Back in my day: The surprising stuff that happens at a radio reunion

“Once upon a time in old Melbourne town, there were two competing radio stations filled to the brim with the most excellent journalists. The years passed and they merged to become one big, happy family. More years passed and it was decided we really need to have a gathering.”

Reunions can be a funny and sometimes confronting way of reminding us that yes, times do change.

And by confronting, I mean getting smacked between the eyes with the reality of just how old (and possibly decrepit) you really are.

Now, whilst I’d like to think I’m a long way off ‘old person yelling at cloud’ territory, I’ll admit that after 33 years working in radio, I HAVE been guilty of saying “Back in my day.”

And yes, that phrase did crop up several times when I rocked up to a reunion of Triple M and Fox FM newsroom staff on Saturday.

The fact I’m also on the cusp of officially qualifying for an over-55s retirement village doesn’t help matters (God forbid I start saying “Kids of today” or “Get off my lawn!”)

It was a wonderful coming together of the generations: The assembled gathering of Nikole Gunn, James Lake, Brian Johnson, Eddie McGuire, Kevin Hillier, Christie Kerr, Maria Blampied, Ben Sathananthan, Brad ‘Hubba’ Houghton, Kris McKenzie, Sally Spicer and Catherine Garrett read like a who’s who of Melbourne radio across the decades.

As my hubby Kevin and I weaved our way around the busy table at Bell’s Hotel in South Melbourne, one of the first people to introduce themselves to me was Catherine.

I remember meeting Catherine very briefly during a tour of Triple M in the early nineties, back in the Bourke Street days when the station was located bang in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD.

That day, I clearly remember Catherine glancing over her shoulder and giving me a big smile whilst simultaneously waging war with a massive reel-to-reel tape machine.

Catherine told me that a standout memory of Triple M newsroom days is the fun and supportive colleagues she worked with.

“The camaraderie and joy of making live radio in the 90s. Drop edits and carts included!”

“Also, the laughs in my unexpected role of playing Mrs Wedgie on Martin Molloy’s Brown album in between news reads.”

A different cacophony of sounds made up the 1990s radio newsroom: The chipmunk noise as journos spooled through reel-to-reel interviews. Printers spitting out news copy. The thwack of the Telstra White Pages being slapped down on the desk. Landline phones going off everywhere. Towers of carts clattering to the floor en route to the news booth.

Back then, your biggest worry was making sure the bulk eraser didn’t bugger up your wristwatch.

But not only was this reunion a blast from the past. It was a window to the future.

When Sally Spicer introduced herself and sat down beside me for chat, I suddenly found myself looking forward instead of back, inspired by her energy and ideas.

Sally, a former SCA journalist, is now Communications Director for FW (Future Women), an organisation committed to achieving gender equality in Australian workplaces.

Sally and I talked about everything from radio workplace culture and how it’s changed, to podcasting and the rise and power of social media.

It was wonderful to hear about the workings of the media world from a millennial’s perspective, and I marvelled at radio’s transformation over the decades.

It did make me wonder, too, about the tendency to compare our individual radio journeys.

When it comes down to it, our own personal experiences are neither ‘better’ nor ‘worse.’ They’re simply different.

One thing we do all have in common though is that we have been lucky – so very lucky – to have been a part of the ride.

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