Radio Newsrooms - what happened to mentoring? | radioinfo

Radio Newsrooms - what happened to mentoring?

Wednesday 15 June, 2016
Image: Shutterstock
Award-winning radio news presenter, Scott Mayman, says the industry could lift its game.
It seems we hear more about downsizing, shut-downs -  or how a senior journo has left a newsroom,  only to be replaced by a junior.  THEN, this junior gets mentored by someone who's been in the job, less than a year. How wrong is that?   
If you're working in a big newsroom (and these days, more than 3 people, counts as big)  count the number of journos in that office who've been there longer than 5 years. It's pretty embarrassing.   Now ask yourself -  who trained them? 
Once upon a time,  you'd be mentored by someone who could explain how Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin.   Or how Ronald Reagan's assassination attempt involved the stalker of a Hollywood movie actor.   Or the history involving the so-called "constitutional crisis" - and how the Fitzgerald Police corruption Inquiry pretty much brought down the Bjelke Petersen Government... you know,  Joh... Sir Joh....  the former Premier of Queensland... He'd been there nearly 20 years... No, don't remember him?   How about simple things like when Channel 0 was on-the-air in Brisbane and Melbourne?
My heart goes out to the current News Directors who want to do the right thing but they are overwhelmed with in-house executive meetings coupled with the fact they are required to read and edit a shift.  I know some who work six days a week, and about 9 hours a day.  They don't complain but the writing is on the wall.
Mistakes will happen - and they have. 
There are countless issues, in recent times, that have given our industry a black eye due to inexperienced journos. For example, naming kids in a court case - or taking copy from a press release which is nothing more than a commercial. Or talking about a civil war conflict, except they mention the wrong country. And don’t start me on sloppy fact checking!
Sadly these days, what little training there is, comes from others passing the word  rather than quality time with the N.D. or a senior journo with decades of experience. These young recruits want to do well - and WE want them to do well. But when our industry continues to cut costs, there's an ongoing rise in the potential for multi-million dollar lawsuits.
In the United States, after several years of savage newsroom cost cuts, many stations have gone back to having senior journos and specialised in-house programs that provide for the proper training of young recruits.  A lot of this happened as a result of many silly lawsuits that could have been avoided  if there had’ve been quality time for a recruit to learn from a senior journo.
It's a shame these kids are brought in and expected to "just do it" on day one.   Many have jumped ship because of the experience while others learn after a few years that P.R. is the way to go!  Then, new recruits are brought in to replace the new recruits. What a circle!
Radio stations spend millions of dollars on content, resources, and brilliant announcing talent - but in some cases,  those millions are wasted when the program is affected by the sound of a green news presenter (hired on the cheap) that could ultimately undermine the profits of the radio station.
On the footy field, you'll see a selected mix of young players blended with older, more experienced players.   The young ones may be quicker and possess more stamina but it's the older players who can read a game better on the field and maintain discipline when the going gets tough. The same kind of blend is needed in a radio newsroom.
To be clear,  I'm not attacking the kids who are entering our industry. But the industry needs to step up and provide better support for these kids and the overall program. I know some board members and operators might argue "there's no revenue in a newsroom" - which is shortsighted,considering what I've witnessed in America.
There are still many quality senior journos who would love to be involved in the proper training of fresh faced recruits.  It's more than just a job and a pay-cheque for a senior journo - they've got the  passion and dedication to take the words on a script and turn them into MORE than a regular radio news update -  it will  fill your mind with such descriptions that your brain actually takes you to the scene of the incident.
Any takers?

About the Author

Scott Mayman is an award-winning Australian radio presenter who has worked professionally in both his home country and in the United States. In 2010, Scott initiated the 4BC/101FM "ready reserve" program with great success. Many radio journalists attribute their success to the program.

Scott is currently Breakfast Host at RADIO 97 - FM104.1 on the Tweed Coast and a Correspondent for CBS Radio News

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15 June 2016 - 4:47pm
Too true Scott, mentoring is a handy way to help prevent and catch the errors we all make when we start out. Supervision is not just lacking in radio - on TV the other day a reporter's voiceover quoted a Facebook post about a tragedy, saying "rip (name)" when she should have said R.I.P.
17 June 2016 - 9:37am
There's so much truth in this. I've been in one radio newsroom where exactly what you've described took place, and another that was shut down and replaced with another news service (which doesn't at all meet the needs of those listeners and completely lacks continuity with content). I was that senior journalist with a decade's experience and I'm now out of the industry: partly due to disillusionment with the industry, partly because I knew there wouldn't be an appropriate role for me. It's a sad state of affairs, and a lot of talent has been, and will continue to be lost because of this trend.
Smokey Dawson
17 June 2016 - 11:07am
Radio will continue to lose relevance while networks gut newsrooms and sack journalists. News generation is labor intensive but managers prefer boosting the $$ bottom line rather than investing in news content, keeping talent and training new recruits. Radio is dying faster because so many newsrooms closed and local news content is gone as listeners turn to their fones for news, music, will take legislation before commercial radio journalism ever emerges again as a force in our media.
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