“If your goal is to make difference, you start with journalism and Morrisville.”
Those words spoken by SUNY Morrisville journalism graduate Mike Gormley are precisely what he has been doing as a reporter covering politics and government for four decades.
Since he graduated in 1981, Gormley has racked up more than two dozen journalism awards, including the 2016 New York State Publishers Association Distinguished State Government Coverage Award of Excellence for his investigation into New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign finances.
His most recent is recognition by the Legislative Correspondents Association as the recipient of the 2020 Walter T. Brown Memorial Award for his coverage of New York state politics and government.
Gormley, who lives north of Albany, New York, has built a career on the foundation that honest, unbiased and comprehensive reporting is essential to democracy.
“It all goes back to Morrisville,” he said. “You’re at a great journalism school but you also have a chip on your shoulder because you’re at a two-year state program. But if you have the drive, you can accomplish a lot for society. You can change lives.”
SUNY Morrisville’s journalism program has been changing lives for more than 50 years, adding a bachelor’s degree in journalism and videojournalism as part of the program.
Gormley aspired to become a journalist so he could tell the stories that mattered to people and “make an impact on people, life and society.”
He has been doggedly pursuing the stories that change the lives of New Yorkers since the 1980s, staying on the political beat because he believes strongly in the journalist’s duty to be a servant to the public.
“You can make a difference every day,” said the reporter who has covered issues as diverse as health care, elder care, police unions and the pandemic.
Gormley routinely looks for situations where people are voiceless.
“There are people who don’t have a voice. We’re their only shot,” he said. “It’s a chance to do important work.”
That is how Gormley has always viewed journalism — as a chance to do important work and an opportunity to make a difference.
There are people who don’t have a voice. We’re their only shot. It’s a chance to do important work.
Gormley recalled the night when he and other staffers from the college’s newspaper, The CHIMES, were relaxing at The Fort Bar & Grill and the bowling alley down the street caught on fire.
They called the publisher, recalled the edition they had worked on that day and wrote and designed a front-page breaking news story, scooping local newspapers.
“It was nice to have a story that said yesterday,” Gormley said.
Gormley remains a reporter who is always on duty, always on alert, always looking ahead. He described his process as a formula that includes regular beat stories and enterprise projects.
“I like to have one good story going, one for the weekend and one project for the future,” he explained. “All of this is on purpose.”
“Mike has always worked harder than anybody,” said Denise Snyder, also a 1981 graduate of the Morrisville journalism program and Gormley’s wife of 36 years. “He’s like a bulldog when he goes after a story.”
“It’s the digging that challenges me,” Gormley said.
In his years of investigative reporting, Gormley has explored everything from organized crime in New York and Pennsylvania, to the violence of civil strife on the Iroquois nation in northern New York and Canada. He even went undercover with an ultra-right-wing group in Broome County. His series, “God, Guns and Government,” resulted in federal convictions.
“The story is what matters,” Gormley said. “The story and the public.”
Today, his roots are still firmly planted in the journalism program that stretched far past the two years he spent in it.
He remains connected — as so many journalism graduates do — to the college, faculty and each other, through a strong journalism bloodline built by a loyal crew of professors who led by example. That thread continues to pull separate classes together for milestones and celebrations, Gormley among them.
I like to have one good story going, one for the weekend and one project for the future. All of this is on purpose.
“We love to come to campus to watch games and see everyone,” Gormley said. He also sponsors an annual scholarship in memory of the late John O’Connor, one of his beloved journalism professors.