Dan Jones on Marcus Paul’s sacking
Marcus Paul is a good person. I’ve known Marcus for a long time, we both worked against each other and together as radio announcers on radio stations around Australia. After hearing everything that has happened and the comments being made about him, it seems right to share another perspective from the other side of the mic.
I competed against him from a rival radio station in Canberra, he was at Capital Radio Network’s 2CC and I was at SCA and ARN’s now Hit104.7.
Marcus treated me respectfully and warmly regardless of whether we were on the same team, or whether my job was to make sure his show was unsuccessful. If I ever needed advice, he liked something I did on-air, or I was having trouble he was always too happy to be there. I say too happy because this was regardless of the fact that my job was to make sure that his listeners became my listeners. How you treat your competitors says a lot about you, and it says a lot about Marcus.
Later, we worked together in the WIN Network at i98 in Wollongong, where we got to have a lot more fun. While Marcus also did his own shows, he was also occasionally the newsreader when I was doing shows on i98. I remember it was Australia Day, and I can’t speak for Marcus, but I was hungover and doing the 6AM – Midday show, while Marcus did news and ran the newsroom by himself. It was the second story of his top of hour news bulletin and he played a grab from Barnaby Joyce’s reaction to a question about the Invasion Day protests.
Barnaby said something along the lines of, “This is Australia Day and if you don’t like it, I don’t know mate, go to work, do something else.” I burst out laughing because of how ridiculous I found Barnaby’s statement and tone. My mic was off but Marcus saw me laughing from the adjacent news booth, which set him off, and he also started laughing. Since my mic was off, the context to the listeners would’ve sounded odd so Marcus had no choice but to point out on-air that he was laughing because I was laughing, which completely derailed the news bulletin. I turned my mic on and we shared a laugh and a few comments. Then, in true professional fashion Marcus continued the bulletin unfettered. He commented to me after that we would probably get in some trouble, thankfully being Australia Day I was fairly confident anybody with an issue was sleeping in, or also found it hilarious. I never heard anything more about it.
I was saddened to hear about what had happened with Marcus. The person that I know is not one that makes light of issues like the death of children. It is clear to me that it was never his intent to do so. I would like to think that anybody looking past clickbait headlines can clearly see that his question about Charlise Mutton’s school, while unwise, was never done with any intent of malice, indifference, or ill intent.
Here are some things that I do know precipitated this incident. I believe that these factors made a controversy surrounding Marcus inevitable, a time bomb that would eventually threaten his career and livelihood.
Marcus’ show goes to over a dozen radio stations, he has one producer. In contrast, producer numbers are often in double figures for shows like 2GB’s Breakfast, Kyle and Jackie O, and with at least three-four times as many producers as Marcus in most comparable network breakfast shows that pipe in or out of metro markets like Sydney; even night shows have more producers.
Marcus did in that time slot what others did not, and that was to truly seek to compete against the major players. In the defence of his predecessors, how could they? It would’ve meant untold hours of unpaid overtime and work constantly filling the void of the infrastructure and support that comes with an army of producers. Have you ever had a look at Marcus’ graphics that he makes for his breakfast show? They’re terrible. It’s because he made them himself. What I love about them is that it shows how much he’s putting into this, doing everything he can to make it work. Rather than complain about the difference in resources, he got on with it and did his best.
Imagine for a moment that you’re years into this. Getting up at 3 in the morning to head into a gig where you’re doing the role of several people, and competing against others that every single day put out a more polished product by virtue of their army behind them. Now, imagine that you hear rumours of people listening to your show to find content to complain about. Up until now you’ve managed to fend them off. Each day you’ve walked the line of ensuring that in all the content you produce there’s nothing they’ve been able to get you for, that they’ve been able to pin on you, despite the enormous amount of content every day that they’re able to scrutinise.
One day you’re presented with a segment you’ve done countless times. A brief quiz based on the headlines of the day where five quick trivia questions are read. It is a relatively unimportant segment in the context of the show, but one that fills a bit of time and helps listeners get their brain moving over their morning coffee or drive to work. One question is about which primary school Charlise Mutton attended. You make a mistake, in the rush of the breakfast show you don’t adequately reflect on the implications of this question and read it out.
The people that are targeting your show hear this and spring into action, beginning their campaign to ensure this does not go unnoticed. Upon realising what has happened and reflecting, you the next day, apologise profusely, own the mistake and take full responsibility for it. The media is unrelenting, some of those that support you turn their backs on you, and ultimately you get fired.
If I were in Marcus’ position, I would be wishing that those around me could see how this situation came about. The efforts and magnitude of prep and work that has gone into doing a difficult gig that he put his all into. I would be wishing that people knew that when you try your best and you are doing the job of several people, and there are those looking for opportunities to destroy you, that you can only win for so long. As is the case in Australian media and especially radio, if people are able to look at 3-4 hours a day of you talking to look for something to discredit you, then eventually they will find something you did incorrectly.
I do not condone or excuse what was said. Yet, there is context to this situation and circumstances around it that are relevant and should be considered. Having been in a position where people are running campaigns to get you fired myself, it strikes me that all anyone could find against Marcus after so long on-air was a flippant comment said without malice or ill intent. For me, I think that says a lot about Marcus, it speaks to the good person that I’m glad to know.