Keme Nzerem is a reporter for Channel 4 and known for actively promoting diversity in news publishing. When it comes to journalism he stresses the importance that a varied group of people can have an influence in the production process that results in improved output. Even though he says his ethnicity in a lot of ways has been positive for his career, he explains that: ‘broadcasters have a long way to go before they have a diverse work force.’ Keme took some time out to talk to New Africa Analysis about some of his career highlights such as the South African World Cup and how he made it as a successful journalist.
Born in Zambia to a Nigerian father and American mother, Keme lived there until he was 5. His mother had previously worked in the Peace Core and went to Nigeria to teach. During the civil war in the country she flew to London and was told not to return to the African state, as a result of this his family relocated to Zambia, only leaving when his mother was pregnant again. Subsequent to a short travelling period his family finally settled in London in the late seventies.
After studying his first degree in Geography at Sussex University, Keme travelled to Africa and began writing for his friend’s student magazine. He says he always had a passion for writing and here he began to realise he too had a flair for it, particularly whilst staying in South Africa: ‘It was a politically aware place and people were engaged with their political destiny thus everybody had a story to tell.’ Upon returning to London he began writing for a charity and after a year he went back to university to do a postgraduate course in Broadcast Journalism. Following his studies Keme secured a job with ITN (who owns Channel 4) and ten years later he’s still there.
Last year Keme had the gratification of covering the world cup for Channel Four. It’s the biggest sporting event in the world and for the first time it was being held by an African nation that Keme clarifies: ‘20 years ago everyone said was about to descend into civil war,’ he then goes on to add: ‘for somebody of African origin it was amazing to see South Africa being portrayed in a really, modern, positive way!’ When South Africa hosted the football World Cup last year, it made a promise to its people that they would get a lasting legacy. However, the amount of money spent – 4 billion pounds often came under scrutiny for fears that hosting the biggest football tournament on the African continent was not only a huge financial risk but the money spent on the event was nearly ten times what the country had given last year in the fight against HIV: ‘If you measure in monetary terms – it’s outrageous! However, if you look at softer areas it has changed the perception of South Africa,’ Keme was in the country to cover a month’s worth of football but in addition it was more than that. The event helped transform the opinions of people outside of Africa in knowing that the nation could handle large sporting tournaments: ‘Until the World cup people always said when you mention South Africa was Nelson Mandela and crime. Now they say Nelson Mandela and football and that’s priceless!’
The next big sporting event that’s fast approaching is the 2012 Olympics of which Keme is excited about reporting. One can see he loves his job and he stresses it’s great to be paid to be nosey. However, he is quick to inform me that even though it’s brilliant working in sports it’s not always going to be his top priority. When asks what drives him: ‘Justice, justice, poverty, poverty and important people dying. It doesn’t really matter what vessel I get to that through.’