by Emma Barnett
Emma Barnett Arqiva Radio Newcomer of the Year
I began presenting my own first weekly radio show on LBC 97.3 last October, after a roller-coaster few months of cutting my teeth on the overnight stint.
Having proved my mettle with the wonderfully varied range of callers you get between the unusual hours of one and five am, I was asked to host the station’s Sunday drive time show.
I was unbelievably thrilled and jumped at the chance – having adored radio since I can remember being trusted by my parents to handle a piece of technology. I then even went onto write about the radio industry in my first journalism job in London for Media Week – and still do from time to time today in my weekday role as The Telegraph’s Digital Media Editor.
Getting to host my own talk radio show felt like I was finally joining the industry – instead of being an outsider looking in.
Which brings me nicely onto what an important moment it really was winning the best ‘Newcomer of the Year’ gong at the Arqiva Commercial Radio Awards a couple of weeks ago.
Having worked so hard each week for the last nine months with my great producers, Carl McQueen and Emma Gilbert, to make sure I am fully across the biggest news stories of the day, asking the audience the right questions, getting the best guests to comment and crucially – establishing a strong rapport with the LBC 97.3 listeners – winning the award was a major deal – not to mention a big shock. (I still owe Lou Birt, LBC’s deputy chief, fifty quid having bet against myself).
From covering the Queen’s historic Jubilee river pageant (soaked head-to-toe on a slippery South Bank while donning a useless bright pink mac) to providing rolling news and raw reaction from the Lockerbie bomb victims’ families when the story of the convicted bomber’s death broke just before I went on air – presenting my first radio show has been anything but dull.
The award has done three things: given me a great feeling about what I do on air each week, further boosted my ambitions for the show and won me lots of praise from those present on the night after I told the awards host, Christian O’Connell, where to sling his hook (obviously in a cool tongue-in-cheek style) – after some annoying heckling that he probably wouldn’t have doled out to a man!
Every single week I get paid to talk to incredible people about the biggest issues of day. I have learned so much from the spirited debates that go on every minute on LBC 97.3 and want to thank the fantastic callers for bearing their souls each week – even the ones I disagree with.
I have also loved becoming a part of Sound Women over the last year. Radio still has a fair way to go in order to even out the gender ratio – both in front and behind the mic.
But in spite of this issue, being gallantly championed by Sound Women, two things remain a constant in the radio industry: it’s bloody friendly and provides really exhilarating experiences to all those who have the pleasure to work in it.
And that’s why the medium continues to thrive in the digital age. People love the intimacy and the impact of aural communication. I always say that radio stations, especially speech ones such as LBC 97.3, are the original social networks.
Presenters pose a question, make a comment or impart some breaking news – and the listener responds and reacts in real-time – every single hour of every single day.
In fact the whole experience is even better in many ways as it is editorialised. On the web nothing is moderated in real-time. People can write dreadful things to each other on the likes of Twitter or Facebook and there is no editing.
But when creating a live radio show, presenters and producers plan the topics and guests. And each call, text, tweet and email is checked before making it on air – just to ensure the conversation will be enhanced by every contribution and not stalled or disrupted in any way.
Facebook and Twitter have yet to put enough editorial controls in place that pre-emptively disallow harmful words or edit the content flow to make it a more enjoyable experience. Radio – with all of the listeners’ amazing calls, tweets, texts and emails – is still leading the way on that front.
And that’s another big reason why it’s a real honour to have been named best new commercial radio presenter of 2012.