Q&A with Joe Ovies, radio host and blogger

Joe Ovies is co-host of a sports talk show on 99.9 The Fan, a radio station in Raleigh, N.C. He also writes a blog about sports for WRALSportsFan. In this interview, conducted by email, Ovies talks about his job, social media and the way sports talk has changed.

Q. You’re on the radio and you blog for the WRALSportsFan website. What is your typical workday like?

A. Outside of what happens between 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 99.9FM The Fan, the typical day fluctuates. The morning consists of sifting through Google Reader, catching up on Twitter and putting together notes for possible show topics later in the day. I’ll text or email with Adam Gold (co-host) throughout the day to get an idea of where he stands on an issue or take on a game.

The nebulous part of the day arrives around lunch time. There could be an interview taping or meeting to attend in the middle of the day before the show starts.

Most show prep actually takes place at home, where I do a ton of reading and listening to sports talk throughout the day. We have show meetings at the station twice a week with our program director for long-term planning and discussions of show format tweaks since listener habits are constantly evolving.

The day doesn’t end when the show ends at 7 p.m. During the high-traffic months of college football and basketball, I’ll spend most of my evenings watching or going to games. Obviously, I have to watch all this stuff if I’m going to talk about it the next day. It’s a rough life, watching sporting events for a living.

Q. How do you decide what to blog about, and what role do editors play in that, if any?

A. Local topics get priority. That’s what WRALSportsFan can provide better than any national outlet.

Want the full coach’s press conference from NC State? We have that. Missed the interview with Coach K on The Fan? It’s there. Opinion on North Carolina getting bounced by Kansas? I’ll write something on it. Local content is our bread and butter.

Oddly enough, I’ve never really had an editor. When I started the 850 The Buzz blog in 2005, it was your typical blog. No editor, snarky views on local sports and a comment section that would devolve into flame wars. I wrote what I wanted to write about with no input from upper management.

After the merger with Capitol Broadcasting in 2009, I was introduced to an environment with actual structure: operations manager, sports director, online editors, etc. However, not much has changed in terms of what I decide to write about. The only difference now is that there’s someone around to change the headline and correct my grammar. I write like I talk, which won’t please the grammarians.

Q. How do you use Twitter and Facebook as part of your job?

A. Twitter is versatile, so here is how I use it.

News gathering and distribution: The real-time nature of Twitter gives it a certain advantage over RSS, so it’s great for getting the most up-to-date news throughout the day. Who you follow matters, so I’ve curated a list of ACC media members and national folks that provide the best information. Twitter is used to distribute our own news, podcasts or anything I might find interesting.

Interaction: Talk radio has always used alternative ways to interact with the show. At one point in time, faxing your opinion to a show was cutting edge. Then it was email. Then it was texting. Now social media is the new thing. But if you want to get the most out of Twitter, actually engage with followers who pop up in your mentions feed. Spend enough time on there and you’ll discover that many of your followers can tip you off to stories or sources. Twitter is also fantastic for commentary during games.

Branding: While I hate the term, it matters, and I’ve seen the results of using Twitter as an extension of the show. Radio is a faceless business, but the power of the avatar helps put a face with the voice (for better or worse). The Final Four in New Orleans was good example, where media members recognized who I was based on my Twitter avatar. Flash back five years ago, you’d have to catch a glimpse of a press badge to have an idea of who that person was.

I keep Facebook personal and do my best to maintain a tight friends list. The rule of thumb is, “have I met this person in real life?”

Google+ is still figuring itself out, but it is useful. I’ll typically post my columns from WRALSportsFan and we’re toying around with the Hangouts feature.

Q. Many students probably like the idea of writing and talking about sports for a living. What advice do you have for them to get a job like yours?

A. Do everything. Write, blog, tweet, podcast, edit video or whatever.

Companies are looking for a wide range of skills and employees capable of providing content on multiple platforms. There’s no such thing as “just a reporter” or “just a radio host” these days.

Follow Joe Ovies on Twitter and check out his blog.