After my article about stupid public holidays was published last week, I was approached by one of Melbourne’s most popular (or so I’ve been told) talk back radio stations for an interview.
“He says he loves Australia…”
That was how I was introduced to the listening audience on talk back radio.
Talk back radio – even when written on paper – carries with it, a negative connotation. As a form of journalism cum entertainment, talk back radio is founded on a legacy of angry yelling, chaotic conversation and domineering ‘shock jocks.’
Even now, I know you can hear it, ringing in your ears.
I think the term is ‘gotcha journalism.’
But when they slid in my dm’s enquiring about an interview, I had no idea the nature of the beast I was dealing with, so their notoriety completely evaded me. However, it did not evade my family and friends and they expressed quiet concern that I might get eviscerated and humiliated on national radio.
And based on the colourful history of talk back radio, that’s fair enough.
But like the brazen millennial I am, I braced myself for the interview ahead – and learnt three important lessons along the way, that may come in handy for you one day.
1) They will try to script you – or at least strongly recommend you say certain things.
Entertainment is all about finding the angles, accentuating them and watching the aftermath unfold. And with this interview, it quickly became clear to me the angles which were being pursued.
‘Say something along the lines of…’
‘We’d like you to be…’
Talk back radio is built on dichotomy, not on conversation. Therefore, the interview was introduced as an interrogation of my legitimacy. My legitimacy in writing a commentary about the country that raised me, that gave me endless opportunity, and that I love dearly.
It’s how you deal with the angles that determine the outcome of your experience on talk back radio. Remain calm and take your time in answering the questions being posed. The format is designed to fluster, but if you take a couple of seconds to collect your thoughts, suddenly you have a lot more time than you think.
You aren’t constrained by time or content – they are. So just speak your truth and if they don’t like it, they can always cut you off and hang up. Which may or may not have happened to me.
2) Only talk about things you know about.
Now, that doesn’t mean being impudent and unabashed. It is about respecting the audience and knowing what you’re actually talking about.
Now if they had got in touch and asked me to talk about why the DOW Jones was down 0.5% or why Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is the far superior of all the ice creams – I would have said no, because I have no idea about either of those.
Actually, who am I kidding, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is the greatest of all time.
You should always speak on what you know, what you’re most passionate about. Speaking out of turn sets you up to be questioned and examined, and on talk back radio – they thrive on it. An attentive audience coupled with an experienced host ensures an attention to detail that demands a sense of assuredness and certainty.
So make sure you know what you’re talking about – because you’ll be sure to find out otherwise.
3) Respect the Platform
And finally, it’s about respecting the platform and the nature of its content. For all the stigma that comes with talk back radio, a large listening audience means that it serves a purpose.
In rural communities, talk back radio represents a platform for community discussion, bringing together a variety of voices to express their concerns and points of view. Just like everything else, it has simply manifested differently within our society – fulfilling our insatiable desire to be entertained and distracted.
Taking the platform for what it is reveals a much larger truth, that access to any audience brings with it a responsibility – to talk about topics that matter, to be open to conversation and to spread a message that promotes connection to something more than just the material.
And it’s possible to do that, even on talk back radio.
Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.
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