Years and years ago, long before my radio show ever won the ratings, ABC colleague and mentor – now Channel Nine newsreader – Andrew Lofthouse whispered in my ear that the only way to be successful was to be yourself. This came at a time when I had taken over the ABC breakfast show from Peter Dick – we’re talking 1997 or thereabouts – and it’s fair to say I was feeling the pressure to replicate the style of my predecessor. Since then, I’ve relaxed and become more confident in my ability to bring to the table what I believe makes for essential morning radio listening – new, useful, interesting, and local information with a laugh or two and some great tunes.
In 2013, there’s no doubt in my mind that
what you hear on my breakfast radio show is
100 per cent me. Or is it only 98 per cent?
Because, truth be told, there are two things I say
differently on air and off air.
The first one exploded when I raised it on
Facebook recently. You can read some of the
responses below and it is this: though I will use
the word if we’re chatting casually in the street,
I still avoid saying ‘kids’ when I’m on the radio
(except the odd, unscripted moment where it
can and does slip out).
The reason being, we used to get a complaint
every time: "Kids are baby goats!"
In recent times, I haven't heard anyone
saying that (about goats) and I've noticed both
the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader use
the word ‘kids’.
Is it time I relaxed my stance and gave myself
permission to say
‘kids’ on air?
Here are some
of the Facebook
replies, which have
left me thinking, on
balance, it is probably
better to continue using
the more formal (and respectful)
term, but what do you think?
In favour of ‘kids’ is Tony Bellette: “PC
nonsense has to disappear. When I was a young
bloke, announcers were trained to sound
British and it was great to hear the Australian
sounding voices on radio when they were given
permission to be themselves.”
Chris Williams agrees: “I have always used
‘kids’ as a term of endearment even in my
teaching career. No one ever complained to me!”
Writes Stephen Mackie: “To complain about it
is ridiculous. That falls into the `sort of nonsense
up with which I will not put’ category.”
From Gold Coast singer Vivica: “Just be
yourself and say what you want. People will not
stop listening because of one word millions of
And from Dan Beeston: “If you're letting
the sort of person who's that pedantic about
language govern your show you're pandering to
the wrong audience.”
But, I don’t see this as pedantry. For me, it’s
about using respectful language. Having said
that, ‘kids’ is more affectionate. See how I swing
from one side to the other?
Ann Lacey remembers: “My grandmother
would say that about kids and goats. I have
worked in the child care profession
for over 36 years and I just can't
say kids. I always say children. If
you do say it I hope it’s only rarely.”
Says Andrew Mason: “Some of us
have to maintain standards Spencer!”
And Sheila Wilson asks: “Why can't
we call children CHILDREN? I know...
because everything has to be shortened to suit
our laziness. Good on you Spencer. Children are
Leanne McKnoulty reminds us what’s really
important here: “I'm always perplexed by this
conundrum. My conclusion - what matters most
is our attitude toward each young person not the
Finally, from former Triple M breakfast host
Sammy Power: “There are a lot of worse words
you could say!”
I mentioned there were two things I say
differently on air and off.
The other one isn’t just me. It’s an old radio
convention still applied by the ABC (and some
other stations, I’m sure) and that is to give the
time as “16 minutes to four” instead of 3.44.
At home, I say 1.25 or 2.55. On air, that
becomes 25-past-one or five-to-three.
Send me an email. I’d love your feedback on
‘kids’ versus children and how you would like
radio announcers to tell the time.