- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2009

The Washington Times is expanding its reach on radio - this time with sports. “Sports Fix”, a two-hour sports talk program featuring Times columnist Thom Loverro and sports radio personality Kevin Sheehan, debuts Monday at noon on ESPN 980 AM.

Executives at WTEM (the station’s official call letters) hope the combination of a veteran journalist and canny analyst may prove a dream team in its own right.

“Thom’s very intelligent and a good opinionator. But he’s also good at observing everyday life and its impact on the sports world,” said Bruce Gilbert, former general manager of ESPN Radio and now chief executive officer of Red Zebra Broadcasting, which owns WTEM. “Kevin’s the sports knowledge guy, the stats expert. He knows the figures and the analysis, and together they’re going to be terrific.”

The new sports show is the Times’ third radio venture this year, following the launch of hourly newscasts in May and a nationally syndicated, three-hour morning drive-time show in June. “America’s Morning News,” which showcases the newspaper’s investigative journalism, is already airing on three dozen stations nationwide, including WTNT 570 AM in Washington.

“For the Washington sports fan, WTEM has been a must-stop on the dial and Thom Loverro has been a must-read for years,” said John Solomon, executive editor and vice president of content for The Times. “Putting them together creates the perfect marriage, and the beneficiary will be the listening public.”

Red Zebra operates WTEM and a dozen other stations in the region, including talk radio outlets WTNT and WWRC. Based in Silver Spring, the three-year-old media company has a formidable sports pedigree.

Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, is the principal investor. Through its properties and affiliates, Red Zebra provides exclusive play-by-play broadcasts of Redskins games on more than 30 stations in the mid-Atlantic region.

The group also offers exclusive broadcasts for the Baltimore Orioles; Georgetown University, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia and George Mason University athletics; Major League baseball and the World Series; the NBA; the NFL and the Super Bowl; and NCAA football and basketball.

“The success of sports radio is built on a kind of planned spontaneity,” Mr. Gilbert said. “There’s a road map to this programming, but there’s also the same familiar dynamics you typically see when guys talk sports. They argue about their teams - who should start, who should not. They’ve got big opinions about who should be fired. It’s convivial. This new show will be a showcase for just that - good sports talk.”

But there’s an art to it.

“It’s like talking sports in a bar without the beer,” Mr. Loverro said. “The show is meant for people who have a real passion for sports, who want the kind of insight and perspective they don’t get just sitting up there in the stands.

Radio suits him, Mr. Loverro said.

“I am a child of radio - and I still love it,” he said. “I used to go to sleep as a kid with a transistor radio under the pillow.”

Mark Hartsell, assistant managing editor for sports at The Times, is all praise for Mr. Loverro.

“Thom has been a journalist for three decades and a passionate follower of sports for longer still,” Mr. Hartsell said. “He is a shrewd observer of the sports world, he has a great feel for what is important to the average fan and he is entertaining to listen to. This show is a perfect fit for him.”

Author of 11 books on sports and a hands-on journalist for 32 years, Mr. Loverro has won 22 national, regional and local journalism awards - including a first place from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Mr. Loverro has a broad perspective; he also covered government, politics and crime for the Baltimore Sun prior to joining The Washington Times in 1992.

Mr. Loverro has been a recurring guest on ESPN 980’s popular “Sports Reporters” program, and he also has served as a substitute host of the program.

“A passion for sports is not a bad passion to have,” Mr. Loverro added. “You can invest a whole lot of emotion in it, and if things don’t pan out, you can always say, ‘Hey, it’s just a game.’ ”

“Sports Fix,” which will air from noon to 2 p.m. each weekday. It will be simulcast on WWXT 92.7 FM and WWXX 94.3 FM.

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