Things that are wrong with sports radio are also wrong with the rest of media, so this headline is way too specific.
People in media sadly aren’t the sharpest tacks in the drawer, so we tend to not see life as a collaborative and fun exploit filled with adventure and productive endeavors.
Because we in radio are verbal troglodytes with the attention span of a caffeinated fruit fly, our behavior tends to bend toward the sophomoric and shiny.
Our work is utterly disposable – a distraction from the drudgery of work and driving that literally wafts in one ear and out the other.
Every once in awhile hosts wander into a string of words that can shift the thinking of listeners, or express an informed and entertaining perspective that is unique and worthy of the investment made by listeners, but for the most part radio needs to improve in a variety of ways to turn the perception of radio from dying to relevant and thriving.
Here is the list of the most egregious errors most often made by sports radio hosts, and – because I am nothing if not constructive – ideas for solutions:
1 – Don’t be bored. They see empty segments as a pox, and feel any guest is better than no guest. During the interviews, hosts become bored but don’t realize that their boredom reflects the tedium felt by thousands of listeners who quickly become hundreds of listeners and then dozens of listeners.
2 – Hosts feel they are competing for listeners with peers working at other stations. The real game is to strive for a string of well-constructed and energetically performed segments. Create the best content you can, and let the flawed metrics of audience measurement sort themselves out. Radio is like a Broadway show. The idea for the cast of “Death of a Salesman” is not to be better than the cast of “Cats” in another theater down the street. It’s for all casts to bust their asses to validate the decision made by people who show up at various theaters.
3 – Calling out hosts on other stations on the radio or social media for doing great work is entirely appropriate. Lifting the medium through praising others’ work is far more productive that pretending they do not exist – or worse – tearing them down. Nothing wrong with mockery as long as it’s entertaining, but a strategic effort to ignore peers as competitors is ridiculous.
4 – Plotting to win a ratings battle is beyond the hosts’ pay grade. Radio is like golf – it’s about playing the best round possible – not beating the other golfers. Execute a game plan, perform with great energy, and get a good night sleep. Repeat 260 times a year.
5 – Hosts should always be themselves. On-air personas that differ from reality never work in the longterm. Being yourself doesn’t guarantee success, but trying to be someone else guarantees failure.
6 – Forget the formattics at the beginning of segments. You know the drill. Listeners wait for the show to come back, and they are greeted with, “Hey, join me at Big Apple Bagels Tuesday from 11-1 when I’ll be handing out Zephyrs tickets to the first 100 listeners who say, “WPPZ keeps me warm! We’ll talk about tonight’s game right after we take care of some business.” Is there a listener anywhere that wants to hear that crap after they slog through six spots hoping the host will pay off on a tease? Lead segments with the most impactful sentence you can, just as a columnist leads strong.
7 – Remember you are there for the listeners – they are not there for you. Do your best work to entertain and inform them, not keep your job in spite of them.
8 – Equating keeping your job and success is lunacy. I’ve been in rooms where decisions were made to fire plenty of talent. If you work in radio, you either have been fired or you will be. Work for the listeners, not for management. Work for the listeners, not for the station’s logo or brand. Work for the listeners while knowing that one day you won’t have that privilege. For management, 364 days a year you are a human being and colleague. On the day of budget meetings, you are a line item on a spread sheet. That line item gets fired in those meetings, not the colleague.
9 – Going to games and talking to athletes is not drudgery. Everything we do in the content provider business is fun, if your perspective is right. People pay big bucks to go to games. People would love to talk to athletes and coaches. People would love to sit in front of a microphone and talk about teams. Quit your bitching and enjoy your job. Do it all. Enjoy it all. If by attending a game and talking to the participants you can raise the level of your show 5%, do it with a smile because your job is in the toy store of life.
Our lives are pretty damn good if we can see through the haze of our own jadedness. Tweet, Facebook, talk, blog, go on TV, love every second, and appreciate those who do work you respect. Embrace the challenge, and love the process. Leave the results for others to worry about.