I recently celebrated a ‘significant’ (cough, cough) birthday and am about to mark a milestone in radio… 30 years as a broadcast journalist.
It’s a bit scary when you actually see it written down. 30 years. Thirty. Three decades. No matter how you look it, it’s a bloody long time. A lifetime in fact. And it’s put me in a somewhat reflective mood.
My radio career began in 1987. I’d finished high school, attended a radio school (the Radio Works), deferred uni and landed my first job at 3NE Wangaratta. I was as green as green can be.
This was back in the ‘old days’ of a single person newsroom, presenting live news four times a day (I know: FOUR!!).
There was no automation or hubbing. We took national news from 3AW and occasionally got the call to file a report when something ‘big’ happened.
Computers? Nope. An old manual typewriter, a reel-to-reel recorder and a cart machine were pretty much the extent of the technology we had at hand.
But, I learned a lot from Wangaratta and from every other station I have worked over the years.
I’ve learned no day is ever the same and even tediously slow days have a way of being turned on their head in the blink of an eye. Or with a tweet.
I learned how to make something out of seemingly nothing long before ACMA and its compliance demands for local news content.
I learned no on-air ‘disaster’ is really ever as bad as you think. And even if it IS the biggest ever stuff-up in the history of broadcasting as we know it, it’s soon just a sound wave bouncing around in space.
I learned to ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ and read with a confidence that I may not have been feeling off-air. (I spent years waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and say ‘how did you get in’).
From covering disasters like 9/11, the Bali bombings, Beaconsfield and Black Saturday, I learned to understand the level of trust our listeners have in us.
It sounds a bit twee, but it really is a privilege to be ‘that’ person who lets them know what’s going on in the world around them.
But one skill I learned was how to ‘listen’. Listen to the answer and not become distracted by the next question. Listen to what you’re being told and perhaps NOT being told.
My father, an old print journo, used to say ‘anyone can be taught to write, but no one can be taught to listen’.
He also used to say ‘listen twice as much as you speak’. Pretty solid advice and just as relevant now in the digital world as it was back then.
Radio IS a different beast than when I first started. Given our access to information online, it’s a lot more exciting. We’re finding stories and breaking stories that may have taken days to develop and emerge in the ‘good old days’.
Is this the Golden Age of Radio? Absolutely. With the advancement of technology and the development of digital platforms, how can it not be?
But some things never change. And that’s something else that I have learned over the past 30 years.