Radio journalist reflects on the last two decades in the newsroom

This year Nova Entertainment Journalist Mel Usher celebrates her 20th year in commercial radio.

Mel started at Triple M Adelaide in 1997, “handing out icy cold cans of Coke by day and answering phones on Rocks By Request by night”.

Since then she has worked as an announcer, breakfast producer, PA, panel op, web mistress,  promotions, journalist, sports reporter and AM/FM newsreader across three networks. 

radioinfo caught up with Mel as she reflects on the last 20 years.


The milestone (of sorts) got me thinking about the changes I’ve experienced since my beginnings in the late 1990s. The big and small. The significant and not so significant technological tweaking that happens over two decades. 
From the demise of cart machines to the rise of social media – here are my 20 changes in 20 years of commercial radio.
1.Reel to reel machines
First came threading the reels. Then the splicing block, razor blade and splicing tape needed when editing a caller or competition winner. The process often taking place in a major race against the clock. I also panelled several networked shows back in the day which went to air via reel. Not much fun when the tape twisted midway through the broadcast.
The paper memo was still in use in my early days. No such thing as a group all email.
There was no Phonebox as we know it when I worked as a Producer. The quickest way to relay a message to the on air team was via mini whiteboards I propped up in the studio window. One whiteboard per caller.
Make a mistake and you had to chuck the cart in the bulk eraser and start all over gain. Time consuming. And then make sure it was cued properly before going to air.
Station security has ramped up in recent years. Many reception areas can now only be accessed if the visitor is buzzed in. 
6.Sports scores
Covering footy games on a Saturday afternoon required calling the clubs directly to get up to date scores if the matches weren’t televised. The action wasn’t updated online.
No instant hot water/zip taps back in the day. Grabbing a hot drink meant waiting for the kettle to boil.
8.Audio clips/vignettes
YouTube may have started in 2005 but it wasn’t the wealth of material it is today. If putting together a music special etc. you had to plunder your station archives.
I looked after a radio station website in the late 90s. It was updated once a week. Every story post required dozens of steps and that was just text – no embedded video, gifs, links etc.
10.On the road
Bye-bye cumbersome audio equipment. These days most of us have a mini audio recorder in our pocket – it’s called an iPhone.
11.Breaking news
Twitter has made the World a smaller place. If there’s a terror attack, bombing, earthquake or plane crash journos no longer rely on the traditional wire services. The twittersphere is the quickest way to get updated death tolls, police statements and eyewitness accounts.
12.What you look like
Gone are the days of crawling into work for a brekky shift looking like a hobo with no make up. These days the listeners might be watching a live stream or see happy snaps taken during the show on social media. 
The phone is no longer the key component of the radio competition. In many cases the tenth caller through has been superseded by FB, Instagram and Snapchat. Instead of calling to win $100….maybe hashtag your photos on Insta for a chance to grab the cash (which can now be direct deposited into your account).
There was a time when you probably went to radio school and then did a stint or two in the country before bagging your first Cap City job as an announcer. That’s not always the case now. There’s been a shift away from the ‘radio voice’ toward a more natural delivery.
15.Standing up
I sat down doing a music shift. Now I’d probably stand up.
Radio shows around the world can now welcome listeners from every corner of the globe thanks to live streaming. I know a guy in Atlanta, Georgia who regularly listens to Adelaide radio.
17.Famous faces
Singers on a promotional visit to Australia had to make numerous pit stops around the country back in the day to reach their audience. You’d quite often see a famous face in the corridors. Now it can be a one stop shop – recording a studio quality chat with teams/announcers from across the country from one station. 
18.What song did you just play?
You don’t get many of those calls anymore, thanks to Shazam and digital radio displaying the artist name and song title.
Promotions has turned into Integration and oversees activations. Program Directors are now Content Directors.
20.And finally – The internet.
The biggest resource we have just keeps getting bigger. 

Mel Usher

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