The value of News

Staff Writer
  Radio Today reader Chris Rieger gives his perspective of the importance of 'news' to radio stations and their listeners.


Everyone in the business understands and accepts that commercial radio newsrooms are expensive to run and operate – especially for music stations – but it saddens me to see them being downsized while other areas have bucket loads of cash thrown at them.

The mind boggles to think how much money some stations have wasted over the years on station relaunches and advertising for breakfast shows which haven’t fired and probably never will.

In 2006, I witnessed the ARN Brisbane newsroom go from 3 fulltime journalists and 2 weekend casuals down to 1. (In its heyday there was probably a team double that for just one radio station, not two). As part of that ’06 restructure I was sent to Sydney to read news for Brisbane.

I never really understood that. Here I was working out of a building at North Ryde, reading news for a market some 920 kilometres or so away. Rest assured it wasn’t cost cutting! Better use of staff or something like that I think is how they justified it. 

18 months later I was back in Brisbane as the sole journalist with the rest of the bulletins coming from Sydney. It’s important to note since then, ARN has in fact beefed up its local output in Brisbane, so points to them for that.

What I don’t understand is how some radio stations can justify having 10 or so casuals on a street team handing out icy cold cokes and the latest Who mags, yet most can’t afford to put on cadets  in the newsroom to go out and actually chase the news! Think back to the days when you’d see a press conference on TV and just about every station had a mic flag on display. You can’t put a price tag on that sort of exposure on the nightly news.

Given DMG Radio’s decision to make three journalists redundant from its Melbourne newsroom (here), I wonder where radio news is going? I’m pretty sure most music stations would prefer to ditch it all together if they could.

Let’s face it, in this day and age when people want news they’ll go and get it straight away and won’t necessarily wait for it on the half hour or the hour. Many stations are already moving toward or are currently providing news online or on demand which is great – you still need staff though and wouldn’t it be better to source that content yourself rather than rely on other rival media outlets?.

Times are a changing and there’ll always be new technology and better, more effective ways of news gathering but the one thing radio can still do better than TV is provide news and information, particularly breaking news. We do it better because we don’t have to wait to get something on the air. It can happen instantaneously whereas with TV they need crews/reporters at the scene and pictures to go with the story.

You only have to look back to the Brisbane floods last January to see how important a medium like radio can be. For many if they’re without power during an emergency situation, a battery operated radio will go on for days.

News, information and entertainment are what radio is about. Take away those things and all you’re left with is an expensive jukebox that rolls out the hits – with commercials!

Newsrooms and the people who work in them deserve to be treated with respect.

Chris Rieger

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