John Mangos is one of Australia’s most beloved television personalities, renowned for his professionalism, warm demeanour, kindness and intellect. His illustrious forty year career in journalism has seen him present news and politics in Australia, spend three years as Channel Nine’s bureau chief in the United States, team up with up Australia’s ‘King of TV’ Graham Kennedy on Coast to Coast, and host his own chat show At Home With John Mangos among many other achievements.
Not only was John the first Greek news presenter on Australian television, he was also one of the founding senior anchors at Skynews Australia, where he presented news and current affairs for 15 years.
Over the past fifteen years John has also operated his own media training consultancy which sees him work closely with and coach some of Australia’s leading business and political figures.
He is currently a contributor to the Nine Network’s Today show and a regular guest on ABC local radio.
A proud Greek-Australian who dedicates a lot of his spare time helping the Greek community, he is also a devoted husband and father to two boys. GCT recently had a chat to John about his career and heritage.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Melbourne to an Australian-born Greek father and a Greek-born mother. I went to Flemington State School, Moonee Ponds Central, University High School and RMIT. After having lived in Canberra, Los Angeles and London I now reside in Sydney.
Where in Greece is your family from?
Both sides are from the centre of the universe, Kastellorizo.
Have you been to Greece?
I have been going to Greece every year for the past forty years with a handful of exceptions. I always go to Kastellorizo, where I have a small house. I love being there with my wife and children. I shunned my heritage for the first 20 years of my life so I could ‘assimilate.’ I realised my mistake and have been making up for it ever since.
Tell us about choosing journalism as a career?
I fell into journalism because an English teacher convinced me I had skill and because my highly competitive older cousins were already in more established fields like law, accounting, medicine, science etc. The family cafe in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne was an unattractive option, so I reached for the stars.
I started as a cadet at the Melbourne Herald newspaper, then switched to television and joined the Nine Network. I had no idea how perilous the journey would be. I worked twice as hard as everybody else and landed plumb gigs like Federal Parliament in Canberra, the US correspondent role and other prestigious posts like my own national chat show. It still amuses me that many don’t realise it took me 14 years to become an ‘overnight success’ when I paired up with Graham Kennedy.
Were you aware of the pride and support of the Greek Australian community as they saw you -one of their own- be the first Greek TV presenter in Australia? How did this make you feel?
I was always aware of the pride and support from the Greek community, in many respects it drove me harder. I was the first Greek television reporter/presenter in mainstream news media in Australia. George Donikian followed soon after, Harry Michaels was a Cypriot actor.
You are a role model to many. Did you have any important mentors guiding you through your early career?
We all need role models and mentors. I had several whose names wouldn’t be commonly known but by far the most influential were Peter Harvey, Stuart Wagstaff and Graham Kennedy. Former Swans captain Paul Kelly is also on the list. Proof that even without natural ability it is possible to rise to the top.
What have been some of your biggest career highlights?
Without doubt the posting to Federal Parliament, travelling with Prime Ministers, the US job in LA, sharing the news set with Graham Kennedy, my own national show on the Seven Network (At Home With John Mangos) and as a founding presenter spending 15 years to help take Skynews where it is today.
What have been some of the challenges?
It’s been full of challenges. I never understood why I was constantly reminded of my heritage when none of the others were and I was performing on merit. I remain hurt and disappointed that a fellow Greek fired me unjustly from Skynews after years of loyalty and friendship.
What do you think has been the secret to your success and longevity in an often cut-throat industry?
My Kastellorizian DNA.
After decades gracing our TV screens- is there anyone left on your wish list that you would love to interview?
The list never ends. I never want it to. The passion is always there to get into the head of an exceptional person, whatever field. I look at incompetent interviews now and cringe. Queen Elizabeth would be fascinating, Trump would be farcical. Putin a challenge. Stephen Hawking a blessing. But the most difficult would be Humphrey B. Bear because he can’t speak.
Tell us about your involvement with the Greek community over the years? Why has this been important to you?
During my entire career I have endeavoured to compere as many Greek community events and fundraisers as I possibly can. It’s my way of giving back. Also it keeps me in touch with the culture I love. Bringing my friend George Dalaras to Australia three times is a highlight, he is so loved and brought so much pleasure to so many people.
Do you think it’s important for your children and their generation to hang on to the Greek language and culture in an increasingly multicultural Australia?
Absolutely I do. That’s why Kosta (9) and Apollo (6) learn Greek and always travel with us to Greece. They have no idea yet how difficult it was to wear the stigma of ‘wog’ and ‘dago’ during my youth. They have also learned to love and respect the Aboriginal culture.
What inspires you?
Greek music. Mikis Theodorakis told me once that Anglo music was mostly empty because the writer would create a melody then fill it with words. We Greeks take the poetry first then honour the words by creating music to elevate them. Gold.
What is one piece of advice that you have received along the way that has stayed with you?
-Keep your mind and your bowels open
-Be careful of the toe you step on today because it might be connected to the arse you have to kiss tomorrow
What changes did you experience in your job with the birth of online news, and then social media?
These New Media have crushed the traditional model as we know it. Everyone has a phone, which is a camera, a recorder, a library, a file, a newspaper and a player all in one which means anyone now can be a reporter. It has diluted the value of the ancient craft.
What does the near future hold in store for John Mangos?
The challenge of fatherhood and providing the best education I can for my sons. I continue to work in my corporate media training business and have my eyes on a Greek cafe near the famous Balmoral beach in Sydney.
What is your favourite Greek food?