Femi Oke: My Life In Media

'When viewers see a picture of a puppy stranded in a flood in Romania, you've stolen the show'
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The Independent Online

The international weather anchor for CNN, Femi Oke, 40, is also a regular host of the current-affairs programme Inside Africa. She began her broadcasting career at the age of 14 as a junior reporter for LBC Radio, joining the BBC after university. Memorable moments from her career include wrestling a crocodile in Jamaica and reporting from Antarctica at minus 37C. She was born and brought up in south-west London to Nigerian parents, and now lives in Atlanta, where CNN has its HQ, with her husband. She is reporting live from Johannesburg this week for CNN's week-long Eye on Africa series.

So, what inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

I was a radio geek from the age of 10. In fact, Tommy Boyd, now on BBC Southern Counties Radio, describes me as his first stalker! I'd call up his LBC show every weekend, and enjoyed it so much, I decided that I would work for radio, too.

When you were 15, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

I remember reading the campaigning journalism of John Pilger in the Daily Mirror. I would also buy The Stage and Television Today.

And your favourite TV and radio programmes?

I'd listen to LBC all day for talk, Capital Radio for the hits, and Radio 1 for the star jocks. On TV, I grew up with Blue Peter, Newsround, Doctor Who, Going Live and Top of the Pops.

Describe your job

When I joined CNN, I knew that there was a lot more I wanted to do than presenting the weather. Seven years later, I have a unique hybrid job. I'm still part of the world weather team, but I also present Inside Africa live, and travel to Africa quite regularly to report.

What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?

I catch up with international news first on the net - CNN and the BBC. Once I'm online, the television goes on in the background and I surf around the international satellite news channels.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

There are five mini-TVs in my studio. I watch CNN all day, of course, and Reuters TV. When I'm looking for interesting weather stories I look to the net - the BBC, Yahoo News and AP News. One of the best resources are news-agency stills. When viewers see a picture of a puppy stranded in a flood in Romania, say, you've stolen the show.

What is the best thing about your job?

I'm free to decide what to put in my weather broadcasts every day - CNN just lets me get on with it. At first, this freaked me out. It certainly gives you a strong sense of responsibility to check your sources and ensure that the information is correct. So far, I've had no mishaps and lots of appreciative feedback.

And the worst?

On Inside Africa, our challenge is always how to tell a story if we're unable physically to get to a county. You have to be quite creative and resourceful.

How do you feel you influence the media?

I hope my passion for covering stories from Africa will encourage others to look for the positive news that comes from this continent.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

I was awarded a media fellowship to report from Monrovia on Liberia's elections. The atmosphere was so charged with hope, it was my best assignment yet.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

I used to present weather forecasts for LWT. During my first week, I signed off with, "Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning shepherd's house on fire". It was a silly throwaway line, and when the forecast went out, the lead news story was about a house fire! The phones, excuse the pun, lit up. Fortunately, I wasn't fired, and some viewers called in to say I'd made them chuckle.

At home, what do you tune in to?

British radio is the best in the world, and I miss it in America, but thanks to the net I can get BBC Radio 4, Radio 5 and World Service, so I don't get homesick.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for local news. And I join the longest queue in the supermarket so that I can read The National Enquirer before I get to the check-out.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Moira Stewart is very professional and beautiful. How does she manage to look the same as she did when I was still at school?

Femi Oke is co-hosting the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards. Highlights will be shown on 'Inside Africa' on CNN International, 22 July, 5.30pm

The cv

1982

Joins LBC Radio aged 14 as a junior reporter

1988

Gets a job at the BBC after doing a degree in English, works at World Service, Radio 1, 4 and Five Live

1992

Moves to Central TV as a producer

1994

Presents the weather for LWT while presenting and producing other shows, including Five's The Mag, which is nominated for a Bafta in 1998

1999

Joins CNN as international weather anchor, and joins Inside Africa as a reporter in 2000

2002

Reports from the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City

2005

Becomes Inside Africa's presenter and reports live from the Liberian elections

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