Women’s History Month Interview Series: Q&A with WFAN Sports Anchor, Erica Herskowitz
Who knew volunteering for the sports segment of a college radio station would turn into one of the most impressive resumes for a woman in the sports radio and television world? Erica Herskowitz became the first female play-by-play voice of both the men and women’s Rutgers basketball teams, paving the inspiring road for many women ahead. Herskowitz was quickly noticed for her talents and enthusiasm by WFAN in 1997, where she interned, followed by becoming a 20-20-update anchor.
Throughout the years Erica has covered four Olympics, the Women’s World Cup, and has had anchoring experience with NBA TV, MLB.com, ESPN Radio Network and station, the WNBA, and The YES Network. She has also had other collegiate experiences including sideline reporting for Rutgers Football, the Atlantic-10 Conference, and the Manhattan Jaspers men and women’s basketball teams. Today, Erica still anchors for WFAN while balancing a family and teaching Broadcast Journalism at Rutgers University.
Authors Note: Having Erica as a professor, mentor, role model, colleague, and friend has truly encouraged and motivated me in pursing my career in sports journalism. Hopefully readers will enjoy the interview and the young aspiring female journalists out there will be encouraged too! Enjoy! – A.R
Alexa Ramos: So let’s kick this off from the beginning, where did the start of your journey take place?
Erica Herskowitz: I was always a sports fan, but I really started loving the NBA and NHL in high school because of a boyfriend who was a huge Knicks and Rangers fan. Most of all, I was always a radio fan. When I was in junior high school, I used to sit in my room and play solitaire on my computer while listening to the “Rocky Allen Showgram” on WPLJ 95.5 after school. There was always something fun about listening to their conversations. I think that’s where my love of radio started.
AR: Did you play any sports growing up?
EH: I played field hockey in high school, all-county goalie.
AR: How about your Favorite Sports and Teams?
EH: I love the Rangers! We’re a big hockey family as both my sons play ice hockey and so does my husband. I’m also a Yankees, Giants, and, most importantly, a Rutgers fan!
AR: Was becoming a radio or television sports anchor always a career you wished to pursue?
EH: Funny, I never really thought about being on the radio until I started working at WRSU my freshman year at Rutgers. But recently, my mom found a little project I did in third grade where I answered questions and one of the questions was, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and I wrote, “I will work on the radio”. So maybe deep down, even since I was 8 years old, I always knew!
AR: Were there any internships or job opportunities that really helped you realize to continue in this career path?
EH: My internship at WFAN Radio in my junior year at Rutgers was the real turning point for me. I just loved everything about working there. I was hired to work behind the scenes directly out of the internship and I’ve basically been here ever since. I always thought I’d be a behind-the-scenes type, but I ended up making my on-air debut a month after I graduated from Rutgers.
AR: Who were or are some of your other biggest influences and role models?
EH: My mom is my biggest influence in my life for many reasons, but if you’re talking about professionally, I’d say Suzyn Waldman, who paved the way for women like me in the business. She is a pioneer and I’ve always looked up to her and her success.
AR: What were some of the best and worst moments of your career?
EH: Best moment of my career was when I called the Men’s Big East semifinal game at Madison Square Garden back in 1998 on WRSU. Rutgers came up with a huge, unexpected win, but little did I know, Mike Francesa was simulcasting my WRSU broadcast on WFAN that day. I was doing play-by-play which was extremely rare for a girl to be doing. The next day, I got a note in my mailbox at WFAN from our Program Director, Mark Chernoff, asking me to start doing demo-tapes for anchoring and the rest is history!
The worst moment of my career was during when I started working at ESPN Radio in New York. The station launched literally four days before the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks. I’ll never forget getting off the train just before the first plane hit the World Trade Center, the whole world changed that day.
AR: Any silly or embarrassing stories? (Rookie Mistakes?)
EH: I always make silly mistakes! It’s part of being human. There’s really not one I can recall, but I’m sure, if you ask my colleagues, I embarrass myself often! lol
AR: Favorite Men’s and Women’s Sports to discuss and analyze?
EH: I enjoy talking about all sports, I really don’t have a favorite. My favorite sport for play-by-play would be basketball because of the fast-paced nature of the game, it always came easy to me!
AR: In 2008, you were an anchor for the Beijing Olympics broadcasting exclusive coverage on the events, which sports did you cover and what was the experience like?
EH: I’ve covered four Olympics since Beijing, recently wrapping up coverage of the Sochi Games. As an anchor, I get to cover all sports, which is great because you get a chance to research and enjoy all of the events.
AR: You’ve covered the Women’s World Cup and Women’s Collegiate Sports as well; do you find Women’s coverage to be easier or harder than Men’s? Do you have a preference?
EH: Honestly, for me, there’s no real difference between covering men’s and women’s games except the speed of the play. Men’s games move a little faster, but I enjoy both.
AR: When did you join NBA TV and what was your experience there like? What made you move on?
EH: I started anchoring for a brief time in 2002-03. It was a great job, didn’t really have to do much except hair, make-up, and read a tele-prompter. It was also the first job I didn’t have to write my own script. I left NBA TV after only a few months because I was hired away by MLB.com which was launching. They made me sign a contract which said I couldn’t cover any other leagues, so my focus shifted to baseball.
AR: Now you’re currently a professor at Rutgers University, what classes are you teaching and what has the transition from being a student there to a professor like? Do you see yourself continuing to teach in the future?
EH: I currently teach two sections of Broadcast News Writing. I enjoy teaching at Rutgers because, as a graduate, I have such a love for the school! It’s fun to get to know the students and to teach a class I took in the same room I took it! It’s an honor and I really enjoy it. I’m hoping to continue for as long as they’ll have me!
AR: After all of these experiences, I’m sure you met a lot of other women in the business as well. What was the best advice you’ve ever received about being a female in the sports industry?
EH: I would often get advice from Suzyn Waldman who was always someone I looked up to. She was, and still is, extremely helpful and inspiring. It wasn’t something specific Suzyn said to me, it was just the way she handled herself in a male-dominated world. She is very confident and sure of herself and it’s effective in making people show her respect.
AR: What’s the best advice you could give to young women looking to becoming involved with Sports television and radio in the future?
EH: My best advice is to “ride the waves”. This business is full of peaks and valleys. Things can be very good and then turn very slow quickly, so you have to ride out the tough times and always stay motivated and determined.
The other piece of advice I’d give young women is BE NICE to other women! We can be our own worst enemies sometimes. I wish women would start supporting one another and put aside any jealousy and pettiness. I think we’d be so much further along on the food chain if women would help other women.
AR: Alright now a fun wrap-up, If you were to host a dinner with three women in sports (past or present), who would they be and why?
EH: Hmmm, tough question. If we’re talking athletes, I’m inviting Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan for obvious reasons and I’d randomly have Martina Navratilova just because she seems like she’d get a kick out of having dinner with those two!