Why I left Sports Media

My son often asks me why I left Sports Media. In the eyes of a child, the early part of my career was glamourous. I met, and sometimes worked alongside, world famous athletes. I had access to a press pass on occasion, to attend games. Part of my job, both in radio and TV, meant I HAD to watch sports. My son just cannot fathom how I would ever choose to leave that world. But I did. And I don’t regret it.

I also don’t regret the wonderful and unique opportunity that I had to work in the industry. What has stayed with me today aren’t the memories of athletes I met or games I attended. I learned life skills, how to hustle and was lucky to work with some talented people who I consider my friends to this day.

My choice to leave sports media is one that I haven’t really thought about too deeply for a long time. But over the past week, hundreds of great journalists lost their jobs, many of them in sports media. Earlier this evening, in particular, when I saw social media posts from former colleagues, writing of radio stations changing their formats and wiping out their employees, brought a memory back of when I was one of those people, many years ago. It was one of the reasons that eventually led me to leave my job on an assignment desk and follow the career path of a communications professional.

Where it Began

In my final semester of my Master’s Degree in Journalism at New York University I had to choose an internship in media in New York City. I still remember listening carefully to the guidance from my mentor, Professor Michael Ludlum. He was my Radio Broadcasting professor from my first semester, who brought me under his wing and taught me everything I had to know about working in radio. He encouraged me to pursue a different kind of internship, at ABC Sports Radio. It was a small operation, a kind of central intake hub of sports news, and he felt that it would give me skills that I could take anywhere.

Of course Professor Ludlum was right. I learned how to grab quick interviews for the radio format, edit my tape and write copy. And my first big assignment was to represent ABC Sports Radio one night, to collect sound bites, on the field, at the World Series (the Subway Series no less!). At that moment in time I thought sports media, radio in particular, was my future. I knew it was for me.

Where my Early Career was Shaped

When I decided to pursue my career back in Toronto after graduate school, it took me a few months to find that coveted job in sports media. My first “real” job was at the Team 1050 sports radio station. The guys took a chance on me, a young, very inexperienced journalist, but I was eager to learn and grow. My colleagues were genuine, wonderful people who had a love of sports and great talk radio that was infectious. I was excited to go to work every day. I produced everything, from shows that started at 10:00 pm on a Friday night (when I learned sports reporters in Texas cover high school football, not hockey) to the morning show. Sometimes I arrived at work at 3:00 am and sometimes I left at 3:00 am. It was everything I dreamed of.

Then 16 months later, one summer morning, the Team 1050 radio station disappeared. Just like that. All of the employees were brought together into a room and were laid off. I was devastated. In a short time I got the taste of what I wanted my career to be, and I wasn’t ready to walk away. I remember Paul Romanuk, who co-hosted the morning show, walked over to me that morning and said, “Alicia, you are not a true journalist until you have been fired at least once. Welcome to the club.”

When I made the Choice to Leave

I was one of the lucky ones, as I was hired by Rogers Sportsnet days later. It was an entry level job, but I took it. I had made some great friends in my days in radio, and one of them brought me over to TV. He knows who he is and I am forever grateful for his kindness. It took me only a couple of months to apply and get an opening on the Assignment desk. It was a different pace than radio, with different personalities, but again, some great people. This is where I really learned how to hustle and get the news on air.

The days were long, and during hockey playoffs I often worked until 4:00 am. Some days were exciting and full, and I felt the adrenaline running through me, but over time I became less motivated. I kind of lost my drive and desire to go to work. I knew I was good at my job and respected by my colleagues. I knew a career in sports media was unstable and while it never happened to me at Sportsnet, I continued to see colleagues within the industry losing their jobs every day. And I knew this problem would only deteriorate.

And so, I eventually left my job in sports media and pursued my career as a communications professional. There are many days when I miss the energy of the newsroom. When I read a piece of breaking news I can still picture what was happening at that exact moment at the assignment desk as the news came in. Who should they interview? What are some key questions to ask? What headline would be good?

No Regrets

While I may miss my days in radio or TV, I do not regret my decision to leave. I have met and worked for and alongside some equally talented and wonderful people during my years as a communications professional. In particular, I work for a company right now who respects me, as a professional and as a woman and parent. The skills I have learned along the way, from my Broadcast Radio class with Professor Ludlum, to producing the morning show at a radio station, are some that I use every day in my current job.

To all of you who chose to stay in sports media, who either lost your job recently or are currently employed, I applaud you. You are some amazing people, many of whom I had the honour to work with. Stay strong and follow your passion. That’s what I did, and I have never looked back.

The Early Bird gets the Worm


I am not an early riser. My body naturally tends to sleeping in and ignoring the arrival of the morning. I wouldn’t say I’m a night owl either. I guess I just like to get enough sleep each night – not go to bed too late but not get up too early either. But when I do throw myself out of bed early it feels so great. I get that feeling that I can seize the day and accomplish so much. It doesn’t mean I necessarily do accomplish any more than usual, but there is something special about the early morning hours of the day.

Today is Friday, just before a long weekend where I live. Some people call it the “mid-winter break” and others would say it’s an excuse for schools and businesses to close and nothing more. The city is always busy ahead of a long weekend, and I decided to have an early start and get my errands accomplished before the rush of the crowds.

Have you ever arrived early at a grocery store, before the crowds? It’s a wondrous place. I did just that this morning, showing up just after 8:00 am. I snagged the best parking spot in the lot, and it was so quiet in the store that I could hear the staff stocking the shelves.  Only a few items were on my list, but the selection of everything I needed was abundant. Top of my list was fresh bread, and my nose guided me to the delightful smell of freshly baked goods.

The baguette was squishy and the bagels were hot and soft. How could I not buy them? Once I had everything I needed I headed to the checkout, which was empty! The lady at the checkout was friendly and relaxed, which would not be the case a few hours later.

I was back home by 9:00 am, groceries unloaded and ready for my next task. I will admit that I slowed down after this, but there is an energy that has flowed through my body all day, knowing that I started the day early.

There are many people who start early every day, by choice or by circumstances. Kudos to those eager beavers who pop up at 5:00 am up to get in a run or visit to the gym before work. That’s not for me.

For a brief time, early in my career, when I worked in radio, I often produced the morning show. Do you listen to the radio when you wake up? If you are listening to the radio at 6 or 7 am, that means a group of people had to be at work much earlier that day to prepare the show and get it on air. That’s what I did for a while.

When I produced morning radio I had to be at work by 4:00 am. Getting out of bed was painful. I know that many people work odd hours, but waking up at that time of day is just not normal. I had to peel my eyes open. Luckily, I lived very close to the radio station and always arrived on time. Our show was on air at 5:30 am and over by 9:00 am. I prepped the show for the next day, and my workday was complete by 10:00 am.

Every day that I worked the morning show, at about 10:00 am, I thought to myself, the early bird really does get the worm. I felt great. Okay, a bit tired, but great. The day was mine, to do whatever I wished (note this was pre-children).

No matter how hard it is to get out of bed, get dressed, prepare myself for the day and get on with that day, I have to remember how good it feels to do it all early. Not too early (I still believe 4:00 am is unnecessary unless you have to), but just ahead of the crowds.

And that squishy baguette and hot bagels. Yum.

How Many Ways Can You Get Your Sports Fix Today?

sports fix

If you are a sports fan, it is important to get your sports fix on a regular basis. Growing up, for me, I was a huge fan of the Toronto Blue Jays. I was upset if I missed a game. I had few options back in the 1980’s and even the 1990’s to follow the game, and my preferred choice was usually the radio. Or, my parents would turn the TV on then mute it. Then they cranked up the radio so we could hear Tom and Jerry call the game.

There was something so pure about listening to a baseball game on the radio. If I closed my eyes and listened carefully, I almost felt like I was there. I could hear the ambient sounds of the ballpark coming through my speaker, like heckling fans or the hollering “beer here for sale” guy.

If I was away on a trip or even just out for an evening it was rather difficult to follow the Blue Jays or really any other hometown sports. Newspapers proved useful, where I could get the score and sometimes a short news story the next day. There was always the telephone, where someone could check on the score and tell me instantly. But, until recently sports fans had few options if they really had to have their fix.

An avid fan today has a plethora of choices to get their sports fix. It is so vast that it’s almost overwhelming.

First of all, the old reliable radio is still available, with Jerry still calling the game, along with Jo. There’s something so sweet about listening to the Jays game on the radio, while in the car driving to the cottage or just sitting at home. With the Blue Jays Radio Network a super fan can listen, on the radio, from Vancouver to Halifax. And there is no subscription fee to listen live.

Today every game, all 162 of them, are aired live on TV, all be it on cable, on Rogers Sportsnet.  The regular team of Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler are entertaining and informative. Many people still do subscribe to cable TV. But, if you have just a basic TV package and want to watch the game on actual simple TV you are out of luck.

Then comes the internet. About 89% of Canadians have access to the internet, and if you are a sports fan there are many ways to make use of the World Wide Web. Every sport, including Major League Baseball, streams games live on the internet – for a fee. If you want to watch your favourite sports team and you are on the road, don’t have cable TV or eke, you are at work and can’t miss the game, the internet can usually come through for you.

MLB TV boasts that a fan can “watch live on over 400 devices.” Really? I didn’t even know there were 400 different devices available. Other major North American sports have similar subscription options, such as the NBA, NHL and NFL. I see that the MLS also has a subscription option to stream all their games live. Most sports leagues around the world have jumped on the live streaming option as well. On a quick check, for example, I see the English Premier League and Japanese baseball. International multi-sport competitions also live stream.

If you don’t want to pay to live stream or don’t have enough data to watch a game live (wow do live sports eat up a lot of data!), a super fan can easily follow the game with live updates on the internet or check scores for every sport around the world 24 hours a day. The internet has definitely given sports fans an easy path to become sports addicts, with so many websites, blogs and social media feeds dedicated to the love of sport.

Are you a sports fan? What’s your favourite sport and how do you follow it and get your sports fix? Leave me a comment here, post on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.