DAAD Scholarship 1985–1986
Not only talent and persistence, but also and above all odd coincidences and fortunate encounters made Cherno Jobatey one of the top presenters on German television for 20 years. From 1992, when it was first broadcast, until 2012 he presented the morning news programme “ZDF-Morgenmagazin”. In the early 1990s he presented the ARD quiz show “Kopfball”, regional news for “Berlin-Brandenburg” and, for a period of five years, the ARD entertainment show “Verstehen Sie Spass?” Radio Berlin-Brandenburg even gave him his own programme: “Cherno – The Talk Show”. When it was discontinued in 2003, he commented: “That was the funniest part-time job I ever had.” Since 2012, the journalist has not only been a television presenter, but also the editorial director of the German edition of the Internet newspaper Huffington Post.
It was back then in California that I came up with a vision of what I wanted to do and how I could achieve my goals.
The son of a ship’s cook from Gambia and a piano teacher from Berlin, he was born in Berlin in 1965, where he also spent his childhood. He read politics and music at Freie Universität Berlin: “I knew from early on that I wanted to become a journalist. I had already played in bands as a schoolboy, so I earned my first money as a freelance journalist writing concert reviews.” In his forth semester he received a DAAD Scholarship to spend a year in Los Angeles. “This time was crucial. Maybe not in the sense of an immediate career start, but it was back in California that I came up with a vision of what I wanted to do and how I could achieve my goals.” It was love at first sight with the country and its people. “I miss the sea, the landscape, the Californian lifestyle so much that I fly there least once a year. If my glowing Berlin patriotism should ever expire, I would settle down somewhere between Santa Barbara and San Diego.”
By chance, RIAS, a Berlin radio station, got wind of a talk he presented about Jesse Jackson, the civil rights activist, during his study visit. They heard that he was an expert on American home affairs. Cherno Jobatey grasped the opportunity and, from then on, worked for the radio. When, on a later occasion, Michael Jackson played in Berlin, one of Jobatey’s US guitar teachers happened to be a member of Jackson’s band. She arranged an interview for her student while other journalists, including an editor for the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, had to go away empty-handed. Cherno became acquainted with the editor and soon wrote concert reviews for Die Zeit, and later for Der Spiegel.
At the time he was also already working for a TV broadcaster – initially spending three days a week photocopying at SFB. But thanks to his persistence he was soon able to prepare features for the Abendschau programme. His first job presenting a show again resulted from a coincidence: one day, when all the presenters of "Berlin – Heute Abend" were either busy or ill, he jokingly offered to do the job – and got it. In 2005 he made his debut as an author with his fitness guide Fit wie ein Turnschuh. Since October 2010, Cherno Jobatey has been patron of the School without Racism project at the Heinrich Hertz High School in Berlin-Friedrichshain.