Bonnie Bernstein is a veteran network sports journalist, media executive and entrepreneur. She is the Founder and CEO of Walk Swiftly Productions, her latest endeavor in a career that’s spanned nearly 20 years on-air at ESPN and CBS, where she’s covered the NFL and college football extensively as a sideline reporter, feature reporter and studio host.
We caught up with Bonnie for this week’s Friday Five…
Who is your biggest mentor?
Lesley Visser. One of the most significant female pioneers in the sports industry, in print and in broadcast. That she became a friend, colleague and big sister while we were at CBS together was a wonderful gift. That she passed on the “mentor torch” to me several years ago is something I’ve taken very seriously and can only hope, when it’s all said and done, that I’ve had a positive impact on a fraction of the women Lesley’s inspired!
What has been your most memorable interview?
Ooh. Tough one. I’d have to say my live pregame interview with President Bush at 2001 Army-Navy. It got pulled together so last minute, I barely had a chance to think about what I was gonna ask before he was standing in front of me! Given the gravity of the time, just a few months after 9/11, it meant a great deal that the president prioritized attending a game where everyone playing would one day be serving, and that he was gracious enough to speak with me.
You’ve been named as one of the most accomplished female sportscasters in history. What advice would you give for young women trying to make a name for themselves in the industry?
Never be afraid to pivot and grow. During my two decades at CBS/ESPN, I took great pride in covering different sports and serving in many roles: sideline reporter, feature reporter, TV studio host, radio show host. My passion for being a “Swiss Army knife” on the talent side fostered my courage to branch into entrepreneurship with Walk Swiftly Productions and my consultancy, Velvet Hammer Media, and start pursuing opportunities on public and private corporate boards of directors. I have so many friends who feel stuck in jobs they don’t love, because they don’t wanna step outside their comfort zones. Embrace evolution. Be fearless! There’s zero downside. Promise.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Embrace the power of relationships and make it a priority to cultivate them! When I was younger, I genuinely felt if I worked hard and was good at my job, doors would magically fly open (I know, how cute is that??). Sure, that’s part of it, but certainly not all that goes into decision-making. Building relationships not only positions us to thrive in life and in our careers, but gives us the opportunity to surround ourselves with people who inspire us to be the best version of ourselves!
If you could invite any three people in history to dinner, who would they be and why?
Dr. Condoleezza Rice (one of the world’s real super humans), Sandy Koufax (my parents’ favorite baseball player), and Denzel Washington (in my humble opinion, our generation’s finest actor).