[EDITOR'S NOTE — Difference Makers articles share stories of the local heroes making a difference during the extraordinary times of the COVID-19 pandemic.]
YOUNGSTOWN — Chris Gunther of Youngstown grew up with the goal to be one of the biggest media personalities in the world. Now, he’s working to make that dream a reality with his own local, web-based interview show.
“I would describe this show as a young kid from the South Side of Youngstown, Ohio, who has dreams of making it big time and isn't taking no for an answer,” is how he described “The Chris Gunther Show.”
Gunther graduated from Youngstown State University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications. When faced with difficulties finding a job within the local media market, Gunther said he decided to continue and expand “The Chris Gunther Show,” which started on YSU's Student-Run Radio Station, Rookery Radio, in 2014.
The show began as an outlet for Gunther to play gospel music and interview gospel singers, then, eventually, an avenue to cover YSU basketball and football.
The show has since expanded into an interview-focused show with a wide range of guests from local business owners, students, professional athletes and celebrities.
“I knew that I still wanted to keep [the show] going, but I didn't necessarily know how. Because the way that my mind was working at that time was, ‘I'm going to graduate from college, I'm going to get a job in my field as soon as I graduate and then I'm going to just work my way up and blow up.’
“Then the reality hit me: It never works like that,” Gunther added, “unless you are just extremely fortunate, where you can find an internship and then you can have a job waiting for you soon as you graduate. But most of us It doesn't happen like that.”
But he didn’t lose hope, and Gunther said his future with “The Chris Gunther Show” was solidified when he was selected to go as a media guest to The Stellar Gospel Music Awards in March 2018.
“When I got back home, I said, ‘There's no way I can let this die. I have to keep going.’”
“I made it up in my mind that I'm gonna take the show I did in college, but I'm going to open it up more and I'm going to try it and talk to local business owners and local people that do music and sports, entertainment and things of that nature,” he added.
The show recently hit a milestone of 300 interviews, including athletes like Ben Roethlisberger, Micheal Vick, Lamar Odom and Baker Mayfield as well as celebrities like Sinbad and Jason David Frank.
Gunther told Mahoning Matters that he did it completely by himself, without the backing of a network. He conducts, films and edits all of the interviews himself.
“Coming from this area, nobody gives you anything, nobody. So since they don't give you anything, you have to work for it. But you have to also show why you're different from everybody else while you're working for it,” he said.
Part of Gunther’s journey has been building credibility in the industry as a one-man show. Gunther recalled a time he was told, “Because I don’t know you, I can’t help.”
“As frustrating as that was, it made me say, ‘I'm going to become so good at what I do that the next time they see me, they're going to know exactly who I am,’” he said.
“I've had to fight for seats at the table, and then I learned, “Why am I fighting for a seat at the table when I could just create my own?”
Gunther made his mark at YSU by having a top student radio show during his tenure and receiving several awards, including “Who’s Who of YSU” and “Rising Star Award.”
In February, Gunther was one of three alumni featured on YSU’s Black History Month, Alumni Feature series on Facebook.
“It was one of the most humbling things I've ever experienced,” he said. “Because when you look at how many African Americans were denied the right to go to college, and you look at how many of us were told no, or how many of us had to take the back seat to our white counterparts … to be recognized as one of the faces during Black History Month, and to do it to a place that has meant so much to me during my time there. It just kind of brought it all full circle.”
In addition to "The Chris Gunther Show," Gunther covers local high school basketball and hosts "The Balcony Podcast" for Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church with co-host Aaron Coward, and recently hosted “Words on Race” with Valley Tough/Pecchia Communications during summer 2020.
For Gunther, “Words on Race” was his way of activism during the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.
“I wanted to figure out what I could do to possibly be a part of the change and movement that was still going to be relevant to myself, but I also wasn't gonna lose who I was in the process of it,” he said. “I am not against protests, I am not against people being out there in the streets. I'm not against any of it. But that is not what I do. That's not me. Because I've always been the kind of person [who] just believed, if I'm going to protest, etc, what's my next move after?”
“I didn't want to be one of those people that was just out there yelling and screaming but I didn't have effective planning for what I was going to do afterward. But what I could do was I could create a show, or I could collaborate with my media counterparts and figure out what we can do to really talk about something that you cannot ignore,” he added.
Gunther said he hopes his show will be picked up by a national network or digital streaming service in the future, and that he will become a household name.
To find episodes of "The Chris Gunther Show," visit Gunther’s YouTube channel.
“One day, I just don't believe you're going to ever be able to turn on a TV without hearing my name or without me being somewhat relevant. One day, that could be a very strong possibility ... and even if it doesn't, I'm gonna give it my all. So you know, anything is possible,” he said.