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You Can’t Put a Price On The Value of An Unpaid Internship

“Prioritizing earnings early on over experience is a big mistake.”

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Social media can be a mixture of a vacation in paradise or a long stay in the sewer. Allow me to explain.

On one hand, the ability to share your content with folks who’d otherwise not know about it has great value. As a consumer of content, you also have the ability to learn about a lot of different things to improve your education. More importantly though, you’re given a chance to connect with others, and take part in conversations about subjects you have an interest in. That’s the paradise part.

The flipside, otherwise referred to as the sewer, is that a simple harmless post can turn into unnecessary drama. What started as a call to people to make them aware of an opportunity turns into having to defend your intentions and credibility to those who don’t know you, don’t follow you, have no connection to your profession, yet suddenly think they are the judge and jury assigned to your case. When you learn you’ve been going back and forth with @bitchfaceloser and @TeamStretchNuts and engaging with others with no desire to work in your profession who just want to stir the pot and preach from their morale high horse, it makes you feel like you wasted important time defending your reputation when it never should have been required in the first place.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I came across a simple tweet from Jane Slater of the NFL Network.

The tweet itself made it clear, the person retained for the internship would be entering into an unpaid situation. That’s when the chaos ensued.

Immediately after Jane posted the tweet which was intended for people who are in need of experience, she was attacked. In some cases, she had to even deal with personal shots being taken at her family. This was all due to her sharing information with her followers about a possible unpaid gig. Nobody forced anyone to accept the position, it was simply there if a person looking to eventually work in the business wanted to gain some reps, build some relationships, and invest their time contributing to an NFL draft project.

To be fair, there were a number of people who commented and said they wished the opportunity had been available when they started. Broadcasters also jumped into the discussion sharing stories of their early days and what it took to get to the level many of them are now at.

Which brings me to my own story.

I have what I have today because I once accepted an unpaid internship. I shared a thread on Twitter late last night where I pointed out that I spent my first six months in radio working for free. Would I have preferred to be paid? Of course, but if I declined that opportunity and the chance to get my foot in the door, that internship wouldn’t have turned into a job, the reps I gained to improve at my craft would not have been available, and the recommendations I received from my peers later in my career when I pursued other positions wouldn’t have been offered. I did jobs I didn’t love, and worked many crummy shifts, but everything I’ve done in radio today connects to those first four years where I learned every aspect of the business. I didn’t know it then but I’m thankful that I placed a greater value on investing my time in the studio and office versus worrying about if I was receiving my worth or not.

That’s one big mistake I’ve seen a lot of people make – prioritizing earnings early on over experience. It takes many hours of practice to become good at something. I programmed 5 radio stations in 4 cities over a 15 year period and have consulted many more over the past 5 years. Time after time I see and hear the same stories. If you expect a company to pay you to work as an intern when you don’t have the skills needed to do the job, why wouldn’t they just hire someone PT who’s more experienced?

The fact that many broadcast groups offer compensation for internships today is great, and if you can be paid to learn, awesome, take advantage of it. But it’s not your place to tell others what they should or shouldn’t accept. During your early years in this business, reps and relationships are what you need most. Every day you step foot in that building is a chance to make progress towards achieving your goals. You only gain that by being on the inside. If getting in there is only an option thru an unpaid internship and someone wants to take it, why is that an issue? It’s their life, their career, and they should decide what is and isn’t valuable to them, not someone on social media with no investment in their future.

Secondly, nobody ‘deserves’ anything. Watch the ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ and get back to me afterwards on what one deserves. I saw that mentioned in one of the tweets to Jane, and after looking at other issues on social media about unpaid internships I saw some even try to compare it to slavery. That’s ridiculous and an insult to slaves. Slaves had no choice. One choosing whether to accept or decline an internship is far different than what people went thru physically and mentally a long time ago.

Seven Life Lessons from "The Pursuit of Happyness" Movie •

If you say you want to work in sports media, and you’re leaning towards passing on it because the first step pays $0 instead of $100-$200 per week, I think you’ll have a difficult road ahead. This is a business where fair or unfair, people pay a heavy price to do what they love. You’ll face years of struggle, miss out on important birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, maybe even relocate, and chances are you’ll question if it’s worth it many times. You may even do what I did once and leave for a few months, seeking a better paying job, only to discover it’s your passion and true love, and making less to do what you enjoy versus making more to do something you don’t is worth the trade off.

I’m not letting companies off the hook entirely. Many don’t do enough to compensate people in the building who aren’t the top ratings and revenue producers. Execs like to preach how important the ratings are, yet I saw folks who were #1-#2 in their markets lose jobs during the pandemic. It reminded me again that anyone who tells you it’s about ratings is full of it. We value ratings in programming because we’re competitive, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s about what you cost the company vs. what your market takes in. The more you make, the bigger the bullseye on your back. I also think some groups search too quickly for what to cut instead of what to keep or invest in to grow. Short-term thinking causes long-term problems. That unfortunately hurts our business too much.

That aside, if you think broadcast groups are going to expand their payrolls for folks who’ve yet to spend a minute in a building and aren’t ready yet to impact the bottom line, prepare to be disappointed. You can tell me that your time is valuable, you’re ‘entitled’ to make a living, and even point out how many millions the broadcast company you want to work at makes, but they have what you don’t – the platform, the opportunity, the experience, and an endless list of people chasing the same dream. If you want to be a rock star or actor, these challenges exist in those professions too.

Furthermore, if you had an unpaid internship and didn’t benefit from it let me ask you a few questions. Did you make the most of your time in the building or did you spend time hanging out, watching, and assuming others will find you for jobs instead of the latter? Were you someone that people wanted to be around and was accepting of critical feedback or were you tough to deal with? How many times did you talk to the boss in the building or the key talent to seek their advice on what you can do to put yourself on the path to a future position? Were you willing to relocate when jobs were available or did you limit yourself to one specific region? If I asked people you interned for to weigh in, would they agree with your version of the facts or claim you subscribe to an alternative truth? The bottom line, nobody owes you anything beyond that invite into the building. What you do with it while you’re there has a lot to do with where you’ll go next.

If you’re in college or just breaking into the business, you may hate hearing this. Maybe you’ll take aim at me like some did to Jane and you’ll call me out of touch, old fashioned, old school, heck maybe even old. I’ll use a different word – experienced. I’ve seen many thrive, some struggle to find their way and blame the business for their shortcomings, and a whole lot more throw in the towel because they weren’t willing to pay the price early on. This business is not for everyone. Some won’t think it’s worth it. Others will use it as the first step towards building a career. We all have choices to make. Whichever you choose, I hope it works out and you find happiness in it.

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John Skipper To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured key talent to join the brand, and in April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

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Putting on a two-day industry conference comes with a fair share of challenges. Months are spent building sessions, selling sponsorships, and talking to so many people that by the time the event rolls around, all I can think about is reaching the finish line and avoiding major issues.

But then the event happens, and there are moments where I’m able to block out the noise for 30-40 minutes and just be present in conversation. It’s what I enjoy most. Being able to sit across from an industry leader who’s been successful in business, and pick their brain on the past, present and future of our industry is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Not only does it provide me with an education, but it helps everyone in attendance too. That’s my motivation for running this conference.

When we return to New York City on March 2-3, 2022, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll have a chance to do that once again with someone I’ve professionally respected and admired for a long time. It is an honor to announce that Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper will join us for a special on stage conversation at the 2022 BSM Summit.

If you’ve worked in this industry or aspire to, then you’re likely aware of what John has accomplished. He’s seen the business from many different points of view and remains very much involved in helping shape its future. But before we discuss his present involvement, let’s revisit the past.

During his tenure with ESPN, John spent five years serving as company president where he secured a series of long-term, multiplatform agreements with key rightsholders such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major College Conferences, US Open Tennis, FIFA, the Masters Tournament and British Open, the College Football Playoff, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. He also oversaw the evolution of several brands including The Undefeated, Grantland, five thirty eight, and espnW among others.

Prior to becoming company president, John held the position as EVP of Content, which he earned after helping create and introduce one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990’s with ESPN The Magazine. His understanding and belief in digital helped ESPN move ESPN. com forward in 2000, adding a paid section, ESPN Insider, and delivering a revamped site approach to generate more advertising. His foresight also spurred the launch of ESPN3, a television network producing more than 4,000 live events on the web and through mobile devices. If that wasn’t enough, John also supported the creation of the Watch ESPN app, played a key role in elevating the careers of many of the industry’s top sports media stars today, and oversaw the growth of ESPN Films, ESPN Radio, and many of ESPN’s key television programs.

After exiting the worldwide leader, John signed on as the Executive Chairman of DAZN. In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured a number of key talent to become part of the brand, and established a strong presence in podcasting and on YouTube. In April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

What I’ve appreciated about John is that he’s never been afraid to roll the dice and take risks. Some of his moves have worked out, others haven’t. The wins have been recognized across the industry, but so too have the losses. He’s had to lead a company thru high profile talent controversies, cord cutting challenges, understand the world of video, audio, print, digital, advertising, subscriptions, talent, and rights deals both domestic and internationally, all while keeping his finger on the pulse of the present state of the media business while turning an eye towards the future and knowing which areas the company should make significant investments in.

John has been thru all of it as a media executive, and he’s still doing it while building the Meadowlark brand. A recent story in Bloomberg captured some of his views on growing the Le Batard empire and navigating various parts of the industry. I highly recommend taking time to read it. You can do that by clicking here.

We have five and a half months until we’re inside the Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City, so who knows where the industry will shift during that time. One thing is for certain, John Skipper will be ready for whatever lands on his doorstep. I’m eager to spend time with him in New York treating industry professionals to his insights, opinions and leadership lessons. I’m confident those in attendance will gain value from hearing his perspectives on the industry.

I invite you to join us either in person or virtually for the 2022 BSM Summit. Tickets to the event can be purchased by clicking here. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski

“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”

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The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.

I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.

Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.

Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.

Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.

By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.

A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!

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Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award

“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”

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Photo Credit: ESPN Images

Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.

If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.

It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.

Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”

“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”

Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.

Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.

In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.

For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.

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