Every second counts in FM news: Award Winner Deborah Clay

Deborah Clay is Sydney News Director at Southern Cross Austereo’s 2Day FM and Triple M. At the Australian Commercial Radio Awards, she received the prestigious Brian White Memorial Award, which recognises sustained achievement and effort across news, current affairs, entertainment and sport reporting.

radioinfo spoke to Deborah about her award.

Congratulations, you’re only the third FM journalist to receive the award and the first female FM journalist. Can you tell us about your entry?

My entry consists of three breaking news reports.

I had a friend staying with me from Adelaide the weekend of the violent protests in the Sydney CBD. I said to her “I’ve got to go” and went into the city to cover the story for Southern Cross Austereo.

There wasn’t on-air time allocated for news that afternoon, so content found the time. The situation in the city was volatile; one minute protestors were clashing with police; the next they were doing a speech in the middle of Hyde Park, calling for peace, then violence would erupt again. Finally they called it a day and went their separate ways. As for my friend, she spent the afternoon at my home listening to the coverage on 2Day FM, and we went out that night!  

The Mosman collar bomb case struck a chord with our listeners and we followed the story closely. The day Paul Peters was sentenced, victim Maddie Pulver was in court with her parents and showed remarkable composure as she faced her attacker for the first time since the terrifying ordeal.

The final report details the ASADA investigation into drugs in sport.  I had been tipped off       about how many players were to be questioned and reflected that on-air, prior to the official announcement.

What is your philosophy about FM news?

AM or FM, people care about news. With the growth of social media in recent years, the information cycle is extremely quick, so there is an appetite for more, up-to-the-minute news. Our news service strives to provide listeners with the latest angles on the stories that affect them.  

Every second counts in FM news. The writing style is punchy yet creative, while audio grabs are likely to be brief. There is also scope to put personality into your work, so if you’re a confident broadcaster and comfortable in your own skin, the more you’ll enjoy the spontaneity of interacting with the personalities on air, and therefore succeed.
We endeavor to be ahead of the curve when it comes to digital trends. Radio reports, breaking news social media posts, photos and online, are all part of the skill-set for the radio journalist.

One of my biggest achievements over the last year is implementing workday news on 2Day FM. On my first day as News Director at SCA I asked for extra on-air time for news (we had bulletins across breakfast until 8.30am and then nothing until 4pm). While I didn’t get the reception I’d hoped for that day, I did get my wish; the workday news reflects what is happening across Sydney “now”.

What are your top 5 pieces of advice for emerging radio journalists?

Content is king. The vast majority of journalists in metro markets write their own bulletins before reading them, so the task of refining your writing skills is a constantly evolving process. Listen to people you like and learn from them. Kristy Warner, Paul Murray and Katrina Blowers, they’ve all done outstanding work that has turned the FM news format on its head. Tim Davies is doing amazing things as Kyle and Jackie O’s newsreader; they’ve really embraced him.

Be proactive. If you have a bunch of ideas, chances are one of them will get over the line.

Remember every single day why you got into radio. It’s easy to forget about your passion for the medium if your alarm goes off at 3am for an extended period – but seriously, we have the best job in the world.

Don’t take knocks personally. At some stage you will face setbacks but it doesn’t have to be the end of your career. It may just motivate you to work harder and rise to the next challenge.

News has a tendency to break at inconvenient times but when the opportunity presents itself, go for it.

What would you say to people thinking of putting in an ACRA entry for 2014?

Record and file your best work as soon as it happens. There would be nothing worse than sifting through months of bulletins, trying to find radio gold.

Tell us your thoughts about the state of the media industry.

It’s a constant juggle of workload, deadlines and resources. Despite this, it’s vitally important senior journalists reach out to people starting out in the industry so they are given the opportunity to develop. It’s not written in the job description, but it is what will make the difference for the future of the industry.

Brian White was Australian commercial radio’s first cadet and later earned the respect of his peers as a brilliant journalist and announcer, but perhaps the most powerful legacy he leaves behind is his mentoring work.  

Any other comments about your award?

I’m looking forward to the two week fellowship at MediaCorp in Singapore – the leading radio broadcaster there – that is part of the Brian White Memorial Award.  I’ll report back on my experience.

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