At the Student Radio Awards last night (6th November 2014) Calum Macdonald won gold in the best male presenter category. I’m absolutely delighted on two fronts.
First, he’s from my old student station Fresh Air – which hasn’t won anything for absolutely ages!
But more importantly, his entry truly was exceptional. Why? Because he is the presenter of a news programme.
Breaking the mould
I think this is an important moment for the student radio awards and for the best presenter categories. 99% of all entries to these categories are similar in nature, and too often emulate successful entertainment radio formats, often to slightly boring effect.
You can hear the ‘advice on how to create a good demo’ shining though in many entries – but that makes them predictable. You have the standard hilarious anecdote, talking up to the vocal, a crunch and roll, back-announcing tracks and so on.
But Calum’s entry is completely different. It focuses on his presentation of news content. It shows that you don’t have to sound like Greg James to win this award (who in fact was a judge for this category). It’s entirely refreshing that a news presenter was spotted for his considerable talent and that engagement with politics and current affairs got him a win in a category normally reserved for music/entertainment presenters.
And, before you say “shouldn’t this entry be in the best journalistic category…?” – no. This entry (you can listen below) does not focus on the news content itself but on Calum’s presentation of it. And he shows us that he can present live radio, is adept at interviews, is comfortable presenting OBs in front of a live audience, has fantastic energy and authority presenting the headlines, and can have fun along with it.
News is cool
I always feel like broadcast journalism doesn’t get enough of a look in when it comes to student radio events. And that’s probably a reflection of the fact that so many people in student radio really just want a job on the music side at Radio 1.
Don’t get me wrong – there are some remarkably good student radio news teams. I chaired the best journalistic category this year and the quality was staggeringly good.
But the wider focus always seems to fall back to ‘showbiz’, which is so often seen as the thing to aspire too.
Perhaps a few people starting out in radio will hear Calum’s entry and be inspired to think about current affairs rather than popstars – because serious radio journalism absolutely is cool. It really means something. It has a direct and sometimes significant impact of people’s lives.
ps. Keep an eye on Calum – he’s going places.