I actually have a nickname and theme song for the man I am HONORED to call my mentor in this business, “HOLLYWOOD!” (Thanks Jay-Z & Beyonce!)
Entertainment journalist guru Jawn Murray – despite living in Washington, DC – is truly Tinseltown’s finest! It’s one thing to meet one of the people you admire, but to be able to call them a friend is a dream come true.
Jawn is more than an entertainment personality you hear on the radio or read on the internet. Jawn is a shrewd business man that has strategically, successfully and prayerfully climbed to the top with all the integrity in the world. There are not too many people in this business who are genuine, real and not threatened by someone else’s success. But that’s why he stands out among the crowd and why God continues to bless his ever-growing empire!
What exactly do you do? What does your job entail?
I do a bunch of stuff. Most people kind of surmise that I’m a celebrity journalist. But I have my deal with AOL for the column BV Buzz under their Black Voices division. My other deal is my twice-weekly spots on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. I also make television appearances as an entertainment and pop culture subject matter expert. I also do a lot of consulting for record companies, corporate brands, artists and other entities. I’m my own CEO, which was unconventional when I first started out. Luckily the way I structured my business, I haven’t been affected by the recession and the changing business. It’s been 10 years as of May ’09 that I’ve been in this business.
What was your first real gig in the business?
I took a year off from school in ’99 and I started interning at a local Washington, DC radio station, WPGC. I didn’t necessarily want to be in radio at the time, but I wanted to be diverse. One of the mid-day radio hosts,Michel Wright, took a liking to me and she started letting me produce entertainment news segments on her show. When I left the station to go back to school, she kept me on retainer and I continued to produce entertainment segments. Michel really encouraged me to brand myself and get aggressive about making a name for myself. At the time the internet was taking off real big and I created this e-zine called Garek News.It was basically an entertainment newsletter that was patterned after a popular news wire called EUR, which now only exists as an online website. I used to send out emails to a small database of people in the business and it just grew from a few hundred to several thousand in a short time.
How did you get all your information since you were new to the scene?
In a matter of three or four months from working at the radio station, I had established a lot of relationships with industry people. Then I started traveling doing all kinds of press junkets right from my dorm room. By the time I had left Norfolk State, I had a meeting with EUR. I disbanded my Garek News e-zine and adapted it into a column called Jawn’s Juice. The reason I called it Jawn’s Juice is because I had been doing local radio show in Norfolk with my good friend Phil Thornton, who now is a television and music mogul in Hollywood. So the column was birthed from the radio segment. EUR took my career to a whole new level.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part is dealing with crazy celebrities. The reality is celebrities can be temperamental, sensitive, manipulative and controlling. They want to have their cake and eat it too. They want the press, but they also want to dictate and control how it’s told. In addition, the ex-wives, the entourage and all those extra “hanger-ons” who are trying to be famous or live vicariously through the celebrities are even crazier.
Do you remember the story that put you on the map?
The first big story I ever broke was with my column Garek News and it was that Destiny’s Child was breaking up. I had done a radio event where original D.C. member LaTavia Roberson had expressed some concerns with things going on behind the scenes. For whatever reason she connected to me and I knew the breakup was coming even before Mathew Knowles knew. That was the first story I ever broke and people started doing pickups on it and really crediting me for getting that exclusive. Honey magazine interviewed me about it and everything. That’s when I realized my voice carried legs.
Why do you think so many celebrities respect you and treat you differently than other entertainment journalists?
That used to be a question I asked myself all the time because I didn’t understand why celebrities took to me the way they did. When I started in this business, there were all these misnomers about journalists like; nothing was ever truly off the record. But, I would interact with an entertainer or celebrity and literally after one or two conversations they would tell me all their business. But it wouldn’t just stop there, they would give me their home number to stay in touch and just deal with me on a personal level. I think they found it comforting to talk to me. It was really just the favor of God that people took such a strong liking to me. People would be surprised at some of the conversations that I’ve had. I’ve been part of some celebrities’ major life-changing decisions. They know when I’m not working and my tape recorder isn’t on, I’m just their friend. I’m not a name-dropper. I’m a real dude who happens to work as a journalist. I know the difference between having real time and operating in industry time.
How do you maintain a spiritual relationship with such a demanding career?
My relationship with God is everything to me. It’s the reason why I’m in this business and why people have taken to me. My relationship is so emanate with God, I think people naturally gravitate to that. They recognize something different about me. I’m a bonafide church boy and I’m very comfortable dwelling in a church setting, but I can also be in L.A. at an industry party and be comfortable there too. I just may not be doing everything everyone else is doing. Sometimes you deal with these crazy people in the industry and you want to fight back. So there is a big battle between the spiritual me and the flesh in me who wants to just cuss some people out. But my relationship with God has helped me make a lot of mature, imperative decisions.
How much of what we see and hear in the media is true?
It’s hard to tell. I tell most people to consider the source. A lot of what we see and hear about celebrities is fabricated to sell a product. We’ve heard countless stories of rappers saying they’re a gangster and they’re from the hood, but they really went to prep schools in the suburbs. There are a lot of actors and actresses who on the surface look like millionaires, but really they are living with four other people or moved their parents in to help pay their rent. So it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. With blogs being an intricate part of where people get information now, it compromises the traditionally journalism rules. But as a rule of thumb, I tell most people that if the blog isn’t written by a respected journalist or attached to a credible news source, then the news should be processed accordingly.
I know you love music. Who are some of your favorites?
I’m a church boy, so I like singer-singers. They are currently joking me on my morning show because I am NOT a Sade fan! But I do love real vocalists like Ledisi, Coko, Jennifer Hudson, Dave Hollister (really happy he’s doing R&B again), Lalah Hathaway, Shanice, Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, Gladys Knight, Beyonce, Kelly Price, Ann Nesby, Kierra Sheard, Eric Benet, Ruben Studdard, Deitrick Haddon, Rahsaan Patterson, Anthony Hamilton, Johnny Gill, Nikki Ross, Tank, The Clark Sisters, Kim Burrell, Charlie Wilson, New Edition and so many more. I could go on all day about singers. But recently I’ve really gotten into U.K. artists too so I’m digging singers like Mica Paris, Beverly Knight and Lemar. I’m a Brit at heart!
How do you feel about artists who go back and forth between R&B and Gospel?
I don’t have a problem with it. As long as the lifestyle is intact, I don’t have a problem with what you sing. You can’t have vulgar lyrics and sing inappropriate songs on Saturday night and then sing sacred songs on Sunday. That’s just inconsistent. I’m a big champion of PJ Morton right now because I like the fact that he stepped out and said it is ok to sing about love. You can have integrity, be saved, go to church and sing about love. Just because you’re sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost doesn’t mean you’re called to sing gospel music. I think it’s a misnomer that you should only do one thing. There is a market for clean music and I think people who are saved can also sing that music. A lot of times I find mainstream artists are way more effective than some of the full-time Gospel artists because they are coming from a sincere place about their issues and struggles. That’s why there’s a connectivity that you may not get from a Gospel artist. A Gospel singer will sing and shout you into the ground and then get backstage and cuss you out because the offering isn’t what it’s supposed to be. I know many secular artists who tithe and actually belong to a church where they are not on staff as minister of music, unlike many Gospel artists. Some of the same Gospel singers, who complain about artists singing both, if given the opportunity, would sing “secular” music themselves in a New York minute. The very ones protesting the loudest are living the worst; having babies out of wedlock, cheating and everything else under the sun. I get real passionate when I talk about this because there is so much judgment in this area and most of it is unwarranted.
What advice would you give to up and comers who want to do what you do?
I get emails all the time from people saying they want to do what I do. I tell them you see the glory, but you don’t know my story. I love what I do, but there is and was a lot of sacrifice and heartache that went into this. Let’s not mention the countless hours of prayer. I’ve made some good decisions and some bad ones; but in the end it’s about being the tortoise and not the hare. I’ve been blessed for it and it’s earned me longevity.
JAWN’S 10 RANDOM TRUTHS
- Favorite TV show? “The View”
- Favorite SWV song? “Weak.”
- Would you ever bungee jump. Yes and I want my best friend VaShawn Mitchell to do it with me. Plus, I’m afraid of heights!
- How many kids do you want? Zero. I don’t like kids.
- Favorite American Idol. Both Fantasia and Ruben Studdard.
- Favorite award show to attend? The NAACP Image Awards.
- Mac or PC? PC.
- Favorite male R&B group? New Edition.
- First car? Mazda 323.
- Mary Mary or BeBe & CeCe? Mary Mary
For more information on Jawn, check out his column at www.BVBuzz.com.