Tom Heath: Good morning Tucson. It’s a beautiful sunny day in the Old Pueblo and thank you for spending a part of your lunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson Community sponsored Rock n Roll radio station. This week we have in studio John Shuster, host of the Schuniverse here on Downtown Radio and a former media writer for the Tucson Weekly.
Tom Heath: Each and every Sunday. Our focus is on social cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban core and we shed light on a hidden gems everyone should know about. From A mountain to the U of A and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM streaming on Downtown Radio.org. Also available on your iPhone or your Android by using the Downtown Radio app head over to Google Play or your Apple Store and download Downtown Radio Tucson
Tom Heath: If you want to get us on the show, our email address is [email protected], you can find us on Facebook LifeAlongTheStreetcar and we’re also on Twitter.
Tom Heath: Today is September 8. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life Along The Streetcar and we’re going to start today with a three-hour tour wrap up. Yesterday was the launch of the Tucson Trolley Tours. It’s a venture that I’m personally involved with so I’m a little biased but I think we did a fantastic job.
Tom Heath: We had a busload of people about 30 of us on they’re traveling through downtown Fourth Avenue the University had East a little bit and talking about where Tucson is in its life cycle. We do that by highlighting where we’ve come, the key moments in Tucson history and a little bit about our future and where we’re headed. It’s a three-hour tour. We had a lot of fun, really good questions, good group of people and I’m looking forward to continuing to do that.
Tom Heath: The exciting part for me was really seeing how this came together from a story perspective weaving the four thousand years worth of history that we have just West of the freeway and building that through the Presidio foundation in 1775, the University coming into town and then the train arriving in Tucson in 1880 and how all of those were the foundation of what we see in Tucson today.
Tom Heath: Then looking at the development where we’re going from here. It was eye-opening for some who had been downtown in a while and a few people that were new to Tucson all together. So I’m excited that the Tucson Trolley Tours are off and running and I appreciate all the support that we’ve had to this point.
Tom Heath: Well enough about that. We got a guest coming in the studio today John Schuster. I’m excited to have him in here. He was a media writer for Tucson Weekly. He has a show here on Downtown Radio called the Shuniverse and we can give you a little talk a little bit more about that, but really called him in here today because it’s a wanted to hear his take after being out of the media circuit for a while as to how downtown is doing as a city and how we’re doing as a Media Group and covering that. So we’ll be back in just a few minutes after a break. Just want to remind you that you’re listening to Life along the streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM available for streaming on Downtown Radio.org.
Tom Heath: Well, the media’s role is to distribute and inform the public, creating a transparency and placing accountability on our public officials in those in the private sector who shape our communities and then there are those who report on the media holding them accountable for their job performance. Well three years ago almost to the day John Shuster said goodbye to his Tucson Weekly column Media Watch. In his final article, he featured a young low-powered FM radio station we lovingly call Downtown Radio 99.1 FM.
Tom Heath: Mr. Schuester or Shu as he likes to be called wrote over 500 Media Watch articles for the weekly over a 10-year career. And he’s in the studio today to talk to us a little bit about Tucson and a little bit about media and a little bit about who knows what John welcome to the show here!
John Schuster : All right, sounds good. That’s a lot of darn columns.
Tom Heath: Yeah, 500 and 500 that one more credit. There we go. What’s going
John Schuster: down? Okay, fantastic. I move this guy out of the way this that will close. Listen to the clanking the clanking sounds live.
Tom Heath: So I know this is episode 100 it is
John Schuster: and we’re off out of I’m already helping you get off to a rousing start.
Tom Heath: People asked me, they said what are you gonna do and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and I thought you know what I always have a very scripted kind of controlled show and I wanted to bring a little chaos for show 100. So I invited you in the unity I would be well on your way and you have performed so well half are incredible
John Schuster: the impromptu nature of what I bring to the equation is remarkable. It’s just it’s utter lunacy.
Tom Heath: Well, what have you been up to over the last three years or September 15th? 2016 was your last article Media Watch with the weekly. So there’s been three years. What do you mean? That’s one of
John Schuster: those weird things where? On one hand, it seems like time flies and on the other side when I was only three years ago. And so it’s it’s kind of hard to gauge that to some degree. I’ve since then gotten a master’s degree in public relations. I’m working on a second Master’s in something called Strategic Management, which is sort of a different kind of understanding of what’s supposed to go on and businesses.
John Schuster: I might pursue some future academic Endeavors from there do some personal writing on the side trying to work on some books and some other things and see how successful that is and screwing off on Downtown Radio where I have a to our playlist and includes about five songs because prog rock songs average about 20 minutes
Tom Heath: each so you’ve been kind of lazy and yeah sitting around doing nothing, that’s exactly right. Well, give me a quick update here on this universe. That’s your show here in Downtown Radio. You took my joke. I was going to talk about how smart you were because it’s a two hour show and play for songs, but you’ve already done that. What is prog-rock? What does that mean?
John Schuster: That’s a progressive rock is this movement from the 70s with a lot of rock bands that did different time frames and different signatures and tried to experiment to a large degree. The 70s was a decade of a lot of different kinds of experimentation and a lot of different styles and music some of that went in different variations.
John Schuster: But you had a bunch of groups that kind of got together said all right, we’re not going to do three or four minute radio type songs anymore. We’re going to have a bunch of different instruments. We’re going to throw a bunch of different son time signatures in essence sometimes prog rock is four songs in one and to simplify it a little bit in the classic rock Venn diagram, I guess bands like Yes, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Kansas would be considered fairly well-known Emerson Lake & Palmer prog rock bands that had some hits that varied into there. But yeah, that’s the generality of it. It’s a Style of music I’ve always enjoyed. I enjoy of a fair amount of different styles. But this is one I tend to gravitate to largely because picking the playlist is easy.
Tom Heath: You can do it can knock out a week show here pretty pretty by the way come quick.
John Schuster: It’s Tuesday 7:00 to 9:00. It’s a prog-rock fix Tuesdays from 7 to 9 on the antidote to corporate radio, Downtown Radio. Now, let’s play some Van de Graaff generator.
Tom Heath: Well, I think I think I’m in the wrong chair here. I think I should just switch chairs with you and let you run with this because you’re taking all my notes here.
John Schuster: You’re the guy with the knowledge. I just ramble.
Tom Heath: Well, let’s ramble little bit about your role with the Tucson Weekly. Can you explain first of all what a media reporter what it does and why it’s important
John Schuster: that there are at the time the why it’s important is, you know can be up for certainly Up For Debate, but at the time the owners of the Tucson Weekly and or weekly the organization organization called Wick they were out of Southern Arizona own some Publications down in that general area believed that for the Tucson Weekly a column that looked into local media was something that mattered eventually the next ownership Group which bought Wick I don’t know four or five years ago did not believe that was nearly as necessary.
John Schuster: The column itself kind of morphed into a number of things it would talk about you know, who was in what role or what some of the hires were at a television or radio station. Maybe there was a change in format somewhere along the line and occasionally it would Branch out into why did that numbskull write something or say something that he or she ultimately did along the way and during that period that that 10-year period of time in Tucson and on a national scale there were all kinds of changes in the industry a lot of cutbacks and newspaper. We’re all very aware of that. They’re continuing To this day at the Arizona Daily Star and that is something that is not going to be a benefit overall for Tucson. The
John Schuster: Tucson citizen closed shuddered during that window. Now all of that we recognized was unfortunately inevitable, but it was gravitating in that direction and moving toward that sort of conclusion local news on a television sphere has cut back significantly. They provide more hours of programming but do it with less people and a couple of the television stations that have no immediate connection to one another or even blending together and sharing Personnel ultimately to try to cut costs.
John Schuster: So and and you see an entirely different Personnel Group in Tucson local television media, then you did even 10 or 15 years ago the days Of the I don’t mean this is an insult but I’ll say it as an insult Guy Achley being in essence the Ron Burgundy sort of anchor who was here for decades days are done.
John Schuster: And and now it used to be the Tucson was a market from a television perspective where you got here after three two years stints in Yuma and then Fresno and then ultimately you got the Tucson before you’re going to stay here two years to try to get to Phoenix now Tucson is a straight out of college job destination.
John Schuster: So you have a bunch of younger people who don’t have the experience who are coming into the market trying to put some stuff together because they’re cheaper and that’s what you know, a lot of television station to local television stations are looking for is understandable because the number of advertisers out there are significantly less than they used to be because of the digital realm a lot of that is happening on the radio side as well. All you have to do if you listen to corporate Radio and on Downtown Radio we talk about a lot.
John Schuster: If you’re a regular listener of Downtown Radio, you know the difference about how we discuss what downtown radios purposes versus what you’re getting out of the stale corporate model of cookie cutter radio in that regard. But let’s be honest if you’re listening to Downtown Radio, you’ve listened to regular corporate radio before if you listen to regular corporate radio now, there was a point in time with a number of advertisers were in the dozens. Now, you have three and most of the three advertisers that you hear over and over and over again on every radio station have a presence in Tucson, but they’re larger companies based out of Vegas or Phoenix.
John Schuster: So it’s a regional thing and and that’s the only money they can get so as a result of that there are you know cutbacks that, you know, come along the way as well when you get you’ve had a lot of, you know, kind of comfort food. That you hear on a regular basis and have for a long period of time incorporating. Oh, it’s one of the many things that have hurt the model.
Tom Heath: We get a local news in different Fashions and we get a regional or national news. There’s there’s online presence. There’s all kinds of ways that we can get get news and on a national level you have several options, but when it comes to covering the developments on Fourth Avenue our city council or Tucson Unified School District are things that are specific to Tucson. We don’t have a lot of options for that right now. I mean, you got the newspaper, you’ve got local media and you’ve got your online bloggers and such but how does this consolidation? How does that affect the way a community can a can really interpret what’s happened?
John Schuster: It’s an excellent question. It depends on how much a community wants to be informed about whatever is taking place on a local scale. And this may be one of the underlying issues that undercuts the Concept of quote-unquote community, you know, we like the idea of sort of being connected to a local sphere and acting like we’re all in this together, but do we do it are there really enough people out there who have that interest or is it just a passing interest to make a lot of these things work one of the first instance there are a lot of little Publications that might try a little bit of things here and there but they don’t have enough money to ultimately make it work.
John Schuster: But one of the ones that for whatever reason has found an excellent Niche TucsonFoodie.com, like I’m not there they do an excellent job at their specific Niche and they’ve figured out an area of community that works and they can hire staff not a big step. They can hire staff their staff does a good job and they are up to speed on what’s taking place from a restaurant standpoint in the community off the top of my head.
John Schuster: They’re about the only example that works outside of the sphere of a traditional entity trying to move into that direction that has had any success and when you talk about traditional entities, you know, the Arizona Daily Star is an example of that. You know, I guess the Tucson Weekly would be another example that in two entities that have had some sort of Journalism staff before that are trying to transfer into the digital era Tucson food.
John Schuster: He basically became a digital presence and ultimately made itself work and that’s they are the they are the one that pops off the top of my head. I’m sure others have other examples out there, but they’ll the one that jumps out is what they’ve been able to do successfully beyond that it becomes a little bit more difficult because I’m not sure you’re the issue of narrowcasting becomes one that becomes ultimately so thin narrow casting being your focus so much on one thing as opposed to trying to cover a multitude of things whatever that issue is is there ultimately enough of an audience out there that can sustain that financially.
John Schuster: Because in the end And you got to be able to make a little bit of money in this process to be able to continue to put out the material necessary while you’re actually trying to have a job that puts you into a position. Where were you can make something like this work and eventually if you aren’t getting feedback or don’t feel like it’s working you’re going to abandon the project.
Tom Heath: Well, we’ll be back in just a moment here. John Shuster is my guest right now. He is destroying all my Illusions here of community and I will be back be doable for that disillusionment in here. Just a moment. What our mind you my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar on Downtown Radio 98.1 FM your antidote to corporate radio.
Tom Heath: In the studio with me today is John Schuster, Schu from the Schuniverse here on Tuesday nights with prog-rock explain that to us here and we’ve got into a conversation about median and specifically what I wanted to get to in the show and you’ve already really sort of touched upon that Is how are how are we doing covering? What’s happening Tucson when you when you stopped writing in 2016 Tucson was just on the sort of cusp of an economic explosion in those are my words, but that’s what I’ve seen has happened and there have been concerns about are we respecting our culture there have been concerns about are the right people really pushing the right agendas and is Tucson benefiting from this or is it just a few individuals that are benefiting all kinds of conversations in your now I guess layman’s terms or your Layman’s perspective. How are we how are we covering that it seems like there’s a lot of information out there, but is it is it usable? Is it accurate? Is it something that that a community could rely on?
John Schuster: Well, maybe the bigger question. Is it is it being covered to some degree sure, but as your audience noticing that I think is you know to that’s part of the problem. There are a lot of problems in media by the way, but one of the issues that as a as an interpreter of news, I don’t mean that me specifically because I used to write a column.
John Schuster: I mean folks out there who are trying to get information on what’s going on in downtown Tucson who are some of the players and you know, how how that’s being navigated and whether you decide in your interpretation, whether that’s ultimately a good thing or not because of the Advent of so much technology it has cut in there’s more information out there but finding it has become more difficult and the difficulty aspect of that becomes more problematic because you don’t you don’t have attention spans anymore.
John Schuster: You don’t want to put in any time necessary because you got other things that you can ultimately be interested in and then as a result all of this information that may be out there in one form or another appeals to a small group that may ultimately not be able You move the needle one way or another in regards to getting change for which they may be concerned.
Tom Heath: It sounds like what I’m hearing you say is on a large level people may be familiar with the website like snopes.com that sort of weeds out inaccurate information. Right? And if you believe in Snopes, then you rely on them to sort of help guide the information you’re going to absorb and use them in your interpretation. We don’t have anything of that locally. I mean it no you said Tucson Weekly since you’ve walked upright and that that column is gone.
John Schuster: And and this is this is this is the biggest problem of American Media as a whole. American we are in this weird dynamic where it’s not about reporting the news anymore. It’s about providing opinion or it’s about somebody’s interpretation of what they believe is an opinion being provided by a news entity and there are a variety. We’re not we’re not news creators anymore.
John Schuster: We are all editorial columnist or the perception is that were editorials every story that we talked about has some sort of political spin. So what the media has managed to do is basically piss off half of its audience regardless of whatever audience that ultimately is. So even if you write a new story a generic news story in the Arizona Daily Star folk many folks who are going to read that article or going to look into it and say man, what a what a bunch of liberal crap claptrap and they aren’t going to give any they aren’t going to go anywhere beyond that because they know the Arizona star has Daily Star has an agenda.
John Schuster: If you happen to have a progressive leanings and you’re listening to conservative talk radio, you know, listen to everything that’s said on conservative talk radio and take out of that that it’s all nonsense. You’re going to listen to NPR NPR. Yeah, you know know and and they In that regard NPR’s ultimately going to be perceived one way or another is having a political agenda.
John Schuster: So you’re already And the media has a lot to do with the blame in regards to this they’ve realized that the only way that they can make money in this weird digital Dynamic is to slice a good portion of the audience and try to get you know, those some sort of loyalty based on a perceived political perspective and hope that that’s enough to drive the money and ultimately Drive numbers and in the process they have decided what it is.
John Schuster: They’re ultimately going to cover and very often they don’t cover the same thing and they don’t cover the same thing because it doesn’t fall into whatever editorial agenda. They ultimately want to push that’s a problem in the process media trust has gone completely in the toilet and the media can whine and complain about consolidation and capitalism and cutting back in The Newsroom and you know, the corporate models that have taken over newspapers and all this but to a large degree they brought it on themselves.
John Schuster: Laughs and they’re in a position now where ever-changing that and getting trust back is going to be an extraordinarily difficult thing. So, That becomes one of the first significant obstacles and barriers that anyone who’s dealing with anything related to even a local issue is ultimately going to have to deal with and that becomes you know, problematic and you’re dealing with a lot of blowback as a result and you know, maybe that becomes frustrating for any of a variety of reasons.
Tom Heath: Well, it sounds like what we need is like a media column or a media show here on downtown radio, but I get what you’re saying. There’s personal accountability that has to come into play with as we can always just abdicate our responsibilities to understand what we’re hearing and listening.
John Schuster: I think there’s a lot of that. I don’t mean to Ramble On A lot of that and it’s too late for that shit. You’re right. I talk like as if it’s a prog rock song. Yes, but you know and I may have expanded this in a way that you really didn’t want to go and for that I apologize. So it’s up to you to bring it back. But I wanted to thus the chaos I was looking for I’m glad I was able to provide.
John Schuster: But it’s kind of it’s one of the areas of frustration that I find in regards to what we perceive and how we how we consume media as it is the American Media model is now an American editorial agenda model regardless of what your perspective is and and and that has as a result undercut the trust factor that has gone into the way that we consume media and getting that trust back is going to be a very difficult thing and I would argue next to Impossible.
John Schuster: We may be on The Fringe of entire Generations who never trust what the media tells them and in a so-called quote unquote free media becomes a very problematic thing.
Tom Heath: Well our guest today happy to oblige lines and happy to see you Tom. John Schuster. You can hear his his show prog rock on Tuesdays here on Downtown Radio 7 to 9 on Tuesdays. Yeah, that’s correct. There you go.
John Schuster: Get your Prog Rock fix Tuesdays from 729 on Downtown Radio after that Max Webster comes in with the Time Warp from 9 to 11. And then it’s the thing from Tucson from 11 to you can find out all that information by going to Downtown Radio.org,
Tom Heath: You can certainly find that out there. There’s also a donate button. So if you like what you hear on Downtown Radio, we are the antidote to corporate radio trying to present a perspective that is free of the commercialization and the pressures of that but we do need some funds to head over there. But John I appreciate you coming in today. I’d like to have you back and figure out how we can help to solve this problem may be a little bit at a time starting with the a mountain to you of a core and working ourselves out from there happy to do it.
Tom Heath: Thanks for having me man. Absolutely. Well, this has been episode 100. It’s been a little entertaining. Hope you enjoyed it as I did. We’ve got some good shows coming up later in September and I also want to remind you that if you’ve got a topic you want us to cover something that is a Hidden Gem you think should not be hidden. Give us a shout out on our email [email protected].
Tom Heath: You can hit us up on Facebook or on Twitter or fairly easy to find we will believe a recording episode 100. So we’ll get the rebroadcast out later on in the week and you can see all of our past episodes on LifeAlonTheStreetcar.org. It’s a new webpage with just put up a about two or three weeks ago and have just about every episode we’ve done on there.
Tom Heath: Well, I had a feeling this interview was going to be a little different than my Norm. So we’re leaving the show today with music. That’s a little different than the norm. It’s not a local band, but it’s a music by the Distortionists and we’re going to cue it up here, but I think Mr. Schuster wouldn’t approve its. Fashion Tips for the Apocalypse.
Tom Heath: You’re a downtown underground radio station. If you are tuning in here for shell and Becky, they’re taken the week off. But I hear they’re working on a great show and I’ll be back in the studio next Sunday. In the meantime. We’re going to play a little music here for you and bring it into heavy mental with. Logan coming up here at 12:30. Enjoy your Sunday.