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Rohit Kachroo's TV reporting career now an African dream

A former Birmingham schoolboy is now ... out in Africa. Graham Young reports.

Rohit Kachroo

A former Birmingham schoolboy is now out in Africa. Graham Young reports.

Rohit Kachroo’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric.

In just a decade, he’s worked his way up from a Great Barr schoolboy and University of Birmingham student through to becoming a star reporter on Central News.

Recently named the RTS (Royal Television Society) Young Journalist of the Year for his background work on the city’s Khyra Ishaq case, ITV News has just appointed him as its Africa Correspondent – one of only half a dozen such jobs at ITN.

At 28, he’s the same age as Sandy Gall was when a 1955 Reuters’ posting to Nairobi started him off on the road to becoming ITN’s first man to visit China, in 1972.

Writing his autobiography in 1982, Gall said of East Africa: “I experienced for the only time in my life what the psychologists call ‘‘culture shock’’, although I prefer the French term ‘‘dépaysement’.”

New technology is not only constantly changing the nature of reporting, it has also made the world a global village.

Now based in Johannesburg after leaving his Jewellery Quarter flat behind, Rohit has noted how Africans are even interested in Cheryl Cole on The X Factor.

And, when he watched Birmingham City v Arsenal in the Carling Cup Final, most of the 300 locals in his neighbourhood bar were cheering Alex McLeish’s underdogs. So much for ‘‘foreign’’ reporting.

But, wherever he goes in the African world in the months ahead, Rohit knows he’ll have a lot to thank Birmingham for.

“My family is a typical product of the city,” says Mr Cosmopolitan. “My mother is Jamaican – who works part time in catering for the NEC Group – and my father is Indian, so that gives me a perspective on everything.

“My father studied physics in Germany and now runs his own Indian restaurant in Berlin from Great Barr. My elder brother is more science minded and works in Manchester. I was more of a words person.”

A first class BA (Hons) degree in political science propelled Rohit towards his career. People on that course tend to go into politics or become academics. After that, journalism is all that’s left.”

Johannesburg wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea regarding its perceived crime rate.

Rohit says: “It’s still a real problem, but not quite so bad now. For some people it’s like living in a prison, though ... the most beautiful prison in the world where there’s a lot to see and a lot do.

“It is one of the most dangerous cities, but it’s also very friendly. You can wander around.”

Life as a foreign correspondent does not mean first class travel everywhere you go – or Ian Fleming-style James Bond fantasies.

“That couldn’t be anything further than the truth as it’s often grimy work,” he says.

“You can have long hours, early mornings, late nights and difficult conditions. There really is very little glamour involved in being a television reporter.”

Brevity is an important skill because even a lead TV story might only involve 200 words.

“The beauty of television is that the imagery is telling the story for you,” says Rohit, who admits to having had “a fair amount of luck” to date.

Working with ITV’s longest serving anchorman Bob Warman on Central News will have been just as invaluable as its editor Bernard Cole moving on to edit ITN’s ITV News.

Rohit’s ITN bureau in Jo’burg exists thanks to a pioneering partnership with US channel NBC which means that as part of the cost-sharing benefits to his employer, Rohit might enjoy the kudos of broadcasting to American audiences, too.

Sometimes you have to make your own luck in life. At others, you have to survive your own bad luck.

“I was driving towards Leicestershire to work on a story with the McCanns,” says Rohit, “when I realised I couldn’t keep my eyes open for more than half a second. So I stopped at a service station for a quick nap – and woke up hours later having missed that particular story.

“I was only 25 and about to be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I’d been drinking a lot of fluids to quench my thirst so sort of diagnosed myself through Google which they always tell you not to do. The next thing I was at Selly Oak Hospital and being shown how to give myself insulin four times a day.

“I now keep a month’s supply with me. It’s like you have to learn to leave home with your keys, your passport, your phone and your wallet. You also have to take your insulin.”

Though keenly aware of the need to do some ‘‘positive’’ work on his new beat, Rohit fully appreciates how much of Africa reporting is on bad news. Such has been the tidal wave of dispatches from North Africa that a recent massacre of women during the Ivory Coast’s civil war received scant coverage.

Stories of global importance awaiting him on the African continent include the health of Nelson Mandela and the political future of the ageing Robert Mugabe – and that’s not including any immediate requirement to cover events in Libya or surrounding countries.

Just like Gall was as ‘‘excited as a child’’ with his first working trip to East Africa, the single Brummie in the smart suit doesn’t even know how much holiday entitlement he gets.

In some jobs, at specific times in your life, it just doesn’t matter.

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