Paying it forward: advice for new radio journos

Back when I started out in radio (henceforth to be known as the Good Old Days) there was a well-trodden career path for the would-be journalist/newsreader.

You went to radio school, learned how to work a panel, how to talk into a microphone, how to splice edit or drop edit on a reel-to-reel (it was a few years ago) before flooding the market with demos and applications.

After obligatory rejection letters, you eventually got a foot in the door at a tiny country radio station where the real work would begin.

If you were lucky (and I was) there were some generous ‘old hands’, who’d show you the ropes, offer sound advice and trust that you wouldn’t stuff up local town names… too many times.

After getting the ‘flying hours up’, you’d spread the wings and move onto a bigger station in a bigger town in a provincial market, where you’d start all over again with the ultimate aim being ‘cap city’.

My journey from 3NE Wangaratta to Triple M Melbourne took 18-months and I was fortunate to have worked with some amazing women news readers (and some top blokes). I observed, listened and developed my own style.  I owe a debt of gratitude to all I have worked with.

Times have changed and those jobs in the bush aren’t as plentiful.  And with the various duopolies, there aren’t as many cap city gigs either.

Those who do get a break, are often quite green and thrown in the deep end, where it’s sink or swim. There’s a high churn and burn rate or progression up the ladder isn’t as rapid as some would hope.

Fortunately, these days there are just as many generous ‘old hands’ who are willing to offer some sage advice to those starting the news journey.

Emily Hoskins is news director for ARN’s Mix 101.1 and Gold 104.3 in Melbourne.  She began her career volunteering at the Hitz fm community station, before landing her first job at 3CS in Colac.  Her advice is simple:

“Soak up as much news as you can cross all media platforms. You have to know who the newsmakers are”.

“Pronunciation is also a big deal. You have to get them right.  It’s big turn off for listeners and a blow to your credibility when you mispronounce names or words.  Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues for help’.

Emily is right. There’s nothing worse than getting it wrong and remember, what might be right in one part of the country is wrong elsewhere. 

There’s nothing wrong in writing down names and words phonetically. However, if you’re writing copy for other people, give them the heads up before they start reading it on air.

Krystal Keller has been in radio for eight years, starting off in promotions at Nova 1069, before getting her break in newsroom.  She now reads news for Fifi and Dave on FoxFM in Melbourne.

“Know who your target audience is and adjust your story selection, writing style and delivery accordingly.  For my particular FM radio niche, it’s important to be as seamless as possible with the show.  So, my news is very conversational, my tone warm and friendly”.

“I don’t always lead with what every other radio station is leading with, but rather with what will affect the most people and what I think is most relevant to my audience. Developing this news sense is very important”.

Her comments are echoed by Monique Dews former Nova 969 news director and now breakfast reader on Mix 97.3 in Brisbane.

“Your news should be extension of the brand.  You need to know your audience. Make sure your news is playing to them in story selection, language and delivery.  If you’re uncertain, ask the Program/Content Director for a snapshot”.

Peter Morris is a legend in Melbourne news circles. He started back in 1980 as office boy at the Greater 3UZ, before starting off at 2XL Cooma as a jock and eventually moved into news at 3KZ. He went on to cover the crime beat for many years at Channel Seven and is known affectionately as “Zoomer”. His advice:

“Don't be scared, especially if you’re ‘on the road’ – there have been plenty of young people before you, who were terrified as they madly wrote some garbage on a note pad for the next news bulletin”.

“Check your facts, then check them again.  Never assume anything.  And remember, the best stories are there to be chased, they aren’t going to arrive via press release. Oh, and if you feel you don't sound right, ask the help of those, who’ve been there before you and you will improve every day”.

If you think about it, all these ‘old hands’ have collectively about 70 years of on-air experience (or more).  That’s a lot of on-air time and way too many bulletins under their belt to count.

All agree that the industry needs to look after its own and offer as much encouragement as possible to those starting the radio news journey.  It can be a tough road, but ultimately it’s very rewarding.

Nikole Gunn has 20+ years in radio and is the former DMG Melbourne news director.

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