The Future of News in Radio #CRAConf

The Future of News in Radio was placed under the spotlight recently at the National Radio Conference in Melbourne.
Moderated by ABC Radio Presenter Patricia Karvelas, the panel included 3AW News Director Gail Watson, Head of Strategy and Transformation at ABC Radio Jeremy Millar, Mark Cummins from SBS Radio and Nova Entertainment News Director Michelle Stephenson.
“News is definitely the stuff I like to call between credits,” says Michelle
“We are very lucky though that we have smooth which, from a news perspective is more an AM style on an FM channel. Therefore, we have a more holistic newsroom, but we are constantly having conversations about the way news has to change.
“Do we just want to give bite-size snippets of news? Because the majority of people walk around with a smartphone in their hand, you don’t need to tell the whole story but rather ask how much information do I need to give out at any time in a bulletin,” says Michelle.
In 2016 SBS assumes people are up to date with the news of the day when they tune in.
“We assume people have been following what’s going on when they come to us,” says Mark Cummins.
“Our audience has moved into the digital space quicker than what we thought and they are bi-lingual so they are getting their news by the time they come to us. And getting news about their home country which for many, many years is what they were tuning into SBS for.
“So we have moved our content to very much life in Australia and what people need to know.”
And what has the ABC done to embrace radical, fast digital transformation?
“It’s about publishing to multiple digital platforms, it requires multi-tasking to write once and publish many,” says Jeremy Millar.
“A recent study across 26 countries found 28% of 28 to 24 year-olds say social is their main source of news.
“I think these are the sorts of things that are really transforming our business,” he says.
Traditional news as we understand it is top of the hour, it’s making an appointment with the audience but that’s about to change according to Mark Cummins.
“Production-wise we think of digital first in the way we produce, not this bulletin-based appointment listening, we’re moving away from that, that’s a big change for us.”
Based on that how are the actual work practices of the newsroom transforming?
“it’s the extras that we are putting into it,” says Gail Watson.
“We are asking our journalists, as an example to be out on the road doing their usual report but then also taking photos and uploading them. And Interacting with our programs so we are producing a whole information and entertainment package.”
Michelle Stephenson says despite the changes to news within the digital world, Nova, “is still committed to news.”
“When we had the Sydney Siege, there was a moment I remember looking up when the flag went up and I knew something different was going on, I went straight to my programming director and he said, ‘right we’re cutting into programming’.
“We were on every 15 minutes, I was giving a news update, we pulled in all of our journalists and we went 24 hours. From a commercial perspective we went from doing one news bulletin on the top of the hour to it just being about news, that is indicative of how great radio news is.”
“Getting back to reliable dependable news is a good thing,” says Jeremy.
We talk about journalism in decline, says Patricia Karvelas. “But never have we seen so much journalism so there is a paradox that we are watching. There is so much competition, so many places to go to find out what is happening in the world and yet we are seeing journalists laid off – it’s a little weird.”
So how will newsrooms have to transform further to adapt to the new world?
“If news were invented tomorrow, the answer wouldn’t be to broadcast at 6pm, it would be designed a little differently, says Jeremy.
“Haven’t said that news at the top of the hour isn’t going to go away.
“There are two things I jokingly say you can guarantee. One is gravity makes things fall down if you drop them and the other is news is at the top of the hour.
“People are brought up with it. It’s in their DNA.”

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