I worked in sports radio for 16 years as talk show host (national and local), play-by-play announcer (minors and majors) and program director (major market). Since sports is still my business, I listen to sports radio all the time - including the three major national sports radio nets: ESPN, Fox and Sporting News.
(Fox Sports Radio weekday, general sports talk show lineup)
If you’ve read SbB over the years, you know I’m not a pc guy. But recently, in canvassing the talent on the three national sports radio outlets, I noticed a pretty remarkable demographic disparity worth noting.
(ESPN Radio weekday, general sports talk show lineup)
Of the 18 weekday, general sports talk shows on those three networks, exactly one show features a black host. And zero feature a Latino or female.
So where can you find that rarest of radio species, the black national talk show host?
The hosts, Doug and Ryan Stewart, also appear regularly on ESPN2’s First Take morning show.
If you think that white-male-host demo breakdown is coincidence, you don’t know the radio business. Though sports radio draws a fraction of the audience of other formats, that sliver of listeners, affluent 25-54 white males, is gold to advertisers. So the obvious tendency is to hire white guys in the same demographic as show hosts.
That said, I don’t think radio programmers are hell-bent on only hiring white males to host shows. Once upon a time, I hired on-air hosts at a sports radio station in a major market, and I would’ve loved to have hired blacks, latinos, females, mongolians, any demo out of the ordinary for on-air work. But 95 percent of our applicants were of the central casting, sports radio variety - whitey whitefish. And the minorities who did apply clearly weren’t cut out for the job.
If you are a talented, aspiring sports radio host who happens to be a minority, don’t think that the trend to hire white males is a detriment to you getting a gig in the field. It’s the opposite. Radio programmers are dying to find someone in a different demo who can connect with the audience.
The reality is that the vast majority of sports radio listeners are white males, so you get what we have with the host lineup for national sports radio networks. Same thing for the majority of local markets. But that certainly doesn’t mean a black guy or woman can’t break big in the biz if they can get ratings, or in the case of national hosts, clear live affiliates in major markets.
If I thought there was some sort of sports radio conspiracy to only hire white guys, I hope you know me well enough by now to know I’d be shouting it from the rooftops. While the host demo is pretty damn lopsided, the playing field is more level than most people know.