10 – Just a Girl by Katherine Boyle

10 – Just a Girl by Katherine Boyle

Iain and I went to talk to students at the St Albans Girls school this week, and because they’re…ahm…girls, we thought it might be an idea if I let them have the inside track on what it’s like being a woman working in media.

These young women listened to our guff

I was a bit uncomfortable about that, if I’m honest. Who am I to speak for the experience of a whole gender? Sure, I’ve had a bit of a bumpy ride over the years, but I’m not sure how much of that’s related to being the proud owner of a cracking set of ovaries. Maybe I’m just a div*.

That said, it turns out I have been the recipient of a fair bit of bullshit over the years, stuff my male colleagues won’t have encountered. I’m not just talking about hiding in the stationery cupboard to avoid a particularly ‘enthusiastic’ co-worker – although I have been there, done that and sadly, there was no t-shirt for my trouble.

No, the bovine excretia to which I’m mostly referring came in the form of well-meaning ‘pearls of wisdom’ such as these…

 

“What you need to understand is, statistically**, women don’t like listening to other women.”

“The trouble is, Kath, clever women can sound a bit…stuck up.”

“It’s women’s voices, you see, they can so easily become shrill when pressing a point.”

And my personal favourite…

“What you need to remember is that the average listener has trouble distinguishing one woman’s voice from another.”

Yes.

Really.

Of course this is all utter balls. But this was the stuff I was getting from various sources during the late 90s and well into the 00s from people (not just men) who thought they were doing a newbie a favour. And if my experience is anything like that of other women trying to make it in radio, where surely your voice and the contents of your head are more important than your genitalia, no wonder there’s been a big push to get more women on-air – they’ve been benevolently talked into support roles for years!

Actual picture sent to me by a listener who thought I needed to know my place.

Sad to say, I swallowed the guidance offered so breezily and spent far too long struggling to be acceptable despite the terribly off-putting matter of my womanhood until I got some really great advice from two broadcasters I really rate, and get this…they were (and still are) both men!***

They convinced me that the hang-up I’d been labouring under wasn’t mine, or even the listener’s. Your audience responds to authenticity, regardless of whether it comes in a package with a packet or a hoo-ha.

 

Which is why I now know that rather than nodding, smiling and trying to overcome a barrier that wasn’t there, I should have responded to the helpful hints offered back then with the following ten little words…

Jane Garvey

Fi Glover

Jenni Murray

Victoria Derbyshire

Shelagh Fogarty

 

 

 

*Undeniable, I’m afraid

**I was never shown these statistics.

*** One was the fantastically free and creative Ronnie Barbour, the other was the bloke who owns this website…although I’ve totally forgotten his name. Ewan? Owen? Anyway THAT guy.

 

8 – What’s Your Poison? by Katherine Boyle

I think of our regulars the same way a pub landlord thinks of his.

It’s good to see them a couple of times a week, but if they’re popping up every day it becomes a worry.

For some people, a quick chat with a presenter they consider a friend or an adversary is enough. We love hearing from them just as much as they enjoy taking part in the show. They may call every other day, but they don’t expect to get a call back and certainly don’t feel personally slighted if they don’t get on-air every time. In our broadcasting boozer, these are the punters who are happy you remember their name and what they ordered last time, but don’t leave a tankard behind the bar.

Who's this then?

Who’s this then?

As well as putting off passing trade, a rather unattractive sense of entitlement develops in callers who are used too often. It starts out as familiarity but it can get annoying, rude and quite nasty if left unchecked. Therefore I would suggest a caller who does any of the following things should set off alarm bells:

  • They recognise the producer/ assistant’s voice, and assume you recognise theirs.

 

  • They tell you a long and involved story before saying they don’t want to go on-air – total waste of time, you’ll watch caller after caller give up while you’re listening to their monologue.

 

  • They ask what you’re talking about today – they’re not listening, they just want to get on-air.

 

  • They end the conversation by asking whether and when you’re going to call them back – they’ll then call you several times to ask why you haven’t done so and may suggest there’s some sort of conspiracy against them.

 

I am not for one second suggesting the production team responds to any of the above with rudeness, but you may need to be quite firm – especially in the case of scenario number 4. The good news is that most of this unpleasantness can be averted if you make things clear from the outset.

Oh for Heaven's sake! Just tell him you've got his number and MIGHT call him back.

Oh for Heaven’s sake! Just tell him you’ve got his number and MIGHT call him back.

Now, it’s totally up to you whether you take this advice, but it’s taken me several years and a stalker to hone this technique and I think it’s pretty failsafe…

  • Always check the caller’s name, even if you think you know who it is. You’ll avoid scenario number 1.

 

  • Your second question should be “What do you want to say to (presenter’s name) today?” It makes it clear that you’re not there for a private chat – you don’t want to be anyone’s favourite, trust me. Point 2, sorted.

 

  • Don’t get involved in situation 3. It takes too much time and they’ll add nothing to the show.

 

  • Never tell anyone you’re going to call them back unless you want them to put their phone down so you can call them straight away. So much can happen during a phone-in show – a change of tack or a complete change of subject – that you just can’t commit to it. Welching on the deal just isn’t fair to the poor person psyching themselves up, waiting for the phone to ring. It can also leave you trapped in a never ending and increasingly sweary spiral of the madness that is number 4 FOR THE REST OF YOUR NATURAL LIFE.*

 

No! Be firm.

No! Be firm.

So, back to the nice regulars in our metaphorical pub – they’ll still be standing patiently in your sonic snug with no tenner waving or finger drumming – treat them right and they’ll keep your talkshow tills ringing**until closing time.***

You get to know them, they get to know you, and you can play wonderful radio games together, like this one. Time gentlemen please**** for one of my favourite bits from this week. I give you Dave Luton, Dennis in Dunstable and Hey Matty Bum Bum.

 

 

 

 

*OK, maybe a little dramatic, but you catch my drift.

 

**I know, this is getting silly now, I’ll stop.

 

***I didn’t stop. I will now.

 

****I promise that’s the last one.