Glenn Daniel: 10 Questions

With a radio career spanning more than 35 years, it’s no surprise that news legend Glenn Daniel has collected enough stories to fill a book.

Indeed, he’s just launched his autobiography; News Time: A Life in Radio. In it, he recounts the first steps taken on a career path that would take him from a home radio station with his brothers to covering some of the biggest news stories of our times.

Along the way, he’s collected multiple ACRAs and has worked with some ‘big’ names in seven iconic radio newsrooms.

The smoothfm 95.3 news presenter and co-host of the More Music Breakfast Show answers 10 Questions from Radio Today.

You’ve racked up 35 years in radio (and written a book about it), what has kept you in the news business?

A love of telling stories in the most intimate medium there is. Radio is an extraordinary relationship between broadcaster and listener. A conversation with a friend, yet all done in a small room, usually on your own, with a listener you’ve never met.  

There’s also the thrill of the breaking story or getting a scoop and the scary ‘no safety net’ tightrope of reading live news bulletins. It’s serious, but it’s the most fun you can have in a workplace.

What have been the challenges; technology, the way news consumption has evolved? Or something completely different?

I began radio in a world of typewriters, telex machines, paper, tape, carts and public telephones. It was wonderful to be part of a technology transformation to computers, email, teleprompters, digital audio and mobile and satellite smart phones.

The social-media online revolution means the first place people go to each morning is their mobile phone. It used to be the radio.

There are still opportunities to break stories, but often radio is providing the next layer of information to a story the listener already knows.

What makes a good journalist?

Knowing what makes a good story. To do that you need to know your listener. A passion for getting the facts right.

Writing is the key. Explaining the complex is 3 or 4 simple paragraphs so your listener that’s not there, and doesn’t know, is taken to a place of knowledge and understanding.

And as a follow up, what makes a good news reader?

“Don’t read the words … tell me a story”.

Know and understand the story in a bigger context than the three pars you’re reading. If you don’t know what the story means your listener will know immediately.

Breathe! It underpins everything including pace, key word emphasis, authority, timing and ultimately the comprehension by your listener.

Over the journey, what have been the stand out moments?

Covering the biggest story of my lifetime: 9/11.

The challenge of writing, editing and presenting when you feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the event.

15 years later and to stand at Ground Zero for the September 11 memorial service and to shed a tear in the presence of loves ones, who lost so many.

Covering civil war zones in Rwanda in 1994 and the former Yugoslavia in 1996.

The daily wrestle between getting the story and not losing your life.

There have also been the thrilling highs of the ‘good news’ stories including:

Australia II winning the America’s Cup in 1983.

Sitting on the finish line 5 rows from the fence when Cathy Freeman won the 400ms at the Sydney Olympics.

Being in Athens in 2004 when Ian Thorpe won the Olympic 200 and 400 Freestyle.

You’ve just released your autobiography “News Time – A Life in Radio”, what prompted you to sit down and write?

Over 35 years there are major events, changes, photos, audio and documents, which you know at the time, are significant.

I had an old three-drawer filing cabinet where I’d keep these bits and pieces, in no particular order, but filed under the radio station where I was working at the time.

In June 2016, I was having coffee with close friend and former colleague Corryn McKay, when I mentioned the filing cabinet, admitted I couldn’t really remember what was in there and suggested I take a look. I then said: “I should write a book”.

Corryn looked at me and said “do it”.

It began a 20-month journey and “News Time – A Life I Radio” was a reality.

35 years is a milestone in any business, so the support of family is obviously important?

Yes. 32 of those 35 years have been working on breakfast radio with “stupid o’clock” alarms. You’re permanently on a different time-zone to those who are closest.

It can take a toll on relationships. I’ve been fortunate to have extraordinary support.

If you could change one thing about your career, would you? Could you?

No, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s been a good life. I came along at the right time.

Is there one person who you would have loved to have spent time with (or interviewed, learned from)

Brian White. Commercial Radio Australia’s ACRA for excellence in journalism is named after this extraordinary man.  A few of my colleagues and mentors worked with him at 2SM and 2UE. It would have been wonderful to do the same.

What are you planning to do as an encore?

That’s a good question. Part of me feels like I had one book inside me and my work is done. But … you never know.

News Time – A Life in Radio is on sale at www.newstime.media

Having survived cancer and open heart surgery, all profits from the sale of Glenn’s autobiography will be donated to the Cardiac Research Unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital for its ‘world first’ valve replacement program without open heart surgery.

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