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UPCOMING EVENTS

Caroline Fenton Looks to Make a National Impact at Yahoo Sports After Leaving 102.5 The Game

Entering afternoon drive in Nashville without any previous experience as a full-time radio host, Caroline Fenton knew she had something to prove to the listening audience. Working alongside Jared Stillman two years removed from undergraduate studies at LSU, she studied the local sports teams and came equipped with deft knowledge and compelling opinions. Fenton was also making history as the first female co-host in the history of 102.5 The Game and felt pressure to perform at a high level.

The career move was a stark contrast from her time at ESPN as a digital video and social content producer, some of which involved creating specialized content leveraging the network’s portfolio. For example, she worked with the SportsCenter on Snapchat team, optimizing the flagship program for the social media platform and adjusting when the algorithm changed overnight. Leaving Bristol and relocating to Nashville to join 102.5 The Game represented a leap outside of her comfort zone.

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“It was a total 180,” Fenton said. “I went from being forward thinking on digital and caught up in social media trends and search engine optimization, and then going into a more terrestrial, more traditional form of media. I had to relearn everything – I had to learn the radio formula [and] I had to learn what works, but the thing that continued, and it will continue in any form of media, is, ‘What do people care about?’”

Fenton is going to have the chance to fuse her passions for digital media and on-air hosting in a new role with Yahoo Sports. Responsibilities she will have with the company include hosting digital content and a podcast, along with contributing social and digital video pertaining to several sports. Matt Ufford, her former manager at ESPN and the current head of video and audio at Yahoo Sports, reached out to Fenton and informed her that the company was looking for someone with versatility in discussion and looking to re-enter the digital space.

“I wasn’t seeking out this change – the opportunity simply just presented itself, and it happened to be an opportunity where I could match two of my passions of having good discussion about sports and making sports fans smarter while also being in a landscape on digital and on social media where you’re afforded to be a little bit more creative,” Fenton said. “You’re afforded to add different elements, visual elements into the conversation. It married two of my passions, and it just so happens to be a perfect opportunity for me personally and professionally.”

Yahoo Sports continues to penetrate into sports media through various content initiatives disseminated through digital media platforms. Through conversations Fenton had with company employees, she could evince the level of enthusiasm in the direction of the brand and envisioned that it would ultimately materialize into a substantial and tangible fit.

“It was not a move that I was going to make just to make a move,” Fenton explained. “I wanted to make the move because it was the right move with the right people with the right vision in mind.”

In joining Yahoo Sports, Fenton will utilize the lessons she has learned along the way in an effort to thrive and make an impact. Even though she worked in digital media for ESPN and hosted her own segment on Baseball Tonight Live, Fenton reflected during the pandemic and recognized that she wanted to land an on-air role. When she joined Cromwell Media-owned 102.5 The Game three years ago, the station was looking to expand its digital livestream efforts and augment its social media presence.

“I give my former co-host Jared Stillman so much credit,” Fenton said. “He held my hand through all of it. On my very first day at the radio station, he told me, ‘I will not let you fail,’ and he didn’t. He didn’t let me fail.”

Stillman served as a mentor to Fenton, challenging her and providing feedback about what she did well and points of improvement. The rest of her colleagues at the station assisted in the process as well and were indicative of a strong support system that facilitated her acclimatization. Fenton was moving into the position that had been held by former Titans general manager Floyd Reese, someone who she perceived to be irreplaceable.

Early in her tenure with the outlet, Stillman sarcastically joked that she and Reese were similar to one another before clarifying that they could not be more different. Two years later, she was moved into middays to host with Willy Daunic and Derrick Mason as part of a change in the weekday lineup.

“Jared and I have a great friendship and a great relationship,” Fenton said. “[The show] had become my comfort zone, so stepping out of that, and not just into a new timeslot but into a completely new role, it was scary and I did have some hesitation, but again, I’ll always go back to everyone at the station [assuring] me that, ‘Look, this is going to be the right move for you, but we’re not going to let you fail.’”

The first six months hosting the program were strenuous, but she gives credit to her co-hosts for accepting her and allowing the show to adapt. Fenton believes that she provides energy and an upbeat sentiment as a host and aspires for the listeners to always feel like they received something new in exchange for their consumption.

Fenton considers Daunic and Mason an extension of her family and valued her time working with them, but there were instances when listeners of the show would call or text into the station and make her feel unqualified for the role. As a result, she consistently reminded herself that she earned the position, put in the work and cares about it. One of her former colleagues advised that she makes a list of people whose opinions she cares about and to review it if faced with challenges.

“It is difficult being a woman in this business,” Fenton said. “I think it’s difficult being underrepresented in any capacity because there might be times when you just feel like you’re sticking out like a sore thumb.”

Last summer, Fenton continued to expand her presence by joining SiriusXM as a host on its College Sports Radio and SEC Radio channels, a role she will continue alongside her new job at Yahoo Sports. Hosting at both 102.5 The Game and SiriusXM several months bestowed additional repetitions and practice in switching her focus from local to national coverage, a difficult part of which was balancing the necessary preparation.

“Whenever you’re on the air for three or four hours a day, it’s really hard to fake it,” Fenton said. “It would be exhausting if I faked my personality for three or four hours a day, and that is something that Jared [Stillman] taught me very early on is that, ‘Don’t feel like you have to be anything other than yourself.’”

Fenton is enthused to begin contributing to programming at Yahoo Sports but leaving 102.5 The Game in the process was not an easy decision to reach. Having worked alongside Daunic and Mason for just over a year, she felt the show was just starting to hit its stride. On top of that, Fenton had continued to grow as an on-air personality and exhibit that she was able to lead a program within weekday prime hours. Broadening her horizons and shattering glass ceilings are parts of the experience she looks back on with appreciation, and she hopes she represented women well.

“It was hard for me to leave 102.5 The Game because I have close relationships with so many people there, and it’s not just the other hosts – it’s the salespeople, it’s the administrators,” Fenton said. “I had close relationships with everyone, and that’s a wonderful pro of working for a smaller company and a smaller-owned company.”

Having previously worked with Matt Ufford at ESPN and conversing with Sam Farber, the head of content for Yahoo Sports, she knew that the chance to join the company was ideal and fused her passions. While speaking with Farber, she felt that they were in alignment with the personality that they wanted the programming to have and with what will happen next.

“I’ll try to collect as much information as I can; I thrive off of feedback, whether that’s good feedback [or] whether that’s constructive criticism, and having people around me that I trust that can provide that feedback and that constructive criticism,” Fenton said.

With her forays in both terrestrial radio and digital media, Fenton believes that the priority should be on reaching as many consumers as possible. In taking part in college football coverage, she knows that not every sports fan necessarily watches college football, thus leading the company to determine how to reach a wide array of people and create enthralling, thought-provoking content. As time progresses, she hopes to be relied on in various different forms, including covering a variety of sports in various capacities.

“I think that you just have to be there,” Fenton said. “Just show up, and I mean that physically and I also mean that in a social and digital sense. Be part of the conversation, be there and then you’ll continue to build some of that trust with your viewers, with your listeners [and with] the users on social media.”

Through the trials and tribulations associated with the dynamic nature of the sports media business, Fenton is ready to take the next step in her career as a host and contributor for Yahoo Sports. Whether she is in front of the camera or behind the microphone, she will aim to foster a connection with the audience and offer informative, entertaining and engaging conversation while helping the company achieve its goals.

“I can’t look too far ahead into the future because frankly, if you would have asked me just six months ago, ‘Do you see yourself leaving local radio for a digital show?,’ I would probably say, ‘Nope, and I’m happy where I am,’ so I think the lessons that I’ve learned about this industry is you take the opportunities that are afforded to you,” Fenton delineated. “You ride the wave, and who knows what will come next, but for now, I’m happy for this new beginning.”

Derek Futterman
Derek Futtermanhttps://derekfutterman.com/
Derek Futterman is a contributing editor and sports media reporter for Barrett Media. Additionally, he has worked in a broad array of roles in multimedia production – including on live game broadcasts and audiovisual platforms – and in digital content development and management. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks, wrote for the Long Island Herald and served as lead sports producer at NY2C. To get in touch, find him on X @derekfutterman.

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