James Smart – His rise from Korogocho slums straight to your living room
Viewers know him best as the engaging television anchor who holds to account news makers invited to his bulletins. But little is ever known that anchorman James Smart was born and raised in Korogocho slums in Nairobi.
In a rare insight into his background, the celebrated Kenya Television Network (KTN) news anchor laid it bare all in an interview this week.
“I was born and brought up in Korogocho slums, in an area called Highridge B. I was raised by my grandparents in a ten by ten shanty house.”
His life in the slums was difficult. The shanty was shared with members of the extended family, and during the rainy season, they had to shift positions of their beds because the roof leaked.
Space and privacy were a rarity.
“My grandfather was an office messenger, so he always came home with an assortment of newspapers while my grandmother used to do odd jobs and despite all these hurdles, my grandmother inspired in us a spirit of plenty,” he said.
His dream of becoming a journalist started at a tender age in Korogocho after Nairobi River, which was close to their house, flooded and washed away shacks built on of its banks and left several people dead.
He saw a man with a camera and notebook being taken around by village elders. Somebody said he was a journalist. With his curiosity aroused, he asked his teacher at Baba Dogo Primary School what one needed to be a journalist and was summarily told it needed languages.
After primary school he proceeded to a high school in Kakamega where he joined the drama club and became one of the best solo performers in the Western region.
LACK OF FEES
Like most kids from the slums who fall into the cracks due to lack of college fees, Smart went back to Korogocho slums after high school and volunteered to teach children how to play table tennis at St. John Catholic Church, Korogocho.
As luck would have it, while volunteering at Korogocho, he landed a scholarship to study journalism at Catholic University, but after graduating he never got employed in a media house. He ended up doing a part time engagement in a street children rehabilitation program.
“One day, as I took some video footage to KBC for consideration, I spotted an advert that said they wanted announcers. I applied and got the job after beating more than 300 applicants in a series of four interviews,” added Smart.
He worked at KBC for eight months, then switched to Capital FM, before joining NTV where he pioneered The Trend show before finally settling at KTN as a news anchor and host.
“I conceived a show that could attract the youth to TV news by embracing new media. That’s how The Trend was born. It was the first show to bring live social media feeds on the screen.”
He concluded by saying: “I strongly believe that where you were born and bred in this city does not define who you are or become. It’s your effort, believe in God and zeal to grind that defines your destiny.”