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Leaving California

Many of us in this business have heard the phrase “the bigger the risk, the bigger reward“. In theory it sounds good but when push comes to shove, most people prefer a sure thing over the unknown. I don’t blame them. The unknown is scary and unpredictable.

101groupWell, anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows that I don’t fear taking risks. It may not always be popular or look good at first glance, but that approach has put me in position to run four radio stations in three top-20 markets over the past nine years and thanks to working with some great people it’s led to a lot of success.

Today is bittersweet for me because while I’m staying true to that approach, it’s for a very different reason. I’ve spent the last nine years making choices based on what was best for my career. Today, I’m making a decision based on what’s best for me and my family rather than worrying about how it might look or impact my career.

To the surprise of many, I’ve informed my friends and family at Entercom that I will be leaving San Francisco and my position as Program Director of 95.7 The Game at the end of my contract when it expires this June!

 

JBWHBefore the rumor mill swirls with all sorts of created controversies and half truths, let me state that this has zero to do with being unhappy with my staff or company. It has zero to do with wanting more money or power and it has zero to do with my company’s faith in me. Truth be told, I’ve loved this place from the moment I arrived in June 2011, Entercom has treated me and my family incredibly well and if they had their preference, I’d be staying here.

Saying goodbye to people who I’ve grown close to and care about is not easy but I didn’t arrive at this decision overnight. This is something I’ve contemplated for a long time and while it may catch some people off guard, I know in my heart that it’s time.

So the natural question is, why am I leaving?

DDJI wish I had some complex answer but it’s really simple. I’ve reached a point in my life where returning home to New York and being there for my son as he enters his teenage years is critical for me. My parents are also starting to slow down in their later years and I want to be there to help them as much as I can. As much as I love radio, building brands and coaching and motivating people, I love my son and family more and it’s time to put my focus on them in a much stronger way.

For some who know me, that might be hard to digest given how much passion and effort I put into this line of work. Sure I’ve balanced things pretty well over the years but I never drew up a plan to have my son and I separated by thousands of miles. I was dealt those cards and had to adjust to make it work. On the surface it may seem like I found the solution to juggle it but you haven’t seen me every other Friday morning and Sunday evening in New York when I’ve been fighting to stay awake and be available in conversation or fight back emotions as I say goodbye to my son and head to the airport to catch another flight.

JBAIRPORTFor nine years, my schedule every 2-3 weeks has consisted of flying on a plane to/from NY, renting a car and driving two hours upstate to share a bedroom with my son in my parents house for three days. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting and I can’t do it anymore.

I’ve been lucky to have great support from my son and parents and I know they’d be in my corner no matter what I decided. At some point in life, we all have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we’re ok with the decisions we’ve made and I won’t look back regretting the fact that I was absent from my son’s life during his entire childhood. These next 5 years of his life are critical and will heavily influence what type of man he becomes and I won’t miss the opportunity to help lead him down the right path as he inches closer towards chasing his own hopes and dreams one day.

jbraiderI recognize some cynical people will suggest this is corporate spin or that there’s more to the story that I’m not sharing. I can’t control other people’s thoughts and actions, only my own. I wouldn’t exit a situation without a guarantee elsewhere unless it had a bigger meaning to me and I wouldn’t be sticking around for a few more months to help with a transition if I wasn’t still wanted here.

Before I discuss my future, I’d like to thank some people who have been a huge part of this journey the past four years. Without their trust, support, respect and friendship we would not have had great success at 95.7 The Game.

JBDWFirst, my former GM Dwight Walker and Entercom’s President of Programming Pat Paxton were the ones who hired me in San Francisco. They believed in me and my vision for 95.7 The Game and supported me every step of the way. I will be forever grateful to each of them for having trust in me to shape the radio station the way I saw fit. Did I get it all right? No. But we enjoyed a lot of success and they had my back every step of the way and were great professional colleagues who I respect tremendously.

JBRISEGUYSSecondly, my entire team at 95.7 The Game has been special and afforded me four of the best years of my professional career. From our initial lineup of the Rise Guys, Chris Townsend, The Wheelhouse w/ Lund, Papa, Urban & Steinmetz & The Drive with Brandon Tierney & Eric Davis to our current crew of Flight 957, Papa & Lund, Haberman & Middlekauff, Damon Bruce and Towny & Zakariah, we’ve created great radio together and I’ve enjoyed being a part of the ride with you.

jbflightWhile I’m intense, driven and a pain in the ass at times, I hope those who’ve worked with me in San Francisco realize that my goals were to make people better and grow the radio station. If you took 2-3 things away from me and used them to improve as a broadcaster, then I’ve done my job. Numerous people have left situations in other cities and companies to be part of this and words can’t express how much it’s meant to me that you took the leap to come here.

957originalWe launched in August 2011 in 25th place with Men 25-54 M-F 6a-7p. In December 2014, we were in 8th and we’ve peaked as high as 6th in June 2014. That’s great progress in a top five market in a little more than three years. And to think, this team haven’t even hit its peak yet.

957staffTo say I’m extremely proud of the progress we made as a team would be a massive understatement. I have no doubt that the person who takes the controls of this radio station next will take the product to an even higher level because it’s a building full of smart, hard working people who care about creating great radio for local listeners and the talent level is too strong to not continue doing big things. The station also has great corporate support from Entercom. As a PD that’s half the battle. Whoever earns this opportunity in the future is walking into a winning situation.

334Third, I want to thank current Entercom San Francisco GM Steve DiNardo and Entercom CEO David Field. Steve got thrown into the fire last January and had never dealt with the chaos of overseeing a sports format. Rather than come in and try to put his prints all over it and act off of emotion, he stepped back, observed, let his people do what they do best and allowed me to lead the way I was comfortable. He also maintained a great demeanor during difficult times and has done a really nice job bringing our building together. I’ve enjoyed being a part of his team.

David on the other hand has been as cool of a CEO as you can hope to work for. He’s extremely passionate about sports, believes in the format strongly, supports it by allowing you as a leader to make moves to grow the product and most importantly, he’s willing to engage in spirited discussion and allow you to disagree with him without it feeling like you’ll pay the price for not being a yes man. That kind of candor and passion is what makes working for him a thrill and it’s a big reason why Entercom is one of the best broadcast companies around. I’ve enjoyed my numerous conversations with him over the years and they’ve helped me grow as a leader.

DADDYLI’d also like to thank Dwight, Pat, Steve and David for their patience and support in allowing me to get back and forth to NY to see my son over the past four years. Not every company offers the flexibility to be out of the office every other Friday to stay active in your child’s life but Entercom afforded me that just as Bonneville St. Louis did and that speaks volumes about what they stand for as companies and people.

JBCROWEFourth, I want to thank current Assistant Program Director Jeremiah Crowe and our Imaging Director Jeff Schmidt. Crowe has endured a ton being the middle man, much of which can be very uncomfortable when dealing with a dominant presence like myself. Through it all he’s kept growing and finding ways to make us better. I have no doubt he’s ready to run his own radio station. Making a suggestion vs. the final decision is very different but you can’t show what you’re capable of unless you’re thrown into the fire. I’m rooting for him as he goes through this process.

chimpsaysAs for Jeff, it’s his twisted brain and creative genius that allowed 95.7 The Game to establish the identity we hoped to create when we launched the station. His commitment to doing killer production is what keeps the station sounding fresh and while he can be a pain in the ass like myself, and make you question your own decisions, I value that because I want honesty and conviction out of people. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing 150% and have the confidence to stand by it, defend it and sell your team on it, you’ll get trampled in a room full of alpha males. Jeff has no problem speaking his mind and challenging the status quo to help a brand strive for greatness. His imaging work is second to none.

rickscott2Fifth, I want to thank our consultant Rick Scott. Not only is he the best in the business at what he does but he’s a dear friend and someone who’s friendship, trust and respect I appreciate deeply. He was instrumental in helping me build 101 ESPN in St. Louis into a strong local and nationally recognized brand and he has done the same thing here in San Francisco helping us establish 95.7 The Game. To have the benefit of swapping ideas and getting into the weeds of some tough situations with him on a weekly basis is a big reason why 95.7 The Game has taken steps in the right direction. I’m sure he and I will remain collaborating in the future and spend countless hours continuing to talk about the sports radio format and how to make it better.

957fansLast but not least, I want to thank our listeners. Growing up as an East Coast guy I was clueless to how passionate people on the west coast were about their teams. I constantly heard how New York, Boston and Philadelphia sports fans were great and how fans on the west coast were too casual, passive and disinterested. Having lived it for 4 years now, I know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

This audience is as engaged, informed and passionate as anyone and just because they don’t scream and yell with every phone call doesn’t mean they don’t care. From seeing how people responded to our Lucky Break auditions, Gridiron Gala parties, AM/FM campaigns and sharing their views on our shows/radio station on social media, I learned that people wanted to root for us yet also express their opinions about our brand. For that I’m extremely appreciative.

JBCREWYou may not have always agreed with the decisions I’ve made and you’ll always have preferences for things that matter most to you as an individual but through it all, you rooted, supported and connected with us and that’s what makes sports radio fun. Thank you for allowing me, our staff and our radio station a chance to be part of your lives the past four years. I trust you’ll continue connecting with 95.7 The Game because there are some very talented personalities on these airwaves and they won’t stop working hard to gain your time, trust and feedback.

I could spend all day listing individuals who I’m grateful to but the list is endless and I’ll likely forget someone plus I don’t want to put readers through a column which takes three hours to finish. If I didn’t list you specifically, don’t think for a second that you didn’t play an important part in what we did here together. The past four years don’t happen without every single person making a contribution to help us build a great radio station.

NYCSo the next obvious question is “JB where are you going to work“? As of today, I know one thing, I’ll be located in New York. Professionally I have some possibilities that I’m entertaining and I have my agent Craig Fenech exploring those discussions to see what makes the best sense for my future. It remains possible that I’ll stay with Entercom in some capacity but we’ll have to see how things unfold.

When I have further details to share I’ll make everyone aware but right now this isn’t about my future, it’s about the final chapter of my time in San Francisco. All I’m thinking about right now is my upcoming six day vacation to Hawaii on Wednesday and returning to work next Tuesday to make sure 95.7 The Game is set up in strong fashion for my team and the next PD of this radio station to have future success.

JB Raiders interviewOn a personal level, I’ve not been a free agent contractually in over six years so it’s nice to be able to step back, relax and take a look at the possibilities that exist while also getting a better sense of how my peers and colleagues in this industry view my work. Rest assured, my days in the industry are not over and I haven’t lost the passion or drive to do this. I’ll just be doing it from a different address. After living in eight different towns over the past nine years, I’m excited about re-establishing my roots, having my family near me and calling someplace home for a change.

JBGURUWhile the future may appear cloudy today, I’ve never been afraid to embrace change and take chances and in doing so, it’s helped me build a very strong eighteen year career in this industry. I’ve learned that you rarely know what’s being planned inside each company and the availability of talented people often dictates whether or not other situations can be created. I was told a long time ago to always trust my gut and that approach has never let me down. It won’t this time either.

As I prepare to exit San Francisco, I want to make sure people are in good situations here just as I did when I left 101 ESPN in St. Louis a few years ago. I’ve often used the quote “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” and I’ll be leading by example and finishing up strong.

daddylanWhile the face of station leadership may change, the success of the staff and company will only get stronger. This was my baby and I’ve helped raise it and I’m very proud of what it has become. Even long after I’m gone, a part of me will always be inside this building and I’m grateful for that. But it’s time now to give the keys to the radio station to someone else and give my own TLC to the one who deserves it most, my son.

Hey Dylan, dad is coming home!

4 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Bay Area Sports Guy – 95.7 The Game program director Jason Barrett announces he’s leaving in June
  2. newballpark.org | Program Director Jason Barrett to leave 95.7 The Game in June
  3. Barrett leaving 95.7 The Game | Sportscasters Talent Agency of America
  4. RadioInsight — Sports PD Changes In San Francisco & Detroit

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