An Interview with Harry Corro
By Ren Jia Qi (with additional reporting by Adam Ahmed Samdin and Sean Tan)
The voice and personality behind ONE FM’s ‘Weekends with Harry’ sits in polite attentiveness at one end of a three-speaker panel. Very occasionally, he adjusts his neat right-combed hair. On his blue polo tee hangs a tag which said plainly ‘Harry Corro / Panellist’.
At the other end is Ms Jo, a former BBC correspondent. She is addressing a question from the audience with regards to the topic of discussion ‘Challenges of Integration of Social Media with Radio’ and recounts an incident two decades or so ago about how one journalist was let into the correspondent team almost solely on the merit of having in possession a thick ring-file of phone numbers and mailbox addresses of celebrities and politicians.
‘The internet some time ago,’ she continues, addressing the room consisting mostly of teenagers, ‘had yet become the convention it is in recent times.’
‘People back then (she rolls her fingers over an invisible hill above the edge of the table) were not as accessible as they are today; you either knew them personally – well enough to know their phone line number, mailbox addresses or somebody who could relay your word – or they were strangers to you.’
‘Nowadays, I can just drop them an email via their website and they’ll get back to me by five working days. Same goes for social media – drop them a tweet, y’know…’ she moved an imaginary mouse and clicked twice on an imaginary button.
‘But most likely within a day or two, sometimes in the hour’, she added as an afterthought.
Mr. Corro agreed most enthusiastically, and quips in with his own insights to the entertainment industry on air and social media. Easily, Mr. Corro is able to create personal involvement through his recollections and present reflections, managing to craft his narrative in a way so nostalgic to everyone in the room as it is no doubt to himself.
That is no doubt the prowess of a single-minded devotion to the on-air industry. Beginning his career in Manila when he was eighteen, then spending nearly a decade in Singapore’s Power 98FM, he persistently hones his skill in international workshops and seminars – even till now, when he has his own show on ONE FM. Practice, practice and more practice allows him, after numerous mistakes (no doubt) and learning from numerous mistakes (definitely), to close the distance between himself and the audience.
But, and this I found out after spending some time in conversation, the greatest aspect of his present success lies not in technical flourishes but in his sincerity, his warmth, and his affable nature. It is that which exists and resonates within all humanity, and, I think, truly removes the boundaries of radio.
After nearly two decades of practice and a constant desire to connect, he is able to sit beside you, leaning over whichever shoulder of his in your direction and talk as if from and to an old acquaintance; he has much to share to the audience at-large as a radio DJ and to his students as a visiting lecturer.
A great part of talking, from connecting, from understanding, comes from listening. In recent times Mr. Corro is able to do this in a new and novel way, more fast-paced and dynamic than ever via a means unknown to the world when he was still a newscaster in Manila: through social media.
* * *
For radio, what are quality a good writing piece should possess?
HARRY CORRO: A good writing piece, writing for radio, is something that reflects not just the trends but the mind-set the way the target audience thinks about, because writing for radio is very specific: you write for a specific type of audience, and for a specific age market. So a good piece, when you write, is something that reflects the aspirations of your target audience.
It has to have, use, the language that is prevalent amongst the target audience, and it has to read well. I always say, you have to keep it short, and very conversational. That is radio for you because you don’t have time. Even if you write for on air purposes, you cannot spend an hour reading that script. Write as you speak, that will make a good script.
That’s not easy, because all of us are trained to write for print, use big words; in radio we chuck out the big words, and substitute them [for simpler words]. You’re not dumbing it down, you’re just using a language is easy; because radio is passive, right, if you don’t get it the first time around, unlike in newspaper where you can flip back the pages, in radio once you hear it and you didn’t understand it - it’s gone. You can’t call back and ask “What did you say again?” Right? So the way you write must very conversational. Simple but impactful.
You’re also a visiting lecturer (“How did you know?”; “I read your background”; “Oh, yes I am”) so what expectations and aspirations do you have for your students?
HARRY CORRO: Oh, as a visiting lecturer, I make - not just for my students but in life - I go by the motto ‘lower your expectations’, so that you don’t end up disappointed. If it happens that your students surprise you along the way then - perfect, wonderful. But y’know I also operate under the mind-set that I don’t know anything about you. I’m going to take this journey with you, and prove your worth, and really do things that you think will be to the best of your ability. And if it happens that it’s fantastic and it’s wonderful. But expect the unexpected is another thing. You have different students every semester. Some semester very strong, next semester you got to struggle with them. So expect the unexpected, and also learn to adjust.
What about for your weekend show?
HARRY CORRO: My weekend show ah… make it number one? Hahaha… If you’re in radio you’re in the business of rating as well. Basically you know is to have listeners tune in and be entertained. Because we live in a very fast-paced environment. A lot of people are stressed, they turn to radio to relax and possibly have a good time.
It’s something pertaining to your talk: do you think that something has been lost with the decline in traditional media because of social media’s rise?
HARRY CORRO: It really depends who you’re talking to, but by-and-large, for us radio - like I said a lot in my talk - we don’t treat social media as our enemy. In fact, like I said, social media is radio in itself extending into digital platform. Radio, I like to believe, is our very first social network. So that extending ourselves into social media is just us, really being us, because this day and age requires a lot of avenues for people to listen and check out radio content. I don’t think we’re losing out. Stations who fear social media are stations who are not doing it right. You need to welcome it - [quick to adapt] - yeah. Like some wise guy said, if you can’t beat them, join them. Be in it, y’know, thrive in it. Learn to use it to your advantage. And make sure you maximise your efforts in each of the social media platforms.
What are your aspirations and hopes as a teacher?
HARRY CORRO: I have a simple aspiration - it’s always to connect with my students, and give it my best all the time to really teach them, and enter them along the way. That’s always been my aspiration, and to do it effectively. I know when it’s effective when, after a semester, a student comes back to you and goes: “I remember you taught me this!”, “You said that...” They quote you, and that’s good enough, yeah.
* * *
Ren Jia Qi is a student of Victoria Junior College and is a member of the Victoria Press.