Open Mic Grand Jury Spotlight: Helen Athena Shaw

New York Festivals Grand Jury are some of the best and brightest in the radio industry and the brilliant creative minds who judge the 2019 NYF Radio Awards. These award-winning directors, producers, journalists, writers, actors, creative directors, composers, on-air talent, and programming executives are all actively involved in creating today’s innovative radio content.

Open Mic Spotlight spends a few minutes each week with NYF’s respected Grand Jury members and each Spotlight interview shares the insights of these esteemed content creators from the wonderful world of radio.

This week we shine the spotlight on Helen Shaw, a digital communications strategist and documentary maker. Helen is the founder and CEO of  Ireland’s award-winning digital media agency, Athena Media. She is a former editor with the BBC and was previously at MD Radio, RTÉ, Ireland’s public broadcaster.

Helen’s work has earned numerous awards throughout the years, in NYF’s Radio Awards alone, she’s garnered a Gold Trophy in 2018 for Vocal Chords in Conversation with Peggy Seeger and earned the prestigious 2016 NYF Radio Awards Grand Award for the documentary “The Kinder Letters” a glimpse of post-war Europe through the microcosm of a children’s book. In 2017, she was honored with a Gold Trophy for Vocal Chords: Paul Brady and Iarla Ó Lionáird in Conversation, the Silver Trophy for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and a Finalist Award for Wilde Stories.

Helen Shaw, Athena Media accepting the NYF Radio Awards Grand Trophy

A graduate of UCD (B.A. English Literature & History and a Masters Degree in Modern History) she holds a post graduate degree in Journalism from DCU. Helen was a fellow at Harvard University’s international affairs Weatherhead Centre and has written and presented extensively on digital communications, public media and the media futures.

Vocal Chords host larla Ó Lionáird meets folk singer Peggy Seeger at her home in Oxford

New York Festivals: What qualities are most important in award-winning work?

Helen Athena Shaw: I listen for compelling stories told with originality and a commitment to great sound. I always want the openings of show to make me sit up and pay attention, to say ‘give me your time’ and to intrigue me. I want presenters to sound as if they understand their story and how to use their voice with impact. I want to be surprised. I want to hear someone who knows how to craft radio but also want to reinvent it at times.

New York Festivals: How does your experience within the industry help you throughout the judging process?

Helen Athena Shaw: I think it is invaluable that the judges are radio and audio crafts people. I know I want to be fair to the programme maker when I listen as I know how difficult it can be to make any story come alive but because I make radio and podcasts I can really appreciate craft and production style and I know how it has been put together and what it took to bring it together.

Helen Shaw with Tony O’Herlihy at the 2016 NYF Radio Awards


New York Festivals: How do you think content creators will change the way they tell stories in the future?

Helen Athena Shaw: I think we’re all still drawn by compelling experiences and journeys but what is changing is the transmedia nature of audio content creation. In one of our shows we film the audio recording and while the show is radio and a series of podcast it also has a channel video of performances and short cuts. We create websites in tandem with the production and use video and photography to layer the ways in which we tell an audio story. it is still audio only on air – on radio – but the listener can also experience elements of the show visually and have a sense of ‘being there’. We don’t change the premise that the pictures are betters on radio – but we augment and enhance the experience by providing layers – so someone can go further – go deeper – and get more involved in the production.

New York Festivals: What project meant the most to you in your own history?

Helen Athena Shaw: Without doubt launching a national radio station! As Head of RTÉ Radio in 1999 I launched the final full fm channel in Ireland RTÉ Lyric fm, the music and arts channel in Ireland. That’s a once in a lifetime experience and I’m extremely happy that RTÉ lyric fm is thriving today and producing great radio.

New York Festivals: What advice do you have for young people just beginning a career in the industry?

Helen Athena Shaw: I think it is a changed and challenging media landscape. The obvious advice is match your creative skills with good technical skills, learn how to edit well, keep on top of technology, embrace change and keep learning.

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Awards, please visit: or to enter visit: HERE.

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