Behind the scenes with Neil Mitchell: What it takes to do talk radio

In Neil Mitchell‘s last week on air at 3AW he recorded an episode of his podcast Neil Mitchell Asks Why with friends and colleagues Heidi Murphy and Tony Jones. If ever you’ve wanted an insight into what happens behind the scenes at a talk radio station, this is it.

This podcast is to be Mitchell’s focus now that he’s left Mornings. Perhaps some writing too which he talks about enjoying. This particular episode was so freeform that I feel like they just pressed record for an hour and no one edited it at all. A case in point is that Jones’s boss came past the window and distracted from the conversation to let Jones know he’d got Wordle in four!

Of course the headlines upon the release of this episode were about ratings Mitchell gave to broadcasters past and present, which happens around the 20 minute mark. Ross Stevenson got the only 5/5. What I noticed was how excellent Mitchell is at deflecting from answering something he doesn’t want to, avoiding giving ratings to Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and John Laws when asked, and deftly changing the topic when Tony Jones was diverted by Wordle results.

Mitchell asked Jones and Murphy if journalism was stuffed, which led to some of the most fascinating insights into Mitchell, including the reasons behind his long standing feud between he and former Victorian premier Dan Andrews which saw Andrews refuse to speak with him on air for seven years.

Prime Ministers; Mitchell talks about his evolution from being threatened by Paul Keating in the seconds before the mic was turned on to Anthony Albanese calling him while he was trying to pay a vet bill. And the reality that no Prime Minister will call him willy-nilly again after retirement (Kevin Rudd would call at 2am).

Murphy asks if anyone knows Mitchell really as he’s taken pains to keep his family life private. Mitchell replies that he is what Steve Price called him once, boring. And he likes being boring. Then they discuss ratings honesty, the relief of winning and how the following day you are already thinking about the next ratings.

Mitchell said:

“What matters from the moment you get off air is tomorrow. And there’s no more tomorrows.”

I wonder if Mitchell will ever return to commercial radio and how much he’ll personally get out of a podcast that doesn’t have the same intensity and immediacy as 3AW Mornings. Maybe it will be enough. But it takes decades to get to a point where a prime minister returns your call and you become unafraid of calling out a Premier’s actions that don’t pass the pub test. For aspiring talk presenters this episode allows you to get to know Neil Mitchell too.

Jen Seyderhelm is a writer, editor and podcaster for Radioinfo & Radio Today
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