FM news in question after weekend gaffe on WSFM
As radio networks continue to “streamline” their newsroom operations, some in the industry are concerned about the quality, credibility and future of FM news in Australia.
One such blunder that took place over the weekend has reopened the debate.
WSFM positions itself as “Sydney’s most comprehensive news”, and on most days, led by ARN’s national news director Deb Clay, that’s indeed the case. But on Sunday, as the Sydney station’s 3pm news bulletin was broadcast direct from the network’s Brisbane newsroom, an embarrassing on-air gaffe didn’t go unnoticed.
2UE’s Jono Coleman was quick to pick-up newsreader Vanessa Gibson‘s reference to MI 5 as “M-fifteen”. It’s the sort of mistake you may expect from a cadet, not a journalist with many years experience writing and reading news.
“Shame on ARN news and [the] newsreader on WSFM 3pm news,” tweeted Coleman after hearing the mistake on-air. He even suggested Gibson watch a James Bond movie.
Shame on ARN news and Newsreader on WSFM 3 pm news Says UK secret security police M15 ? Try MI 5. M15 a freeway ?Watch a James Bond movie !
— Jonathan Coleman (@jonocoleman) March 26, 2017
In response, ARN’s national content director Duncan Campbell has told Radio Today, “There was a pronunciation mistake made on air by one of our journalists on Sunday, it was a simple case of human error and nothing more.
“ARN have not downsized their newsroom and continues to build on its long history of delivering local news content with a team of experienced journalists,” he added.
On Saturday, Radio Today published this story about dwindling on-air newsrooms, as some networks refocus resources towards digital and further reduce the head count of highly-qualified journalists from its newsrooms.
Within hours of posting Saturday’s story, we received an influx of emails from seasoned radio hacks, and even some cadets. All offered their shared point of view that FM news has suffered most from shrinking budgets.
“Really sad what is happening in newsrooms, basically a lot of kids just out of uni are being employed (cheap to hire) and those with experience being let go,” said one well-known broadcaster.
Another added, “It’s going to be tough out there. As the industry fragments there will be fewer jobs and less money, but hopefully, there will be some solution to the problem.”
Is the quality of FM news being compromised as radio networks “streamline” newsrooms?
— radiotoday.com.au (@radiotodayanz) March 27, 2017
As someone who has more than 30 years experience in radio newsrooms, Nikole Gunn has taught Journalism at Macleay College and RTI. Gunn says mistakes happen, but that corners get cut as resources are spread thin across networks.
“I feel for this newsreader, I really do. I mean we all make mistakes and sometimes they’re obvious. You kick yourself afterwards and feel like crap, before squaring the shoulders and getting on with the rest of the shift,” Gunn said.
“Yes, we should pay more than lip service to ‘broad general knowledge’ and know your stuff. But this does demonstrate that there are no processes in place to pick up howlers. Is anyone vetting the copy before it goes to air – like they used to in the ‘Good Old Days’?”
Geoff Field, who recently left 2SM to mentor the next generation of radio journalists at UTS and lead news at 2SER FM, highlighted the need for news bosses to have a balanced newsroom that includes cub reporters and seasoned professionals.
“The big problem newsrooms face in the future, are the lack of funds to employ a mix of mature journalists along with interns and junior staff,” Field told Radio Today.
“In the past, and I know when I started, I looked up to senior colleagues who gave me valuable information on pronunciations, grammar and also advised me on ways to structure stories, new angles and of course the legal ramifications of running police and court stories.
“Not only have I noticed a decline in senior journalists in major newsrooms, but I’ve also observed and personally been affected by downsizing, where one person, usually with less experienced, is employed to do the job of several people.
Field, who spent almost two decades with SCA in Sydney, has also observed the negative effects of networking on FM news coverage.
“Where once we would have a separate reader for each station, many networks now have the one reader, broadcasting and writing for all the outlets, as well as updating digital content,” he said.
“When this happens of course quality is going to suffer, and it’s not the fault of the journalist, or for that matter, the news director who is doing her or his best to deal with the situation under limited resources.”
What do you think about the current state and future of FM news? Let us know in the comments below.