Matt Gurney is a print and broadcast journalist based in Toronto who can be heard weekday mornings from 5:30 to 9 a.m., on AM 640. A military historian by education, Matt’s first big break in media came at the National Post, where he began writing in 2007.
You can follow him @MattGurney.
What is it like working in radio?
I’ve long been passionate about news and talk radio. Being able to work in the industry is like someone coming along and offering you a chance to make a living while indulging in your favourite hobby. I’m still a bit of a romantic when it comes to radio and how it can bring us all, individuals and communities, together at the speed of light. I’m so excited to be part of that process.
How do you decide what to cover?
It’s a collaborative process, but it’s also driven by the news. A lot of days you wake up, take a look at the news that’s developed overnight, and your big decisions are made for you; the day’s top stories are obvious. On days when it’s a bit slower, you can plug those gaps a bit more with personality and your interests, but even then, you need to gut check your suggestions with the rest of the team to make sure you’re not just disappearing into your own navel.
How does social media factor into your work?
Not that much, actually. It’s a communication tool for listeners to get in touch, and I try to be responsive, but mostly, I leave Twitter running during the show (and monitor it throughout the day) as a news ticker.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Up around 3:45 a.m.. I’ll immediately check for email alerts and texts from my team, in case of overnight news developments. If there’s nothing urgent, I’ll read all the local news sources and quickly skim the national/international stories. Then I head into the studio for face-to-face with the team, where we talk through any remaining questions or concerns. We try to have a plan for the full 3.5 hours of show in place by the time the red light comes on, but 80 per cent of the time, we end up throwing that plan out and starting over as news breaks throughout the morning. After we get off the air at 9 a.m., we have a quick meeting to autopsy the show, targeting our best and worst moments, and kick around any ideas for the next day. That’s usually wrapped by 9:45 a.m., and then the day is mine. The hours take some getting used to, to put it mildly.
What’s your number one tip for PR people?
Get to know the target of your pitch, even by just scrolling through their social feeds. Nothing gets deleted faster than some generic, “DEAR MEMBER OF NEWS MEDIA” pitch that has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on anything I’d ever think about or talk about. Unfortunately, that’s about 99 per cent of the pitches I receive.
What has been your favourite story to work on?
Years ago, while I was hosting an evening radio program in Montreal, an honest-to-God asteroid entered the atmosphere at high speed and exploded in the air outside the city. We were lucky it went off as high as it did; if it had come in much faster or on a steeper angle, it would have been like a nuclear bomb exploding. As it was, the flash and explosion was heard over a massive area. We threw out the entire show and just opened the lines and did calls from people describing what they’d seen and where, and we were able to get in touch with first responders, the military and, once we knew what it was we were dealing with, astronomers and space experts. It was the most intense 2.5 hours of radio I’ve ever done, but it was amazing.
What would be your dream story to cover?
Wouldn’t mind being at the mic on the day a human first puts that bootprint down on the surface of Mars.
First website you load in the morning?
Beverage of choice?
Earl Grey tea before and during a show. A beer after, but not right after. Nine o’clock beers are frowned upon, for some reason.