By Joel Meyer -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/23/2005 8:00:00 PM
It is no surprise that urban-radio heavyweight Tom Joyner's first broadcasting experience came as the result of a social cause. A native of Tuskegee, Ala., Joyner was an active participant in the civil-rights movement at an early age. One afternoon in the 1960s, Joyner and others protested outside a local station that played predominantly white “background music,” as Joyner describes it, for the white-owned shops in the overwhelmingly black town.
The exasperated station owner approached the crowd and offered to give a volunteer the last part of the broadcast day on Saturdays. “You can play all the Motown and all the Aretha you want,” he said. “Who wants to do it?”
Joyner raised his hand.
“I've been in the business ever since,” he says. “And I've been protesting ever since.”
Along the way, the syndicated radio host—heard by 8 million people every week on 115 stations nationwide—became one of the nation's most generous supporters of African-American causes in the U.S. (In 2003, he ranked just behind Oprah Winfrey and arts benefactor Eileen Harris Norton among black philanthropists, according to Black Enterprise magazine.) In particular, Joyner has used his celebrity to support students attending historically black colleges and universities.
For the uninitiated, the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show is a blend of old-school R&B, PG-rated jokes (“I saw a recent picture of Mr. T the other day. He looks like there should be an F-A in front of that T.”), info-tainment newscasts and socially conscious features like “Real Fathers, Real Men.” There's even a hammy soap opera called It's Your World, set in a town where all black people are prosperous.
The show's format was inspired by Joyner's black radio heroes, such as Atlanta's Jack “The Rapper” Gibson, who launched the first black-owned radio station, and Philadelphia personality Doug “Jocko” Henderson, a rap radio pioneer. “I'm given credit for being innovative, but what I'm doing is not new,” Joyner says. “I'm just doing it from a bigger platform and a bigger microphone.”
After graduating from Tuskegee University, Joyner paid his on-air dues in Memphis, Tenn., St. Louis, Dallas and Chicago during the 1970s and '80s. In the mid '80s, he earned notoriety as the “Fly Jock,” commuting by plane every day between a morning-show gig at KKDA(FM) Dallas and an afternoon drive-time slot at WCGI(FM) Chicago. From 1986 to '93, he logged 7 million frequent-flyer miles.
In 1994, ABC Radio Networks began syndicating his morning show. National exposure made Joyner a star—but the kid from Tuskegee wanted to do more.
“Tom really had a vision of building an entity and not wanting big media companies to interfere with that vision,” says David Kantor, Joyner's business partner and a longtime radio executive. The Fly Jock's decision to part ways with ABC Radio in 2003, Kantor says, was “a freedom-of-content issue and a freedom-to-expand issue.”
That year, Joyner and Kantor founded REACH Media. In addition to producing Joyner's morning radio show, the company operates BlackAmericaWeb.com, an informational Web site and fundraising arm that is currently in full swing to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. REACH Media also produces Joyner's slate of charity events, including The Fantastic Voyage, a seven-day, 3,000-passenger cruise that raises college-scholarship money. It's distributed through The Tom Joyner Foundation, which has raised $30 million since 1998, largely through modest individual contributions.
For access to his radio audience, which is primarily African-American and female, Joyner insists advertisers spread the word about voter registration, U.S. Census participation and other public-service campaigns.
“When they show that they are concerned not only about selling their product to our community but also about the community itself, our community will wrap its arms around that partner and be with them [for life],” Joyner says. Those “partners,” as he calls them, include Procter & Gamble and Southwest Airlines.
Although urban network Radio One bought a 51% stake in REACH Media for $56 million this year, the business has retained the feel of a family affair. One of Joyner's sons, Oscar, is REACH Media's president, while the other, Thomas Jr., runs the foundation. With his radio career still going strong after 25 years, Joyner is set to embark on a new venture: syndicated television. The Tom Joyner Show, a late-night hour-long weekend show, started Oct. 1. It has cleared 75% of the U.S. and 38 of the top 40 markets, including Los Angeles and New York.
When he looks back on his achievements, Joyner is humble, but others rave. “He's brought a lot of strength to the African-American community in a lot of ways,” says Kantor. “I believe he is the most influential African-American in the country. But he'd never admit that.”
Of course, there is a bonus to helping so many young people finish college. “I get some great hugs,” Joyner says with a smile. “Nice, googly, mama-and-grandmamma hugs.”
I would love to get a copy of J. Anthony Brown's Cowboys play like girls. It was played on Friday 10/22/10 on the Tom Joyner morning show in Richmond, VA station 105.7FM. If it is possible to get a copy please let me know. Thank you so much.
Cindy Lopez - 10/25/2010 7:47:55 AM EDT
Gary Huggins - 2/28/2008 12:06:00 PM EST
Hi Tom and everyone,
My name Carolyn Taylor I live in Richmond, VA. I just want to Thank-you for all you do for the black community.In to Thank-you how you step up to help me with the money I was short of for my certification I think it (Sybil). I have not receive it yet but mother always told me give thanks in before you get your blessing.
Carolyn Taylor - 3/22/2007 3:54:00 AM EDT
Hi Tom, Sybil, Jay
Have a question; how do you view non-traditional students? do you believe that a person in his/her late 30's shoulb be finished pursuing a bachelor's?
enjoy you morning show!
Rosalind RaQuel Jackson - 2/27/2007 5:09:00 PM EST
hello my name is yolunda and i live in st. paul mn. I would like mor info on getting tickets to your in Las vegas
yolunda johnson - 1/25/2007 6:34:00 PM EST
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