BBC journalist Clive Myrie, who served as BBC’s foreign correspondent for many years, told Laetitia Woue in an exclusive interview at the BBC Television Centre his fear for the future black generation and other ethnic minorities who aspire to break into mainstream television broadcasting. He also tells us a bit more about his own experience after more than two decades in the industry.
Born in Bolton, Great Manchester, he once held similar fear which pushed him in 1985 to graduate from the University of Sussex with a degree in Law whilst pursuing his dream in journalism. “I have followed this twin track approach hoping that journalism would take over and luckily it did!” he said.
Myrie, who once dreamt to accomplish what his idol Trevor MacDonald had worked so hard to reach, has now worked his way up the ladder, to become one of the most successful black broadcasting faces in British television. The former BBC senior foreign correspondent has been co- presenting the BBC’s evening shift since 2009, appearing alongside Annita McVeigh each Friday between 7pm and 10pm and between 7pm and midnight on Saturdays and Sundays.
He said that as a child if he had not seen journalist Sir Trevor MacDonald on television he might never have become one of the most prominent journalists of his generation. “Trevor MacDonald made me feel that I could join the BBC. I thought to myself he is black, he looks like me, I can do what he does.”
He also agreed that the number of black news broadcasters had not changed much since he was watching his idol Trevor MacDonald airing on national television. According to Myrie, news channels such as the BBC needs more black people on board to attract and induce more people to join in.
Myrie says that the status of the BBC as a national broadcaster obligates it to reach out to ethnic minorities. Speaking about the representation of the ethnic community in broadcasting, Myrie said: “Some people would say that having one or two presenters on the network who are afro-Caribbean is representative of the size of that community, but it is important particularly for an organisation like the BBC which is paid by a national tax, the licence fee, that it represents the whole country.”
Although he also puts the blame on the young afro-Caribbean communities for not responding to the reach-out campaign launch by the BBC. These last few years the BBC has been perceived as the state broadcaster with overwhelming white, middle class and Oxbridge educated people. Myrie said: “That puts a lot of young black perspective candidates off from applying to the BBC.”
However has the BBC pushed enough to get more black people? To that question Myrie admitted that probably not but he also insisted on the fact that it was “definitely a two way street”.
The former BBC reporter encouraged ethnic minorities to participate in events such as “Move On Up” which enable ethnic minorities to network with senior editors and senior managers. Numerous television channels such as BBC, ITV, Sky News, Al Jazeera and many others will participate in this scheme. Myrie said: “Such schemes are really important. That’s the way to get a name you can follow later in the future, a name that you can call upon or send an email to.”
Myrie agrees that becoming a journalist nowadays has become harder than ever for the young generation, and that therefore work experience is more than ever necessary to prove that there is passion and interest for the job. He insisted that young people and ethnic minorities in particular, do not always realise how important it is to show to their future employer their passion in what they are doing. “I think that black people and other ethnic minorities are not aware that this is the kind of thing they should do from an early stage, it is such a competitive industry,” he adds.
Journalism is one of the professions which has undergone the most drastic change throughout the year, with for instance the birth of “citizen journalism”, which undermines the job of journalists but also redefines their role as gatekeepers in our society.
Nevertheless, when I asked Clive Myrie if he had ever thought of doing something else, his answer was without any doubt “No”. Being at the cutting age of history, travelling and discovering different cultures was what he always wanted to do from the start.
As a former foreign correspondent, Myrie has covered major key stories for more than 15 years. They included the War in Afghanistan and Iraq but also the election of the last three American Presidents. He admitted that having witness the inauguration of President Obama was probably one of the most memorable events he has ever covered. He recalls that not so long ago, black American service men returning from the second War World were lynched in their uniform. “Being there to witness not only the election but also the inauguration of the first afro-American president was a great privilege,” Myrie said.
Although being a foreign correspondent for so many years enabled him to travel all over the world, it also took him away from his family. According to Myrie this was a small price to pay for him to be able to cover and report major events that “will be written down in the history books forever.”
Facebook Page: Shine Media