Liberty Radio Awards winners. Picture: SUPPLIED
Liberty Radio Awards winners. Picture: SUPPLIED

There will always be a place for traditional radio despite a rapidly changing media landscape. That was one of the key take-outs during a panel discussion between radio industry legends at the Liberty Radio Awards conference in Sandton on Saturday April 13.

One of the benefits of the new multiple-platform media landscape is that radio industry experts can remain visible thanks to digital and social platforms, rather than disappearing into obscurity when their radio careers come to an end, said talk show host Ashraf Garda. He said radio presenters need to understand the privilege they have of connecting with society.

Fake media, said former 702 talk show host John Robbie, means that the need for credible and trustworthy voices is greater than ever before, which makes radio more relevant than it’s ever been.

Robbie spent 30 years with 702, joining the station in 1986 as a sports reporter. “When we introduced the idea of talk radio nobody knew how to do it,” he recalled, explaining that most presenters made it up as they went along. To learn from the best, Robbie travelled to Australia to watch renowned radio presenter Alan Jones in action.

“I was initially convinced that there was no way I could emulate him, he was just so good: he entertained, educated, informed and annoyed, but he never waffled. He was always very well prepared. I came home convinced that the only way to be successful was to prepare even harder. Alan got in two hours before his show aired; I decided I would get in even earlier, with the result that for 17 years I got in at 3am to prepare for a show which started airing at 6am.”

Preparation, he added, is king. “The best bit of advice I ever got was from Stan Katz, who advised me to work from the punchline back: you don’t have to be funny, but you must be informative. It’s all about storytelling.”

Robbie said he had made every single mistake in the book, including putting the phone down on a former minister of health. “That’s the mistake I most regret. I had her on the hook, but I gave her an out by asking how she dared call me by my first name. The lesson was that you don’t have to be rude or strident to ask the tough questions.”

Patrick Bogatsu, programme manager at Vuma 103 FM, said his radio career was not planned. He had trained to be a teacher.

The big take-out

Good talk radio presenters entertain, educate, inform and even annoy, but they should never waffle.

The mistake many stations make, said Bogatsu, is assuming that Twitter users will be good presenters. “Just because somebody is successful on Twitter does not necessarily translate to success on air,” he said.

Lynn Joffe, CEO of Creatrix, said her entry into the industry – as a copywriter specialising in writing radio adverts – was difficult because she is a woman. Her success, she added, has been the result of doing something she loves and her passion for storytelling.

Denzil Taylor, head of news at Power 98.7, advised entrants to the industry to choose their mentors carefully. To be successful, he said, you need to immerse yourself in the industry and learn every facet of it, be passionate about what you are doing and be prepared to work hard.