New year, new role for SCA’s James Lake


After five years presenting Melbourne Breakfast news on Triple M and The Fox, James Lake has taken on a new challenge, as SCA’s National News Operations Manager.

He’s gone from reading the news to looking for opportunities to unlock new revenue around it, as well as ways of optimising SCA’s on-demand news services.

“I’ve joked how the role change means a lot less time in NewsBoss and a lot more time in Excel,” James tells Radio Today.

“But it’s not a joke, that’s exactly what it is.”

Life has come full circle for the father-of-two (pictured above with wife Jaime) who grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Reservoir, then worked in regional radio before returning to the city.

As a child, James says he enjoyed a regular suburban family life.

“Perhaps a career in radio was my destiny though. The radio was always on 3MP in the car – and at home or away on family camping holidays, it was the footy or cricket on 3LO.”

“I remember receiving my own FM clock radio on my sixth birthday, and the excitement of being able to pick my own station to wake up to.”

His passion for news came from watching the revered Brian Naylor on Channel Nine every night.

“As a kid I thought it was fascinating that we all tuned in at the end of the day to listen to one person tell us everything we needed to know. Brian even had his own jingle suggesting as much!”

James fell into radio via community television.

At 17, he sent a demo tape to RMITV/Channel 31, answering an ad in a student newspaper for new presenters for a youth TV show called Pluck.

“After getting called in to give it a crack, I got involved with another program called SYN TV.

A simulcast drive show on Channel 31 and SYN FM, James says it was revolutionary for its time.

“That’s where I teamed up with my best-man-to-be Dom Evans (pictured above with James); former Fox FM  head of production turned founder of Earsay.”

James landed his first paid radio job pushing buttons at Triple M for the likes of Wil & Lehmo, Peter Berner and Spoonman.

His first news presenting gig was at 2AY in Albury.

Austereo News Director Steve Speziale told me to go bush to get some flying hours on air.”

2AY Program Director Steve Block gave me a crack (or caved in to the young guy who didn’t stop hassling him about the job).”

After a short stint in Colac working at Mixx and 3CS, James made a daring cold call to Nikole Gunn, who was then the News Director at Nova 100.

Through that came the opportunity for James to return home to Melbourne in 2010.

“Gunners tells the story that she only hired me because I was a Carlton supporter,” James laughs.

After two years at DMG Radio, James’ position was made redundant.

“Thankfully I’d kept in touch with many colleagues from my start at Triple M – and the same day I walked out of Nova, I walked back into SCA,” he says.

“The rest is history.”

James says working in radio has handed him more opportunities than he ever could have ever imagined.

He’s been to both the London and Rio Olympics, as well as the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

“Working at events like this teaches you to push the limits of your technology and storytelling,” he says.

Another major highlight has been sharing a studio with the likes of Eddie McGuire and Fifi Box.

“I marvel at the way both can command their audience and craft the story of the day to suit the moment.”

“My time presenting news for Triple M’s Hot Breakfast was the most pivotal as a learning point.”

James says the biggest lesson Eddie McGuire taught him was to think deeply about how what he said on air, and how it might make the audience feel.

“This is something I’m now passionate about. I believe that we can always be more mindful and considerate of how we’re making the audience feel by what we broadcast.”

“We focus a lot on trying to make people feel good. But we can neglect to recognise that what we say might inadvertently make someone feel rubbish.”

Always ahead of the game when it comes to technology, James believes it’s better we embrace Artificial Intelligence, rather than feel scared of it.

“AI is incredible,” he says. “If you’re not already playing with it – at least to get an understanding – you’re already at the back of the pack.”

What part does James see AI playing the future of radio news?

James says “I asked Google Gemini to help me answer this question for you. Here’s what it reckons:”

News gathering and reporting: AI can analyse vast amounts of data from diverse sources, identifying emerging stories and trends and summarizing them for efficient reporting.

Personalisation: AI can personalise news for individual listeners based on their interests to make news consumption more engaging and relevant.

Automated content generation: While not yet at the level of human quality, AI could generate short news reports or updates, particularly for local or routine stories. This would free up resources for more complex content.

“So even AI admits its content generation isn’t at the level of human quality,” James observes.

“I don’t think it will fully replace the role of journalists for producing and presenting in the final product for a long time to come.”

But James believes AI should still be considered a significant and important tool to use in content creation – just the same as Google searches or social media platforms are for accessing new information.

In terms of his own career, James is taking things one week at a time.

“Something I’ve learned over the years is that radio makes its own plans for you, not the other way around.”

James says it’s easy at times to get caught up thinking too far ahead, instead of paying attention to what’s right there in front of us.

“My immediate goal is to keep the ship on course with my new role, not career into rocks and sink.”

“Longer term, it is to keep an open mind about whatever opportunities present themselves next – and to have a good crack.”

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Tim B
21 Feb 2024 - 7:16 pm

James is a genuinely lovely guy and was always a pleasure to work with. Well earned!


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