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Round the Horn

...with Scott Reiss.

It's not what you know...

It’s one of the oldest clichés in the professional world: “It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.” I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing whoever coined the phrase worked in the broadcasting industry. Think about it, in what other profession do so many bright, upwardly-mobile people reset their professional and social networks with such regularity? From small market to medium market to (if you’re lucky) large-market – your television “family tree” can multiply faster than Shawn Kemp’s.

What does this mean for the aspiring TV personality? For starters, if you can’t love thy neighbor… at least consider faking it. You have probably been advised as much, something along the lines of “You never know when you’ll run into so-and-so down the line.” Yes, even that dumb-as-a-post news director who made your life miserable in market 167, he too might resurface in a more desirable place. He might work at a station where you aspire to work. He might KNOW someone who works at a place where you aspire to work.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The math is simple, but astounding. You have 10 on-air friends. They move on to bigger and better things, which means you have a potential “in” at 10 stations. You get that second job, make 20 more friends there. And they move on, and so on and so on. Those of you who have been in the business for awhile have undoubtedly marveled at what a “small world” it is. Forget Kevin Bacon; try playing Six Degrees of any TV personality who’s worked at more than 2 stations. There are 45 anchors at ESPN, and I’ll bet I’m within six degrees of just about any of them. You probably are, too.

I need not explain the “needle in a haystack” possibilities of a news director picking your tape out of a stack of 200. But have a friend hand your tape directly to a news director, odds are pretty good you at least get a shot at the VCR – not to mention the potentially-huge “tie-breaker advantage” that comes with a personal reference. Case in point: I got a job in Utica, NY largely because a former colleague from my Panama City, FL station had moved there, and handed my tape to the News Director. I found my agent because a friend with whom I did college radio got me a look. My agent was instrumental in getting me to ESPN. Now I have friends in high places.

So before your weather-anchor leaves for that sweet gig in St. Louis, don’t forget to get his contact information. Put him on your email list. Keep in touch. Maintain professional relationships. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Scott Reiss can be seen regularly on both ESPNEWS and ESPN's Sportscenter. The California native joined the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" in mid-2001 after stints in Sacramento, CA and Utica, NY. Scott is a graduate of Stanford University.

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