10 Questions with ... John Gregory
January 22, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
After my college days spent interning at the Chicago Rock stations The Loop and Q101, and producing a talk show on WCEV-A, I landed my first full-time gig at FM News 101.1 as a writer. Within two months, I was promoted to weekend overnight editor. It was a thrilling experience, working with enthusiastic and ultra-talented news people on something truly unique to news radio.
Soon after the new year, I added a part-time job as a sports anchor for the Illinois Radio Network. While it made most of my workdays last from 5p to 5a, I jumped to get on-air so soon in my career. FM News later gave me some on-air opportunities, doing news and weather reporters for our sister station in Philadelphia, WWIQ.
That part-time gig has been a saving grace for me since the July implosion of Merlin Media's FM News stations. I was given the opportunity to cover as many games around Chicago as I wanted, and evolved into the network's go-to reporter on the Chicago White Sox. While they choked in the final weeks to miss the playoffs (don't mind the sobbing, but that pain is still fresh), that experience has opened new doors for me. Hopefully, I get to step through one of them and find a full-time job waiting on the other side.
1) What do you do to maintain a positive mental attitude and stay motivated?
I stay in touch with my former FM Newsers. As soon as the axe fell, both the Chicago and New York newsrooms reached out to each other, offering advice, compliments and most importantly ... references. Whenever I may be feeling down on my search, a quick chat with one of them has always picked me back up.
2) Some people get discouraged or enlightened with the business when they actually step out of it for a while. Tell us your observations from the outside.
I'm enlightened because I'm seeing the business for what it is ... which to some, may be discouraging. There are plenty of stations where consolidation just for the sake of it is king, and they rely on part-timers working 39 hours a week to save on benefits. But I've also learned there are plenty of stations that recognize that the value of talent goes beyond a salary on a budget sheet, and they can attract listeners and advertisers without being a nickel-and-dime operation.
3) Do you plan on sticking with radio?
Without a doubt. It's what I've wanted to do since junior high, and I've put too much in to turn back after the first few bumps in the road.
4) What is the next job you'd like to obtain?
After covering so many Sox games in the final months of this season, that's the new goal: to be a beat reporter, update anchor, talk show host, anything sports-related in a major leeague city.
5) How are you finding the "courtesy level" at places you've applied? (Callbacks, emails, rejection letters, etc.)
To be honest, not great. I get more callbacks or interviews than I do notices that I'm out of consideration. Most of the time, it feels like my resume to being sent into a black hole, never to be seen or read. When I do get called back, it's by the good people in this business ... the ones who are looking past my youth to see my years of experience.
6) What's the most unbelievable question you've ever been asked in an interview?
One person actually asked me if I'm ashamed to be collecting unemployment checks after getting laid off. Needless to say, that interview didn't last much longer after that.
7) With consolidation there are definitely fewer jobs. How do you separate yourself from the pack?
Flexibility. The days of just being someone who reads the news are pretty much finished. In a given shift at FM News, I may have been an interviewer, audio editor, writer, web producer, weather anchor, news anchor, newscast stacker ... anything that needed to get done, I jumped on it. The more hats you can wear, the more valuable you are.
8) What has been your biggest career accomplishment?
One weekend overnight, we had just a skeleton crew at FM News -- myself, a writer and an anchor. The writer alerted me to a situation down in Chicago's Grant Park, where Occupy protesters were trying to station themselves for the night. With no reporter on staff, I grabbed a recorder and rushed to the scene. Chicago police were hauling away arrested protesters in buses, and I overheard an argument from other protesters who wanted to physically stop the bus. While an organizer tried to talk them out of that plan, I just stuck my mic in and got the whole conversation. For that Sunday, that was a story no one else had, including the mighty WBBM.
9) If you were offered a similar position to what you were doing for considerably less money, would you seriously consider taking the job just to stay in the biz?
Yes, though the money can't get much lower than what it was. Early on, you have to have that mentality, because you never know what that experience will lead to later.
10) Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
Working full-time as a beat reporter for a Chicago team.
My favorite new diversion is...
Fantasy football. You'd think a sportscaster with a lot of time on his hands would be unstoppable. That's not true when you're facing Peyton Manning ... and Michael Turner only gets you three points.