Working in the West: Jenna Clarke on how Perth has taken to Triple M

jenna clarke

• “I have been shocked with the amount of feedback”

After Perth’s Hit Network 92.9 became Triple M Perth in December last year, they recruited assistant editor of The West Australian Jenna Clarke, Lord Mayor of Peth Basil Zempilas, and former AFL player Xavier Ellis to helm the breakfast show.

Mediaweek spoke to Jenna Clarke about how Perth has responded to having a Triple M station, balancing two jobs, and how Perth handled Covid. 

Launching Triple M Perth

Despite having only been on air for a few months, Clarke says that the response to the new station so far has been positive.

“It’s actually been really surprising, I have been shocked with the amount of feedback – all positive, interestingly enough – with the Triple M brand and how it’s fitting in Perth. Before the brekkie show started, people were loving the new music and loving a rock station here, like a legitimate rock station that plays everything from Garbage to old school Smashing Pumpkins, to all the back catalogue of Pearl Jam and stuff like that. Now that we’re coming into the winter months, people are absolutely frothing the footy.

“It’s been pretty cool, it’s been pleasantly surprising, and I’m really thrilled for the guys that set it all up.”

Working with the Mayor

With brekkie co-host Basil Zempilas also currently the Lord Mayor of Perth, the Triple M breakfast team is in a unique position. Clarke says that it’s been encouraging to see a politician engage with his constituents in the way Zempilas does while he’s on air.

“It’s really great having someone like Baz being the ambassador for Perth, because he is Mr. Perth, and he loves it. It’s been a lifelong dream of his to get involved in the council, so it’s great to see it realised. But it is actually really good, especially when you see horrible things happen like we saw with Cyclone Seroja up in the Gascoyne, he was able to give us the first word on when the Lord Mayor’s distress relief fund would kick off. We broke that on air. 

“The longer he is in his three-year tenure, the more interesting and fascinating the content he’ll bring to the show will be.”

Perth Radio Ratings

Xavier Ellis, Jenna Clarke, and Basil Zempilas

The West Australian

Basil Zempilas isn’t the only one taking on two roles, with Clarke herself also working as the assistant editor at The West Australian. She says that the two roles complement each other nicely.

“You start on a high and then you have to become serious Murphy Brown at the end of the day which is great, cause I think I’m – not to sound like one of those cliches – but I’m truly lucky and blessed. I’m in such a fortunate position where my bosses at Triple M and also at The West Australian are totally in agreement, and that allows me to do the two jobs. It’s very rare that people are blessed with one gig in media, let alone two. 

“I think they both complement each other, it’s good to start the day at 4am and be across all of the news locally, nationally, and internationally, and then take some of that back into the newsroom at the end of the day.”

Working in Perth

Having worked in several Australian markets, Clarke says that there are a few things that make the Perth media market such a unique place.

“Perth people enjoy hearing what’s going on in their backyard, and they like to know how national and international news will translate and impact their lives. If it’s happening in a suburb or a small town, they want to know about it, whereas I found in the bigger markets it’s probably a little bit more focused on your CBD and your major metro areas. 

“I feel in Perth, there is a real connection to all aspects of the state, being so big. Some of the regions have such unique personalities. People like to know what’s going on in Kalgoorlie, they like to know what’s going on in Broome, a lot of people love to get down south for the weekend. So I think that’s the one unique thing that the Perth media market has: it has to be local and it has to appeal to them and how it impacts their lives.”

Working Through Covid

With Perth mostly sitting on the other side of a closed Western Australian border, the city has escaped the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Perth has still faced two lockdowns, however – an initial five-day lockdown at the start of 2021, and then a three-day circuit breaker lockdown in April. 

Clarke says that giving people a place to talk about how they felt was an important part of getting through.

“When Covid really kicked off and our second lockdown happened, I jumped straight back on air with the afternoon crew just to update people about what was happening at press conferences and stuff like that. And then it became all about Covid. 

“It was really good to open the phone lines and to have people chat about how they’re feeling, and I think that’s what people needed during these unusual times. We would just throw the phone lines open and say ‘Covid. What do you think? Give us a call’ and we’d get a full bank of calls. People just want to talk, they just want to have a chat with voices that they know and trust.”

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