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Vol. 44, No. 1 • November 2006 • .pdf version
Talk (radio) is cheap, but it doesn't need to be
By TED GANGI / Webmaster
So, we all can't carve out a second income as professional radio talk-show guests. Then again, we all don't have the acclaimed library of work like colleague John Feinstein.
That's not a shot at John, but I think we all know how much his reputation has been enhanced by his ability to get his voice on the radio (even if it means being the color man for Navy football).
While I generally focus on technology issues in this space, I thought I'd depart from that this time as we get ready for another college basketball season.
I am here to briefly guide you thought the world of sports talk radio, where content and is cheap and easy (or at least that's what the radio stations and networks would prefer).
But, there are two sides to this and, if planned properly and diligently, sports talk radio can be mutually beneficial.
There are several career writers who have carved their niche on radio, and it's launched them into varying levels of stardom.
ESPN's John Clayton comes to mind. A solid NFL beat man in Seattle for years, he quickly became a favorite of ESPN Radio, long before we'd ever see him on television.
His good nature and great information made him a regular must-listen on what was then weekend-only network radio. His unique information, though, is what made his appearances stand out and, over time, the brass at ESPN realized he was the real deal.
As they say, the rest is history.
But, for Clayton, it didn't start as a regular paying gig. My recollection is that he was merely a willing participant in the beginning who proved he was on the inside. That's what allowed him to migrate to the payroll and eventually to a leading man on the network's NFL coverage.
So, why all this background? And, how does this relate to you, the college basketball writer?
Chances are, you cell phone occasionally rings with a sports talk radio producer you don't know from a station you've never heard on the other end. Even worse, that ring comes while you're on the line with a key source or on deadline far from home.
Needless to say, having been one of those sports talk producers, I know. I made a few of those calls.
What the station is looking for is your insight, perhaps from a game or campus that they don't have the resources to cover. And, they want it for free. Ten minutes of your time doesn't seem like much to them, but 10 minutes is 10 minutes.
Yet, if you know your stuff and perhaps even have something to promote, you should be prepared to take the on-air invitation. Now that your copy is national via the Internet, anyone in that listening audience can read you.
So, the station gets a credible guest and you get, well, you get an opportunity to promote yourself and your expertise.
Although you shouldn't make a habit of dropping everything to satisfy every interview request, you should be able to find a happy medium. And, it's more than likely that you have some newspaper pals yapping on sports talk radio that you just enjoy chatting with.
Eventually, your on-air rapport could find you some income. It doesn't always happen, but as much as radio stations are looking for content, they are also looking for talent and segments they can sell.
Those decisions are up to you. Call 'em as you see fit. But, one little test I try to tell writers to take is to ask the station to send you a little something for your trouble – a T-shirt will do the trick. It's not that you need another freebie T-shirt, it's that you want to see just how gracious that station or network is when they borrow your time and information.
As the season gets ready to tip off, surely you will find yourself on the phone doing radio somewhere. When you do, remember that you can make it a win-win, as long as the appreciation goes in both directions.
Ted Gangi serves as the webmaster of the USBWA's official site, usbwa.com, and maintains collegepressbox.com, a media-only website for Division I-A college football. His tech tips column will appear regularly in The Tipoff.
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