Breakfast radio: The wake up call


Do you ever feel like you’re edging close to burnout?

The other day whilst I was interviewing former Australian Test captain Greg Chappell, he recalled the day his brother Ian first told him he was planning to retire from Test cricket.

“He was only 29 or 30, I think. I said ‘Mate, you’re mad! You’ve got years of cricket in front of you.’”

“Ian just said ‘Mate, you won’t need anyone to tell you. When the time comes, you’ll know.’

This observation really struck a chord with me, because I feel it could easily apply to people in breakfast radio.

Now, whilst you would think, on the surface, that the life of a professional cricketer and that of a breakfast radio presenter aren’t even in the same stratosphere, it doesn’t take a genius to see that both jobs require a pretty big level of commitment and sacrifice.

For the cricketer, that might mean spending months at a time away from their families.

For the breakfast radio presenter, it’s watching your grandma enjoy a better social life than you do.

Both jobs also require physical stamina.

It always amuses me when breakfast radio hosts are asked about the rigours of getting up at a ridiculous hour like 4am, when the newsreaders are already up, dressed, caffeinated and in the trenches by 4am.

While it’s true that there are some people who seem to thrive on breakfast news hours, for many others – especially the uninitiated – it can be a real shock to the system.

And years down the track, it’s often our body – and not our brain – that decides when it’s time for a break.

Our lightbulb moment, if you will.

Mine came in 2014. After decades on breakfast news, a strange thing happened. I lost feeling down the left side of my face. I woke up one day and could only speak out one side of my mouth.

My news director at that time could not have been more accommodating, rejigging the roster and insisting I take whatever time I needed to sort myself out.

It set in motion a series of neurologist appointments and an MRI, but nothing was found, and gradually, my symptoms ebbed away.

On reflection, I feel this was my body’s wake up call about my wake up calls.

It was an important reminder to me that things like stress, anxiety and exhaustion can sometimes present themselves in a very physical way.

It also reminded me that there are other options and ways to enjoy radio.

There’s no doubt working in breakfast radio can be exciting, even exhilarating. It’s high-octane stuff. But the truth is, it can also be a grind.

In terms of his cricket career, Greg Chappell’s lightbulb moment came one day during a Test match at the Adelaide Oval.

 “We’d been in the field for a while, and I loved fielding. It was a pretty warm day, and I’m thinking ‘Geez, it must be getting close to lunch.’”

“And I look up, and we’d only been in the field for half an hour. I thought ‘Oh, gawd, we’ve got another hour and a half to go.”

“I knew then that it was past that enjoyable stage.”

How does that translate to breakfast radio?

Listen to your inner voice, and be ready for your own  ‘lightbulb moment.’ You might just need a rest and a reset.

*Sarah Patterson is a radio journalist of more than 30 years’ experience, a former Air News Director and WIN Television Bureau Chief. She has a BA in Media Studies.

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Neil Alexander
6 Feb 2024 - 12:59 pm

A great story, I too worked in a stressful industry, meeting KPI’s and accolade one day and on my knees with mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion the next. That quiet little voice inside me became louder and I finally listened to it as well, I left that industry after 16 + years and now I feel alive and present.

Robert McFadyen
7 Feb 2024 - 10:35 am

I worked at 2BACR 100.9 FM from 2008 to 2016 , firstly on weekday breakfast ,
and I remember the early starts and preparation . Then the excitement of delivering my work to air . My listener’s feedback was what kept me positive and motivated . My music artist documentaries that I prepared were fun to broadcast as well .

Jamie Mclean
8 Feb 2024 - 10:51 am

Hi All I hope everyone is well the Breakfast Radio thing is just so spot on as described.

The burn out factor is just HUGE and yes that light bulb moment is the really true way to say you know what I think I am done..

Enjoyed every minute of it but soooo glad it all over 🙂

Stay safe everyone


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