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🎙️ | Sarah Clarke, Journalism in Asia
I always say choosing a favourite podcast episode is like choosing a favourite child
But I'm gonna break the rules, and say this one is a personal favourite.
Sarah's show AusBiz Asia has had a massive impact on my life. It literally kickstarted my interest in business and Asia-Pacific
I have no idea where I'd be had I not found this show at that time
But I do know that who I am today and why I do what I do can be credited back to catching that show at that particular time in my life.
And now to come full circle and interview Sarah after seeing her interview so many interesting and cool people?
Unreal. Beyond grateful.
But who is Sarah for those unfamiliar? Sarah is an award-winning journalist, TV presenter and media facilitator now based in Australia.
She spent 8 years living and working in Hong Kong and is now a freelance correspondent with Al Jazeera English covering major stories across Australia and Asia-Pacific.
In this conversation, we cover Journalism in Asia, and my favourite TV show of all time, AusBiz Asia.
I hope you enjoy my conversation with Sarah Clarke.
Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favourite podcast platform.
My takeaways and lessons:
Let people tell their stories
“It’s always good to have good talent in front of the camera. That makes a good story. I could talk about sad stories and tragedies and natural disasters, but they sadly tell themselves. But to say something that’s giving positive content, which is what we were trying to do, and insightful content, it was a matter of giving a diverse range of different content, different operators, and getting them to tell a story. I think you can hear a boring business story or a story about some success and the amount of profit it’s brought in, but it’s always nice to hear who’s behind that. I think people are always curious, and that’s what made me curious. That’s where we started to talk to the people behind the business. I think that’s an easy way for a story to tell itself.
“The key to good journalism is to listen. The key to a good interview is to listen. It’s funny, when we’re doing those interviews even for AusBiz Asia, I’d often in my head go “listen” because I could be out going, “what am I going to have for dinner tonight? How do I get home this afternoon?” Listen! Even what’s the next question? And that you are thinking, God, I want to keep this rapid, fun, and dynamic. But it’s an easy mistake to make but listening is something that’s undervalued.
[00:00:31] – [First question] – Sarah’s Background
[00:04:32] – How did AusBiz Asia start?
[00:07:10] – How do you book guests for a TV program?
[00:10:57] – What makes a good story?
[00:12:44] – What got left on the cutting room floor?
[00:13:52] – Pre-screened guests?
[00:14:44] – The timeline for producing an episode
[00:17:27] – How to gauge feedback for a TV show?
[00:20:35] – Hong Kong and how it’s changed
[00:22:01] – Fondest memories of the show and Hong Kong?
[00:23:22] – Advice for people starting out
[00:26:21] – Will there be an AusBiz Asia season 2?
[00:29:08] – Wrapping up and closing questions
Connect with Sarah:
[00:00:31] Kalani Scarrott: Now, I always say I never play favourites with podcast guests or episodes, but I’m gonna break the rules this time and say this one is a personal favourite and if you give me a tick, I’ll explain why. Sarah Clarke is an award-winning journalist, TV presenter, and media facilitator now based in Australia. Sarah has spent eight years living and working in Hong. But is now a freelance correspondent with Al Jazeera English, covering major stories across Australia and Asia Pacific. But selfishly for me, and the reason why I love this podcast so much, is that Sarah was the executive producer and presenter of the TV series, AusBiz Asia, which was broadcast on ABC and profiles successful Australian businesses and people in the international scene. And this TV series has probably had the biggest impact on my life in getting me to where I am today. Like I wouldn’t be. Who I am or what I do without this podcast, like, without this TV series, it really got me interested in the Asia-Pacific scene in the first place and it’s the coolest thing to be able to interview Sarah with this. So in this conversation, we cover journalism in Asia and my favorite TV show of all time, AusBiz Asia. So, seriously, this podcast is the best thing I’ve ever done and this episode is pretty much the pinnacle. I don’t know where I go from here, so please enjoy my conversation with Sarah Clarke, and I hope you have as much fun as I do.
Let’s get stuck in. Sarah, cheers a million for coming on. This one means a lot to me but I think an interesting place to start might just be with you and your career, and maybe if we fast forward a little bit, how did you make the jump originally from Australia to Hong Kong? And do you wanna explain a bit about your background?
[00:02:09] Sarah Clarke: I’ll give you a brief elevator pitch. It was a long time ago, 30 years in the business now, kicked off at a TV station called ‘Sunshine TV,’ which is just like the ‘Channel Seven’, regional affiliate. Then moved to ABC and Landline was my launching pad at the ABC and then went from Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney, and spent 20 years there. It was in 2013, where I moved to Asia. I moved to Hong Kong and it wasn’t my plan, so it didn’t have anything to do with me. I’d like to say I was given the Hong Kong bureau by the ABC but no, it was my husband. He got offered a job with HSBC. So at the time, my Mom had died the year before from breast cancer. I thought this is a perfect opportunity to get away, reinvent yourself a little bit and potentially live an expat life, which sounded very appealing. But of course, we got there, and I was three months in and I got bored of being there because I had a live-in helper, who did everything for me. So I literally had nothing to do except hug the kids and feed the kids. She fed them most of the time. So I pitched a TV program to ABC Australia because I knew the people there. I saw a gap for a TV program there and that was AusBiz Asia, which was completely my own doing and I’m very proud of and I did love doing that program. After we did the first bit of AusBiz Asia, a season of AusBiz Asia, the protests kicked off. It was to say Hong Kong, it was the best time to be there as a journalist because I saw it transition from the rise of the pro democracy movement, back in the umbrella movement as they were calling themselves, Joshua Wong. He suddenly appeared on the scene and then it just ramped up from there. And when I left, which was in 2021, the dynamics or the landscape of the media in Hong Kong, I won’t say wiped out, but it had changed so much. So, Hong Kong and Asia was the best and most exciting chapter of my career but I had to say it wasn’t me who earned the stripes to get there. I just fell into a good spot and found a hole where there was no potential coverage and rolled with it.
[00:04:32] Kalani Scarrott: That’s perfect. You’ve rolled through so many. For me, AusBiz Asia, I cannot stress enough how influential that has been in my life. That got me at the perfect time, the perfect show. Like, I am in love with it. It’s so cool and today is awesome. How do you even get started with pitching it? How did that come to the idea? Did you talk to your husband about it? How did it start?
[00:04:53] Sarah Clarke: Well, no, I didn’t really talk to him. I think he was encouraging me to do something because he could see I was kind of running up the walls and painting the town yellow and pink and red. Anyway, look at what I did. I literally ran into a cameraman I used to work with in the streets, and I said, let’s do something. Let’s do something together. And because I just arrived, when you arrive in this fresh new place, you think you can do anything and that’s what I felt. It was a game changer. You felt like the slate was clean. I wanted to know about other people, what other Australians were doing in Asia. So it was a cheeky way of me being able to check out what they were doing and exploring their story. And again, there was a gap. There are so many Australians living across Asia, and even Hong Kong alone, there were 200,000, apparently, according to the records of the Australian Consulate. But I just thought, we’re here. Why are we here? What are you doing here? We focused on the success stories, which was even more exciting because it was a chance where you could hear a success story and everyone wants to hear how you got there. We started off and my boss in Australia turned around and said, we’ll do a pilot. So we quickly did a pilot and it looked pretty good. My cameraman, the two of us worked on it. We worked hard. He came back and said, I like it and then he said, Give me a budget. I sat where I branded my husband. He’s in finance. And I said, I wrote pens and paper. And he went, Come on, we need to think bigger than this. So I called in a few friends and just said, what do I need? What kind of budget am I looking at? So I had no idea from the financial business perspective. But we got there and we worked out and we ended up doing 16 half hour programs. When they first said, how many can you do? I said 32 and then I got to the first one, I said, this is actually much harder than I realized. So we came in under budget. We produced 16 episodes. We traveled around Asia. It was a really good way of getting a grasp of what Australians were doing and giving other people a taste of what you can experience and what you can see. I love telling their stories. So it was great. It was really good for me. I loved it.
[00:07:10] Kalani Scarrott: So you’ve got all the budget and got that but then booking the people and the guests, how does that work? With a podcast, it’s an easy straightforward relationship, one on one, you get exposure, I get content but how does that work with the TV show because it’s seen as more formal. How did you find it?
[00:07:26] Sarah Clarke: The way we did it was that I reached out to a lot of the big operators. When I saw the operators, the media guy from the consulate, he had his hands and everything and knew who was doing good things. The chambers of commerce around the region, we tapped into them. There was a group called ‘advance’, a woman called Anna Groot, she was amazing. I said, give me your ten top exciting people who’ve done good stuff and they were normally spot on. So, one person backed out. She is pretty high profile at Netflix and works with pretty high-profile actors in Los Angeles. She didn’t want to publicize or to push herself. So she stepped back because she didn’t need the publicity. But people were pretty much open and they saw this opening for sharing their story. The program ran not just on what was called the Australian network at the time. It ran back in Australia. I hate to say this, but I was cheap, not that I’m proud of that but it was good fun and interesting content at a good price and that’s how we never paid for anyone to be on the program. This is not a thing that we do, everyone wanted to be part of it. One guy was a rooftop tree, like a landscaper. Who’s ever heard of a rooftop landscaper except in Hong Kong? He was doing all the casinos in Macau, so he was bringing massive trees from China into Macau and putting them on rooftops and building European landscapes on rooftops and the likes of some of those casinos. From that to the head of big companies, it was a really diverse platform of people and it was exciting. That was the fun bit of finding out how they got there and what they did.
[00:09:22] Kalani Scarrott: I do remember him as well. Do you have to preview? Because podcasts are very easy, each episode is separate. I can send you a copy after this is done, where it’s edited, this is what it looks like, and you sign off. Is there a similar process for TV? How much harder is that?
[00:09:38] Sarah Clarke: We were lucky enough never to dump someone, but I signed off and everything, so I had to run off everything. It was great. It was a very remote productive operation. I pitched this idea to the ABC and each week, Cascade had no brief. This is who we’re doing and after 20 years in the business, which I think it was at the time, I knew what was a good story or not and the format we did, we did purely because it was 28 minutes of TV. We had to produce every week. For the first couple of programs, it was just my name and the cameraman’s name. So, it was hard work. I should have put my husband’s name there too because he was financing it for the first bit until the money came through. But it was not something that was signed off back in Australia because they trusted me, which was great, and the people were lucky enough to have good content. In the past, working for Australian Story, I worked on that program when it first kicked off, and there was one person we spent a lot of time with, and then the executive producer of the program just said, I don’t like it and I had the job of having to tell that person that after we’d spent ten days with them in and out, 24 hours a day, that they didn’t like the personality that they were. It was tough, we haven’t spoken since then.
[00:10:57] Kalani Scarrott: What makes a good story when you’re trying to tell that as well?
[00:11:04] Sarah Clarke: There’s lots of different components and it just depends on what type of story you’re telling. For AusBizAsia, you had to have exciting stuff. You had to have a range of different areas we were covering just to keep it exciting. It’s always good to have good talent in front of the camera. That makes a good story. I could talk about sad stories and tragedies and natural disasters, but they sadly tell themselves. But to say something that’s giving positive content, which is what we were trying to do, and insightful content, it was a matter of giving a diverse range of different content, different operators, and getting them to tell a story. I think you can hear a boring business story or a story about some success and the amount of profit it’s brought in, but it’s always nice to hear who’s behind that. I think people are always curious, and that’s what made me curious. That’s where we started to talk to the people behind the business. I think that’s an easy way for a story to tell itself. Wayne was so good. He was a honey and we had to stop the swearing from him because he didn’t stop. But he was great. What he did for Hong Kong was amazing. He had his fingers in every pie. He helped all the nippers. He was a great guy. He was fantastic. He had a heart attack. He was a big guy. So, I was sad.
[00:12:44] Kalani Scarrott: I did look him up because I was going to Hong Kong, he would be the one person I’d just love to have a beer with. But with cutting out the swearing, anything else that got left on the cutting?
[00:12:49] Sarah Clarke: A lot got cut out, only because we ran too long. One guy who was a fascinating character. He did all the big functions and the performances and the shows from everything from CLSA, which was a big finance conference. He brought Kylie Minogue, he brought all these extraordinary characters Katy Perry in and I just want to know, why did he choose Katy Perry for a finance conference for a bunch of CEOs who had never heard of music? We went on for ages for that one. My cameraman tapped me on the shoulders and said, hey, it’s a 28-minute program, pull it back. We were pushed, as I mentioned, for time. We were pushing out 28 minutes a week. So we did try to keep things on time. But generally, we didn’t have to knock any or cut anyone back. We had a plentiful amount of content and everyone was quite excited. We made sure we chose the exciting people but we did have just to watch the time. I had to watch the time.
[00:13:52] Kalani Scarrott: Was there ever a pre-screening, like just a casual coffee chat?
[00:13:57] Sarah Clarke: I did a lot of prep work before we kicked off and that was gauging who these people were, on coffees if they were in Hong Kong or phone calls and that was part of a time saving reason for doing that but it’s amazing. In some of these regions, these people are there for a reason. You’re pushing yourself, so you’ve already got that character. It’s a different group of people you’re dealing with. So generally, we didn’t have to knock anyone back or cut them back.
[00:14:33] Kalani Scarrott: Exactly. I found something about the podcast: usually people are pretty good at telling their story, selling themselves and explaining it because they’ve done it a few times before. With your 28 minutes per week, just curious, because I have no idea about the TV business and what it takes to produce the show, how far ahead in advance were the episodes ready to go and what was that whole process?
[00:14:51] Sarah Clarke: We had obviously the pilot in the bag that actually ran as our first episode. So that gave us a bit of time to get the rest going. Generally we would try and be three weeks ahead. So we were pumping and editing and getting it stuff and as we went on, the more I quickly got recruited more journalists in the region to do stories for us because we just couldn’t pump out the two of us, half an hour a week. So that’s when I realized that we weren’t going through the budget very quickly because we weren’t paying ourselves enough.. So that’s why I thought, let’s recruit characters and that’s where I’d reach out. We had people in Japan, in Tokyo, in India, Thailand, who all contributed. I would give them the profile and say, this is what we are. This is how we want to tell the story. One guy, Tony Cheng, who’s in Bangkok, told the story of David Thompson, who got the best Asian restaurant in Asia and he’s Australian, so he was fantastic but he did a different format. He let him tell the story. So, he went to the markets with him and he’s throwing cockroaches in his basket and bits and just said, don’t tell the guests that I throw these in their meals but he was great. Tony decided to do it like that and it worked. So that’s how he did it. Put it three episodes a week ahead and that gave us enough time to scramble and get the rest of the other episodes up.
[00:16:20] Kalani Scarrott: There’s just so many pieces and the same thing. How do you decide AusBizAsia would be divided into sections where you focus on each entrepreneur? Is that all recorded in one week or is that split to match different themes or like you said, sometimes you need to diversify guests, so they get pushed across?
[00:16:40] Sarah Clarke: The first few episodes were just Hong Kong centric and the first few episodes end up being two interior arts and stuff, which is sadly, where I was heading and I had to remember I had an audience out there I was trying to please. That’s where we would mix it up. We’d go to your finance, you’d get your entertainment or you’d get your services. You mix up the diversity of the characters in that piece. We did do a couple of topical interviews, so whatever happened at the time might have been a fair trade deal. We did recruit various talents to explore what that meant for opportunities. So we just tried to keep it rich and diverse and dynamic for each episode.
[00:17:27] Kalani Scarrott: How do you track or even gauge interest or feedback? For me, the podcast, it’s pretty easy being online. I can see the amount of downloads, listening time, everything, but for a TV show, it’s a bit more obscure. So how do you judge success?
[00:17:40] Sarah Clarke: That is a hard one and I always left that to the guys back in Australia who were running it. When I started running it, they were the ones managing the finance and they were also the ones who said, we want more, we’re loving it. They always talked about an audience reach, even the YouTube stuff. It wasn’t really a focus back in 2014, even for us. It was there. These guys just had a platform and I got newer feedback on the streets, which was great, probably because half the time people knew that person, and it was great to see their mates on TV. But I got the impression from the base back in Sydney that they wanted it and they loved it and asked for a second season, but of course, I was working in the U. S. Dollars and working for Al Jazeera, which is who I work for now. So that’s where the busyness ramped up on the pro-democracy front and that. So we didn’t get to a second, but it was hard to gauge the interest. I thought it was interesting, so I’m assuming everyone else did, too. When it comes to the actual numbers, that was a Sydney thing and I don’t know how they gauge it either but they were keen. So I believe that there was interest.
[00:18:59] Kalani Scarrott: Honestly, I cannot raise how much I love this freaking show. Is it like the same thing, people stopping on the street? Has there ever been any strange occurrences down the line where, hey, I remember you from this or I suppose the podcast today but anything else like that?
[00:19:17] Sarah Clarke: People often say they know your face, but always think I remember them saying, one guy pulled up, a former TV presenter, high profile TV presenter in Sydney, and he said, Look, I know your face and he said you work at the National Australia Bank, don’t you? He was on TV for about 20 years. In Asia you do, because there aren’t many Australians. It’s interesting that during the protest, the number of international, COVID crashed. So, in Hong Kong, On the streets, we became recognized because we were some of the few Caucasian reporters left, and from that perspective, we were very much appreciated. So there was one day, I got a photo of me in the middle of a massive crowd of protesters, and I could say this, and they would all shush because it sounds ripe. It was like my choir but the point being, if I was doing a cross, I didn’t need chanting, and I needed to be able to hear them. And often you have thousands of people there but from that perspective, we had people buying us lunch randomly in the street just because they were saying thank you for covering the story and staying there, because so many other foreign journals got thrown out for various reasons, but also mainly because of COVID, they had to get home.
[00:20:35] Kalani Scarrott: How do you even navigate that? I have a lot of friends in Hong Kong and I’ve interviewed from the podcast, and it’s always a bit touchy. How do you live through it?
[00:20:47] Sarah Clarke: It’s interesting, we left in 2021 and National Security Law had been in place, and that’s the big override. That’s the scary one. That was introduced the year before, and it went quiet. It really did go quiet. Some of the higher profile, not outspoken, that’s a bad word but the people who are critical of China and their interventions under the National Security Law, they quietly slipped out. So, I’ve just booked a flight to go back to Hong Kong to see friends but there’s overriding censorship and that’s what’s changed. People still live there. Expats still live there. A lot is left but the sad thing is censorship. I looked at 120 people. There was a cartoon done of the people in jail, the pro-democracy people, and I reckon half of them who had interviewed them, and they’re all in jail, and they’re not getting out anytime soon.
[00:21:44] Kalani Scarrott: It’s so sad because it changes the whole vibe of the place.
[00:21:47] Sarah Clarke: It really does and that’s why people are scared to say anything out loud even in a taxi, you’d have to be weary. So that’s the sad truth about where Hong Kong is headed and has headed.
[00:22:01] Kalani Scarrott: Do you have a fondest memory, either of the show or of your time in Hong Kong?
[00:22:08] Sarah Clarke: Being there to cover what will be recorded in history, it was the heyday of Hong Kong when we arrived and watching the rise of the pro-democracy movement, that was phenomenal, the bravery of those guys. We were doing nothing except covering it and watching them. Yes, there was what the international audience did see was some violence, but at the same time, these guys were trying to work out how to get coverage, to remain in the headline so they could reach out for help. That’s my fondest memory, is that the people I miss every day, my helper, who looked after my children, did all my ironing and cooking, which I’m still in to do again. I can’t cook very well anyway. But it was great. I love Hong Kong and Asia is an amazing place to be. My advice to anyone, if they were thinking about working in the Australian media, getting a bit of experience anywhere else in the world, it’s worth it. It’s worth taking that extra step for yourself but also for your career.
[00:23:22] Kalani Scarrott: You’ve answered one of my questions there. So, for someone thinking of taking an extra step, how would you go about it? Because you got with ABC over in Hong Kong, so it was an internal transfer, do you reckon someone should go externally, try to swing for the fences or how would you go about it, maybe if you had your time again?
[00:23:40] Sarah Clarke: The ways are changing these days sadly. With the ABC, they’ve lost a few bureaus and that’s for budgetary reasons. But basically, it’s amazing when some of these characters and journalists find their feet because they’re in the region at the right time and that’s what happened to me. So at the time when I was there, I had left the ABC, but I messaged that at the foreign desk and said, guys, as this is going to ramp up, you need to get there. At the time, Steven McDonald was working for us and he was in Beijing and he couldn’t get there the next day. So I said, hey, I can do it. Often you fall on your feet at the right time. I think there are other outlets to consider. One of the producers who worked for me on AusBiz Asia, she was working part time for CNN. So I was dragging her in the morning, giving her more pay than CNN was and now she’s a high profile presenter back here in Australia. My point was, she was there and she went to CNN and she worked for them and did the hard grind of producing and she wanted to be on camera, but she works from the bottom up and she came back to Australia and said, look what I’ve done and it’s just worth taking those risks.
[00:24:59] Kalani Scarrott: I suppose if you understand all facets of it, it makes it much easier as a presenter if you understand.
[00:25:02] Sarah Clarke: Absolutely, you understand the hard work of it all and also you can appreciate exactly what you said, where they’ve come from start to the top. So, it’s worth taking a risk for that alone.
[00:25:19] Kalani Scarrott: Selfish question for me, I’m still trying to figure out where I want to go, how I want to be about it, because it’s so daunting. Everyone else seems so set in their ways and they’re like, this is the plan, so work in progress. Are there any aspects of producing a TV show that you think people don’t appreciate? Is there anything you wish more people knew about your work that you did?
[00:25:37] Sarah Clarke: No, I think they saw enough as it was. It was hard work but I loved it and it’s easy to do a job if you love it. I still love journalism and I still love telling a story. So, I work for Al Jazeera and I don’t find doing a story or doing hard work because it’s often a subject that I will have interest in or if it’s warranting news coverage, it’s got to have some level of interest. AusBiz Asia was hard work by the end of it. It was nice to have a break but then the protest started, so they just kept us busy. But no, it was great. I didn’t find it hard work because it was fun.
[00:26:21] Kalani Scarrott: Would you ever do it again if the opportunity arose?
[00:26:24] Sarah Clarke: It’s funny, there’s so much content in Australia. As I was saying before, when you arrive in a new country, you think you can do anything and you get there and you think, well, why not? I’m watching Australia, I could see gaps there. There were gaps for that content there. If I had my helper here, who did everything for me? I can do anything but I’ve got two kids, one’s in senior school and one is about to soon. So, at the moment I’m busy enough as it is but I look back and think, I can’t believe I did that but it was great. Two people and we got there and I couldn’t believe the phone call when they called and said, let’s go for it, it was fantastic. It was like a little bit of a shit. Where do I start? What do I do now? But it was good, it was fun.
[00:27:16] Kalani Scarrott: I was just curious, so what, do you get that call? What happens now? Were you calling people that you knew you had produced on TV shows to learn or how did you learn the whole process?
[00:27:25] Sarah Clarke: I’ve been in the business for 20 years. I knew how to write my intro, I knew how to write a story, I knew what the good content was. Then I’m working with the timeframe that we had, you had 28 minutes to produce and you’ve got a pretty short time to produce it. What was feasible and how could we do that? I’d already written a list of people who I thought were worth pursuing. So based on that, I saw my cameraman was charging more than me. I matched him and we both went for it. That’s how it worked but we got cracking pretty quickly because we had to and they’ve got to find a slot in their rundowns where they can fit us in. So we had a couple of weeks of leeway, even a month, I can’t remember, but we moved swiftly after we popped the champagne, we then got down to work.
[00:28:24] Kalani Scarrott: Where do people even find episodes now? Back in the day, I illegally downloaded 14 odd episodes, so I’ve got them on a hard drive.
[00:28:32] Sarah Clarke: I honestly do not know where they went. So, that’s the sad bit. You produce content and we were getting a great run for them promoting the programs on ABC and they were up for a while online, but I don’t know where they’ve gone. I can ask my cameraman but otherwise I don’t know where they’ve all gone but they were great.
[00:28:52] Kalani Scarrott: I’ll get them in a Google Drive Center team but there are only about 480 pixels. I want full high-quality versions of these too. Is there anything I’ve missed today that you also want to chat about before I conclude? You’ve speed run this. This is so cool.
[00:29:05] Sarah Clarke: No, that’s great.
[00:29:08] Kalani Scarrott: Did you want to chat about the work you’re doing now?
[00:29:10] Sarah Clarke: Yeah, I’ll throw a plugin for Al Jazeera, to keep my job.
[00:29:16] Kalani Scarrott: Moving into my closing round of questions because I’d just love to hear your perspective in your life story, what do you think is the most undervalued life experience that university age students don’t give weight to? So, what do you think the skill they should have or an experience?
[00:29:30] Sarah Clarke: I always think listening to some of you , particularly kids doing or students doing journalism, it’s always if the landscape is changing so rapidly. It’s always great to listen and talk to some of the characters from who I’ve managed to because I’m almost one of those older characters, but I’ve been listening to those guys and exploring what they’ve done in the past and not underestimating opposing comments or what other people if someone doesn’t like your opinion. I think that’s always an undervalued talent to do is just to listen. Mark Colvin, who was a PM presenter at the ABC, who was a mentor to so many of us. He said one thing that so many of us don’t do is listen. The key to good journalism is to listen. The key to a good interview is to listen. It’s funny we’re doing those interviews even for AusBiz Asia, I’d often in my head go listen, because I could be outgoing, what am I going to have for dinner tonight? How do I get home this afternoon? Listen even what’s the next question? And that you are thinking, God, I want to keep this rapid, fun, and dynamic. But next question and it’s an easy mistake to make but listening is something that’s undervalued.
[00:30:52] Kalani Scarrott: That’s a bit I love about the podcast because if I reach out to half the people, they probably say no, whereas if I give them a podcast, I give you a value in return, people say yes. I’m just curious, before you move to Hong Kong, was travel a big part of your life?
[00:31:06] Sarah Clarke: It was travel from every perspective from, personal and for work. So, I did the National Environment Round for ABC for ten years and we moved a lot and looked from South Korea to the Caribbean to Alaska to Denmark. We did lots of and I pitched and said, we need to be there at this conference. At the first time, they said, yeah, just coming. Oh, my gosh, okay. So, I tried again, and they said yes, and then I tried again, and the Caribbean was an absolute bonus. Saint Kitts and Nevis, I remember we’ve seen them go, I cannot believe I’m here but that was a big part of the job and I love that. But not just to travel around Australia. We travelled a lot in the helicopter, which was a thing of the past a bit but that was my chariot that often says that it was the ABC chariot with Sarah’s car transport. We would try the Murray Darling Basin stories. We would get in the helicopter, and we’d fly to Broken Hill. We’d fly down to Victoria, south of Australia. I love that. The travel was what enticed me to that role and to that job.
[00:32:11] Kalani Scarrott: You live my dream life. Honestly, this is so cool. So, in shaping you, have there been any books or even people that have been influential in shaping you and your worldview?
[00:32:22] Sarah Clarke: I should read more books, I have to confess. I read the New York Times and listen to the BBC, ABC and watch Al Jazeera. That’s my everyday feed. And what I love about Al Jazeera, who I work for now, is that they cover every continent, and they cover every continent in depth. The sad thing is about the media landscape that we’re looking at and so often forget that there’s a world out there. Sadly, it’s becoming more and more the Australian media concept of not giving coverage to those countries or areas that maybe the general public don’t care about, but we will cover an election in a country that some people have never heard of because it’s important and that’s my daily feed and that’s my daily shaping my global views. Living in Asia, I think once you’ve lived overseas, you do remain tapped into what’s happening around the world and I like to keep and hold on to that perspective as opposed to being insular and not thinking that there’s a world out there.
[00:33:24] Kalani Scarrott: If you’re 18 today, where do you think opportunities lie and what would you be doing to you?
[00:33:31] Sarah Clarke: The landscape for the 18-year-old these days, it’s so different to what I was doing. I went through university and got straight into working. When I was at university, I wanted to get straight into the rat race because it was such a competitive world to get into TV. So during university, I was doing work experience at ABC and Channel Seven at the same time, on different days, just so I could try and get a job and try to keep the others out. And eventually I heard there was a job going and so I went straight for it. So, I’d lined up that job before I even left university. But looking back and on reflection, I still managed to get a lot of travelling, which is great, but I think travel is a great eye opener and I think travelling and getting media experience elsewhere, because you can do that now, you can operate solo and feed into the media on your own. You don’t have to be part of that network generally. But there’s so many opportunities out there as an 18 year old and it’s a different platform. It was a TV, radio and newspaper when I kicked off, so now there’s a lot more.
[00:34:36] Kalani Scarrott: What’s life like now? Any plans for the future and where do you want to head?
[00:34:42] Sarah Clarke: Life is pretty good now. It’s great to be back in Australia. We left Hong Kong not because of the National Security Law and not because I felt under threat. It was more, I hate to say, covid. We couldn’t get out and my kids couldn’t get to boarding school. So, in the end, we said that’s it and Hong Kong had been locked up for just too long. The restrictions and quarantine were ridiculous. A lot of expats left Hong Kong at the time, but where I’m now, it’s great. Australia is a good place to live. I cannot complain. It’s a beautiful outdoorsy lifestyle where I want to go. I’m loving Al Jazeera’s coverage of Australia and the contribution of Australian content and travel more. We’ve been travelling since last year. We got back on the plane and went to Oman and Dubai and we’ve gone again to Europe this year. Life is getting back on track and the kids came back from Whistler skiing. Life is bloody good.
[00:35:41] Kalani Scarrott: It’s bloody amazing. I always feel like I love Australia. Is it my own backyard or is it this good? I think objectively it’s that good. We’re so lucky here.
[00:35:49] Sarah Clarke: We are so lucky. We’ve got so much to do from the mountains to snow to the beaches. We’re a long way from everywhere else but that can have its bonuses.
[00:36:03] Kalani Scarrott: Sarah, thank you so much for that. I’ve had a blast.
[00:36:11] Sarah Clarke: Thank you for having me.