One last chat, for now, with Craig Bruce
Not a lot of people – especially senior managers in Media – can boast a career spanning 27 years at the same organisation – which is worth a merit badge for attendance alone.
And now, Craig Bruce, having spent almost all his working life with Austereo / SCA, has left the buildings. It might have been a very difficult day but for “The support and kind words,” which, he says, “have been quite overwhelming.”
He was kind enough to answer our questions and look back on both the good and bad of a remarkable career – so far.
radioinfo: Tell us about your start in radio.
CB: I went to the FOX from EON (now Triple M, Melbourne) in 1988. Had nine months doing mid dawns and floating before I got my first breakfast gig at SEA-FM on the Gold Coast with Sammy Power.
radioinfo: What were your dreams at that point?
CB: Ha! I remember very distinctly sitting at the end of the Broadwater spit on the Gold Coast, having just started at SEA-FM and I wrote a note to myself that I would be the best drive announcer on metro FM.
I didn’t really get close. People like Jamie Angel, Rob Duckworth and Ugly Phil were so much more naturally talented than I was, but at least I was shooting for something that was a stretch.
radioinfo: So how did the move to SAFM come about?
Adelaide is home. My daughter was nine months old and it was just the perfect time to head back to be closer to the family. I actually started at SA-FM 20 years ago today… so the timing for my departure is neatly tied up in a bow.
The breakfast show on SA-FM featured James Brayshaw as the sport reporter, he was still playing cricket for SA at the time. James went on to be one of the most gifted story-tellers I’ve heard. He’s a great friend and someone I like to stay in touch with.
radioinfo: Given you were at the top station in your home town, was that the dream job at that point?
CB: It felt like that would be the best that I could achieve at the time. I never really had a great sense of what I might be capable of. One of my early mentors, Jeff Allis gave me the nudge I needed to move into content and it really changed the course of my career but more importantly it became the driving force for how I wanted to help other people.
Sometimes talented people just need some encouragement and someone in their corner. I hope that I did that for a few people at SCA.
radioinfo: So, at what point then, did you realise that your strength was in programming?
I wasn’t particularly good at it to start with. Who is? I think it was a combination of me really trying to understand how I could play to my natural strengths and how I could impact through leadership.
radioinfo: Who were your mentors?
CB: Jeff Allis, Brian Ford. Guy (Dobson) has obviously been a great friend and a mentor. I look at mentoring slightly differently to others though – Sam Cavanagh and Adrian Brine who are much younger than me have also been mentors, simply for what I’ve learnt from them and how they have managed themselves through adversity-particularly in the case of Adrian.
radioinfo: Then came a number of milestones that took you from SAFM to Content Director for the whole network. Just run through those for me.
CB: 2Day-FM CD 2004-05. Came back to SA in 2005 to manage SA-FM and the Today Network. Then 2IC to Guy in 09. And the Head of Content role in 2010.
I would like to have left 2Day in a better position than it is right now.
radioinfo: What do you feel were your greatest achievements – or at least those achievements with which you were involved?
CB: The launch of Kyle and Jackie from a ratings perspective was a career highlight.
Being one of many good (and lucky) people to be around Hamish and Andy as they began to blossom was a huge thrill.
The Hot Breakfast with Ed, Luke and Mick is my favourite show on the radio right now and one that I’ve enjoyed working with.
radioinfo: And what about those episodes that you would like to have had again?
CB: I would like to have left 2Day in a better position than it is right now. If it’s a game of wins and losses, which it is, certainly that is something that we would have preferred a “take 2” on.
After Hamish and Andy finished in 2010, it was like the end of the mining boom.
radioinfo: After 27 years, you will have left an indelible mark – a considerable legacy. What would you hope that legacy to be?
CB: Well, I was surprised and humbled by the response today from the many people I have worked with over the years.
When I started as a CD I would have been happy to have had a positive influence on one person, but it looks like that number may be a little higher. Mentoring and coaching is always two-way.
The thrill for me is to see someone reach their potential. It goes back to that defining moment for me when Jeff Allis got in my corner and told me I could do it, I’ve always wanted to be that person for others.
radioinfo: For most of your career, you and Austereo, later SCA, just went from strength to strength. At what point did you feel that the tide was starting to turn?
CB: After Hamish and Andy finished in 2010. It was like the end of the mining boom, we were always going to come back to the field given their extraordinary highs.
We held on in Sydney and Melb with Kyle and Jack and Matt and Jo. And then obviously things got really difficult in 2014.
radioinfo: The decision to let Kyle and Jackie O go wasn’t yours alone, was it?
CB: It wasn’t my decision, full stop. But obviously I was there as the Head of Content at the time and can’t pretend I’m a clean skin. But it’s ancient history Pete and I’m not going to talk about it other than to say that clearly we made a mistake to let them go.
radioinfo: When the first survey results started coming in, how did you feel?
CB: I felt sick. Like the world at stopped spinning.
Kyle text me today, I think it was complimentary…
radioinfo: Did you take all the adverse headlines personally?
CB: Not the headlines, but certainly I took the end result of them not being with us very personally. It was a very dark time for me.
radioinfo: You’d played a big part in the development of Kyle and Jackie O. In fact, you counted them among your friends. Were you personally hurt by by some of the comments Kyle has made about the management team at SCA?
CB: Not personally. Kyle makes lots of noise and says lots of things, but often it’s spur of the moment. Look at the feud he once had with Dave Hughes. They’re best mates now!
Kyle text me today, I think it was complimentary… he and I share a love of radio. So, despite our moments over the journey, we have something in common.
radioinfo: When did you reach the conclusion that it was time for you to go?
CB: This week.
radioinfo: What brought you to that conclusion?
CB: Sometimes you just know. It seemed like how I’d been contributing to the organisation for the last six years would look different moving forward.
radioinfo: Do you leave with a feeling that you have unfinished business?
CB: Of course. Nothing is ever finished though. When does anyone get to put their feet on the desk and say job done? I reckon if you did that in this industry, your next move would be out the door.
radioinfo: Yesterday, when SCA announced your departure to staff, you didn’t come in to the office did you? Instead you left a statement that was delivered in an all-staff memo from Guy Dobson.
The people at SCA have been like a second family to me for virtually all of my working life. I started as a mid-dawn Announcer at the Fox in 1988 and have been fortunate enough to work with some of the most passionate and talented content creators in the world – as a true radio fan-boy, it’s been an incredible experience.
I’m sure there’ll be plenty of success for SCA as it heads into an exciting new phase.
Why did you choose such a quiet way to go?
CB: There wasn’t a home market for me to be in. So for every staff member I was in front of in Sydney, I was absent in Melbourne, Adelaide etc.
I’m not one to be fussed over and will certainly have the right conversations, dinners and one on ones with the right people at the right time.
radioinfo: What, if anything, have you got planned? In what direction do you see your future going?
CB: I’m a radio guy, broadcast is in my blood. I’m hoping that I will work again in the industry.
radioinfo: Are you prepared to nominate a successor?
CB: No, that’s not fair. It might be a completely different structure anyway.
But once again, to everyone who sent me a text or email yesterday, thanks so much. It meant a lot.