CLEARWATER — Hosting morning news radio is not an easy gig. Well, not if you tackle the job like Ryan Gorman of NewsRadio 970 WFLA’s “The Ryan Gorman Show.”
His workday begins well before sunrise, ends well after sunset, and provides little time for a personal life.
Why would anyone want to subject themselves to that?
“I’m psychotic,” Gorman said with a laugh. He then turned serious. “My dream was always to do morning radio. But, yeah, it’s not easy.”
It was even harder when he started the 5 to 9 a.m. weekdays slot in March 2023, having absorbed the two early morning hours from local radio legend Jack Harris’ “AM Tampa Bay” show. Harris announced on social media that he’d been fired, leading some fans to think he was pulling a prank.
Around 48 of Harris’ 53 years on Tampa radio were with 970 WFLA. It’s where Harris spent his last 29 years, 23 of which were alongside co-host and fellow icon Tedd Webb, who retired in 2017 and died in 2021. Harris and Webb were considered the voices of local morning talk radio.
“Ryan taking over for ‘AM Tampa Bay’ is like the next coach of the Patriots taking over for Bill Belichick,” said Aaron Jacobson, co-host of “The Pat & Aaron Show” on 95.3 WDAE. Jacobson used to work with Webb and Harris. “It’s not an easy job. It’s something that most people wouldn’t want to take on. … But I think Ryan is doing a really good job.”
Recent numbers back that.
According to an email from Tommy Chuck, a senior vice president of programming for iHeartMedia, “‘The Ryan Gorman Show’ in the Fall of 2023 put in the highest ratings share we’ve seen in the daypart since early 2019″ and was in the top five of the more than 25 radio stations in the market during that time slot.
Gorman, 40, said the key to the success is that he has not tried to mimic the legends. “I couldn’t go into it saying that I was going to be the next Jack Harris. It’s not possible … I never even thought of it that way.”
Rather, he simply moved his established format to a different time slot.
In 2018, Gorman premiered on 970 WFLA with an evening show. In 2022, he moved to the morning slot that followed Harris.
Kickstarting the station’s weekday programming every morning does come with added responsibility, he said. “It’s the prime-time shift. It’s starting everybody’s day when people are getting ready and consuming the news. It’s the time slot.”
Planning your weekend?
Subscribe to our free Top 5 things to do newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Like “AM Tampa Bay,” “The Ryan Gorman Show” brings levity to the mornings, although in a different way.
Harris, who calls himself Wacky Jack, was beloved for his comedy bits, like when he held a drawing where the last pulled entry was declared the loser and awarded a February trip to Buffalo, New York.
“Tedd was even more outlandish,” Jacobson said. “You never knew what he was going to say.”
Webb once threatened to beat up call-in guest Ron Reagan Jr. after he claimed his father was making presidential decisions while battling Alzheimer’s.
“Ryan’s a bit of a hybrid of both, just not to the degree of what you got from a jocular Jack or outlandish Tedd,” Jacobson said. “So, you still have elements there but just a little more toned down.”
“The Ryan Gorman Show” is more of a local radio version of “The Daily Show,” with Tampa native Gorman poking fun at serious news and highlighting offbeat stuff, like the recent American Airlines passenger whose excessive farting caused him to be removed from a flight.
Perhaps their biggest difference is that while “AM Tampa Bay” unabashedly leaned to the political right, Gorman seeks to be more independent, willing to poke fun at the verbal gaffes of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump or question their platforms in the same segment.
“Sometimes we’ll get comments where people think that we’re so far to the right, and then other times we get comments where people think we’re part of the left,” co-host Dana McKay said. “I guess that means we’re doing it right.”
Listener call-ins, a staple of “AM Tampa Bay,” are a rarity for “The Ryan Gorman Show.” Instead, they welcome comments from social media or emails.
Callers “can be hit or miss in terms of everybody else listening,” Gorman said. “It’s great for the caller who’s on the air. Is it entertaining for everybody else? Or is it more entertaining to have different stuff that we talk about (and) give them different stories?”
The show seeks to average six segments an hour.
“Maybe we’ll repeat the same story if it’s a big one,” Gorman said. “But, for the most part, we like at least 20 different pieces of content” per show.
To accomplish that, he wakes each weekday around 3 a.m., arrives at iHeartRadio’s Clearwater studio between 4:30 and 4:45 a.m. and stays until around 11 a.m. to prep future shows.
Gorman then works from home until as late as 9 p.m., booking guests, researching news, planning the flow of segments and finding audio, which includes soundbites, sound effects and music.
“I think some people in radio, they come in, they do their show, it’s good and they go home, and they live their lives,” Gorman said. “But we’re trying to make this as good of a show as possible so that when people listen, not just here in Tampa Bay, they’re like, ‘That’s as good a news talk show as there is out there.’ That’s the standard that we’re going for.”
But what does he do for fun when not working?
“I really don’t do anything,” he said with a laugh. “But I’m not a martyr. This is what I’ve wanted to do. … This is home. This is my dream job.”