David Todd, ESPN Radio
First, congratulations on your new show on 970 ESPN, The David Todd Show, which started last Wednesday. What should fans expect from your show and when are you on the air?
Thanks Ron. There is a lot going on for me right now and I’m excited to get this opportunity. The David Todd Show airs on 970 ESPN daily from 2-4 pm. During the Steelers season the second hour of the show will be simulcast on Steelers Nation Radio so it will be exclusively Steelers. Of course that means there will be a ton of other topics to cover in the first hour.
I’ll be hosting a couple of other shows as well. Tailgate Talk will air four hours before each Steelers game, a two hour pre-pregame show if you will. If you want to load up on football on Sundays that is the place to start. Also, two hours before each Pitt home game I’ll be hosting the College Football Hotline show from The Rivers Casino. Both shows will air on 970 ESPN as well.
How did you first get interested and involved in sports radio?
I’ve always been a pretty passionate sports fan. As a kid, I was consuming everything that was available. Back then, that meant reading the two local papers, listening to games on the radio and watching the few that were on television. Clearly that has changed over the last 30 years. Now sports is available 24-7. People want to talk about what is going on and I felt like it might be something where I could contribute, hopefully bringing an insightful perspective.
When I moved back to Pittsburgh I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do. It had been suggested to me many times that I get involved in sports. Through a friend I met someone at Clear Channel and they were kind enough to give me my first opportunity in radio. From there, thanks to the company and some hard work, I’ve gotten to this point, having my own show.
Can you describe your approach to sports broadcasting – how you want to be perceived by fans?
Great question Ron. Obviously listeners are going to make their own decisions, but I hope people tune into my show because the want to hear informed, intelligent conversation about sports. I strive to be as well-prepared as possible each day and to talk about the topics that are foremost on people’s minds.
I’ve got opinions and I’ll certainly let those be known. I relish debate from others, but I don’t need to get into a shouting match with callers. Reasonable people can disagree, there is a lot of room for gray. That doesn’t mean it can’t get animated now and then, nobody wants to listen to boring, mundane talk either. The key is to find the right balance.
Who are some of the media personalities you have learned most from during your career so far, and what lessons have you taken away from them?
After growing up in Pittsburgh I spent a lot of time living in NYC. I listened to a lot of the local guys there and many of the national guys as well. Until the past few years I always listened as a fan and not really as a person looking to get better at his craft. That has changed as I’ve gotten involved professionally. Nationally a guy I think is exceptional is Scott Van Pelt.
There are also some very good professionals in the Pittsburgh market, but I hesitate to name names. I will say I think Joe Bendel is the most underrated broadcaster in Pittsburgh in my view. I think he does a great show. Hopefully I can get some of his listeners to tune in a little earlier and catch some of my show as well.
What would surprise fans most about the business of sports radio – what do you think is the biggest misperception fans have about what you do?
That it is glamorous. I really don’t see it that way. It’s a tough business. A lot of people would like to pursue it as a career, but opportunities are few and far between as I have come to learn. It’s not a business to get into if you are looking to get rich. There are very few people who become Bob Costas, Jim Nantz or Scott Van Pelt.
Also, many people who work in the industry for a living become a bit jaded dealing with athletes everyday and they lose the passion they had for sports when they started. That isn’t good or bad, it’s reality, but hopefully, by pursuing this later in life, I’ll have a bit of a different perspective.
Who have been some of the most interesting interviews for you so far, and what’s made them so?
Clint Hurdle is always a great interview and I had him as the first guest on my show. http://www.970espn.com/cc-common/podcast/single_page.html?more_page=2&podcast=David_Todd&selected_podcast=20120829142130_1346268161_14949.mp3 He is smart, thoughtful and is willing to expand on the question. If you are prepared he will give you all you want. He’s also got as many anecdotes as anyone of ever met. He always adds color to any interview.
There are a ton of other guys who are top-notch in their field and I try to get them to join me regularly on the show. Rather than list them all, I’ll just encourage readers to join me and take a listen.
Who have been some of the toughest athletes for you to interview, and why?
I don’t know that I’ve found many athletes to be “tough” to interview. If that is the case I figure I didn’t do my part well.
What stories have been the most difficult for you to cover personally, and why?
The Penn St. story is just brutal for all the reasons that people can clearly see, but also because I have a lot of close personal friends who went to Penn St. and are terribly hurt and saddened by what has happened.
While the Sandusky case is certainly black and white, many of the other issues are much less so. People have incredibly strong, entrenched positions and can get very emotional about it.
After covering teams for an extended period of time, you must get closer to some of the athletes. How difficult is it for you and any sports broadcaster to remain impartial when discussing those players? How do you handle that?
I spend less time with the athletes than the beat writers do. I consider myself more of an analyst than a reporter, so often times I talk less with players and spend less time in locker rooms and clubhouses. Thus far personal relationships haven’t been an issue, but I am very cognizant of what I am saying when I am being critical. I want to be sure I am looking at things as objectively as possible and have a rational, reasoned point of view.
How do you find the Pittsburgh sports media market? Is it more of a collaborative-type fraternity or does it more contentious/competitive? If so, why?
People here have been incredibly good to me across the board and I am very appreciative of that. Yes, there is some level of competition, but I assume that is because everyone wants to be good at what they do. I’ve got no problem with that.
The only thing that surprises me is that some media members are thin-skinned and feel like they shouldn’t be criticized. We are in an industry where we critique players and coaches all the time. We should be critiqued as well. If someone doesn’t think I am on point or doing a good job they have every right to say so. If that is the case, hopefully I’ll learn from it and get better.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I’m thrilled that I have been able to build up an audience and hope people will continue to tune in to the show. They can also hear me on The Terrible Podcast with Dave Bryan (http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/steelers-podcast-terrible/id405990739 ) of SteelersDepot.com and read my work on BucsDugout.com where I also do a podcast with Charlie Wilmoth.
I’m thankful that Clear Channel has given me this opportunity on ESPN and hoping to build it into some that listeners really enjoy.
And thank you Ron for the conversation and the great work you have been doing putting together so much good information in an easy to use format. I know tons of people in the industry have come to rely on you to make their life easier.