Q/A with Dana Jacobson: On leaving ESPN; joining CBS Sports Radio; and being one of few women in sports talk radio

First of two parts on new CBS Sports Radio network.

Sometimes, you have to go with your heart more than common sense.

At least that’s the way Dana Jacobson (@danajacobson) felt when she decided to walk away from a new contract proposal from ESPN last spring with no other job offers on the table. She said while she loved her 10-plus years at ESPN, the passion for the job wasn’t there anymore.

Also inspired by the desire to live where she actually wanted to live for once (no offense, Bristol), Jacobson, 41, sold her house and car and moved to New York. Opportunity then knocked when the new CBS Sports Radio network offered her a spot on the morning show.

On Jan. 2, she joined Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney to kick off CBS’ big sports talk radio initiative.

In a Q/A, Jacobson talks about why she left ESPN and how it feels to be one of the few women in sports talk radio.

Why did you decide to leave ESPN?

I knew how it felt to be passionate about doing something. I wasn’t feeling it as much there. I was trying to figure out my place there (after she left First Take). When I first started doing SportsCenter, it was such an amazing thing do. When I started doing it again (in 2012), it was like, ‘Wow, do I want to keep doing this?’

Last January or February, I didn’t feel like there was something drawing me to stay there other than it’s ESPN. It’s a great place, and there are great people. But I needed to do something else.

Were people surprised when you told them you leaving ESPN?

The people who knew me got it. Most people thought I was crazy. ‘Why are you leaving an ESPN offer on the table when you don’t have a job?’ I get it. There were days when I said, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’

But I knew it was right. I knew what I was looking for. I couldn’t describe it, but I’d know when I saw it. If I ever was going to take a chance–I’m not married and have no obligations–this is the time to do it. I didn’t know how it would end up, but I just knew it would work out.

How is radio different than television?

Radio is more free form. You can’t fake it. When I first talked (to CBS), I said, ‘The thing that I love about radio is the thing that scared me to death when the program director at Sacramento first asked me to do it. What if I don’t know something? I don’t know everything.’ TV is much more structured. In radio, it goes wherever it’s going to go. You can’t hide.

It’s a chance to be myself. Yeah, I’ll say something silly sometimes. Hopefully, I’ll also say something intelligent.

There aren’t many women doing sports talk radio. How does a woman fit in on what is considered a guy-talk medium?

The story I tell is that when I first started at ESPN, my dad would say, ‘You’re really good at it, but I’d rather be watching sports with a guy doing it.’ Then at one point, he called, ‘I know you’re my daughter, and I know you’re a woman, but I stopped thinking about whether I was watching a man or a woman.’ I find that as my biggest compliment when someone said something like to me.

I don’t shy away from being a woman and talk about things the way a woman would. Women also listen (to sports talk radio). I hope to fit in by providing a different take on things, a different chemistry. I can say the things nobody else is saying.

It is amazing to me in 2013, that if you look on a national scale, there’s barely any women doing (sports talk radio). I don’t know why. I’m thrilled I have the chance to do it. I hope some young girls will listen and say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’

Chemistry is to important on sports talk radio. How do you it is going to work with you, Barber and Tierney?

Sports talk radio is like sitting in the bar with your friends talking about sports. From the first show, I thought there was a good blend. We’re going to be similar on some things, and on some things we’re going to be forever different. When RGIII got hurt, Tiki talked about how he should have pulled himself, because he was hurting the team. I threw it back at him. I said, ‘No way. You never wanted to come out of the game when you were playing. Now you’re saying he should have pulled himself?’ I love those type of discussions.

Where do you hope this all goes?

The TV stuff, we’re playing by ear. I had the opportunity to fill in for Jim (on Jim Rome’s CBS Sports Network show), and that was great. I’ll do some college basketball as we get closer to the tournament.

(When she left ESPN), I never saw the radio thing coming. I hadn’t even thought about radio. It’s very exciting.

I’m not starting over, but it feels like when I first got to ESPN and looked at all the opportunities. It feels the same way here. It’s all very energizing.

Tuesday: The new CBS Sports Radio network has put together a formidable lineup, but will you be able to hear it in your town?


5 thoughts on “Q/A with Dana Jacobson: On leaving ESPN; joining CBS Sports Radio; and being one of few women in sports talk radio

  1. It’s obvious ESPN has not been able to replace you. No offense to the present replacements, but they just don’t match your contributions to the shows. Especially First take where you were the only female able to keep Skip Bayless in check. Good Luck at CBS and I’m sure ESPN will be calling you back.

  2. Listen to Dana every morning on the way to work. I like her. She was one of my favorites on ESPN too. I think she is good at what she does and has a great voice and isn’t hard on the eyes either. But I like the fact she knows what she is talking about…..will keep listening. Keep being yourself. Thanks,

  3. I love what you had to say in this interview and
    you inspire me to think more of the possibilities for
    women. I thought you were a very unique, bright
    star on ESPN and First Take is so different now.
    It feels like one attractive female is there for eye
    candy and two men are there for their so called
    “expert” opinions. Somehow, they get things wrong,
    how can that be? You and Jay were great and I
    always thought you had great chemistry. I don’t
    dislike the two talking heads they have now, but
    they sure can make one feel a team is not at all
    significant. My latest example would be the NBA
    playoffs. Neither gentleman gave the Wizards a
    shot to win and even when they won, all I heard
    about was the team who lost. Crazy to talk about
    the losing team and barely mention the winner, at
    least in my opinion. That is what occurred in both
    the first and second round, however and it is not
    the first time.

    Anyway Dana, now that I finally know where you
    are, I will make it a point to listen to your broadcast.
    I think you are so bright, you have a great voice
    and I wish you all the very best. Thank you for
    making women look smart, with regard to sports.
    I love sports so much and it means a lot to see
    or hear someone of your caliber doing so well.
    Thank you for being you~

  4. Dana you are missed…..love the fact that you are a Michigan Woman. They’re my 2nd team in the B1G. Wishing you guys would quit being the nail to our hammer, we need the Wolverines to be relative again.

  5. Dana, First Take has never been the same since you left. Caught you on MSNBC last night and it was wonderful to see you on TV again.

    All the best!

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