January 26, 2007

Bernstein explains her move to ABC

Bonnie Bernstein resigned from her job at CBS with three years still remaining on her contract. She told me, over e-mail, that her decision was due in part to the network's "minimalist philosophy toward sideline reporting."

She added that she resurfaced at ABC/ESPN because the Disney-owned networks are giving her a "much more expansive" role.

Bernstein took the high road when asked about Lisa Guerrero's career path from NFL cheerleader to Monday Night Football sideline reporter, saying that a strong journalistic background "certainly isn't the only way to get to the top."

Below is our full conversation:

What day do you arrive into town for a weekend game?

For Saturday college games, we usually get to the game site on Thursdays. For Sunday NFL games, we get in Friday and visit with the home team's players and coaches, then set up a meeting room at the visiting team hotel for Saturday afternoon when they arrive.

When do you find out which games you'll be doing the following week?

Advance notice on games varies. But we'll usually get a heads up a week or two ahead of time.

You were reportedly upset at CBS because you were "frustrated over the network's philosophical approach to the sideline reporter's role." How have things changed for you at ABC/ESPN?

Making the decision to leave CBS was one of the toughest things I've ever had to do, because my bosses and colleagues there were some of the most wonderful people on our business. As much as they encouraged me to say, though, I've always been the type of person who needs to grow and constantly set higher goals for myself, and with the network having a somewhat "minimalist" philosophy toward sideline reporting, I was at a bit of a standstill.

Does ABC/ESPN have a better approach?

My college football producer at ABC is a huge advocate of sideline reporters and values our contributions, so my role with the telecast is much more expansive than my position at CBS! Additionally, I have had some terrific hosting opportunities over at ESPN and I'm hoping my role in that regard with continue to expand.

You are a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the University of Maryland and a member of the Board of Directors for that school's journalism program. How do you feel about the route taken by other sideline reporters Erin Andrews (University of Florida dance team) or Lisa Guerrero (Los Angeles Rams cheerleader, actress on Aaron Spelling's "Sunset Beach")?

Unfortunately, I'm not really familiar with their backgrounds, so it's hard for me to comment on the paths they have taken. All I can speak to is the decisions I have made along the way. Since I realized my desire to be a sports journalist at a very early age (3rd grade or so), I designed a route I thought would give me the best shot at reaching my desired destination: I competed in several sports (soccer, track & field, gymnastics), spent a good chunk of time as a kid watching game broadcasts, wrote sports articles for my high school paper, worked for the University of Maryland's radio and TV stations and did several internships in college I felt would help me prepare me for a career in journalism.

I was very, very fortunate it all worked out. But I realize my way certainly isn't the only way to get to the top, and that each individual has his or her own philosophy on finding success.

What is your advice to journalism students who want to become a sideline reporter?

Be willing to move anywhere in the country to take your first job. Never take an opportunity for granted. Always try to be the most prepared and thorough person on gameday!

(Click here for a follow-up interview with Bonnie Bernstein in which she talks about her eclectic hat collection and what she thought of the Bobbi Bernstein character on Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night.)


WFY said...

Wow, this has been a banner week for you. First you solve your gnocchi woes and now an interview with Bonnie Bernstein. Everything is coming up dl004d.

I was hoping to beat you to the sideline reporter interivew, but I got caught up with a different inteview...

Anonymous said...

It also helps when teams are contractually obligated to give you interviews based on sponsorship commitments.