My 2RPH Story: Colin Stephenson

Fri, 24 November 2017

Colin Stephenson

“I was auditioned in Feb 1989 by then Station Manager, Jan Marchant, at North Sydney studios in the 2SM building on Blues Point Road. If memory serves me well, I think it was not much more involved than reading a word list. I may have been accepted simply because I pronounced the word ‘kilometre’ the correct way!

My first shift as a reader was on March 14, 1989 for a program called ‘Best of the Rest’, an evening program using any item from any newspaper which hadn’t already been aired that day. I nicknamed it ‘The Dregs’ and we often had to trawl through the rubbish bins to find enough material.

The announcer was a young guy who usually turned up about five minutes before going to air and, occasionally, not at all. He had a penchant for playing selections from ‘Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass’ from an overused LP.

When 2RPH moved to its studios in Illawarra Road, Marrickville some time during the 1990s, I was encouraged to learn how to operate the panel to become what we term an “announcer”. The training was thorough and well-structured and after “graduating”, I soon found myself doing the tape change Saturday afternoon shift, a fairly safe shift where the newly trained announcer honed their skills. Much can, and did, go wrong as old equipment can behave unpredictably. Cassette tapes can stretch and break; reel-to-reel spools can unspool and LP records usually have many scratches.

We also used “carts”, museum items which had pre-recorded messages and prone to malfunction. Following this baptism of fire, I was assigned a regular evening shift working with real people known as “readers”. This was rewarding work, although a little tiring, as it was a long evening finishing at 11:00pm on top of a long day at work.

In about 2000, 2RPH moved to its purpose-built facility in the St Helen’s Centre in Glebe Point Road. This was a very progressive step and raised the bar in terms of the station's professionalism. It was a much more practical as well as enjoyable environment in which to operate.

I continued to announce for the evening program, which by then was much more structured and renamed ‘Today in Focus’. With the advent of the digital age, the station could automate the pre-recorded programs from 8:30pm making it possible for the announcer to set and forget, and leave early. Absolute bliss for announcers!

The next big change was a decision in the mid-2000s to discontinue live broadcasting after 5:30pm, providing the opportunity for new programs to be introduced to broaden the range of its reading service. For me that meant an opportunity to record my own program, ‘Limelight’, an arts/theatre magazine format, which I’ve been recording since July 2006 and enjoy very much. There’s also been the odd book reading over the years.

Additionally, when I'm not travelling overseas, I announce for the Wednesday Newcastle Herald and the odd fill-in shift. In recent years, I've also had the privilege of assisting budding announcers with their training which is most gratifying work.

I love my involvement with such a wonderful organisation, greatly valued by its growing audience. I'm also grateful for all the friendships that I've developed over the years. The people here are quite amazing - always friendly and with fascinating backgrounds from a broad range of fields.

The social contact, alongside knowing you are doing something for the community, is incredibly makes all my time here well worth it.”

Catch Colin presenting Limelight on every second Wednesday at 5:30pm and Saturday at 9:30pm (repeat).