You may have heard the boy-wonder story of sports journalist Graham Bensinger:
Launched his own radio show at 16.
Weaseled his way into OJ Simpson‘s circle of approved journalists shortly thereafter.
Sparked Terrell Owens‘ suspension from the Philadelphia Eagles.
Bensinger looked to be on an upward-trajectory tear — but when the economy crashed, everything came to a screeching halt.
He lost his deal with NBC Sports, which aired Bensinger’s old-school athlete sitdowns online and on selected TV properties.
But Bensinger, now 24, wasn’t ready to stop — so he decided to create, host and distribute a similar Internet-TV hybrid program himself.
“On the distribution and advertising side, I had no experience,” Bensinger told The Wire by phone. “I was searching for people’s contact info and cold-calling them. It was mind-numbing. I was putting in nineteen hour days and I was still behind.”
After a year and a half of pitching advertisers, Internet platforms and television networks, Bensinger finally had a roster of backers — including Yahoo! Sports and Fox.
He was ready to launch — all he needed was a sports great who would take a chance on him and his new-media format.
A last-minute backout left Bensinger, who does 100 hours of research on each of his subjects, scrambling for a first guest. 'We had two weeks to go, all the distribution and advertisers lined up -- and no guest,' he said. 'I had to just man up and find somebody.' Finally, he convinced Pete Rose to be his inaugural interview. How'd he get him? 'It's all about making sure people have confidence in you to tell their story,' he said.
On his 2005 interview with Terrell Owens, which prompted Owens' suspension from the Philadelphia Eagles:
'There are a lot of international sports stars who may not garner the ratings but have some interesting stories to tell. Caroline Wozniacki is someone on the brink of superstardom -- she's close to number-one in the world, she's very young, she's attractive, she's just yet to win a major. She'll get huge. Sandy Koufax, who never gives interviews. I'd love to sit down with Hank Aaron.'
'Something that's disappointing to me: retired athletic figures don't rate well. Viewers aren't interested. It really makes me sad. People like Jim Brown, who quit at the peak of his career to become an actor, who hung out with Frank Sinatra and Hugh Hefner -- J. Edgar Hoover had people watching him -- they don't make athletes like that anymore.'
'When TMZ became famous with that huge story on Mel Gibson getting pulled over, I really wanted Harvey Levin on my radio show. I figured out his email address -- I was very persistent, and I guess he was impressed by that.
He flew me out when the show was still in development and I met with him and the head of Telepictures. I wasn't right -- I didn't even dress right. I had on a sport coat and slacks, and they looked at me like I was crazy. They did not offer me the position. It's not even remotely closet to anything I want to do professionally. But I respect what he's created.'
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