This much I know: Jonathan Healy, radio presenter

In live radio, you are only ever as good as your last show.

I’m a pretty resilient person, but then you have to be in order to survive in the media. 

If I was to walk out after my programme and get run over by a bus, I’m well aware that someone else’s ass would be in my seat tomorrow.

Radio is my first love. The radio was always on in our house. The theme tune to the Gay Byrne Hour was as familiar to me as the intros to children’s afternoon television shows.

It is an intimate medium and, starting out, the best advice I ever received was to always imagine that I was communicating with a single listener.

I come from a typical Irish family. I grew up in Blackrock in Cork. My father was the manager of Penneys and my mother was a homemaker. I’m the youngest of six, which meant I was fairly much bully proof. There was nothing that could be said or done to me in the school environment, which had not already been said or done to me at home.

I was a bit of a nerdy kid. In my 40th year I can admit that; I always wanted to achieve the best I could academically.

I have very strong memories of the first news story that struck a chord with me. It was when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. I remember seeing it on John Craven’s Newsround and thinking: ‘Wow this is news. This is a tragedy, an actual breaking news story.’ That opened up the notion of journalism as a career although I went on to study law in UCC. 

When I discovered they had a college radio station, and there were girls there, I signed up immediately. Once I finished my degree, rather than practising law, I went to work for 96FM. Before joining Newstalk I worked on FM104 as a news reader and then a news editor, and as a senior correspondent with Sky.

It would be interesting if there was some method of measuring the amount of adrenaline used in producing a live radio show. The most difficult thing about live radio is having to cover such a wide variety of topics and having to work under such pressure. It leaves you feeling like a Jack of all trades and a master of none. 

You always have to be on your toes, waiting for someone else, in the case of a politician at any rate, to make a mistake so you can pounce on it and use it as an opportunity.

There are some very basic skills that can get you out of a hole, of course. Instead of asking a convoluted, although factually correct question, sometimes it is more effective to simply say something like ‘isn’t this really a resigning matter?’ Or ‘isn’t this embarrassing for you and everyone around you?’

I live in Blarney with my wife Colette. We met in college and have three children: Jack is eight, Matthew is five, and Aoife, our toddler terrorist, is two.

I think I’m a very fortunate person. I’m in a job which I enjoy, working with a great team, and doing something I love. 

A lot of the time it is simply giving my opinion. And I’ve been given a distinctive voice, which helps in this line of work — I get a kick out of it when taxi drivers recognise it.

Having said that… if I won the Lotto tomorrow, I might just try my hand at becoming a real DJ — a music DJ.

My idea of bliss is sitting in the garden on a beautiful summer’s evening, with my wife and kids.

My idea of misery is looking at a programme running order with six or seven holes in it half an hour before we go on air.

I’m more of a lark than an owl and like to be asleep by 10.30pm.

My motto is that no matter how bad things are for you right now, there is always some poor sod who is worse off than you.

If I could be someone else for a day, I’d experience what it was like to be alive during the period leading up to the start of the First World War in France. 

It has always fascinated me how those politicians failed their people to such a degree. And, I’d love to witness 1916 in Ireland.

I’d like to think there is some kind of afterlife. I lost my father when I was only 20 years old and sometimes imagine that he is able to monitor and observe us.

So far, the biggest lesson in life has been to look after those who are closest to you. When push comes to shove, they are the ones who will help and guide you when things get tough. And, don’t worry so much.

That’s probably the best advice of all.

  • Jonathan Healy is the new presenter of The Sunday Show on Newstalk 106-108fm, every Sunday from 10am-12pm.


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