Interview - John Gorman

Interview: John Gorman, Media Columnist & Journalist: 9th July 2003

In keeping with Media Man Australia's tradition of tackling any subject, including "freedom of the press", we interview distinguished journalist, John Gorman.

What's your background?

I've been in radio for thirty five years; most of them as a program director, operations manager or station manager.

What are your aims and objectives?

I'm don't believe that we can put the toothpaste back in the tube, so to speak, regarding media deregulation. It's here to say. I'm glad there is an alternative, the Internet. If radio was once considered "the last great illusion," due to the fact that you could play on one's imagination and provide a soundtrack, the Internet is "the great equalizer." The ability to broadcast both audio and video on the Internet is defeating the plans of a few major media organizations to dominate and control what we see, hear and read.

As much as the US government tries, they cannot regulate the Internet because it's infinitesimal. The reason why radio should be regulated is that there are only so many frequencies available. One cannot just start a radio or TV station. Well, one actually can but it will get shut down immediately.

What motivates you?

I've been fortunate to have some great successes in radio. I've been fortunate to have worked with some amazing and creative talents throughout my years in radio and the media. I want to see the next generation of communicators given a chance. It used to be that the smaller market stations served as a farm team for the major markets. No more. Now, with Clear Channel and others buying up every mom and pop small and medium size market, they've eliminate the opportunity for new talent to develop. Instead, they take their stations and clone their major market programming to the minor leagues. It will come back to haunt them. Guaranteed.

What do you prefer to write about, and why?

Media. After 35 years in this business - I better love it! I enjoy wiring about media and its ever changing influence. And I love the Internet. And it will be wireless someday and be a direct competitor with radio and TV. Right now, Wi-Fi, wireless Internet, is where cell phone technology was in the mid 80s to early 90s. That will change. Eventually, one will be able to listen to radio and watch TV from all over the world on a small pocket sized portable unit. Give it five more years. Put another way, Internet radio is where FM radio was in the late 60s.

What does the current FCC ruling mean for the average American, and citizens in the "western world"?

Other countries will follow suit. Look at Canada. Canadian radio, in many ways, was more advanced in its programming than US stations. Now, they're beginning to deregulate and move their media in the same direction. There are rumors of Clear Channel buying Chrysalis and-or other radio groups in the United Kingdom. Don't say it can't happen. Something happened to Tony Blair. He's become a ventriloquist dummy for George W. Bush.

What is Ted Turner's take on the situation? - how will it effect him?

It already did. He was relieved from his day-to-day management of CNN years ago. CNN is a shell of its former self. It was bad enough when Time-Warner began interfering with its programming. Once Time-Warner merged with AOL it was all over.

Describe freedom of the press in America?

It's very delicate. We have far fewer independent voices in conventional media than we had ten years ago.

What news outlets and journalists do you respect the most and why?

First, let's face it. Everyone has a spin. The truth is there - somewhere. You have to digest your news and information from a number of sources. I listen to world news via the Internet and the CBC-owned NewsWorld International, which is now available in the states. I spend time with the BBC, Deutch Welle, and other media outlets. I read everything I can get my hands on. I've always been like that. Even before deregulation. I'll listen and read liberals, moderates, conservatives, libertarians.

How widespread do you think plagiarism is in major news outlets in American, and indeed, the world?

It has always existed and will always exist. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes it's deliberate. I don't think there is an increase in plagiarism. I believe with the Internet and the ability to read national and worldwide newspapers it has become easier to spot the plagiarist.

Is America selling less newspapers, due to the recent NY Times scandal?

No, America is selling less newspapers because they are less interesting. Most papers reduced their local and regional bureaus. On the rare case they open a new bureau it's strictly to put a smaller local newspaper out of business. I used to read local newspapers to get local news. Today, I don't even bother. I go on the Internet instead.

What online news media websites do you visit and contribute to?

Too many to list. I subscribe to the New York Times and find myself spending most of my time on the Internet for my news and information.

What are your thought on blogging?

I love it.

What have been some of the biggest ups and downs in your career?

My career has been in radio management and programming, not writing, though it's safe to say I've composed many a memo and promotional announcement. The highlight of my career is when I was surrounded by an incredible staff to help build WMMS in Cleveland into one of the best-known, influential radio stations in America during the 70s and 80s in the most unlikely of formats.

For three decades, stations I managed and or programmed were the top billing stations in the market. The downside is when I signed on with a station owned by CBS in Detroit. A few months into the operation I was told by my boss that I was to follow, mimic may be the better word, the playlist of another CBS station. I won't bother to get into the reasons why. Let's just say I know of a few people that lined their pockets on that one.

Legal payola is a major problem in the US. It controls what one hears when it comes to new music. Slots on a playlist are given to the highest bidder. That's why, in the US, virtually all popular music played on the radio is from the big five labels. Nothing independent.

The downside here, besides the obvious, is that new music radio used to serve as the soundtrack to popular culture. Not any more. Now you have a new generation of kids who are not getting their soundtrack from conventional radio. They are going to Internet radio and downloading. Downloading is not going to put any record company out of business. That's bullshit. Downloading music has replaced radio as one of the means to expose new music. If a music consumer hears something they really like, they will still buy the hard copy. Downloaded music is not of great quality. It's highly compressed.

If you want to know the real reason why the Big Five label's music isn't selling - it's payola and it's because those labels are totally out of touch with reality.

Where have you traveled to, and what stories did you report on?

I haven't been to Australia yet. That's on my list. And New Zealand. I write and report on media, locally, regionally, nationally, internationally. I never run out of material.

How has the internet helped and hindered you?

It hasn't hindered me at all. I'm hard-wired to it.

What are your views on journalists who embed themselves in war?

It's bullshit. We didn't get the real reports. Look at Jessica Lynch. She was made up to be a hero. Turns out she drove her vehicle off the road. Then there was her so-called dramatic rescue by US troops from an Iraqi hospital. The BBC later uncovered the "rescue" was staged for the US media.

I really believe most conventional media subscribe to the "masses are asses" philosophy. In other words, they'll believe anything. The fact is, even asses know when they're getting kicked.

What is the ultimate solution to fight spam?

It's not going to go away. Find programs that will block spam. It's like insects in the summertime. They'll always be there. You have to protect yourself.

What are your current assignments / projects?

Covering the media. Being a media columnist, I have the freedom to cover a large number of mediums. Of special interest, at least to me, and hopefully others, is how the US Congress secretly implants what they call "midnight riders" into bills which have nothing to do with the subject.

For example, a new bill was introduced to speed up the process of locating kidnapped children. Brilliant piece of legislation. It does force media to be more responsible. However, a senator secretly added a rider that holds the promoters of everything from raves to rock concerts responsible if someone is caught using drugs on the premises. The intent here is to put raves out of business. I would have preferred dollars funded to reach kids to tell them that Ecstasy, like cocaine, has some nasty after effects and can cause some long term medical problems. We finally did it with cigarettes in the US.

What other important information should our readers know about you?

I'm writing a book, still untitled, about my adventures in radio during the 70s, 80s and early 90s. It's not a kiss and tell book but there's plenty of sex, drugs and rock and roll.


Editors note: A hard hitting, revealing interview, that some people in the media business won't be happy to read. Media Man Australia is interested in the truth, freedom of the press and justice.


Cleveland Free Times: To catch a music thief, by John Gorman

Cleveland Free Times: No credability? No problem, by John Gorman

CCF Credit: John Gorman Jessica Lynch: Media Myth-Making in the Iraq War (one of the worlds most popular music sharing websites)