Recently, I was going through a box of ‘stuff’ from my early radio days. You know, the cassette air-checks, various station t-shirts and stickers, accumulated over a 25+ year career on the “wireless”.
Then I came across a folder from my days at radio school, where I’d spend hours in the studio, reading and re-reading the news bulletins I’d written. I’d decided fairly early on that I didn’t want to be an announcer; intuitively recognising I’d have more longevity in the newsroom.
I poured my heart and soul into becoming a newsreader, juggling my hours in the studio with my final years of high school. And working part time. How I managed it all, I have no idea.
As I flicked though the folder, laughing at some of my early attempts at newswriting, I found the ‘rejection letters’. We all got them, as we pursued the dream.
Two stood out. The same message, but delivered in two different ways: one could have ended my career on the spot. The other offered me hope. And both arrived in the letterbox within days.
Bastard. For many years, I hoped the writer was lying drunk in a gutter somewhere with a bottle in a brown paper bag by his side. I’m not bitter.
Much kinder and more helpful to one trying to break into the industry.
For the record, within weeks of receiving both letters, I’d landed my first job at 3NE Wangaratta, where a certain Dave Smith was the ‘star’ of the station. I was green and wet behind the ears, but there was no better place to start.
After stints on the Gold Coast and Geelong, I landed a job at Triple M, Melbourne, where I was fortunate to come in contact with top broadcasters like Lee Simon, Steve Speziale and Eddie McGuire. Post merger with Austereo, I had Jeff Allis, Brian Ford and Ken Cavanagh to learn from.
I developed my craft, kept learning and became News Director, before being headhunted by Dan Bradley and DMG to start up and head up the newsroom at Nova 100.
The point of all this goes back to those two letters that I’ve kept all these years. They taught me three invaluable lessons that I’ve hopefully passed on to the young journos that I have taught and mentored over the years.
1) Rejection is part of life and very much part of radio. Take on board, and work with, the advice given. Ignore the nasty, mean spirited comments. They’ll sap the confidence, so there’s no point dwelling on them.
2) Persevere and be passionate, even when some might tell you it’s pointless.
3) Positive re-enforcement is better for the soul than negativity. Each rejection letter I sent as a News Director, I tried to find the positive. If someone at the beginning of his or her journey plucks up the courage to send an audition tape, the least I can do is offer encouragement and honest critique.
Looking back, perhaps the writer of the first letter did me a favour. While he did nothing to help my career, he made it very clear the type of journalist and manager I didn’t want to become.
As for the second letter writer, I have no idea what happened to 3GL’s Norm Leahy, but I am forever grateful that he chose not to sink the boots in.
Nikole Gunn, 20+ years in radio, former DMG Melbourne news director. Now teaching Journalism, News Research and Radio Journalism at Macleay College, Melbourne.