Every morning in Ghana, a particular TV programme, This Morning gets both the young and old all glued to their television sets except on Fridays to keep up with what is happening, not just in Ghana, but around the globe and also be informed about many issues from politics, sports, fashion, health, relationships, technology, news from around world, business news and lifestyle. Dedicated viewers actually stay glued to their television sets for two hours, because the presenters have been able to build a large fan base in just four years that it was launched, with several awards to show for their hard work and dedication. They are the duo of Kokui Serlomey and Patrice Amegashie, popularly known as the Jigwe family. In a chat with Encomium Weekly the duo shared their high and low moments on their journey to being the most watched TV show every morning in Ghana.
What is the motive behind This Morning show?
Kokui: It is what one might call a breakfast show. Many major television stations have the breakfast show format. It’s a way to engage viewers in the morning before they leave home for work, keep them abreast of the current news, with lifestyle topics that affect us every day. So, this is the Visat 1 version of that format. Basically, it’s a magazine programme.
What goes into production in order to have a successful show every morning?
Patrice: A lot of these things come with planning, so there is a strategic session where we plan what we are going to do. Now, the good thing about our show is that it is themed every day. So, the content producer, that’s Kokui, would come up with topics for a month. So, a month ahead we always know what we are going to do, much as many things crop up that you need to work on, so you might have to treat a certain topic or let go of certain topics or do a little overhauling. So, to answer your question, a lot goes into the production of the show. A lot, content production and then choosing special topics that will appeal to the people.
Kokui: And the execution of the programme, the production team, we have to choose which guest will come on and the technical crew too have to be abreast of what we are doing and put in their best to articulate it so it will look good on screen. So, we have a creative and dedicated team because without them we definitely will not be able to come on screen. So, we all put our heads together as Patrice said and try to execute the show properly.
How do you feel having won awards for Best Morning Show back to back for three years now?
Kokui: It’s gratifying to have your work recognized at any time. It makes you feel you are actually doing something right. I think it’s worth mentioning that before we started This Morning, there were a couple of breakfast shows on other networks, but I don’t think the breakfast show slot was as competitive as it is now. And I think This Morning has a lot to do with that because it was a bit different from what was showing on other networks. What happened was that we started seeing other competitors changing what they were doing to look like ours. So, you can imagine how hard it is to try and stay ahead of the game because everyone is copying what you are doing or taking inspiration from what you are doing and trying to translate it in their own way. So yes! It’s gratifying to be recognized; it keeps us on our toes and challenges us to stay ahead of the game.
Patrice: Basically, that’s what it is, like Kokui said. There are many shows and you need to make a difference, so what style do you introduce? What kind of format do you introduce? How do you go about it? There are a lot more to it than you see outside because there is a kind of relationship amongst those who work – production, technical, and on air presenters. So, if that is absent it kills the programme. Winning an award is not just something that you can wish away, it comes with a lot of things. How do we also make it interactive for the viewers? So, these are key elements we work on every time to put up the show, that’s how come it is winning awards.
So, do you guys ever disagree to come to an agreeable conclusion?
Kokui: Yes, we disagree, but a disagreement is not a fight. A disagreement is a difference of opinion. So whether it’s a topic or the way it should be executed, there has to be a final decision on how it should be executed. Usually, the first hour of the show, you know it’s two hours in two parts. The first hour, Patrice has a lot more involvement in that because of the unpacking segment that he hosts and the current affairs angle. He has a lot of input on what they discuss and who comes up as well. Mine is more of the second hour of the show. But if one has an issue with the other, we treat it, it’s professionals its work, you can trash it out. But at no point do we disrespect each other or take it past the level of a civil disagreement. It’s not in our nature to do that which is why we’ve been able to work together. Thank God (laughs) there are always issues of difference of opinion, but you move on. We’ve got job to do. You don’t let things fester like that.
You have interviewed top personalities from different walks of life. Who are your dream personalities that you are yet to interview?
Patrice: President Obama.
Kokui: I was going to say President Mahama.
Patrice: No, President Obama because he is the president of the world. Who else do you want to talk to? He is very smart, intelligent, brilliant, clever. If I meet him, I’ going to ask him how he made it simple. What kind of resolutions he had and what worked for him to be able to get to the top. Yes, that is the only question I will ask him, apart from everything else that I’ve seen, everything else I have read. So, everything else I know, so I’m going to ask him personal things at a personal level. How he was able to do it because, sometimes it’s not everything that you say to people. But I like said, one question alone is not going to get what I want to get out of him, I need to find out. So a series of questions, one leading to the other and I will get to find out what I really want. And to touch on how the two of us have been able to keep it up whether we disagree or not. We will disagree, your teeth and your tongue disagree, because at times you are chewing and you bite and they belong to the same family. Definitely, we disagree, but we have so much respect for each other. And the other thing is, we are not childish in the way we present the show. So if there is an issue, I share mine and she shares hers as well. That is where the friction usually comes, when it comes to presenting programmes. Or you say something bad about your co-presenter or co-host. We don’t do that, we have respect for each other and for those watching the show, the kind of expectation they have, think about being a moderator or presenter on TV show or programme like ours. The problem is, you don’t necessarily have to impose your opinion on people. It is the responsibility of the guest or the resource person. So, what you do is to quickly brush up on it, but leave your guest to do justice to the topic.
Patrice, you have been into communications and PR for over 20 years. How have you managed to stay relevant in the industry?
I graduated from one point to the other and ended here. I didn’t start off with presenting on TV or an interviewer. I started as a librarian, became an entertainer, and started doing master of ceremonies, then radio and television now. I went into marketing, advertising, sales, and PR. So, all the stages in my life, I’ve challenged myself to newer heights. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years does not necessarily mean I’ve been doing only TV for 20 years, I’m sure I would have died (laughs) but I find it a fresh ground. So, I’ve only been in this for three years now.
What are your plans after you are done with presenting This Morning?
Patrice: After I have hung my boots on the programme.
Kokui: Which will be like in 50 years? (general laughter)
Patrice: (laughs)… that’s it. The beauty of what we do is that you get to speak to different people, different times. New issues come up one way or the other, so every time there is some freshness to it. And the point is that you can’t exhaust drawing out things from people in terms of their opinion, their views, how they feel about something and so on. So, I’m sure this is going to continue for a very long time. But then it will metamorphose into something else, not necessarily on the morning show, perhaps me interviewing you (laughs).
Kokui, as a career woman with three boys, how do you strike the balance between your job and your family?
Whenever people ask me that, I am always honest about it. There is no way I could do it on my own. I have a very good support system and I think it’s important to acknowledge that because in this industry, it’s tough. Your schedule can be crazy sometimes, unpredictable and you know at every point in time, someone has to give. I’m not always there for my family when I’m working. If I’m with my friends, I’m always there to work. So, it’s a juggling act, but it’s not consistent. I’ve had two of my kids since I started doing this show, and I come to work every day, do the show and when it’s time to have a baby, it’s time to have a baby and you focus on being a mom and when you come back to work, I have to rely on my husband, my mom to help take care of the kids. So, it’s about getting your balancing act right at each point in time and have a good support system that you can really depend on otherwise it wouldn’t work. My co- host is another fabulous support career wise, so I lean on him a lot when it comes to work. I think without him sitting next to me, this probably wouldn’t be as enjoyable. But seriously it makes a difference when you are surrounded by people who are supportive and understand what you have to deal with and your personal life as well. And the station has been supportive as well, being a mom and being pregnant on set; they could have decided not to hire me. I was pregnant when I auditioned for the show and I remember when I confided in the producer at that time, she said, okay, let me check with the boss because that could change things, and I was ready for whatever came out of it. But they came back and said; this is wonderful, this means you are human, this is a part of life. As long as you can handle being on set live early in the morning, why not just go ahead and do it. So, they’ve been supportive, me going on maternity leave and coming back and making sure I still have a job. I have to say that I’m surrounded by people who have been supportive.
Does your husband ever get jealous of your status?
Kokui: No. He is successful in his own line as well. And I am very lucky to have a supportive husband. Not all men support their wives in their line of profession. It’s not easy because you meet a lot of people…sometimes I have late night engagements, but I am very conscious and mindful of what I do outside my required time of work.
What is the future of both print and broadcast journalism with the influx of social media?
Kokui: I will say it’s just evolving. Maybe sometimes we are a bit averse to change until it happens and then you have no choice but to be involved. It’s evolving, people are going on line. Now if you are not streaming you are kind of behind, aren’t you. If you have a You-tube channel you can be a sensation. It’s the evolution of media and journalism that we all have to get used to. So, media houses now must have multi dimensional media platforms, it not enough now just to have your papers or television set or your radio. You have to be all in all to compete.
Patrice: This is the time that broadcast journalism is flourishing. If you know your game, you will be on top of it now, because it is much easier for you to reach millions of people with your story or reportage than it used to be some time ago. The fact that somebody put something on You-tube or Facebook or Instagram does not mean the person is a journalist; the person is only posting information in its raw state. If the person is a blogger, the person has just posted what they believe in. Journalism transverses all of these aspects. It’s not only about the pictures I put out there that people believe in. So if you are reporting fashion, what about food, airlines, banking and finance, culture, tourism,, what about all of these, you need to report on them. And as a journalist, there are specialized people in those fields that you can interview…so for the fact that you are a blogger and you just put out information doesn’t mean you are a journalist, because I can take up that same topic and present it in a different manner. The way we interview is different individually and how I will appeal to people will make them know who is a professional. So, this is the time for journalism to flourish much more than ever. We are living in an information era, so definitely people will want to throw in one information or the other, so the fact that the information is flowing from one end to the other is good enough because information building in Ghana used to be bad, but now if someone throws it in, we can get a lead from that. If somebody uploads a picture of somebody engaging in illegal act, as a journalist I can take up the issue and do some investigative journalism…so it’s flourishing.
Any advice for upcoming presenters?
Kokui: I will say be dedicated to your work. And don’t be clouded by what you think is fame and stardom. This industry is not easy, it’s a growing, and we still have quite a long way to go, so you have to put a lot into the work, but I think a lot young people out there are looking for instant stardom that will give them mega bucks. It’s alright to have dreams and that kind of ambition, but the reality on ground can be very different. It’s like a rat race but only a few rats will eventually get the cheese. So you may have the look, you may look great even speak well, but you’ve got to have the cookies to really put them on. I think you also need to have authenticity and individuality and as much as possible, not try to imitate somebody, trying to copy what you think is popular or trendy. It’s okay to have role models, okay to be inspired by people, but find your individuality. That is what makes you stand out and unique. Young people are afraid of hard work and there is nothing wrong with hard work, it pays off I think.
Patrice: My advice to people who aspire to greater heights. We have not yet reached the height, so they have to aspire to greater heights. First, know yourself, follow your passion but don’t follow it blindly. Assess what you want to be; don’t do what people are doing because you don’t know what they have been through. Some of the celebrities are doing dastardly things and getting certain heights. You see some of these things on the outside, but fish deeper to find out some of the things they did to attain that height. Pray, ultimately that is the key. So follow your passion, be yourself and pray.
Who is your ideal woman Patrice, since you are not married yet?
Patrice: My ideal woman honestly is in my heart. I can’t paint it on paper. When I feel it…I can meet the most beautiful woman in the eyes of five million people, but for me if there is no connection it will never work. Don’t think I’m enjoying bachelorhood. I don’t know how you are going to report this, but l love sex a lot (laughs) so, I’m not comfortable this way. I really like to be responsible towards people. I have a lot of love in my heart that I want to share.
Has anyone been to Nigeria out of the two of you?
Kokui: Yes! It was my first time and I didn’t have a nice experience at all. I don’t want to say too much, but I think Nigeria is a great nation, there is so much potential there to make it a power global house. And Nigeria is our sister country as you all know, even though Ghana leads in everything all the time ( laugh). Without saying too much, it was a bad experience the first time. The next time I go I hope it will be a good one.
How will you describe Nigerians?
Patrice: I don’t want to get into this Nigeria matter. Though I’ve never been to Nigeria before, but based on what I see in the movies, I don’t think it’s better than Ghana. And they are aggressively opinionated. I think I know one who is kind of different, that’s why I don’t like to categorize.
Kokui: For me, in the US the Nigerians I met there were very outspoken, very opinionated and they stick together very well. One thing I love about Nigerians, they love Nigeria and they promote Nigeria a lot. They rather patronize made in Nigeria things than foreign things and I admire them so much for that. And they will rather eat their eba than fried rice. The Nigerians I’ve met in Ghana love Ghana probably because they have a good job they are doing here. But they seem to be very affluent and flashy. But the Nigerians I met in Nigeria during that experience were total opposite; comparing them to the ones I met in America. And I think culturally the younger ones have a lot of respect for those ahead of them.