Chronicling COVID: Ryan Doyle, NewsTalk 1010

Toronto talk radio host learns importance of ‘just listening’

Radio has always been an important communication tool during major world events – from wars to natural disasters. Argyle’s Caroline De Silva spoke with NewsTalk 1010’s Ryan Doyle to discuss the role talk radio plays in times of crisis and change. Ryan is one half of the dynamic duo that hosts The Rush with Ryan Doyle and Jay Michaels from 4 to 7 p.m. daily in the Greater Toronto Area. To examine COVID-19 news trends and his approach to interviews, the mic is on Ryan for this interview.

Argyle: What role do you think talk radio plays in times of instability and change

Ryan Doyle: It’s been said that talk radio is of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is one of the purest forms of honest dialogue. I’ve reported during some challenging situations, including 911, the Toronto blackout and the ice storm. In addition to facts, opinions and expert insights, listeners need companionship and comfort, a familiar voice (ours) and a platform to express their thoughts and views. Despite all the technical improvements, it still boils down to sharing stories, talking about issues and communicating with an audience. Talk radio is the original social distancing: we can be in people’s homes without ever being there.

Argyle: How has COVID-19 changed the way you tell stories?
RD: I had to take a step back during COVID-19 and change my perspective on how to tell stories. Everyone is experiencing this pandemic in different ways. I still have my job and get to do what I love every day. Others are not as fortunate. When sharing information and my opinion, I need to report in a way that reflects what my listeners are going through. Many have lost their jobs or are in high-stress environments. Some are balancing work and families, while others are lonely and going through mental health challenges. It’s important to be mindful and empathetic. I like to talk, but I’ve really learned the importance of just listening.

Argyle: What do you think makes the talk radio audience unique among media?
RD: Our industry is very personality-driven. My audience knows my likes and dislikes, my habits and hobbies and details of my personal life – from milestones to everyday moments. I often consider our listeners an extension of my family. Every day, at the same time, on the same platform, we come together. We have dialogue, we discuss. This is unique to talk radio. In other media, often the format only allows for one-way dialogue. But we have the benefit of being able to talk and respond to our audience in real time.

Argyle: What’s been your best and worst moment as a reporter during COVID-19?
RD: The best moment so far was getting a text message from a 72-year old lady in a retirement home. She said our show has been a lifeline to her. Due to her health, she is apart from family and friends. It really means a lot knowing that we can be there for people and that we make a difference in their days.

My worst moment also comes from audience stories: specifically, hearing about small businesses that have shut their doors permanently due to COVID. Sometimes, I’ve interviewed a business owner about how they have had to pivot and adjust their business model, only to find out a few weeks later that they had to close. It’s heart-wrenching and I often internalize it. With talk radio, you can’t just walk away from the mic. The stories stay with you.

Argyle: How has the way you work with communication professionals changed?
RD: Lately the signal-to-noise ratio has been higher. I’m seeing more email subject lines and pitches trying to relate their angles and opportunities to COVID. There was a time and place for that, but now, if I see anything with COVID in the headline, I swipe and delete. The landscape has changed from when COVID began and after 10 weeks, I want to focus on positive stories. My listeners want uplifting news focused on getting Canadians back on their feet. If you’re reaching out to me, how are you going to relate to me? Tell me something that matters – to me and to my audience.

Argyle: What is helping you get through this strange time?
RD: Walking. I wasn’t much of a walker in the past, but with gyms closed, walking has been my new outlet. Every day, before going on air, I take a two-hour walk. I find off-the-beaten-path trails and explore my Toronto neighbourhood. It’s a great opportunity to collect my thoughts. Most people can distance themselves from talking about COVID. I can’t.

For me, COVID is part of my every day. As long as it’s here, I’ll keep reporting, and keep sharing news, stories and opinions from the experts.

About Argyle’s ‘Chronicling COVID’ series
Journalism is essential during a crisis – and harder than ever during a pandemic when a reporter can’t get close to their sources. That’s why Argyle is turning the tables by interviewing prominent Canadian journalists. We aim to learn how they are coping, staying on top of the 24/7 news cycle, delivering fresh angles and insight, and engaging with communicators.

About the Author

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