March ’24 – From the Publisher


Losing a Legend

I first met John Pirkle when he was trying to refinance his Hit-Kicker radio station. Learning about how he had built a 100,000 watt FM station when most cars still had AM radios piqued my interest. Clearly a forward thinker, John seemed to always be a step ahead. I admired that he took on WIVK in a head-to-head battle in the country music arena. He upset Dick Broadcasting—owners of WIVK—so much so that they made him an offer to lease his station to eliminate the competition. 

So, in 2001 when I purchased Cityview, John was semi-retired and looking for something to do, and I was as lost as a person could be. The conversation went something like “Pirkle, I purchased Cityview Magazine, and I have no idea what I am doing and not a clue on how to run an effective media.” 

“I will be right there,” he said, and my training began. Before Johnny walked in, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know, but Johnny did, and he took pleasure in teaching me the ropes.

To me, Johnny was larger than life. He seemed to know everyone’s backstory. When he recounted those tales, they left me wide-eyed in disbelief. He insisted we initially needed to be controversial to get people’s attention and to let them know that Cityview had a new direction. The idea of publicly picking on someone admittedly made me uncomfortable, but I chose to trust his counsel. 

He selected Mayor Victor Ashe as the subject of our first “controversial” story, and we published an article titled “Victor Victorious” which detailed how the infamous young Victor had ended up in a Webb School dumpster. Soon after that came the Pamela Reed scandal, and we were off to the races. All of these articles provided the perfect opportunity for Johnny to teach me the importance of understanding the behind-the-scenes aspects of publishing. It was also an opportunity to show me the nuances of interviewing. 

As we sat with Pamela Reed, we reached the critical part of the interview. Her situation in part stemmed from an email server and when it came up she exclaimed, “Off the record!” I was concerned we had lost the meat of the story. Johnny was unflapped. He calmly waited for her to finish. Then he said, “Pamela, for the record, tell us about the email server,” and she retold the entire story on the record. I was floored, but had learned an important lesson—never assume. 

As I learned more about how to be a responsible publisher, my relationship with Johnny grew into a true friendship. We spent hours debating the topics of the day. John could be a bit of a trickster which kept you on your toes, but he was also the sharpest media man I have ever had the privilege of meeting. 

I asked him one day if there was a secret to his success. Without hesitation, he said absolutely. “The secret to my success is the perfect blend of bullshit, bravado, and panache!” John was definitely one of my lifelong heroes. Rest in peace, my friend.

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