Yesterday (15th October) BBC Foreign Correspondent and Newsreader, Clive Myrie visited Staffordshire University and the StaffsLive newsroom for an interview, whilst also giving a well-attended public lecture on the topic of Black Rebellion: Celebrity and Social Change, reviewing events from the past century that inspired him and revolutionised the world around us.
With a career spanning over thirty years, Clive Myrie has seen, and done, it all – from attending the Golden Globes and the Oscars in Hollywood to reporting live from the Red Zone in Baghdad and being present at Moorhouse College, Dr Martin Luther King’s school, when Barack Obama beat John McCain to win the American presidency in 2007 – a moment in time that Clive recalls as being incredible to be a part of in his own personal history. But this doesn’t come without sacrifice, a toll to seeing people in pain, “you don’t want to see any of that but that’s the nature of the world we live in and part of our job, as journalists, is to tell those stories. It’s with the hope, perhaps a naïve hope, that things might change”.
A son of immigrants from Jamaica, Clive’s parents “didn’t travel 6,000 miles, all the way to the UK for their son to become a bum. They wanted a lawyer, dentist or professional, they didn’t want a journalist”, so he read Law at the University of Sussex. At the same time, however, Clive was also doing student broadcasting, working with the campus and BBC radio stations as well as local magazines. A couple of years after he graduated, Clive applied for a BBC graduate scheme and the rest is history.
Having reported from over 80 countries being a BBC Foreign Correspondent posted in Japan, Los Angeles and Singapore (to name but a few), Clive can look back at all the stories he has told the British public through their television screens. “It’s nice to be in a studio presenting the news but part of the reason why I wanted to become a journalist in the first place was because I loved meeting people, and I love hearing people’s stories, experiencing different cultures. I love the travelling. It’s important for me to get out of the studio every now and then, and I have had a very busy year – I’ve reported from Mexico twice, the United States three times and Libya quite recently; it keeps me going. As I have gotten older, the wrinkles are starting to show, and the hair is starting to fall out so I can’t keep up the pace running around the world as I used to”, and being a foreign correspondent is definitely not an easy job.
“You don’t want to see people crying because they have lost their homes, children whose parents have been killed in a bombing – you don’t want to see any of it but by recording and reporting a story and telling a victim’s pain to a wider audience can change things sometimes even if it is on a small level.
“You are trying to get the pain across to people who may not see these things. If it means that I have to see a child go through problems in Yemen in order to get the government to change policy then I’m willing to do that, it’s just the nature of the work”.
A stint in the United States, with the combination of stories and the lifestyle meant that Los Angeles, with its quirky side as well, was Clive’s favourite posting. “I had amazing stories not only in LA but also in South America. I could cover Hurricane Mitch which devastated parts of Honduras in the late 1990s, the controversies in the Catholic Church in Central America and Nicaragua as well as reporting at the time of the Clinton White House impeachment. I was covering hard American news and global news coming out of Washington”.
Covering the terms of American presidents, even tracing the life story of Barack Obama in a BBC Two special, it is no surprise that Clive has something to say about current president Donald Trump. “It seems that he has a few problems bringing his country together, in fact he doesn’t seem bothered. He doesn’t make any effort to reach out to those who don’t vote for him and I think that is a shame and part of the reason ultimately why he could still be in the lower rank of American presidents”.
In the public lecture Clive gave to those who attended in the Staffordshire University Science Centre, one focal point of the ‘Black Rebellion’ lecture was the NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who made headlines around the world for taking a knee during the American national anthem, an action that Donald Trump was quick to criticise. “I think Trump believes that in taking a stand against Kaepernick he is securing those regions he believes are enough for him to hang onto the White House,” said Clive, “his problem in being so nakedly a president who is desperate to secure his voters means he is not reaching beyond. As a result, leaving out a good two thirds of the country who might feel that Kaepernick’s actions are valid. For a president to not be able to put himself in the position of trying to understand shows short-sightedness and is very sad. Kaepernick is standing up for human rights and that is what any national leader should be trying to back.
“History will be the judge and I can tell you now that history will not be kind to those who have criticised Kaepernick, just as history has not been kind to those people who attacked and vilified someone like Tommie Smith, one of the two African-Americans who gave a black power salute in the 1968 Olympics, who are now seen as defenders of human rights 50 years on”.
Being a black journalist was never on Clive’s agenda. “I didn’t want to be a black journalist, even though I am a black man. I wanted to be known as a journalist, who happened to be black. So, I refused to cover black events like the Notting Hill Carnival, even though I wanted to cover the Notting Hill Carnival but just not because I was black. So, the BBC sent me to Japan – probably the whitest place on earth and that’s where I started.”
Starting from the bottom and working up to the respected position he is in now, Clive Myrie has been through some tough situations, but it is those challenging, emotional times that have made him the formidable journalist he is today. “There is being impartial and then there is telling the truth. There is being impartial and then being a human being and if I am in tears because a child is dying, injured in a bombing, then you as a viewer better be in tears as well and I will do what I need to get you to feel that real emotion, I need to covey that emotion to you. I’m a human being like anybody else. Journalists are human beings – they are not robots. I am emotional; Some people might not like that but I don’t care”.