Monday, July 30, 2007


A McGill University graduate with good looks and articulate speech, but no journalistic grounding, Zain Verjee began her career at CNN International writing copy and producing news bulletins. She moved on to cover the conflict in the Middle East, the trial of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, and the Iraq war.

Zain was called for auditions and was told that there was no guarantee of a full time job as a news anchor.

Today Zain Verjee is CNN's State Department correspondent, based in the network's Washington, D.C., bureau. Before that her face beamed from screens across the globe as she anchored CNN's international rolling newscast, Your World Today, with Jim Clancy, and the debate program Q&A on that network. Though there is a lot of money to be made working in renowned international media houses like CNN, Zain admits that money is not the key incentive, but, instead, it is the work and the challenges that come with it that motivates her. Presenting breaking news, interviewing rare personalities such as the heads of states, business leaders, meeting interesting and inspiring people at work all keep her motivated and looking forward to the next day. In addition, she is has the opportunity to call the likes of Larry King, Christiane Amanpour, and Wolf Biltzer colleagues.

Zain was born on February 11, 1974, in Kenya, to Ismaili Muslim parents hotelier Johnny Verjee and DNA sequencing and forensic expert Yasmin Verjee. She attended Hillcrest school for her primary and secondary education. She then went on to McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and obtained a BA degree in English. She later joined York University for her masters degree in gender and environmental development. Zain speaks English, Gujarati, Swahili and conversational French.

Zain's tryst with media began in 1996, when in Nairobi on vacation and working on her masters thesis from York University. Her father suggested that she volunteer at Capital FM, which had just been launched. She tried her voice at a local radio station, and it was there that she fell in love with broadcast journalism. With her clear and simple English accent and flow of speech she was soon anchoring the prime time news bulletin for Kenya Television Network (KTN). She also compiled, produced, and presented documentaries for KTN, and hosted talk shows. At the same time Zain was able to make room in her busy schedule for freelance gigs for the BBC, as well as the production of several other programs.

Inevitably the drive to work for an internationally acclaimed TV network gained momentum, as she relentlessly pursued her dream job for a month. Persistence and ambition are what led her to send a demo tape to the CNN channel's headquarters in Atlanta.

She told the Nation Newspapers in an interview "They had not advertised any post but I thought I should send them a tape of my work along with my CV just in case there was something I could do for them, even on a freelance basis. I had nothing to loose anyway. The worst that could happen is I could be told no. So I sent in the tapes of my stuff on both radio and television. Well, they liked it and the rest if history."

Zain's talents are opening doors in high places for the 6 foot Kenyan with a flying ambition. She is noted to be polite and cheerful and maintains a decorum of humility and self confidence with all sorts of people and her fans.

Working at CNN International, Zain now understands why African events are rarely covered effectively in western media forums, noting that getting information from the continent is very difficult. Some of the challenges she notes include problems with getting flights, some countries not giving visas to foreigners, and others not respecting journalists, all of which makes it difficult to cover African news. Time lags in getting materials and transmitting to CNN for broadcasting are therefore inevitable.

Photo by CNN
"....I do feel like a role model, but my desire is to prove that I represent something positive from Kenya. This is what I would like people to emulate. I want to show that there are people from Africa that are positive and encouraging.
I am not naive not to see the problems facing Africa, but the continent has good and positive things to offer too. I would like to present a balanced report on Africa."

"The CNN environment is very professional and more advanced that the environment in Kenya's stations. In Kenya, journalists do everything, from sourcing the stories and identifying the people to be interviewed to researching and putting the story together and transmitting it on air or on paper.

"At CNN, the environment is different. There are executive producers who come up with ideas, then there are agents who book the guests to appear on the different shows and segments, there is a research team that does all the research on guests and events prior to interviews, news reports and different segments. Everything is very well-organised."

In the US, journalists have more freedom of speech and there are more resources at their disposal. They enjoy better pay, have an elaborate access to information from various sources.

Journalists at CNN critic themselves on a regular basis. At the end of each show or segment, a conference is held where the journalists analyse it. They point out the flaws or mistakes and discuss possible improvements. This sessions allows journalists to grow, and Zain loves it.

"I love going to work every day because I'm always laughing. But at the same time all the journalists are serious, experienced and professional, and they know what they are doing and do it to their best ability."
Interview extract from Nation Media

Zain misses her home in Kenya
east or west home is best.

Photo by Worth 1000


CNN Zaine Verjee Bio


Anonymous said...

you are the best........


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Anonymous said...

she inspires me.

Anonymous said...

she inspires me

Anonymous said...

she inspires me