Using his voice: How Macquarie media graduate is living the dream on regional radio | The Lighthouse

Using his voice: How Macquarie media graduate is living the dream on regional radio

Nicola Conville
A childhood love of radio led Alex James to pursue a Bachelor of Media. He now works as a presenter at ABC Central West where he is proud to represent as a young transgender person in regional New South Wales.

Growing up on a property in country New South Wales, Alex James listened to the radio while on the farm, which fostered a passion and led him to a Bachelor of Media and Communications at Macquarie.

Alex James ABC Orange

Behind the microphone: Breakfast radio presenter Alex James says regional radio is all about creating conversations for local audiences and giving them a voice as well. Image supplied by Alex James.

“When you’re young you have all kinds of dreams. I was tossing up between a career in radio or stage production and management, then I went on a friend’s radio show when I was 17 and it was so much fun – it solidified that choice for me,” Alex says.

The Bachelor of Media at Macquarie offered a major in radio, which included units in sound design and technology, which Alex says gave him the opportunity to acquire a broad range of skills.

While studying for his degree, Alex volunteered at local community radio stations, which not only gave him real world work experience, but led to his first paid role.

“I was volunteering with 2SER because it was located inside Macquarie University and my lecturer, Dr Helen Wolfenden, gave me so much support. I would take my radio interviews and shows to her and she would help me go through them and give me really honest feedback. She was so generous with her time,” Alex says.

“Initially I wasn't sure how I was going to crack into the industry. I wasn't sure if there was a place for me. But the conversations with staff and experiences I had during that course showed me where I could go and revealed this really deep passion I have for radio.

“While I was volunteering with 2SER, I managed to land a full-time presenting role, which at the time was the only paid full-time presenting role at the station. So, my time volunteering there meant I was able to get access to my first real radio job, which was exciting.”

Landing the dream job

Alex worked at a few different radio stations in Sydney and regional New South Wales before taking up his current role as a breakfast presenter at ABC Central West in February 2022.

“During COVID-19, I had this epiphany when I went to the grocery store. I really wanted face-to-face conversations with people, because while I continued doing my radio role throughout lockdown, I was only doing conversations over the phone. And that was the gateway for me to start looking at moving back out to regional New South Wales,” he says.

As a young person living and working in the country, and also as a transgender person currently transitioning, Alex says representation has been a driving force for him.

“Being able to represent our regional community, but also being a transgender person is an enormous privilege and a big responsibility. We're in a changing landscape and I'm very lucky to stand on the shoulders of the transgender and LGBTQIA+ people who have come before me,” he says.

“I'm very grateful for the opportunities I've been given and the support I've had throughout my career. It's a very big thing to take a risk on a young person on an ABC radio show, but I've been very well supported.”

The ABC breakfast show runs from 6.30am until 10am and covers a range of regional issues that are specific to the Central West and includes interviews, talkback and live music.

“I am constantly engaging with people who have the most amazing stories, whether that be from a talent perspective of someone at the local university here who has broken new ground, or someone who has set up a community pantry for people to access,” Alex says.

“It's all about creating conversations for the local audience, giving them a voice and reflecting their identity back to them as well.”

My Macquarie Life

Degree: Bachelor of Media majoring in Radio, Digital Audio and Broadcast Production. Graduated 2021.
My job: Presenter, ABC Central West Breakfast show.

Three ways MQ supported me to be job-ready:

1. Practical skills. “I think the actual technical learning and having a radio studio within the university was incredibly important.”

2. Industry contacts. “The academic staff I worked with had lots of experience and contacts, and they were honest with us about the industry. Those are some of the things that have helped me be job-ready without a doubt.”

3. Work experience. “While at Macquarie I volunteered with a few different community radio stations - 2SER, which is affiliated with Macquarie, UTS and also 2RRR in Ryde.”

Advice to prospective students:
“It's a lot easier to be in this industry if you are passionate about it. If you are trying to get into this industry for the right reasons. It'll be frustrating at times, but it will also be the biggest gift. Working in radio has changed my life for the better. And I think that if I wasn't so passionate about it, it would be a lot harder.”


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