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Sometimes when we land our dream media job or meet someone we looked up to for years as kids, the experience isn’t always what we envisioned. That was the case with Ariel Helwani when he was at ESPN, but he was able to make the best of his situation.

Helwani was a guest on the last episode of the Adam Schein Podcast. He mentioned that ever since he was a kid, he always wanted to work at ESPN. But once he actually started working there, something was wrong:

“My dream, like many people’s dream, was to work at ESPN,” Helwani told Schein. “I grew up with ESPN as a brand and looked up to all these guys like Stuart Scott, Rich Eisen and Chris Berman. this was my life

“I am very thankful and thankful for the experience. But it wasn’t what I thought, to be honest. It was a little disappointing at first, but I was able to turn that disappointment into excitement and opportunity.”

While there was some disillusionment, having ESPN on his resume helped Helwani as he entered future ventures because he now felt he could do different things for different people.

“It was incredible to leave ESPN because luckily one of the good things about a place like ESPN is that people see you differently,” he said. “I’m still the same guy, but you’re the former ESPN guy now. You get a lot of opportunities and people want to work with you.

“The great thing about my situation was that I realized I didn’t want to be exclusive. I wanted to put my services into a puzzle and I would do this for these people and that for these people and everyone was fine to play in the sandbox. i have freedom I have my vote back. I felt censored. I felt suffocated. I don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore. I haven’t been this happy in a long time.”

When I was a student at @NewhouseSU in 2003, I probably emailed 20-30 people in the sports media for advice and/or an internship.

Only one person actually called me back: @AdamSchein.

Almost 19 (!) years later we spoke again. A great honor for me to be on his capsule.

— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 20, 2022

One of the things that helps Helwani in trying to grow its brand is that it absorbs a lot of sports media. He tries to apply that to what he does because he’s aware of his responsibility to the audience.

“I’m not a big ‘J’ journalist, but I feel like we have an incredible responsibility to the audience,” Helwani explained.

“They also come to us for facts, news and entertainment, and I don’t want to take the piss out of them. I think what helps me is that I consume a lot of media. I’m obsessed with sports media. I listen to you while I drive my kids to and from school I listen to WFAN here or 98.7 FM or SIRIUS I hear everything. I know what I want as a viewer or listener, and I want to be the best version of that, even in my little world.”

In fact, Schein was one of the people who helped Helwani early in his career. He told a story Schein had never heard before. While in Syracuse, Helwani contacted Schein for advice and today’s SIRIUSXM host took it a step further.

“In 2003, they told me to go to the student center and there is a computer there,” Helwani said. “You can enter the industry you want to work in within broadcasting or media. Connect with whoever you want to connect with, all within the NewHouse family.

“It actually worked. This got me an internship at HBO Sports. However, I entered your name and your contact information was displayed. I emailed you and you called me while you were putting gas in your car. I get a cold call from you and you said, “Hey man, I have your email.” I was a junior, an absolute nobody. You were the only one and I emailed everyone. You gave me tips on work and life outside of the city.”


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