Suit, sneakers and a dazzlingly broad smile – these hallmarks have made TV journalist Cherno Jobatey a brand name on German television. A media personality based not only on packaging, but more importantly on content: news competency, show qualities, an unflappable interview style and irrepressible good humor. Germany’s most well-known “early bird” has forged a career for himself – and its path was astonishingly straightforward for a TV personality….
He was born and raised in Berlin. A family of five, mostly without a father, sharing 2 ½ rooms – optimum conditions for the development of a fighting spirit. Sufficient amounts of pocket money would only be available if he took care to earn it: repairing bicycles, selling shoes, delivering flowers, waiting tables. He learnt soon that to achieve his goals he’d have to work harder than the rest. Cherno studied political sciences at the Free University in Berlin, financing his studies by interpreting, teaching guitar and spending many a night as a DJ. As the guitarist of Groove Gangster GmbH, Cherno Jobatey developed a feel for stage and audience. Once the band was even the opening act for Herbert Grönemeyer.
During all that time, however, the ‘news junkie’ (Die Welt) Cherno Jobatey never forgot his dream of becoming a journalist! And life offered him a golden route to this goal: strange coincidences, happy encounters and talented cheekiness combined were key. In his fourth semester, he won a one-year DAAD grant to go study politics and music in Los Angeles.
There, Cherno Jobatey gives a lecture about Jesse Jackson – that information gets back via a circuitous route to RIAS Radio at home. An editor named Gerd Kothy contacts him. Word on the street is that he is an expert for American domestic politics. Cherno Jobatey accepts the offer and works as a freelancer for the radio henceforth.
Being a journalist means living from assignment to assignment, until a scoop finally comes your way. Michael Jackson performs in Berlin. Incidentally, one of Cherno Jobatey’s music professors from the USA plays guitar in Jackson’s band. Cherno gets an interview slot while a whole gaggle of renowned journalists are turned away. Among those waiting is the heavyweight journalist Cordt Schnibben of DIE ZEIT. They start talking, and before he knows it, Cherno Jobatey is writing for DIE ZEIT and even for Der Spiegel as an IT expert.
It was one of those jobs that bring you honor, but not a lot of money. On the side, the print journalist Cherno Jobatey familiarized himself with the many facets of an editorial office in television – manning the copier at the Berlin regional channel SFB, two hours, three times a week. That meant having one of his big feet – in sneakers, even then – in the door of the local ARD channel. Cherno Jobatey kept pitching himself and his ideas, accepting none of the innumerable “NOs!!” he heard, and finally managing to do film reports for the evening show. Whatever the weather, the local reporter Cherno Jobatey roamed the streets of Berlin with a camera team, in search of stories.
It was the Chancellor of Germany at the time, Helmut Kohl, who helped Cherno Jobatey, the local reporter from Berlin, capture national attention – by making a spectacular remark: at the Berlin Press Ball, the young journalist asked the Chancellor about his favorite dance. “Tango,” came the answer, and the reporter’s chuckle caused the massive man from the Palatinate to utter the equally proud and indignant remark: “I only dance to get close to women!” In the Bonn Republic, this was enough of a reason to focus on the man who had asked the question: the leading weekly magazine Der Stern featured a page-long portrait of Cherno Jobatey.
One year later, he finally got to moderate: it began with chaos. The show Berlin – This Evening was about to begin, and all its moderators were on vacation, out sick or couldn’t make it. For a lark, the local journalist Cherno Jobatey, who had never stood before a camera, offered to stand in. He got the job – and kept it.
A TV moderator by a stroke of fortune, and then…? But once you’re on the screen… people notice. Cherno Jobatey moderated the quiz show Header on the ARD channel, hosted local news shows and a regular youth feature “Really Cool”. He got his first whiff of entertainment shows at the IFA trade show for consumer electronics, where he led the variety show “2 at noon”.