After briefly working in the family manufacturing business, Rome returned to station KTMS in Santa Barbara, where he had interned during college. He started as a traffic-update reporter, later admitting to spicing up his broadcasts with fake accident reports, before landing a sports-talk show.
In December 1990 Rome joined San Diego-based XTRA, where he went from part-timer to the host of The Jim Rome Show in a prime midday slot within a year and a half. The nascent sports-talk industry was on the rise, and Rome was at the forefront with his brash opinions and blunt interviews. Referring to his show as "The Jungle," Rome presided over a charged phone-in environment, awarded nicknames to his favorite callers and developed an insider lexicon with fans, who became known as "clones."
Rome made his foray into television as the host of Talk2 on the new ESPN2 channel in 1993, but his TV career nearly imploded after an early on-air incident with NFL quarterback Jim Everett. Questioning Everett's manhood, Rome repeatedly referred to him as "Chris," after women's tennis player Chris Evert, until Everett angrily flipped over a table and pushed Rome to the ground. Many critics felt Rome went too far, but he weathered the fallout and eventually developed a reputation for fairness to go with his tough-guy persona.Rome hosted Fox Sports Net's The Last Word from 1997 through 2002, and after a brief hiatus from television returned to ESPN to host Rome Is Burning, later renamed Jim Rome Is Burning. All the while, he continued to host his weekly morning radio show, which was syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks in 1996.
In January 2012, Rome announced that he was leaving ESPN to join the CBS Sports Network channel. While leaving sports giant ESPN presented a risk for Rome, CBS offered the opportunity for a broader profile with both a daily show, named Rome, and the weekly Jim Rome on Showtime, which aimed to bring art, pop culture and politics into the sports discussion.
Rome also cut ties with Premiere Radio Networks and began broadcasting his longtime radio show, which had expanded to more than 200 affiliates, on the CBS Sports Radio Network in January 2013.