Sportscaster Graham Bensinger has a penchant for making headlines on “In Depth with Graham Bensinger,” which airs Sundays at 11 p.m. on WNYW/Ch. 5.
Bensinger, 34, started his broadcasting career as a podcaster in the 8th grade in St. Louis (in his parents’ home) and hasn’t looked back since. By the age of 17, his internet sports show was airing on Sporting News Radio before he moved on to stints at ESPN Radio and Sirius.
Bensinger answered a few questions about his career and how he made it to the top.
How did you get Hall of Famer Ernie Banks to appear on your podcast when you were, what, 13 years old?
I was in eighth grade when I launched an internet radio show, writing letters to athletes hoping they would agree to be on the show. I had gone to my local library and looked up [Ernie’s] home address, then mailed him a letter. Imagine my surprise when he actually called my parents’ house and my mom yelled that Ernie Banks was on the phone!
Was there any specific sportscaster who ignited your enthusiasm at such a young age?
Bob Costas … who, thanks to my ongoing harassment, wrote me a recommendation letter to his alma mater, Syracuse University!
Describe for me the excitement of landing at ESPN Radio when you were 19.
I started working at the local ESPN radio station in my hometown of St. Louis as a high school senior. I bought the time to be on the air (with the help of my parents) and then I would contact local companies to sponsor the show to help cover the costs. Later, after an interview with OJ Simpson, I began freelancing on ESPN television as a 19-year-old college freshman. It was surreal to see interviews that I’d been conducting since eighth grade now airing nationally.
While working at ESPN, I conducted an interview with NFL star Terrell Owens. A sound bite of T.O.’s comments made national headlines, and T.O. was suspended from the Philadelphia Eagles. I struggled with the lack of editorial control I had in interviews and how soundbites were used, and I wondered if there was a different way. That’s when I began exploring the idea of creating an independent television show where I would have more control of the process.
How did “In Depth” evolve into a syndicated show?
I began developing “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” at age 22, pounding the pavement and making calls to book guests and secure advertisers, while learning how to syndicate the television show myself. I traveled the country meeting with local station executives. While definitely tough, the reality is [that] so many executives took an unnecessary chance on me and gave me this opportunity for which I’m forever grateful.
Do you have a “dream guest”?
So many … A sitting president. Michael Jordan. Serena Williams. Tom Cruise.
What’s been the biggest challenge with “In Depth”?
In addition to hosting, my company handles production, syndication and ad sales for the show. In its early years, I invested my life savings and took out loans, going into debt to grow the show. The show is now in its 11th year, so fortunately the risk paid off, but it was the most valuable experience I’ve ever had.
Is there one guest who disappointed you?
No, but there are often times I’m disappointed in myself for failing to do a better job getting the figure we’re profiling to open up to the extent I was hoping.
Why do you think athletes such as T.O. and [Cowboys quarterback] Dak Prescott open up to you so much?
We put probably 100 hours of research into each interview preceding the sitdown. In situations where we’re fortunate enough to get someone to open up, I’d like to think it’s because we have done our homework and are well-prepared.
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