Front Row is taking viewers behind the scenes of First Take through a series of interviews with key production personnel. Next up is Chuck Salituro, senior news editor, and since the start of 2015, editorial consultant for the discussion TV shows on ESPN and ESPN2 (First Take, His and Hers, SportsNation, Highly Questionable, Around the Horn and PTI) and all of ESPN Audio – including the national and local radio shows in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, along with acting as the news contact for the hundreds of ESPN Radio affiliates.
For the past three months, First Take has posted its most-watched months ever. All three months sit atop the leaderboard as the show’s highest-rated month ever at 0.4 and the week of 12/7 was First Take’s most viewed week ever with an average of 518,000 viewers. First Take is televised on ESPN2 weekdays at 10 a.m. ET. Molly Qerim is the moderator with debaters Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.
How long have you been with ESPN and what has been your job progression?
I have been at ESPN since February 1994. I started at ESPN as coordinating producer of the assignment desk, and began serving as a news editor when ESPNEWS launched in 1996. I also have served as chief of correspondents before becoming a senior news editor in 1999. Before my current role became official to include all the TV discussion shows, I began my editorial consulting role on First Take at the start of 2013.
What has been your favorite experience working on First Take?
I have relished all of my roles at ESPN, but in my current role, I have never felt more energized and engaged. I work most closely with First Take, starting my day with the show’s morning meeting at 7:30 a.m. It forces me to have my “A” game every day as I always know that Skip and Stephen A. will bring theirs. We want them to say what they believe and be who they are, and more important, that’s what our audience wants. In essence, I am there to help them be the best they can be. My specific role and goal every day is to help them make their points on live TV as journalistically sound and compelling as possible, provide boundaries if needed and keep them as up to speed on how developing news events and changing newsmaker statements affect their opinions.
What is it like working with Stephen A., Skip and Molly?
Skip and Stephen A. resonate with our audience because they are passionate about what they believe, pull no punches and have a great personal chemistry, which Molly does an excellent job of helping bring to the surface. The show is both fearless and compelling because that’s the essence of who Skip and Stephen A. are. Their energy not only invigorates me, but also does the same for a dedicated show staff led by coordinating producer Antoine Lewis.
Skip, Stephen A. and Molly, along with the show’s producers, have a great sense of what topics are resonating and what topics have flash points that make for compelling discussion. The show combines powerful personalities with compelling topics done in a sound and entertaining way. And the recent record ratings for First Take show that this simple formula executed well not only resonates with today’s audiences but is what today’s audiences want and demand. They want to think and they want to be moved. They don’t want neutral. And this show is almost never neutral.