SBD/May 8, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Minding My Business With ESPN Radio Personality Ryen Russillo

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Russillo thinks that social media has had a dubious effect on the sports radio industry
As co-host of ESPN Radio's "SVP & Russillo" since May '09, RYEN RUSSILLO has covered his share of big stories. But as a Massachusetts native who lived and worked in Boston for seven years, last month's Marathon bombings hit closer to home. Russillo, who was on air when the news broke, said, "It was a little more emotional for me than I probably ever thought it would be." Russillo took some time to touch on how coverage discussions developed as he filled in on "Mike & Mike" the day after the bombings, the effect social media has made on sports radio and what goes on at ESPN's on-campus gym.

Deciphering how to cover the Boston bombings...
It went on all day, all night and into the morning, people trying to figure out, “Alright, what’s the appropriate way to handle this.” And because it’s a sporting event I think it allows for us to go in that direction a little bit more, even though it’s a sporting event that -- let’s face it -- most casual sports fans aren't that locked in to. But it’s something where when I think of myself as a listener, I've gotten annoyed in the past when we've done non-sports stories and I’m driving around wanting to listen to sports. But this story was so overwhelming, it had to be done the way we did it.

Social media's effect on sports radio...
I think it’s made it worse. Because hosts are reading their mentions on their shows, and what ends up happening is you talk to a few voices as opposed to thousands of voices, which is your audience, and it’d be like writing a column and then having people give you feedback after every paragraph. So it can influence the way you do your job, and I don’t think that’s a good thing and actually think it has more of a negative impact on the industry than a positive one. 

Most of my time at work is spent thinking about...
Trying to find ways to develop topics into interesting discussions, because it’s easy to figure out what needs to be talked about, but the most challenging thing is trying to figure out how to talk about it in a way that just ignites any kind of discussions, and it actually is a little more complicated than you would think. ... When you’re doing a national show, I think you’re seeing more and more people talking less about games and players, and just breakdowns because they want to get more of a reaction to more dramatic topics. So that’s why a lot of this stuff that has nothing to do with games seems to have a lot more staying power. 

Best advice I've ever received...
There’s a fine line between persistent and annoying, and it’s up to you to figure out which one you are. From a boss back in the day, ... a guy back in Boston that didn't want to hire me.

Behind the Bristol curtain...
The gym at ESPN is great. The funny thing about it is, if you’re in there with a guy that played professionally, none of them lift heavy. They’re all in there doing like maintenance stuff, leg weights. Like, MARK SCHLERETH is probably one of the strongest people I've ever met, and he’s just in there doing his thing getting loose, and then I’ll go in and try to lift a ton of weights and I look like an idiot.

Best bite near ESPN HQs...
Grant’s for a business lunch. It’s a high-end comfort food sort of thing, and is a big favorite of ESPN staffers.

My guilty pleasure...
There was a stretch there where I was locked into a few of the "Housewives" series, and that was more relationship-based, and I've since been able to eliminate that part of my life -- the shows.
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