He wanted to get the word out and that's just what he's doing
It may seem like information is everywhere, but one northern Illinois man felt that his community wasn’t getting the news it deserved, and he wanted to change that.
Curtis Spivey is the founder of Good Morning Aurora. This weekday podcast highlights local news. Spivey also interviews guests, which include community leaders, artists and other influential people in the city.
Spivey said he’s a news junkie, but he’s always believed that media could do a better job with representing all demographics.
“I believe that -- as bad as not being represented in media,” he said, “is biting on the shiny apple, and not getting the truth.”
Spivey’s focus on getting to the truth in his community wasn’t something he always sought to do. He used to run an escape room. At the same time, he volunteered for many organizations. He said one memorable volunteer experience was when he interned for State Representative Barbara Hernandez (D-Aurora). This work made him feel empowered. He was doing things that he didn’t see others do when he was growing up in Harvey, Illinois.
“I'm also seeing like you know what… this is information here, everything I'm doing is legit. There is no ambiguity in any of this. These are the facts ladies and gentlemen.”
When the pandemic rolled around the escape room was temporarily closed. He couldn’t volunteer either, so he ended up with a lot of time on his hands.
Spivey said he soon noticed that he was still receiving the emails from his internship. One was about the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry needing assistance with supplying food. He said some of his friends had businesses that were being negatively impacted by the pandemic as well. He came up with an idea that he thought would help them.
“I'm going to try to make a little light in this dark tunnel. That's how it started,” he explained. “That was the whole two points. I was just going to give people good local information. And I was going to represent for my friends who needed help.”
Spivey shared that narrating the news wasn’t something that he received training for, but he does recall being the main person to deliver the news when he was in the Navy. He credits a couple of on-air personalities for his style. One is Herb Kent. Kent worked as a Chicago DJ for several decades, even up until the day he died.
“Herb Kent was everything that I thought an on-air personality should be. That was it,” Spivey said. “My entire news looking at or format or thought about doing or what it should be is Herb Kent.”
The other was Mike Wallace of “60 minutes.” Spivey said Wallace embodies what journalism and reporting should be. He said he’s a combination of the two gentlemen.
Spivey used the Anchor app on his phone to start his podcast. His apartment was used for his studio. He started out on his couch and realized that the audio was not good. He then made his way to the bathroom and that wasn’t the best either. He said he made an investment with the first stimulus check.
“I paid my bills off. And I took the rest of that money and bought some studio time at Gremlen,” he said. “That's how I got out the bathroom and went to an actual physical professional recording studio.”
Spivey said this space was not conducive for his project, so he had to find another space. Spivey said what happened next was the reason his podcast was able to continue.
Judd Lofchie is a former 10th ward alderman and lawyer who let Spivey use some of his office space for free. Spivey said Lofchie helped him without expecting anything back in return.
“Isn't that one of the measures of treating people nice?” he asked. “And success is how you treat people who can't do nothing for you. That was major. And that allowed Good Morning, Aurora to continue.”
These days Spivey does his podcast from Aurora Community Television. He said this was a space he wanted to use for a while, but he had to wait until things opened from the effects of COVID-19.
Spivey built up his guest list by making himself known in the community. As he met people and brought them on the show, they would recommend others he could bring on. He calls the process “a plant that keeps watering itself.”
Spivey said he is passionate about social justice, but he also wants to ensure all sides are heard. So, he sometimes has members of the Aurora police on the show.
The podcaster was recently recognized by mayor Richard C. Irvin during Black History Month. Spivey was one of the recipients of the Mayor’s Award of Black Excellence.
Nowadays Spivey works with a small team and has added Buenos Diaz Aurora. He said his operation will blossom into something bigger.
“One day in Aurora, this will be the great American media company,” he proclaimed. “Kids will be in high school, and their dream job will be a reporter for Good Morning, Aurora. That's the future. It will happen.”
Spivey wants everyone to know that they can become whatever they want, and he hopes the story of his podcast acts as a reminder of this.
- Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.