want to coach in the league.

Chauncey Billups on Warriors being named 'coma' lineup: Are y'all kidding  me? | NBA Countdown | ESPN - YouTube

Chauncey Billups would be a natural, but he has aspirations to run a basketball operation. Juwan Howard, who would be in demand, prefers to stay at the University of Michigan for now, while Patrick Ewing is proving himself at Georgetown. Look, teams want a coach who can win and excite the fans, challenges more important than ever when the coronavirus could keep paying customers out of arenas well into 2021, or longer.

Not that Stephen A. Smith ever would apologize for swinging and missing badly. Acknowledging an egregious mistake would ruin his shtick. The next day, decibels rising again, he refused to back down: “I mentioned `white privilege’ yesterday. I have a message to those who feel I was wrong, that i need to apologize, that I don’t know what I’m talking about: I don’t give a damn what y’all feel. Y’all can kick rocks. I don’t give a damn. I’m not budging from my position one inch. I called it `white privilege’ yesterday. I’m calling it today. I’m calling it `white privilege’ a month from now, a year from now, five years from now.’’

Even when, in this case, it’s utter foolishness to say it. Smith should apologize directly to Nash. And the apology should be televised because, after all, the reason he’s on the air so much is so ESPN can squeeze him for all the attention his act can muster. Never mind that his subject matter is dangerous and flammable and filled with the hatred that makes America a sick place. Ratings are ratings!

BSM Writers

The Craig Carton/FanDuel Deal Is Undeniably A Good Thing

“Since returning to WFAN, Carton has been very upfront about who he is, what he has done and how he is trying to do better.”

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Craig Carton is destined to forever be a polarizing figure in the world of sports media. Long before he was arrested, he had plenty of detractors that considered him less of a talk show host and more of a shock jock. Add to it a conviction for his role in a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors in order to pay back gambling debts, and it is clear that the guy’s approval rating will never hit 100.

Charities of disgraced shock jock Craig Carton say he let them down; lawyer  calls it a 'gross misunderstanding' - New York Daily News
Courtesy: New York Daily News

There are understandable reasons not to like a guy and then there are grudges. Grudges don’t have to be personal. They don’t have to spring from some sort of affront. They can easily be born out of feeling like someone has figured out a way to live a life above the rules and free of consequence for their awful actions.

Grudges can (and often do) blind us to reality. I think that is a big part of what is happening when people point to Craig Carton’s new deal with FanDuel and say that there is something wrong with it.

If you missed the announcement last week, Carton is joining FanDuel as the company’s first “responsible gaming ambassador.” He will create content about gambling responsibly and also work with FanDuel engineers to create AI to spot problem gambling patterns. The deal gives Craig Carton a seat at the table with one of the biggest mobile sportsbooks in shaping their responsible gaming policy. Isn’t that a good thing?

I probably cannot convince you to view the guy in any particular light. When it comes to former inmates being rehabilitated and getting a second chance, we tend to be very dug in with our opinions, whatever may influence them.

Undeniably, Carton did a bad thing. Swindling people out of huge chunks of money is always bad. In America, it somehow seems worse. As costs of living increase and wages remain flat, every dollar is accounted for and allotted to something for most of us. The guy should be ashamed of himself. And here’s the thing: he clearly is.

Since returning to WFAN, Carton has been very upfront about who he is, what he has done and how he is trying to do better. Hell, what other station in America dedicates any time at all, even just a half hour on the weekend, to issues of addiction and recognizing problem habits? This deal with FanDuel seems perfectly in line with his previous attempts to atone.

Hello, My Name Is Craig
Courtesy: Audacy

You don’t have to like Craig Carton, but you do need to acknowledge that everything he has done in terms of highlighting his problem with gambling and offering help to those that he sees a little bit of his own struggles in has been sincere. There is no reason to believe it isn’t.

Under the terms of the deal, not only will Carton advise and create content for FanDuel, but the company will also make sure Hello, My Name is Craig finds a bigger platform. You can be cynical and say that this is just part of a bigger deal between FanDuel and WFAN parent company Audacy, but FanDuel’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mike Raffensperger explained that it is good for the gaming industry to promote betting responsibly.

“I think what we recognize we needed is to add some humanity as to how we get this message across,” he said when explaining why Carton was the perfect face for this campaign.

We see it every time we post a story about sports betting. Someone will comment that it is an evil practice and that the advertising has made sports radio disgusting. The reality is that it is no different from alcohol. For most people, it is harmless. Plenty though, cannot handle it. Still, you tell me the first time you hear an ad break on sports radio or see a commercial break during a game without a beer commercial.

If you really believe sports gambling is evil and want people to stay away from mobile or physical sportsbooks, who do you think the ideal person to be delivering that message is?

You can go with the puritan approach of tisk-tisking strangers and telling them they are flawed people that are going to Hell or you can have a guy that has literally lost it all because of his addiction out front telling you “I know I cannot place a bet and here is why. If that sounds familiar, maybe it is time for you to seek help.” It seems pretty obvious to me that the latter approach is exactly what Raffensperger is talking about – using humanity to reach the people they need to.

Craig Carton committed a crime. A court of law said he had to pay for that both with restitution to his victims and with jail time. He served his time. Deals like this one with FanDuel make it possible for him to stay on schedule with the restitution payments. Even if you think he is unforgivable, that should make you happy, right?

It is admittedly strange to see a mobile sportsbook hire a “responsible gaming ambassador.” I would argue though that it is only strange because it isn’t something we have seen before. Be skeptical if you are the “I’ll believe it when I see it” type, but I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to congratulate and celebrate both Craig Carton and FanDuel.

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BSM Writers

Sports Radio America: The Starting Point When There Is No College Radio

“If we want to replace talent with talent, we have to develop talent at the lowest levels much more than asking for requirements at the highest levels. Every industry needs their farm-system.”

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It is a laboratory. A place to make mistakes. A spot to make friends. The hub of many communications schools. College radio stations are the pipeline by which young, aspiring broadcasters, engineers and producers carve their path to the pros. Broadcasters from around the United States credit college radio for helping them get to where they are today, and view it as a conduit for the next generation of talent.

“I can’t speak highly enough about my college experience doing radio,” said Evan Wilner, senior radio producer at ESPN and former member of WRHU-FM at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. “I realized in college that I am much better at fixing things rather than talking while other people tried doing something about it. Every place I’ve been, I feel like I’ve been ahead of the game because of the experience I got in college.”

Evan Wilner (@WilnerRadio) | Twitter

Wilner’s story is far from unique among professionals in broadcasting today, and proves valuable in ascertaining the role college radio plays in preparing broadcasters in their journey. Travis Demers, the radio play-by-play voice of the N.B.A.’s Portland Trail Blazers, shares a similar sentiment regarding the opportunities college radio afforded him, and how it helped him work in the industry he had a nascent passion for.

“In sixth grade, I was listening to WFAN, and when I realized I wasn’t going to be a professional baseball player, I started [radio] right away as a college freshman.”

Demers attended LIU Post in Brookville, N.Y. beginning in 1999, and eventually served as the sports director of WCWP-FM. In his time at the station, Demers was given numerous opportunities to broadcast football, basketball and lacrosse games on campus, eventually leading to an internship, and corresponding full-time job, at ABC Radio in New York City.

“Everything I could do specifically with sports is what I was trying to do right from the start,” reminisced Demers, “and I was fortunate enough to do that.”

Dan Zangrilli, who serves as a play-by-play announcer at West Virginia University and host of the M.L.B.’s Pittsburgh Pirates’ pre- and post-game shows on 93.7 The Fan, got his start in college radio at Clarion University in Clarion, P.A. The 4,000-watt WCUC 91.1 FM was Zangrilli’s place to get practice broadcasting live basketball games, and hosting a morning talk show.

Dan Zangrilli (@DanZangrilli) | Twitter

“I had free reign; it was basically like my easel,” elucidated Zangrilli. “I started out as a freshman and became the sports director, and ascended to the general manager position by my junior year. That’s just such invaluable experience to be immersed in every aspect of the radio industry, and I wouldn’t trade that place for anything.”

 In a media landscape full of changes accelerated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lifespan of college radio as a subset of the industry is at greater risk of being classified as ephemeral than ever before, a harrowing realization that one former operations manager for a mortgage company had in Memphis, Tenn. had just over a decade ago.

Ayokunle Spencer, a graduate of the University of Memphis and former paralegal, was working for the Rawlings Company in Louisville, Ky., when he happened to overhear a conversation that forever changed his life. One of his co-workers was apprehensive about how his daughter, set to graduate from the University of Louisville, would leave as the school’s radio station would be shut down due to a lack of funding. At the onset of the 2008 economic recession, college radio stations were slashed from budgets around the country, stymying the development of prospective talent and rendering vagabonds heavily involved, and invested, students. Forsaken from the ability to develop the skill set and collect the air checks needed to land a job in the industry, Spencer decided it was time to make a concerted effort to resuscitate an ostensibly-dying concentration of the evolving medium.

“When the need presented itself… we [tried to] put something together [to give] people opportunities to sharpen the skills, and develop the next broadcast talent,” said Spencer. “We posted on the message boards at the colleges and, in about a year’s time, there was an influx of different students we were getting a chance to work with.”

Sports Radio America was founded by Ayokunle Spencer in 2008 as a digital broadcasting network intended to give college students attending universities without a campus radio station the chance to polish their on-air skills and perfect their craft. A member of the jazz-format WUMR while attending the University of Memphis, Spencer had previous experience in pitching up-and-coming hip-hop and R&B artists to local radio stations, including the likes of All-Star and Yo Gotti, through his promotional company and record label, Dynasty Digital Entertainment. Progressive in his thinking, Spencer was one of the first to stream radio broadcasts on the Internet, assisting Bishop G.E. Patterson in the dissemination of a small, A.M. religious station to the masses.

“Radio was always a passion for me as a kid,” said Spencer, “but I always took steps towards that passion before the University of Memphis. I felt, at that time, I was more at the forefront of what was going to come next. I wrote a paper that the Internet would be the place for media in thirty years, and twenty-five years later, I think I was dead on with that one.”

Conceived by means of necessity, Sports Radio America is a haven for young talent, broadcasting live games and talk radio shows on the Internet. The outlet, though, became more of a potpourri of commentators and journalists alike in order to help them evolve to the dynamic world of mediated communication.

“What it started out to be isn’t necessarily what it is now, although I want to get back to those roots of working with highly-talented students and getting them prepared for the next stage of their careers,” said Spencer. “Other journalists that were leaving FOX or ESPN, or older guys that had gotten kicked out of their radio stations because they didn’t know anything about digital, they ended up here. It kind of became a collage of different broadcasters and media personalities from around the U.S.”

As Sports Radio America celebrates its 10-year anniversary, Spencer remains focused on positioning the media venture ahead of the pack, cogently aware of industry changes and best practices to help its broadcasters land jobs and the company prosper after unforeseen circumstances over the previous year-and-a-half.

PsalmStream

“We just came through COVID, and in terms of advertising, all that stuff was crushed,” explained Spencer. “We are kind of almost in a rebuild mode now. We give people the opportunity to create something new, build up your audience and see if something works.”

Once Sports Radio America’s popularity began to grow around the country, the broadcasting outlet, to avoid being overwhelmed with participants, began interviewing and selecting talent to join them. Throughout his professional career, Spencer has had an innate ability to evaluate talent across all industries, something he calls “a God-given gift.” In his current role, which he compares to a professional football scout, one of Spencer’s jobs is to find the best people to join Sports Radio America, and help them get to where they want to go.

“The way my brain processes information, I can just tell certain people in certain things are creative enough to meet industry standards and excel,” said Spencer. “In sports radio, I evaluate voice, how interesting they are in being able to hold a conversation, the topics they pick out, etc. It’s really the only gift I think I actually have.”

Spencer has been successful in helping aspiring collegiate-level industry talent get the experience they need, with his organization serving as the pipeline many colleges have come to eliminate from their campuses. His method of evaluating talent aligns with principles employed by current hiring managers and industry professionals, such as Nick Cattles, host of The Nick Cattles Show on ESPN Radio 94.1 in Virginia Beach. Cattles highly values relatability and uniqueness in his evaluations of talent, along with if they are able to keep a listener actively engaged in their program.

“I think hosts around the country are better off when they allow themselves to be an open book,” said Cattles. “I always listen, probably more intently, to somebody who is willing to give the ‘secrets’ so to speak as opposed to somebody who is more guarded. The cool thing about radio is that there are so many talented people, and there is no one way to do it right. You try to find people who can do it their own way with the passion and the work-ethic that you can invest and believe in.”

Hardly esoteric in understanding, radio, and media altogether, is changing, and seismically in that matter. With today’s reliance on digital platforms for distribution, programs are, evidently, being adapted to fit the proclivities of the listening audience, including a shortening total attention span.

In a recent study by Microsoft, the average human being has an attention span of eight seconds, down a whopping four seconds over the last twenty years. This figure, which is shorter than that of a goldfish, is a direct byproduct of the principle of instant gratification, and the evolution of technology to enable its propagation. The inability to sustain focus has become an endemic in today’s society, and mediums of communication have had to adjust to fit this dynamic psychological paradigm.

Illegally introduced goldfish discovered in multiple Rock Springs–area  ponds - Casper, WY Oil City News
Courtesy: Shutterstock

Furthermore, consumers of mass media are more apt than ever before to selectively filter information; that is, specifically choosing what to concentrate on. As a result, media, in all of its forms, is less concentrated in scope, being narrowed to appeal to the target audience. The conflation of methodologies, simultaneously existing within a preponderance of content and a widening definition as to just who is considered to be a journalist, challenges the fundamental precept of what media is entirely. So how is radio adapting in this new landscape? By expanding its means of dissemination.

“It’s much more multi-faceted, social media-oriented and digital as opposed to [it being] siloed, [as it was] when I got into it,” said Brad Carson, operations and brand manager of 92.9 FM ESPN and Audacy Memphis Sports. “It used to be that you were a radio guy. Now in 2021, you are getting people that are entertainers. The latest joke is, ‘Hey, here’s our latest talent with one million TikTok followers.’ I think you can get people on a radio station or on our Audacy platforms from all walks of life. It’s a much more inexact science than [ever before].”

Spencer, whose progressive thoughts on the media landscape are openly conveyed in conversation, believes the introduction of streaming to be a considerable advancement that can play across multiple platforms. Unsurprisingly, he was ahead of the game at Sports Radio America, basing the online platform on this technology.

“The market for audio is always going to be there. The question is what medium we are going to use to deliver it,” said Spencer. “Everything will probably be streaming by 2030. I think that there will still be the public channels on the airwaves, but the majority of media will be consumed [via] streaming because [it is] a more accurate [platform] to measure who is listening. Whatever the next area of audio is, we will probably start it here first.”

Based on my conversations with these industry professionals, it is safe to say that Ayokunle Spencer, Brad Carson, Travis Demers, Evan Wilner, Dan Zangrilli and Nick Cattles attribute their college radio experience as one of the reasons they possess the skills to succed in their current jobs. Being able to have the flexibility to make mistakes, try new things and establish long-lasting professional relationships are invaluable to ambitious young broadcasters, and all evolving broadcasters for that matter. Belonging to a college media outlet is undoubtedly something many students savor, with many largely basing their choice of college on the quality of the media outlets if they are so fortunate. However, not all ambitious young broadcasters are equally privy to the same resources.

Not all ambitious young broadcasters are able to provide sufficient previous experience when trying to secure an internship or a job.

Not all ambitious young broadcasters are privy to changing industry trends, nor do they have the resources to render them an understanding as to how to achieve their goals.

Not all ambitious young broadcasters have a place to be mentored, and mentors willing to leverage valuable industry connections that could lead them to an internship or a job.

Experience needed: how to get a job with no previous experience -

For Ayokunle Spencer and his team at Sports Radio America, lessening the discrepancies between those with the ability to easily make connections and expend resources, and those looking to establish or collect them, has always been at the forefront of their mission — and they intend to keep shrinking the gap.

“I am surprised there aren’t more places like this where people can develop their skills before they reach the big-time,” expressed Spencer. “If we want to replace talent with talent, we have to develop talent at the lowest levels much more than asking for requirements at the highest levels. Every industry needs their farm-system.”

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Covid Is A Convenient Excuse For Lowering Our Standards

“I am sick of hearing lag and noticeably different levels of soundproofing between two hosts on the same show.”

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I was probably four hours deep into my all-day football binge on Saturday when I started to think about the overall quality of what I was seeing. This isn’t a column about whether college football is secretly better than the NFL. This is about our industry.

While you may not notice a difference in the presentation on CBS’s top line SEC broadcast or on FOX’s Big Noon Saturday game, it is clear how few resources are being allocated to some of the games further down the networks’ priority list. ESPN doesn’t even send live broadcasters to its Thursday night college football game for instance.

Ohio State football broadcasts go remote amid COVID-19 restrictions
Courtesy: WBNS Radio

Covid-19 was the beginning of this. It forced every business in the broadcast industry to re-evaluate budgets and figure out how to do games when travel and the traditional set up of broadcast booths simply were not on the table.

This isn’t a problem limited to game coverage either. Plenty of hosts still are not back in their radio studio. Plenty of guests on ESPN’s and FS1’s mid day debate shows are still appearing via Skype and Zoom connections. It is as if we have started counting on our audience not expecting quality any more.

I want to be perfectly clear. I get that this pandemic isn’t over. I get that in many cases, networks and stations are trying to avoid overcrowding studios and in some cases, make accommodations for top-level talent that refuse to get vaccinated. “It’s survival mode,” is the answer from corporate.

Do we still need to be in survival mode though? We are 18 months into this pandemic. The majority of Americans are vaccinated. The ones who aren’t are actively making a choice not to do what they need to in order to put on the best possible show they can.

I am sick of hearing lag and noticeably different levels of soundproofing between two hosts on the same show. I am sick of seeing hosts on crystal clear HD cameras in a high tech studio talk to someone on a dirty webcam that can’t be bothered to even put in headphones so they don’t sound like they are shouting down a hallway.

A good example is the late Highly Questionable. I really liked that show when it was done in studio. I liked a lot of the ESPN talent that popped up on the show even after Dan Le Batard left. I couldn’t watch any more of the show than the two minute clips that would show up on Twitter. I didn’t want to see Bomani Jones behind a giant podcast mic. The low res camera that turned Mina Kimes’s house plant into a green blob gave me a headache. The complete disregard for quality made a decent show hard to watch.

Highly Questionable 4/12/21 - Changing History? - YouTube
Courtesy: ESPN

There was a time when the accommodations we made for Covid-19 were totally necessary. Bosses and broadcasters did whatever they had to to get a show or a game on the air. At this point, I am starting to wonder how much of the concessions are necessary and how much are the result of executives that “good enough” is the new standard.

It is totally reasonable to argue that in an age where microphones and editing software are cheap, slick production doesn’t carry the weight it once did. That is true for the podcasters and TikTokers that are creating content in spare bedrooms and home offices. If you’re ESPN or FOX or SirusXM, that slick production is what sells the idea that your content is better than what people can make at home on their own.

It’s soundproof studios, 4K cameras and futuristic graphics packages that make the standard setters in the industry special. Maybe your average Joe Six-Pack can’t put it into words. He just knows that a lot of home-produced content sounds and looks like play time compared to what he sees or hears on a network.

Sure, the anchors are the signature of SportsCenter’s heyday, but it was the stage managers, producers, and other behind-the-scenes staff doing their jobs that really made the show thrive. Those people cost money. The details they took care of may be something 90% of viewers will never notice. They will just know that they are watching a really good show. Those difference makers cannot do their jobs to the best of their abilities if everyone is being piped in from a different FaceTime feed.

In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic we did whatever we had to. As broadcasters, we made compromises. As an audience, we accepted compromises. We were desperate for familiar entertainment and if Zoom is what it took to get it, that was just fine. There was no cure, no vaccine, things were scary and we were all anxious not knowing how long it would all last.

Anxiety and Depression From COVID-19 – San Diego – Sharp Health News
Courtesy: Nuthawut Somsuk

More than 18 months later, things may not be back to normal, but we are considerably less desperate. There are signs of normalcy in the world. Make the commitment to bring back the standard that won you so many fans in the first place.

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