By Sarah Patterson
Though she didn’t know it at the time, there were clear signs from childhood that Jennie Lenman was destined for a media career.
The host of SA Today on 5MU tells Radio Today “As my older sister Tess and I learned to talk and articulate our thoughts, Dad set us up with a microphone so that we could share our barely-coherent jokes and stream of consciousness musings.”
Sharing a fence with a small radio station in the Adelaide suburb of Kensington Park during the nineties also captured Jennie’s imagination.
“I had a wonderful time meeting the crew at an open day party. I also used to record my own dummy shows on cassette tapes, mimicking the smooth voices of the DJs I heard on SA-FM. My mum used to blast Carole King, Simon & Garfunkel and the Beatles through the house, which also instilled in me a love of music.”
By the age of 14, Jennie was contemplating journalism as one of many career options.
Six months into a Bachelor degree in Journalism at the University of South Australia, she got cold feet and – concerned about being pigeon-holed into a specific career – she switched to a broader Arts degree, sub-majoring in Drama.
“Retrospectively it would have been completely appropriate to finish the original degree but I’m glad I changed because my program director Collette Snowden invited me to join her for an ABC 891 interview to share my ideas as a ‘youth’ about the alco-pop tax debate. What an absolute buzz it was to be in a live studio!”
On completion of her degree, Jennie went on a six month exchange in Canada then – feeling a bit lost – she benefitted from the guidance of TV and radio journalist Jane Doyle, who helped her arrange a three-month Internship on the 5AA Brekky show with Pilko, Keith Conlon and their producer Tom Menzies.
While paying the bills by working some gigs in office administration part-time, Jennie completed a 12-week course at community station Radio Adelaide, co-created a youth arts show with some new radio buddies and eventually landed a paid position on the breakfast show as executive producer.
“Towards the end of my six years there, I became the host of the show and brushed up my presenting skills at the Australian Radio School with the very kind and talented Sean Craig Murphy.”
Jennie worked as a casual producer on ABC Radio Adelaide and as an audio editor on the ABC’s Parenting Spectrum podcast with accomplished radio all-rounder Fiona Churchman.
She also took on a newsreading role for ARN stations Mix and Cruise to cover a 12-month maternity position.
“I’m grateful to both the ARN News Director at the time, Deb Clay, for inviting me to come in for an air-check, and journalist Maria Gaban for patiently coaching me through my many painstaking attempts to record the perfect demo.”
Jennie also credits Barry Keohane as being a true advocate and supporter at the ABC as CD (and now as ARN Regional CD for SA/NSW/VIC).
She says it was because of the combination of skills she acquired in these roles that she was invited to join the team at Power FM and 5MU in a dual journalist/jock role in January 2019.
“Former Content Director, the exceptionally positive, beaming and skilful Mel Dzelde, offered me the opportunity at the Murray Bridge studios following a recommendation from Sean Craig Murphy. I’ve been there ever since.”
Jennie says there’s plenty to love about her role as host of SA Today, including the dad-rock music she gets to play.
She also enjoys the autonomy and freedom to be both serious and silly, hearing and sharing people’s stories.
For Jennie, it’s about connecting with interviewees and listeners on a very personal level, using the platform for good, raising awareness about issues – and just making people feel good.
Over the past year, Jennie’s also been been a staple on 5MU’s Breakfast Program with Adam Connelly (pictured with Jennie), who’s also the CD and a man she describes as “clever, quick and delightfully funny.”
Add news to the mix, and it makes for a hectic yet enthralling morning.
“I juggle sourcing, writing and reading local news bulletins covering the Adelaide Hills/Fleurieu Peninsula/Murraylands regions, creating online news content, co-hosting those 5MU Breakfast segments, conducting interviews for news grabs/to air on Breakfast or SA Today and converting radio content into online articles. Phew! I need a little lie down after thinking about that.”
Jennie’s advice to those wanting to pursue a radio career is to get as much experience as possible.
“Talk to people in the industry, get advice, shadow producers and presenters if they’ll let you. Do a course at a community radio station and at the Australian Radio School and practice, practice, practice.”
Jennie says she wouldn’t be where she is today without the support of mentors and professionals who’ve guided her along the way.
“Make mistakes. Life is all about growing and learning from mistakes.”
“Even when you’re very experienced you can be forgiven for blunders, in fact, sometimes the blunders are the best, most relatable bits; like how I accidentally called the Federal Budget “the Fudget” on air the other day (sorry, not sorry!)”