Behind the scenes of a solo regional radio newsroom
My alarm goes off at 3am.
But my eyes probably don’t adjust and realise that I’m awake for at least 5 minutes. I usually come to when I’m brushing my teeth in the bathroom and the dogs are going crazy at my feet.
I chuck some clothes on, put the dogs out, everything I need for the day is put into my bag and out I walk into the pitch black, with my personal alarm in hand. I never leave the house without it now. As many people say, 3am is witching hour. Nothing good usually happens after it, especially if you’ve been awake all night.
The drive to work is quick, and is usually just enough to listen to those people talking on the radio about something that makes them passionate enough to call through at such time. Once I’m at the building, sometimes there’s a few laps of the block because there’s people walking around and being a young woman, on her own, it scares me to get out of my car while they’re there.
I’ve made the mistake once before, and I won’t do it again. The first few hours of my day are spent trawling my emails, social media sites, our network messaging app, and having a quick read of the paper to see what’s making news in our little world. Some days it’s a stretch to put a smile on your face, while other days you can spend your whole morning with one.
Snakes on the range, 5 metre pythons on driveways, our very first craft beer festival or a muddy obstacle course you can take your dog to. We’ve got it all in Far North Queensland.
As a regional newsreader, you’re the judge and jury when it comes to what you’re spending your time chasing, writing and reading. You can ask questions to your bosses, who are in different locations but you become the voice the community need in a disaster, when a horrific crime has been committed or when an event needs to be shared with the public.
Before getting into radio, now almost 2 years ago, people used to tell me it was like no other medium in the world. You get to wake up everyday, talk about what you love and get paid for it. To an extent, yes that’s what it’s all about, but now I get what the ‘so much more’ means.
As a journalist, you get to give a voice to those who may not have been given the chance to have one before. You’re there for people in times of crisis, like when cyclones decide they’re coming, when roads are flooded, when communities are cut off and people need to know there’s help on the way, that they aren’t on their own and we’re sending help as soon as we possibly can.
You’re there when a young woman is murdered on a secluded beach at 3pm in the afternoon and the Police need help to piece together her final movements. You spend your days and nights posting any information you can to your social media sites, putting as much detail in to your bulletins, telling your breakfast teams how they can help and crying for 5 minutes in the bathrooms before putting a brave face on and going out to do it all again for the next bulletin.
You become a person in the community people feel they can trust. You’d be surprised how a quick, “how’s the family going?” or “how’s the farm?” before an interview can completely change the entire feel of the grabs you’ll then edit out for each bulletin.
Journalism may be changing, but its something we’ll always need. The way we get our news is different but the need for information isn’t. I may be in bed by 8pm most nights, and have weekends where I don’t speak to a soul because I just need silence to process the hundreds of voices I’ve heard over the week and the millions of words I’ve spoken myself but I can’t have it any other way.
There’s power in words and there’s power in radio. You just have to find a voice that’s strong enough to use, even if it means it shakes sometimes when you do.
Abbey Smith is a journalist and a freelancer writer, and the CEO of She Can Talk.