‘Redundancy may just end up being your best ever career move’


End of An Era for 2UE News.

Anger at ABC Over Local News Cuts.

Fairfax Strike Continues Over Newsroom Job Cuts.

These are just a few of the headlines from the past 18 months that strike fear into every working journo, seemingly lucky to have a job.

Sarah Patterson is a radio journalist who has worked in the industry for more than 25 years. 
For three years, she was the newsreader for Eddie McGuire‘s Hot Breakfast Show on Triple M in Melbourne.

Over the years, she has also worked at Fox FM, Gold FM, Smooth FM, Nova, SEN and RSN 927.

And she has been made redundant twice, including recently.

Sarah shares her story exclusively with radionfo.

Your services are no longer required, Sarah.”

As I sat at my newsroom desk – diligently tapping out my midday bulletin – I had no idea I would soon hear these words and my job would be gone in the space of ten minutes. Young and naïve in my first cap city FM radio job, I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming.

The first sign should have been the unfamiliar man in the flashy suit who popped his head around the newsroom door and informed me – in a very brisk manner – “You’re needed upstairs.” I glanced up at the clock and then back at him.

Who was this person?

“OK. I just have to read the midday news.”

His expression told me the midday news was the least of my worries. That much was crystal clear. Still, the penny didn’t drop.

“You need to come now.” 

I wasn’t at all anxious about this mysterious trip upstairs with this grim-faced stranger. The only thing stressing me out was getting back downstairs in time to get my bulletin to air.

I shouldn’t have worried. My bulletin never saw the light of day.

I was shown into an office I’d never been in before, and sat opposite another flashy-suited man I hadn’t met before. I still don’t remember his name, but it quickly became apparent that my midday headlines were  nothing compared with the news he was about to break: that I was one of several unsuspecting heads lined up like a row of Christmas turkeys on the company chopping block.

With a cold, professional look on his face he informed me my position had been made redundant. I was to pack up my things and leave. Immediately.

I’m glad he wasn’t a doctor because quite frankly, his bedside manner sucked.

But I got the message, loud and clear.

Scram. Vamoose. Sayonara! Hand in your security pass ASAP and make sure that door doesn’t whack your redundant arse on the way out.

As I wandered back downstairs like a lost sheep that had just been hit with the stun gun, I heard the midday news going to air … read by someone else, in a studio several suburbs away. As it turns out, all the arrangements had been made weeks ago. This time, I wasn’t first with the news.

My greatest mistake was to take it personally. I felt like an absolute failure.

As I cleared out my drawers, one of the station’s engineers – a lovely, gentle soul – came in and gave me a hug. He seemed apologetic as he admitted to me he’d known about it all along, because he’d been overseeing a lot of the technical groundwork to make it happen. But he hadn’t been allowed to tell me.

I felt bad that HE felt bad, and terrible that he’d been placed in such an awkward position. He had nothing whatsoever to apologise for.

Several people in the newsroom lost their jobs that day, as operations shrank and shifted elsewhere. I heard later that the blood on the floor had barely dried when one of the on-air stars suggested that the now vacant space would make an excellent jocks’ room.

Here is the great irony: within days, the same company that made me redundant re-hired me as a casual. A second radio station also offered me casual work. Suddenly my dance card was unexpectedly full, before the reality of my axing had even sunk in.

That was the mid-nineties. Fast forward a couple of decades to 2017 and there I am again, seated behind another big table at another big cap city FM station – older and wiser – with a long, white envelope being gingerly pushed in my direction.


I think about saying the word out loud with an Arnie Schwarzenegger accent, just to lighten the mood. Instead, I carefully place the envelope in my bag, politely smile and exit the room.
This time – instead of feeling like a failure – I genuinely believe that this is the company’s loss, not mine. And just like in the nineties, I am soon offered work by other radio stations.

For me, being made redundant in my late forties was a hell of a lot easier to swallow than being given the flick in my mid twenties. Naivety makes way for wisdom, and the knowledge that nobody in radio is indispensible.
Unlike the day I was blindsided, this time I knew my days were numbered. And this time, I felt not shock, but a sense of relief.

The landscape of radio news is changing dramatically. There are trends such as ‘observational journalism’ which just don’t sit comfortably with me. Interviewing a dietician to analyse the nutritional value of that chicken schnitzel roll you ordered for lunch, or reporting on how many people prefer pineapple on their pizzas is not news, nor should it be described as such.

I’ve had more than twenty years since my first redundancy to realise I’ve had a really good run in radio.

My advice if it happens to you? Don’t take it personally. Life goes on. Dust yourself off. And if you feel radio is no longer the right fit for you (or vice versa), think outside the square. You just need to work out how to apply your skill base elsewhere.

Redundancy may just end up being your best ever career move.

     Sarah Patterson


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