The gift of the (early morning) gab

14 December 2009

Written by: Lawrie Zion

It’s 4:02 on a Monday morning and Alan Baskin already finds himself at work. And after many years of industry experience as a radio journalist in Australia and abroad, Baskin wouldn’t have it any other way.

‘It’s fair to say that 99 per cent of people working in the media wouldn’t want to do anything else,’ he says.

Baskin’s fixation with the media, particularly radio, began at an early age. He was barely out of nappies when he had his first encounter with the old radio- distinctly recalling how he’d run behind it to figure out where the voices were coming from.

But as Baskin matured, so did his level of interest of a career in the media. After completing a journalism degree at New Zealand’s University of Technology he started working at a country radio station on the other side of the Tasman. It was here Baskin claims he received a ‘really good grounding’ on how to find to find news stories.

‘There were just two of us in the newsroom, running a breakfast shift from five am. We did a full national news service… [which involved] going out to police news conferences every morning, covering the courts and sometimes heading off to local government meetings at night.’

Apart from doing the news rounds, Baskin was also involved in a weekly current affairs program which involved working alongside other budding journalists- helping him make those all important networks with people already in the business.

‘Having contacts in the industry can be helpful when you are getting started’, he adds ‘but that’s true of any industry.’

Today Baskin’s work is hectic: including the usual four am starts, Monday to Friday in Melbourne’s Gold 104.3FM newsroom. Here he gathers, writes and reads the breakfast news for not only Gold FM, but for Cruise 1323 AM in Adelaide. But it was his experience at The Australian Radio Network (the home of Mix FM and Gold FM) which prepared him for work at some of Australia’s and Malaysia’s most popular commercial radio stations.

However it seems a career in the media industry has its downfalls. Firstly, he contends it’s not as glamorous as it seems.

‘In the beginning ….you can expect it to involve a lot of late night and early morning work and plenty of weekend shifts’, he says, ‘But you do get to meet and talk to the movers and shakers of the world, and you have the opportunity work anywhere in the world. It’s up to you.’

Baskin distinctly recalls of a time where he wasn’t as up to speed with news and current affairs. Having just started out in the industry, he failed to give the Azaria Chamberlain story enough prominence and also remembers ‘someone else’ in the industry who ignored a police message about a missing swimmer in 1967, only to hear another radio networks’ news bulletin later to discover it was Prime Minster Harold Holt. But I guess it’s only normal to make mistakes as a journalist, especially if you’re just starting out in the industry.

As for future aspirations, Baskin doesn’t plan on retiring just yet – despite his colleagues half-heartedly believing his career is ‘almost over’.

So what advice does a respected radio journalist in the industry provide to budding media students?

‘Journalism really isn’t rocket science,’ he adds. ‘I think [whilst at uni] students should concentrate on the practical side of journalism, while not ignoring the theory.’

‘We’re in the business of telling people what happened, where it happened, why it happened, when it happened, and who it happened to.

‘Work experience still seems to be the best way to gain extra knowledge outside your course.  Get in touch with your local media outlets – and don’t forget new media like Crikey.

‘Most successful journalists know a little bit about a lot of things, from politics, to sport, health and business.  Most of us don’t have the opportunity to specialise in terms of the stories we cover, but we should play to our strengths in the types of media we work for.  Think about the type of media you’re interested in and have the best talents for, and aim for employment there!’

Alan Baskin can be heard reading the morning news bulletins weekdays for Gold FM in Melbourne and Cruise AM in Adelaide.

Kara Irving is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can read more of her writing at her blog ‘The Pulse’.