A microphone in a radio studio.

Today FM’s pledge to New Zealand and lovers of talk radio

OPINION: I fell in love with talk radio when I was 12.  I know I was 12 because I can remember the date - November 13, 1990.  It was on that day a mentally ill man, who society had forgotten, gunned down 13 innocent people in picturesque Aramoana.  

That night the country went to bed knowing that many people had died but that the gunman, David Gray, was still at large.

From memory, George Balani was the host on the radio.  Radio Northland, my local station, took his show from Christchurch after 9pm.  Unbeknown to my parents I used to ring the show often.  I didn’t want my friends to know I was calling talkback - it was too uncool - so I used a fake name.  In hindsight, there was a next-to-no chance my friends would be listening.  Nobody my age listened to Radio Northland.  My secret was safe.  Anyway, I couldn’t get through that night, the phones were jammed.

So I listened.  People were calling through - upset, angry, confused - some close to the scene letting us all know what they’d seen or heard from others.

Some people just wanted to know if the host had the answers.  It was hard to make sense of.  We had no point of reference, nothing like this had happened before.  What did it mean?

It felt like we were taking an unwanted leap into something we had not only just not planned for, but never actually thought about.  And then, there it was, punching us in the face, demanding some sort of response.  A rampage?  For no reason?  In New Zealand?

The audience - us - was wading through this uncertainty together.  Comforting.  Reassuring.  Helping one another to get through.

I had the same sense of unease about the future driving into work in the middle of the night on 9/11 and thinking if this didn’t start a nuclear war then I’m not sure what would.  I was half expecting an atomic glow to be peeking over the horizon by the time I got into the office.

The February 22nd 2011 Christchurch earthquake was another one of those moments for me.  Our generation had never experienced death on that scale before.  The stories we were hearing were heartbreaking.  How do you deal with the trauma of such an event, let alone think about rebuilding Christchurch for the future?  I mean, where do you start?

The day after the mosque attacks my wife and I were taking the ferry into downtown Auckland, and after seeing armed police at the terminal, I was struck by the feeling that perhaps we wouldn’t see the police unarmed again.  And, for the first time, I was OK with that given the evil that had occurred the day before.

And then probably the most unsettling period for me personally has been the last two years.  Entering the first COVID lockdown in March 2020 was scary.  Go home, stay at home.  Wow, that was new. 

Forgive me, I went around the long way, but I wanted to set the scene before introducing you to Today FM.  

You don’t need more anxiety.  

We don’t think you need us to stoke fear or create division.  

You’ve got enough of that already.  

Now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to shift focus onto our future.

We want to take all the amazing stuff talk radio is great at - like building communities and finding out answers to tough questions on your behalf - while emphasising the optimism and positivity we should have today in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We’re sick of being angry.  We’re over being scared.  The sun has come up each day despite COVID, and it will come up again tomorrow.

At Today FM, we don’t want to panic you just to get you to listen a bit longer or click another headline.  We won’t cover the sensational just because we know you’ll call up about it or share it on social media.  

These are old tricks, you worked them out long ago, they’re not clever and you see them for what they are.

We want to support the best ideas, regardless of political persuasion and hold politicians of all flavours to account.  We also want to be the innovators of this format and experiment with some of our programmes to discover new, interesting and improved ways of doing things.

And, that is - in essence - what Today FM is all about.  Or at least what we hope to be.  We want to reflect the lives of today’s Kiwis, a station for all New Zealanders from all backgrounds.  We want to have a role in finding the answers, not just bollocking those who are likely to blame.

New Zealand’s future is bright.  The answers are there, it just takes some digging and discussion to work it out.  But, I really believe, together - through listening and learning - we can.  In fact, it really feels like we already want to.

I hope you enjoy the station.  Thank you, in advance, for listening.  I would love any feedback you have, feel free to email me - dallas@todayfm.co.nz.