013: Keme Nzerem/Finding the Story

“This stuff matters. If we don’t tell these stories, how can we hold people to account?”

This week my guest is journalist and broadcaster Keme Nzerem:  skier, climber, outdoorsman, head judge of the Kendal Mountain Festival and best known as a Correspondent for Channel 4 News. Over the years Keme has held various roles at Channel 4 News – he’s been head of the Washington office; a sports correspondent covering Olympics, Paralympics and World Cups; and today he spends every day working intimately across some of the biggest stories in Europe.

Keme in his element

We’ve known each other for a while, and we met up in Soho on a scorching hot evening in July 2017, where we spent a very enjoyable couple of hours discussing his life and career.

Keme and friends at the end of the 2017 Dunwich Dynamo

If you enjoyed Ed Leigh on how he made a career in the media, or Orlando von Eisendel on how he carved out his film-making career, you’ll also love this one. Highlights of our conversation include:

  • Keme breaking down his career path
  • Reporting on Hurricane Katrina – and Keme explaining how a story like that works.
  • The gruelling process of recovering from knee reconstruction surgery
  • His stint as Head Judge at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival
  • His work on Grenfell Tower

Some fascinating, moving stuff in here, from a hugely articulate presence with a big heart and a head full of ideas and wisdom. Love your work Keme, thanks for coming on the show.

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - Keme explains how a story like Hurricane Katrina comes together

Connect with Keme

Show Notes

  • Beautiful Soho evening
  • Keme’s overview on the Grenfell Tower disaster in West London
  • The current febrile news atmosphere in the UK, and its importance.
  • ‘These are the kind of stories that made me want to be a journalist because there are genuine victims’
  • Why a story such as Grenfell is the UK’s Hurricane Katrina.
  • How Keme approaches a story with as many emotive layers as Grenfell.
  • The dual importance of holding the wider issues to account and documenting the individual stories.
  • How Grenfell has revealed the deep mistrust between residents and the authorities
  • One of the key issues – is it ignorance or contempt?
  • What Grenfell reveals about the cost of rent in the capital – and some unforeseen circumstances
  • How Keme personally copes with the specific issues raised by covering these stories
  • The responsibility he feels towards the people he covers
  • Coping with the hypocrisy or a lot of public discourse
  • How broadcast pool journalism works
  • The crucial importance of impartiality in Keme’s job
  • His path into his current job for Channel 4 News – via Comic Relief and ITN
  • Heading to Washington to run the Channel 4 office
  • The switch from production to presenting
  • The career-defining experience of working on Hurricane Katrina
  • The exhilarating, high pressure logistics involved in such a story
  • ‘These stories matter. Its how we hold the people responsible to account’.
  • How a sense of social justice has been a catalyst throughout Keme’s career.
  • Reporting on the England-Russia hooliganism at the Euros
  • Making the switch to sports correspondent
  • The difficulty of covering those big ticket sports stories
  • Doorstepping Sepp Blatter
  • Keme’s advice for people wanting to follow in his footsteps
  • The difficulty of getting action sports onto mainstream TV in a credible way
  • Finding the angle and resonance in action sports
  • How Keme discovered skiing – a dryslope course at Woolwich Barracks
  • First time in the mountains
  • Keme’s mountain life now
  • First seasons in the mountain
  • Time in Chamonix and Saalbach
  • The appeal of winter sports – “I just like going fast”
  • Keme’s experience of knee reconstruction surgery – and his amazing ‘holiday’ rule
  • How cycling has taken over from skiing and football
  • The physical penalties of age
  • The Dunwich Dynamo
  • The democracy and participatory nature of action sports and the outdoor world.
  • How Keme’s involvement with the Kendal Mountain Film Festival came about
  • ‘The Freedom Chair’
  • Keme’s favourite films from Kendal
  • ‘Joanna Under The Ice’
  • ‘La Liste’
  • ‘Tom Siepp’
  • What the future holds for Keme

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