How do you get to be a TV sports reporter or anchor in New York? Sure, you could practice. Or you could simply do afternoons at WCBS-AM.
For the past decade, WCBS 880 has rolled out an unprecedented supply of talent that went onto TV work.
To be fair, as dampfang.com will explore, some already had the TV background. But others made the leap following their WCBS launching pad.
The story begins back in 2001 when Scott Stanford started working for Shadow Broadcasting. By the end of 2003, Stanford was already showing off his wit and light humor on Channel 9/WWOR.
“I always knew that WCBS would create a lot of exposure and sure enough the news director at Fox 5…was a fan of mine on the radio,” Stanford remembers. “He offered me an audition and with my experience in front of the camera, combined with what I was doing at 880, it led to a gig at Channel 9 and eventually Fox 5.”
Stanford, a multiple Emmy winner, stuck his small toe in the TV pool running a production company with his brother Dave.
“He stood out on the radio, Tim Scheld, WCBS-AM News Director, says. “And that’s why TV came calling.”
Stanford has been seen consistently ever since. Even after being cut from Fox as their weekend anchor, which included a Sunday night highlights show, he resurfaced a few months later on WNBC.
For the most part, Stanford has assumed the same duties —weekend anchor (although main sportscaster Bruce Beck works Sunday nights) and main back-up sportscaster.
Burkhardt in his 4th season with SNY/
Exit Stanford and enter Kevin Burkhardt.
Burkhardt, the Mets’ sideline reporter on SNY, was a sports radio guy, who worked at small stations in NJ and upstate NY.
“He didn’t have TV designs when he left,” Scheld remembers. “He was leaving to become [a] talk show host on WFAN and cover [the] Jets.”
Burkhardt may not have any “designs” on television, at least publicly. But as his update work, and the added exposure of fill-in show hosting increased, his stock soared.
The highly sought after commodity, Burkhardt, who declined to be interviewed for this piece, joined the Mets broadcast team in 2007.
“I love seeing him on TV,” Scheld says. “I’m a big fan of his work.”
After Burkhardt moved on from WCBS-AM, the next contestant on “Who Wants to be a on TV Sportscaster?” was Kevin Connors.
But another sports anchor was already using the name “Kevin Connors” on WCBS. So after some minor adjusting—“K.C. Connors” was created.
Unlike Stanford who was itching for a TV gig, and Burkhardt, who was interested in sports radio, Connors already had TV work on his resume.
He gained experience, without much exposure on Westchester-based Regional News Network, as sports director and anchor.
So it was a natural progression for Connors to make the move to WCBS, where millions could listen to his daily reports.
But, it was also only natural that Connors use the CBS family to get back to his first love—TV.
Within five months, Connors was doing weekend fill-in sportscasts at WCBS-TV—where he used his real name.
“He had the TV itch, the looks and the sports knowledge to back it up,” Scheld recalls.
Even with the occasional weekend work, it wasn’t enough for the driven Connors.
“I was not surprised when he gave us his notice. I was thrilled,” Scheld says. “He is a good friend and a gentleman.”
So it took less than 18 months for Connors to spread his wings from New York to Bristol, CT.
Since joining ESPNews in July 2008, Connors has been one of the top talents on the channel, while also seen filling in throughout the network. (ESPN denied Connors’ request to be interviewed with dampfang.com.)
Damer, when not on WCBS/
For Stanford, it was easy to transition from being a radio sportscaster to a TV personality.
“[It’s] no different than reading from the prompter, except you’re wearing makeup and a suit,” Stanford admits. “I would do the updates on radio, [and] pretend I was doing TV while looking at the computer with the script.”
Scheld, the veteran Newsradio 880 manager, offers a slightly different perspective.
“Our goal is to hire people who deliver news and information in a conversational way. They must also be somewhat schooled on the information they are delivering,” Scheld admits. “Otherwise you get eaten alive. To the extent that some of our ranks move on to bigger and better things—there isn’t much I can do.”
Gordon Damer, the current occupant of the WCBS afternoon slot, concurs.
”I think everybody kind of a tried to tell stories in that minute and a half, rather than just meat and potatoes—‘Hey, Yankees are playing in Oakland tonight.’”
Damer, a sports radio veteran from 1050 ESPN and 1010 WINS (via Shadow), started getting face time on the YES Network just as his WCBS gig began.
During the interim of waiting to be interviewed for the WCBS position through Shadow, the YES opening became available.
When he did finally meet for the 880 afternoon sports anchor job, Damer felt he would be forced to make a tough decision.
“There’s no way they’re going to let me do this and also take time off from time to time to do TV stuff,” Damer remembers.
But his employers at WCBS and Shadow were “cool with it.”
“We have allowed him to continue his TV work for a variety of reasons,” Scheld says.
“If he goes to TV full time I wish him well.”
Damer says it was his former bosses at ESPN that had a trouble with the moonlighting.
Thanks to WCBS signing off on his “second career” in 2005, the versatile Damer eventually became host of “This Week in Football,” the YES Network in-season NFL studio show.
Damer also comes off the bench to host “Yankees Batting Practice Today,” while getting further visibility on Nets’ coverage as the fill-in studio anchor.
So there you have it: a quartet of WCBS-AM sportscasters—with different paths and aspirations—transformed into familiar faces in TV sports.
“As for Burkhardt, Damer and Conners, I don’t know how they made it to television as they are the three ugliest guys I’ve ever seen,” Stanford deadpans.
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