Abbey Smith: The Regional Radio Life
They talk about this. This feeling.
When you’re 3000 kilometres from home. You’ve only got you to lean on. You’re chasing the dream you set out for yourself only one year earlier. But, at the end of the day. It’s just you, walking into your house, getting into bed, taking yourself out for dinner just to leave the house at night, and talking to your sausage dog, like he’s a therapist.
Successful people. People you look up to. People who are now living their dream, working in the job they always wanted.
When you get that taste for what could possibly be the job you’re doing everyday. You stop at nothing. You work 20-hour days, you do work experience for every person who contacts you back, you exhaust yourself, but you tell yourself it will be worth it. And, when you finally get that big break it is.
I’ve just made the second move for my career, this time not as big as the first, but what is said to bring many more opportunities. Now instead of saying I live in North Queensland, I can tell people I’m in croc territory, and the Katters are my best friends.
Townsville and Cairns, two regional markets with Southern Cross Austereo that I could not have been happier to secure as I begin my journalism career. Compliance means we have to be as local as we come – yes that means even sometimes stories on horses that are running the streets or unexplained stolen goats.
As much as journalists and newsreaders can cop a lot of flack, both in person and online in certain groups, we can’t be told we aren’t hard workers. A double region brings 16 freshly written bulletins a day.
We write, we source, we interview, we try as much as possible, where we can to get out and meet the people we’re talking about. It is both a blessing and a curse to speak to so many locals who in their own way want to change the world.
How amazing if we could help the thousands out there who are trying in their own way to change ours.
It’s not until you move, those few days of being on your own, technically homeless, in a hotel room, not knowing a single soul in the region you’re in, that you really begin to realise what you’re sacrificing.
Life goes on. For everyone else who was once someone you spoke to daily, or just popped in for a life chat, a coffee and a quick hug and laugh. My family have their own lives, my sisters have their husbands and kids, my best friend is married and has started her own chapter with her husband. The daily phone calls, they dwindle to weekly, to monthly and then when something noteworthy happens or you’re that bored you need some sort of home contact.
It’s no ones fault. No one needs to be blamed, it’s just the reality of life being in regional radio, waiting for the big break that sees you decide where you’d like to go next, or if you’re lucky, one day, home.
I get monthly phone calls from people asking for advice to break into our industry, and my answer is always the same. Be the person who doesn’t give up, who goes in at 4am and doesn’t leave until last, who asks what they can do to get more practice, improve their skills and make someone higher up ask who they are.
But, I’m also brutally honest. As much as there are incredible highs, there’s also incredible lows. You learn to be your own best friend. You stuff up names of people, places and you can’t cry about it, you just have to brush it off.
You’ll annoy one group of people, you’ll be another groups best friend, you’ll put in that much overtime you don’t get paid for and you forge some of the best friends, colleagues, mentors and enemies you ever have in your life.
Radio, you are everything I ever wanted and more. You’re also my hardest task to date. Maybe I’m a skeptic, maybe my heads are in the clouds, but the lonely nights, the dinners on my own, the chats with my sausage dog are all worth it when I get to speak to someone who lives in my region, putting their heart and soul into making this world a better place.
If I weren’t doing this, I’d still be living in a completely unrealistic bubble in little old Adelaide.