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What Do PDs Want From A Fill-In?

“This is an important time for young voices in the building with aspirations to be a show host. In fact, it may be the biggest opportunity of the entire year.”

Tyler McComas

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M4th5 CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s the holiday season, which means hosts across the country are probably looking at their remaining vacation days and making plans to use all of them before the end of the year. That leaves PDs in the position where they’re usually looking for fill-in talent to help fill shows. Some PDs will look outside the building, while others look at it as an opportunity to get a better look at some of the other voices that are employed as board ops, podcast hosts, etc. 

This is an important time for young voices in the building with aspirations to be a show host. In fact, it may be the biggest opportunity of the entire year. It’s the perfect time for someone to develop who they are behind the mic and identify the strengths and weaknesses they may possess. 

But what exactly are PD’s looking for and where do they normally go for fill-in talent? Those were the questions I posed to three PDs across the country. 

Armen Williams – Brand Manager at SportsRadio 610 and CBS Sports Radio 650

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How did you come across the fill-in hosts you use?

AW: A lot of times fill-in hosts are inherited – let’s first investigate the voices that have been used over the years at the radio station.  Who are the listeners most familiar with? Then, it’s always healthy to look internally to see if there are other individuals who are on the support staff that would be interested in the opportunity or perhaps could be groomed for future roles. Next, it’s a search between other media members or notable individuals inside the market.

What are you looking for from these folks? 

AW: It depends. In a perfect world, there are at least a few people that you’re grooming for potential roles on the station one day. Who’s good enough to possibly do this thing on a regular basis? Building a depth chart on the station is one of the harder things to do but can pay off in dividends long-term.

Then, sometimes you’re just looking for others who might have another job but can provide a unique perspective and can be available on occasion.

Do you coach them the same way you do your regular hosts? 

AW: Well, most fill-ins are only in your building for a small amount of time out of the year, so it’s not a situation where you’re doing regular aircheck sessions with them, no. But it is important that they get communication as to what the minimum expectations are and a general feel/direction of the brand and content. Regular fill-ins will likely get more feedback than someone that’s only called on a few days out of the year.  

Tye Richardson – PD of ESPN Arkansas and Host of The Morning Rush

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How did you come across the fill-in hosts you use?

TR: We’ve found our fill-in hosts at ESPN Arkansas in a number of ways. Some have been former employees. Others have been doing weekly podcasts associated with our radio station. Giving part timers a crack is another route we’ve explored. 

What are you looking for from these folks?

TR: We’re looking for future hosts of the station. Radio is an ever evolving business. I always need to be prepared if someone leaves for another job, quits, etc. Most athletic directors have a shortlist of who they would hire next if needed. We take a similar approach.

Do you coach them the same way you do your regular hosts?

TR: I rarely say anything to our current hosts as the Program Director. Our market manager handles that side of the coaching. I’m more willing to share my opinion to the fill-ins. It’s in my best interest they’re prepared to take a next step. 

John Mamola – PD of 95.3 WDAE, AM 620 and NewsRadio WFLA

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How did you come across the fill-in hosts you use?

JM: During the holidays, we tend to give some of our board ops and producers some air time. We try to cycle it through the staff to try and get some reps in. We want to keep it local with people that the audience is familiar with, as opposed to bringing someone in out of the market. Sometimes we’ll lean on our partners, like if the Rays, Lightning or Bucs want to have some of their on-air personnel do some shows. But we do try to keep it to familiar voices

How valuable is that for you as a PD, to be able to use this time to evaluate talent?

JM: It’s extremely valuable. It’s good to give opportunities to some people that have worked really hard throughout the year and give them some experience behind the mic, instead of just the board. We pull in talent from the other radio stations in the building to give it a different spin, but those are more guest spots as opposed to full shows. We have some options to do more syndication, which we kind of lean on a little bit, but we try not to dive into that too much. 

What advice would you give to a fill-in talent?

JM: I don’t think booking interviews is necessarily a good trait of if you’re going to give an air check to a talent. Can you ask questions? Sure, as long as you’re asking the right questions and framing them correctly, fine. If I’m going to give advice to a talent, I’d rather give them advice on a skill set that defines them. 

If I were to go to North Carolina and ask someone to do a couple of hours in Tampa, the top three things would be, make sure you understand what you’re talking about, because if you don’t research my city and my market, then people aren’t going to listen to you. Work on pronunciations. That’s a big faux pas for a lot of people, unfortunately, when I hear people at other stations with talent that aren’t in those markets. Know how to pronounce Amalie Arena. Three, just be welcoming to being razzed a little bit. If people don’t know who the hell you are, they’re going to ask who the hell do you think you are. You have to be prepared for that, because it’s one thing to dive into how terrible the Bucs were on Sunday but if you can’t remember a certain play or moment in the game, and it’s obvious to the audience you have no idea what you’re talking about, you have to have thick skin. Have fun with it, because it’s a one-off and the biggest thing is can you entertain my audience from afar? If you can do that, you win the day.

Sports Radio News

Jonathan Zaslow No Longer With WQAM

An attempt to reach out to Zaslow for comment went unanswered.

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WQAM midday host Jonathan Zaslow is no longer with WQAM in Miami.

The radio station has removed his show from the website and references to him and his normal 10a-2p ET midday timeslot program have been scrubbed from the station website.

Zaslow tweeted at 5:19p ET confirming the news.

Whether or not this has any effect on his involvement with the Miami Heat broadcasts is unknown as of now.

Zaslow had been with 790 the Ticket since 2004. He was transitioned from Audacy-owned 790 to sister station AM 560 Sports WQAM last October. During his tenure he has worked with a number of established local voices including Joy Taylor, Amber Wilson, Brett Romberg, and Brendan Tobin amongst others.

WQAM has gone thru a number of changes, including a rebranding effort to call the station “560 The Joe”. That ended last year with the station returning to the AM 560 Sports WQAM brand listeners were more familiar with. What they have planned next in Zaslow’s timeslot is unclear but local listeners will likely get some answers next week.

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Sports Radio News

Vanessa Richardson Named Houston Rockets Sideline Reporter, Paul Gallant to Host Solo on ESPN 97.5

Vanessa Richardson will be on the sidelines for the Houston Rockets and Paul Gallant will host solo show on ESPN 97.5.

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Vanessa and Gallant

Changes are taking place in Houston sports media. First, the Houston Rockets will have a new television sideline reporter this season, and she’s a familiar name to Houston sports fans.

Vanessa Richardson, the now former co-host of ESPN 97.5’s Vanessa and Gallant, revealed that she will be on the sidelines for the NBA franchise covering the team for AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

She tweeted the news saying, “Elated to be the new Houston Rockets sideline reporter! I can’t wait to travel the country & share the stories of this dynamic team during 80+ games on AT&T SportsNet Southwest. I’ll continue to fill-in as a host/reporter for Astros broadcasts as well.”

Richardson’s co-host, Paul Gallant, tweeted that with Richardson leaving the show for the Rockets sideline gig, Vanessa and Gallant will become the Paul Gallant Show. The solo show led by Gallant begins Monday September 26th.

“We’re excited to have Paul host his own show”, said Todd Farquharson, General Manager of ESPN 97.5 & 92.5.  “He’s super creative, energetic, and likeable.  He’ll get the audience involved and have fun.”

Paul commented, “You know what I’ve always loved about sports talk radio?  That it’s interactive.  Whether through a phone call, text message, tweet or on Twitch, it’s the best place for sports fans to come together and celebrate…or vent.  And that’s what The Paul Gallant Show is going to be…Houston’s platform to talk about its teams. THE most interactive sports talk show in Houston.”

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Sports Radio News

Ken Carman: Al Michaels ‘Feels Untethered’ On Amazon Prime Video

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

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The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. 92.3 The Fan morning host Ken Carman applauded Al Michaels for his performance during the presentation.

“Al Michaels feels untethered for the first time. He’s not network television anymore and he can say whatever he wants. We interviewed him on the pregame show and I was nervous,” Carman said.

“He’s a legend,” co-host Anthony Lima added.

During the final play of the game, the Steelers fumbled a lateral into the endzone which the Browns recovered to make the final score 29-17. Michaels said “that may be meaningful to some of you. And you know who I mean”, alluding to people who had placed wagers on the game.

Carman, who hosts two-hours of pre-game coverage on the Browns Radio Network, continued to discuss how nervous he was interviewing Michaels. He also discussed how impressive Amazon’s behind-the-scenes production was, pointing out the only football broadcast with more cameras is the Super Bowl. More than 400 people work behind the scenes for Amazon Prime Video.

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

Carman later said people angry that Michaels misspoke by saying the Pro Football Hall of Fame is “down I-71” instead of I-77 were unreasonable, and joked “Al Michaels hasn’t been on a highway in 20 years”.

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