‘There are difficult conversations in every workplace’ – Newstalk's Managing Editor on weekend schedule shake-up
Patricia Monahan announces new weekend schedule with new shows and presenters
Newstalk has announced a new weekend schedule with several new shows and presenters, and two departures.
Susan Keogh, Sinead Ryan, and John Fardy will host brand new shows while Clare McKenna also joins the new Sunday schedule for Alive and Kicking. Virgin Media Television’s Gavan Reilly, meanwhile, will take over On the Record and Business Editor Vincent Wall will be presenting a new show, Taking Stock.
Among the schedule casualties are Susan Cahill’s Talking Books and Henry McKean’s Under the Covers which both aired on Sunday nights. Henry will continue to work across weekday shows.
“There are difficult conversations in every workplace,” Newstalk Managing Editor Patricia Monahan tells Independent.ie of the departures. “Everyone’s an adult. Everyone knows the nature of the business. We make the decisions that are right for the station and everybody understands that.
“We’ve a very open, honest working relationship so obviously there are challenges running any business and we deal with them but that’s just par for the course.”
There are more additions and reshuffles than departures, however, with John Fardy hosting Screentime, a show about movies and TV on Saturday evenings, and Sinead Ryan presenting The Home Show, about homes and gardens, on Saturday mornings. Andrea Gilligan's Between the Lines is simply moving from Sunday mornings to Saturday nights.
The station’s flagship morning news programme, Newstalk Breakfast, will now run across seven days with Susan Keogh presenting on Saturday and Sunday mornings. A familiar voice to Newstalk listeners, Susan has filled in for various presenters across the weekday and weekend schedules, but this is the first time she will host her own show.
Susan is one of three new female presenters across the weekend along with Sinead Ryan on The Home Show and Clare McKenna on Alive and Kicking. Jess Kelly will continue to host Tech Talk and Andrea Gilligan also remains on the schedule.
Two years ago Newstalk was criticised for a lack of female voices across the schedules. At the time Sarah McInerney and her co-host Chris Donoghue were replaced by Ivan Yates and his show The Hard Shoulder leaving no female voices on the primetime weekday schedule. Two months later Dil Wickremasinghe’s weekend show was also cancelled.
However, Patricia Monahan says a lack of female representation on Newstalk “hasn’t been true for a long time now”, adding, “We’ve Ciara Kelly at lunchtime now playing a blinder and has a bigger audience than we ever had in that slot. And we’ve Andrea Gilligan on from 6am.
“Yes, there’s a good compliment of women on this schedule but they’re all there because they are capable of presenting the shows that we feel are right for our audience. The gender is irrelevant to me to be honest.
“It’s probably a natural evolution for the station as it is for every organisation in the country, that there would be more women apparent. That’s brilliant that that’s a by product, but they’re there on merit because they’re the right people to present these shows for our audience.”
The station weathered several upheavals in 2017. George Hook also stepped down from his weekday slot in September that year following controversial comments about rape which he made, and later apologised for, on his show. He returned in January last year in a weekend slot before retiring in December.
This year there was controversy over the fact that failed presidential candidate Peter Casey, who had expressed controversial views on Travellers during his campaign, took part in reports for The Pat Kenny Show. However, Ms Monahan insists that Newstalk does not “go looking for controversial people”.
“We look for opinionated people who have got something to say, who have got life experience,” she says. “[Our listeners] want insight, they want analysis, they want to hear different perspectives. They want their view to be challenged, they’re all at that formative stage of their life where they’re kind of going, ‘What do I really think about this?’.
“They want to be challenged, they want to be given views to help them form their opinion on things. It’s not controversy we’re after, it’s just stimulating, challenging discussion around topics and you get that uniquely on Newstalk. You don’t get that anywhere else.”
Speaking about Casey’s involvement in Pat Kenny’s Show, she said he was not the reporter but simply participated in three reports.
“During the presidential election our listeners engaged with those topics; they talked about them, they talked about what he said. Some of them agreed with him, some of them disagreed. From our point of view, as a national broadcaster, we felt there was merit in exploring those topics,” she says.
“Yes, we got a reaction. Some people agreed with him some people disagreed with him, some people thought he shouldn’t be on, some people thought he should be on, but I think it’s a healthier place for having had the conversation and we will continue to have conversations like that on Newstalk. That’s what we’re about.”
You can check out the full new weekend schedule, which kicks off on Saturday March 9, on Newstalk.com