Interview with James ‘Monte’ Irvine, breakfast announcer at GEM FM and 2NZ
James “Monte” Irvine is a breakfast announcer for regional NSW radio stations GEM FM and 2NZ. He began his media career later on in life after working in retail, banking, and unions, before studying political science as a mature age student. He has been a radio announcer since 2017, starting with 2LVR. Monte will be “going pink” in this year’s National Breast Cancer Foundation drive, dying his hair and beard pink for a worthy cause. To check out his new look or to donate, go to the Monte and Mega Monte Box via his Facebook page here, or on his fundraiser page here.
How has regional radio been impacted by the recent lockdown?
It’s been hard, we have had to lock down the station and all my interviews are now being done via the phone. When you’re used to having regulars come into the studio and chat to you, it is a huge adjustment. It’s also been hard seeing the pubs and clubs suspend advertising and wonder if they will be able to open again. I’m still working from the studio each morning, but I did set up a home studio just in case. What I am missing most is being out with the community and the surrounding towns for different functions.
For a press release to stand out to you, what should it contain?
I look for dates, strong points that can be converted to questions so when conducting interviews, I can expect the person I’m talking to to know the answer. I also like a press release to have a relevant contact to arrange an interview if needed. I like the statements in a press release to have a reference, if need be, where information such as statistics have been sourced.
Last year you interviewed the Deputy PM Michael McCormack – how do you prepare for an interview?
That was a nerve wracking interview – Minister McCormack was actually acting Prime Minister as the Prime Minister was out of the country. Minister McCormack was in Inverell for the National Party Conference, so I had a list of his movements the day before around the area. Earlier that week I had talked to Barnaby Joyce and he talked about nuclear power and Australia considering creating nuclear weapons, so I had some great questions to ask the Acting PM. I had also received a press release on plans with water infrastructure, so I was able to research what plans the National Party had for this area.
Tell us a little about how you got to where you are today?
I came into radio later in my working life. I have only been on commercial radio for just under 3 years. I started off on community radio in Forbes NSW and found I had a passion for broadcasting and interviewing people. At the start of 2017 I started studying at AFTRS and would travel from Forbes to Sydney each week (4.5hrs each way) to Penrith. At the end of 2017, I found out about a position as the breakfast host on 2NZ, applied on Tuesday, and started the following Thursday.
How do you gather research for your stories?
I look through the local paper, follow a lot of local pages on Facebook of community organisations and events around the district. I like to also have interviews with people from special days like Red Nose Day, Jeans for Genes Day etc – it’s great to remind the community what these days represent.
I also study press releases and attempt to interview the relevant Ministers from federal or state or local government departments. Cultivating relationships with the local members and councillors really helps with background information or who to get information from.
How has the radio industry changed and is there anything new you’re excited to see grow or are concerned about losing?
Creating local content is the key for me. It’s easier for many networks to just pipe in shows from major centres, but having grown up in a small country town I see the huge role local radio plays in informing the community as to what’s going on. Understanding what is important to those who listen to you can’t be understated.
During the bushfires, we were the only commercial radio in the Inverell area and it really hammered home that we were needed to keep people up-to-date with accurate information and directions from the RFS. While social media can provide information, radio still broadcasts information in real time and as it happens, and as radio evolves to digital and other online platforms this is only going to strengthen our reach. But keep it local and relatable to your community. That to me is exciting.