Source and entire article from SMH: The beginning of radio’s first 2008 ratings period last week heralded one of the most sweeping presenter reshuffles in recent times. In the morning and breakfast shifts alone, former Herald journalist Deborah Cameron replaced Virginia Trioli on 702 ABC’s morning show while, at 2UE, Steve Price took over John Laws’s esteemed slot and Sandy Aloisi filled Peter FitzSimons’s seat opposite Mike Carlton. Former Triple J presenter Myf Warhurst joined Peter Helliar at Triple M, Logie-winning soapie star Kate Ritchie took Sami Lukis’s place on Merrick and Rosso’s breakfast show on Nova and show business and television personalities Sonia Kruger and Todd McKenney replaced Sammy Power and Subby Valentine as Mix 106.5’s breakfast team.

Of this group Kruger, McKenney, Ritchie and Cameron have little, if any, radio experience, a sign that the career path to the airwaves continues to change. The practice of slogging it out in graveyard or fill-in shifts, and working at rural and community stations, to gain experience is no longer the only, or best, way to break into radio’s prime time.

A good voice, a knowledgeable brain and an ability to work under pressure remain essential but, in the changing landscape of Sydney radio, stations increasingly believe listeners will follow their favourite personalities, actors, comedians and journalists from non-radio mediums to the airwaves.


Of all the radio rookies, Cameron is perhaps the least experienced in a verbal medium but, paradoxically, probably the most qualified for her show. Armed with 30 years’ experience in newspaper journalism, 20 of those at the Herald, Cameron says her transition to one of the most sought-after and high-profile jobs in radio is “a thrilling challenge” but a shift she feels prepared for. An ear for a quote, a healthy connection with readers and years of locating good ideas and angles for stories is, she says, the basis of engaging people in any medium.

“The facts are that we wake up each day and there’s a certain amount of news which is out there,” Cameron says. “But what people love is the story or the interview or the headline or the picture that has that edge where you go, ‘Wow, that was worth buying the paper for,’ or turning the radio on for.

“This is seen as a journalist’s job. All the shifts on 702 have much more journalism in them than other shifts, for example, on other radio stations. So that’s why it’s not an impossible thing for someone like me to make the transition.”

Cameron says the technical skills - operating the studio desk while on air - will take time and she is yet to eliminate some newspaper terms. In meetings she calls the morning show’s four news stories between 8.30 and 9am “the front page”, while her colleagues term them “the first break” - and during her first run behind the mic, Cameron admits she became ravenous after eating breakfast so early.

“More often than not if you come up with a story idea or an angle that no one has got, and you add that ABC edge to it, or that Herald edge to it, which is, we tried that bit harder, we got a better story than the other guy, then people can say what they like but they can’t say you’re boring.”


In their small, strongly air-conditioned studio at MIX 106.5, Sonia Kruger and Todd McKenney are hoeing into each other with practised vigour.

“I often look at Todd and I think, from a media perspective, is Todd incredibly naive or a genius?” says Kruger, adjusting her diamante-encrusted radio mic.

“Genius,” McKenney says.

Friends for 30 years and prominent TV stars together on Seven’s Dancing With The Stars, Kruger and McKenney have signed a two-year contract with Mix 106.5 to co-host the breakfast show, replacing Sammy Power and Subby Valentine. After only a two-week taste of live radio at Mix 106.5 last July, the showman with the cutting wit and the down-to-earth “glamazon” and Today Tonight reporter admit their new career in the notoriously competitive breakfast slot has its scary elements.

“Things like having nothing to say, not being funny, having a dead show,” says McKenney, who will continue on Dancing With The Stars with Kruger. “It’s just the fear of the unknown. And Sonia and I, we can be loose cannons. It’s quite a dangerous decision to put the two of us together.”

The show has already proved a danger to its breakfast rivals at Nova and 2Day FM last week. Kruger secured a live telephone interview with Kylie Minogue last Monday while Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O at 2Day FM, and Ritchie and her Nova co-presenters Merrick Watts and Tim Rosso, aired interviews they had prerecorded with the pop queen.

While McKenney jokes that the impetus for moving into radio is “a house extension and putting a pool in”, he reckons the pair’s well-honed repartee and reputation as entertainers will attract listeners.

“I’d like them to see a different side to me and you,” he says, looking at Kruger. “The real Sonia and Todd, as well. We don’t want to be just the crazy cats; we want to put a show together that is music and lifestyle, that people our age, and our contemporaries, can take something away from.”

The pair have ambitious plans to broadcast from Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, the Melbourne Cup, major tennis finals, live outdoor music concerts along with, of course, their continued TV presence.

“There’s definitely a very strong visual crossover now, which may be why radio stations are now employing TV people to present,” Kruger says.


For Kate Ritchie, the biggest change with moving to breakfast radio is not the early starts, the pressure of ratings or the need to perfect her voice for a microphone. After 20 years portraying her Home And Away character, Sally Fletcher, Ritchie’s greatest challenge is letting her unscripted self go public in a live format.

“I’m writing my own scripts now and that’s a scary thought,” she says. ” … even though a lot of people felt as though they know me, and I do feel like I’ve grown up with the nation, there’s a whole side to me that people don’t know about. I’ve tried to protect that as much as I could so it is a challenge opening up and being comfortable with that.”

Ritchie admits to feeling a little daunted by entering the fiercely contested Sydney breakfast show arena but has wanted to work in radio for years. Her three-month stint with comedian Akmal Saleh on Nova’s drive show in 2006 and repeated guest appearances with her now full-time colleagues Watts and Ross not only confirmed her interest, it allowed her to polish an on-air persona.

“I know as a listener I wouldn’t want to be listening to someone that I felt wasn’t telling me the full story or didn’t trust me enough to open up,” she says. “I’m glad that I had those three months last year when that was shaken out of me a bit.

“When you’re in a studio all day out at Channel Seven in Epping you forget that people are tuning in all over the world. What I’m looking forward to is feeling like you’re having a connection with people right that minute.”