University of Southern Indiana

Faculty Highlight - Mr. John Morris

John Morris fishing on his kayakJohn Morris is Living the Dream

Instructor in Radio and Television
General Manager of WSWI Radio Station, 95.7 The Spin

Not everyone is lucky enough to figure out what they want to be at a young age and then make it happen… but John Morris is one of those people. Thanks to a newly formed multimedia class at his middle school, he made a fateful visit to a local radio station in Gainesville, Florida. “I saw the DJ in the back working his magic and, from that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do.” That visit paired with his innate love of sports meant one thing: John was determined to make a living through radio.

Commenting on his love for radio, John shared, “Back in the transistor radio days, I would go to bed with my radio and the little earphones so my parents couldn’t hear what I was up to. I would listen to Atlanta Braves baseball and Mystery House Theatre, which probably wasn’t the best thing for a kid to fall asleep to.” Potential nightmares aside, John’s passion for radio (and sports) continued to grow. In high school, he found himself juggling his classwork, playing baseball, and a night job at the local radio station. His high school baseball talent earned him an offer to be a preferred walk-on at the University of Wyoming – but even at that point in his life, he knew this was not the avenue he wanted to continue down. His sights were set on working behind the microphone. 

John with his dog Tiny

John and his Newfoundland dog, Tiny

John attended the University of Wyoming (UW) where he pursued a degree in Comprehensive Broadcasting and worked at the university’s radio station throughout all four years. With all of the meaningful opportunities he was given as a student at UW, he knew he wanted to be able to give back in some way. John was determined to give future college students similar opportunities. Before becoming an Instructor at USI, he made a couple of extra stops along the way, such as getting his Master’s degree at Indiana State University and becoming the News Director and Sports Announcer for WRSW in Warsaw, Indiana. When a short-term job offer in Evansville presented itself to John’s wife, he found himself looking for radio stations to work for in town. They only planned on being in Evansville for six weeks… and that was almost 30 years ago. 

John began working for USI to help with their sports radio. That role eventually lead to adjunct work and, finally, being in charge of our student-run station, 95.7 The Spin. “I love the energy of the students and their creativity. Being around people who are excited to learn and seeing them succeed is my favorite part of the job,” said John. Reflecting on his own time as an undergraduate, John recalls his nerve-wracking first time being on live radio. The time spent on the closed-circuit station at his high school did provide some experience but going live for the first time at the UW was still terrifying. “Back then, it was an NPR station and they played a lot more classical music. I had a note with how to introduce the music… but I was so bad. I was saying things wrong. I couldn’t breathe properly. My mentor beside me just turned off the mic and told me to take a minute to breathe.” With that incident behind him, John sympathizes with his current students. “Your nerves are going all over the place but it’s one of the things I tell all the students here [at USI]: if you’re not nervous or scared the first time you go live, you’re not taking it seriously.”

While that aspect of radio seems to be the same for most newcomers, many aspects of the field have changed over the years. One thing John notes is the consolidation of stations. “I knew that when I graduated that I would have a job in radio because there were more opportunities with all of the mom-and-pop stations. These days, radio hopefuls have to be pretty good because stations are far more selective.” That being said, he sees the rise of the podcasting industry as opening new doors in storytelling and reporting. 95.7 The Spin has even forayed into podcasting. You can find their current podcast offerings on their website.

John and his family

If you want to learn more about John: you may find him in the radio station in the Liberal Arts Center, you may catch him kayaking in the Blue Grass Fish and Wildlife Area, or you can take a look below for a few more questions we had for him.

2020 got off to an… interesting start. How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted you as an instructor?

  • At the start, all we could do was play music. We lost all of our student programming because we didn’t have the setup to do remote work.
  • Eventually, we were able to have a few students back in the studio on campus to do management duties and then we purchased Voice Track software, allowing us to record from afar.
  • The thing I miss most right now is the energy in the office.

(Read about the student perspective of coming back to work in the radio station during a pandemic in our companion piece with student Kasey Hunt-Short.)

Favorite Podcasts?

  • The Gator Nation Football Podcast
  • Hank the Cowdog
  • The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe
  • Space Rocket History

You are also the President of College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI). How long have you been a member of this organization and when did you become President?

  • College Broadcasters, Inc. has been around for a long time. As soon as I became a faculty member at USI, I got a membership.
  • My first term as President of CBI started in 2017. I am now in my second term which ends in 2022.

What types of activities does the President of CBI do?

  • Set the agenda for the year and what paths to take
  • Work with Events Director on all aspects of the National Student Electronic Media Convention
  • Writing articles
  • Working with other student media organizations and collaborating

This year was the first virtual version of CBI’s National Student Electronic Media Convention. What panels did you present there?
“Adobe Audition Tips and Tricks” and “Coaching Personalities”

What are you happiest doing when you aren’t working?

  • Being around my wife and our dogs and going kayaking and fishing. There’s just something about being outside and hearing the breeze and the birds. I love the outdoors.
  • Haulover Canal (close to Cape Kennedy, Florida) is one of my favorite places to kayak.
  • My favorite spot in Indiana: Blue Grass Fish and Wildlife area

Contact Dr. Melinda Roberts


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