Bonnie Bernstein: Sideline Veteran Status
Bonnie Bernstein is the real deal.
Bonnie Bernstein is proof you don’t just see veterans onthe field; you see them on the sidelines as well. She’s also proof she’s had to work just as hard, albeit a different kind of hard, to gain that same veteran status as say Joe Montana.
Bernstein comes to the table with class, grace, experience, and raw attitude not to mention mature emotion. And accolades. Boy does she come to the table with accolades, most notably being recognized by the American Sportscasters Association as one of the most accomplished female journalists in her field. She’s spent 17+ years covering some of the nation’s most prestigious sporting events on-air for ESPN and CBS, but recently she moved to a slightly different field. Now she’s using her business smarts outside of sports to help build a network as the “face” and Vice President, Content and Brand Development, of Campus Insiders.
“I’ve always had this entrepreneur spirit but no place to do anything with it. And when Campus Insiders initially came to me and approached me about being the face of the network, I was able to parlay that into the position I have now and they were really open to it and supportive,” Bernstein says of her new role.
When asked to describe herself in a few words, Bernstein opts for words like seasoned, diverse, resilient, passionate, and prepared. All things she very much is. But rare, genuine and honest are words I’d add.
One of the best things about Bernstein is her brutal honesty — even when it comes to her own past fashion fauxs, and she’s got jokes. For instance, when I asked the journalist/entrepreneur how important looks were in her field, she simply responded, “Well I’ve been around for 23 years so obviously they are not that important.”
She’s also modest, did I mention that?
“When I got my first network job (ESPN hired me when I was 24), I was so obsessed with building my credibility that if you went back and looked at some of the outfits I wore you would understand that it was certainly not my mission to be a fasionista,” she explains.
“It was important for me to have fans focus on the words I was disseminating than providing commentary on my outfits. I really tried to down play anything aesthetic. That said, I’m smart enough to realize there’s a lot of attractive women on TV and in the media and some of them might not be as qualified for those jobs as somebody who might not be quite as attractive but the reality is we create our own opportunity and if you’re ambitious enough to leverage your looks to get a job, then far be it for me to judge.
“My personal philosophy is the way I gradually built my brand–I down played the looks until I felt I had the credibility and that was a gradual metamorphous. My emphasis was helping people understand that my purpose for being there was to be the very best sports journalist I could be,” she concludes still laughing at her ghosts of wardrobes past.
There’s a quote I fell in love with not long ago by Madeleine Albright that says, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Too often successful women, or just women in general, are in competition with one another. Bernstein is not one of those women. She’s around to help. Check her Twitter feed every so often — she’s always sharing tips and responding to inquiring minds. Her biggest tip for up and coming journalists, especially in this new world of social media is to always double source. This is what the world needs more of — not just on social media, but in life. We need more Bonnie Bernsteins.
You can’t be in the industry as long as Bernstein has and not have seen some of the nasty criticism and personal attacks prevalent in today’s world, which come quickly in the form of fast-typing social media haters. And of course, she’s got some serious thoughts on that.
“Jemele Hill and Richard Deitsch were tweeting yesterday and Jemele had put some stuff out there about stuff she’s seen on her timeline and it’s just vile. I applaud Curt Schilling for taking legal action against the trolls who went after his daughter, because what social media does is it gives nameless faceless cowards a voice. I feel really fortunate I don’t get a ton of that. I feel like my content is relatively benign–I have passionate opinions but I also make it very clear I enjoy healthy discussion. If you want to engage with me that way that’s cool. If you want to diss me it kind of depends on the mood I’m in but I will never resort to name-calling.
“On a rare occasion I’ll click on their profile and see what their information says. One time somebody was really disrespectful and he had the name of his employer–he worked for a school, I believe he was a lacrosse coach–he was so disrespectful that my response to him was “I’m sure and I put the name of the school handle would be thrilled to see one of their employees tweeting like this.” I don’t feel the need to do that in abundance but every once in awhile I’m ok just checking somebody and saying look, slow your roll, show me your face–don’t show me an egg avatar–give me your name, tell me where you work and then let me know if your have the audacity to tweet the way you do,” she says bluntly.
Throughout her career, Bernstein has covered some of the nation’s most esteemed events, such as the Super Bowl, NBA Finals (including the Bulls’ second historic three-peat), and NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships, but her favorite is the 2002 NCAA Championship. “I was working with Jim Nantz and Billy Packer. We had the good fortune of covering every single one of Maryland’s games and the run of the championship and that’s my alma mater,” she recalls fondly.
Speaking of March Madness her obvious favorite (early-on) is Kentucky. “There’s a really special feel to the tournament because everybody has a chance,” she says of her impending 90-hour workweeks.
As for March Madness, be sure to check out one of Bernstein’s projects with her team. “One of the cool things we’re doing for Campus Insiders for our second year is a segment called 68-60, and basically we create an interactive bracket. Once the brackets are released you can roll over any of the teams and we do a 60-second video preview, married with an editorial component so for people who may be casual basketball fans or a diehard basketball fan, it would give you all the information you need to put your brackets together. It’s one of the series we do and are really proud–our team literally pulls an all-nighter as soon as the brackets come out,” she says.
To see this original article, which ran on CBS Man Cave Daily in the sports section, click here.