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.
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.
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
- 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
- Grenfell Tower
- Finsbury Park
- St Clement’s Church
- Channel 4 News
- Comic Relief
- ‘House of Cards’
- Rocky Mountains
- New Mexico
- Baton Rouge
- South Africa
- Cape Flats
- British Ski and Snowboarding Championships
- Mullaghmore Head
- Northern Ireland
- Lake Tahoe
- Les Houches
- Le Tour
- La Plagne
- South Downs Way
- Kendal Mountain Film Festival