John James Anisiobi (JJ) is a broadcaster, journalist, writer and political commentator. He co-presents news show The Talk on Talk TV with Sharon Osbourne, and writes a column for Metro newspaper.
He talks to us about his varied career which has taken him from Birmingham, where he first wrote about the local music scene, via showbiz reporting in London and the Middle East, before returning to London and moving into the worlds of business, current affairs and politics.
When did you first realise you wanted to become a journalist?
I was quite young actually. I was really good at English at school and when I was 16 I started writing about music artists in the local area in Birmingham.
I then went to university – I was studying law and business. I was still writing in university for local papers, then I started doing some stuff for BBC Radio One Extra and had a few internships, but then I kind of hit a brick wall because I wasn’t studying media. So my second year at university I changed to business and media, and that helped get me loads more internships. I was doing showbiz, entertainment and a bit of fashion.
How did you enter the profession?
My first job was for a youth-run magazine called Whisper, based in Birmingham, in Aston. This guy literally ran it out of his basement and local teenagers wrote about music, fashion and the arts.
What was your first job in journalism?
My first paid gig technically was the Daily Mirror. I was interning there, but they would pay me when they could and give me the odd by-line. That was on the 3am desk – the showbiz desk. From there I went to the London Evening Standard where I started my first paid digital role – I was the showbiz reporter for the website.
What was the first story you wrote?
It was an interview with twin brothers The KrayTwinz. They had a song called What We Do with rapper Lethal Bizzle. I went to see them perform at a nightclub in Stoke-on-Trent and interviewed them, and that was my first by-line.
What media titles have you worked on during your career?
I’ve worked for the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Mail Online, Okay! magazine Esquire Middle East and a magazine called Ahlam – it’s kind of like the Middle East’s version of Okay! magazine. I got a job offer from Dubai to be news editor. I went from news editor to deputy editor in my first year, then my second year there I made editor-in-chief of the magazine and I was there four-and-a-half years. I had a great time over there, it was fantastic.
What’s your favourite story to have worked on?
It sounds morbid, but the week before Whitney Houston died, I’d written a story for Daily Mail Online saying, Houston, we have a problem. She had been to some party before The Grammys and she came out of the party looking, not just worse for wear, it wasn’t just alcohol, you could tell she was having drug issues. I’d written this piece, just stating facts basically, saying she needs better people around her, the team around her clearly aren’t helping her, and something bad’s going to happen soon if it’s not sorted. Then a week later she died.
What’s the most difficult story you’ve worked on
I wrote about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in my column for Metro. I wasn’t expecting any abuse from it because I was basically saying they were essentially as bad as each other. That’s what the court case in the US revealed.
But Johnny Depp’s been accepted back into the mainstream as if nothing happened and Amber Heard is still being shunned. So I wrote a piece saying it’s a double standard, it’s not fair.
The amount of crazy Johnny Depp fans who came up to me on social media! This is part of the problem with social media. It’s become so polarising that people now just go to extremes and no one wants to listen or meet in the middle. They just want to have their opinion shouted loudly at everyone else.
I didn’t expect to write a piece defending a woman who’s a victim of domestic violence and get abuse from people supporting the man who inflicted that violence upon her.
Who’s the most famous person you’ve interviewed?
There’s been a few – Jennifer Lopez, Khloe Kardashian, Renaldo. The person I was most impressed with I met by accident. I went for dinner with Quincy Jones and he brought a few friends along. He introduced me to this old guy called Buzz, he was really friendly, very charismatic, and I said, “So what is it you do?” He said he was retired, but had worked in the Air Force, then mentioned he had been an astronaut! Buzz Aldrin! I spoke to him more than I spoke to Quincy Jones because I had so many questions about what it was like in space. Meeting Buzz Aldrin was fantastic.
Describe your working day
My son wakes me between 5am and 7am (if I’m lucky). We sit and watch cartoons for half an hour then I get him ready for nursery and drop him off for 8.30am. Because of my role on The Talk I need to be across everything current affairs and politics-wise, so I normally come home and go through all the papers, all the big websites and have a look on social media.
About 1pm I have my first briefing call with the producers. They send me about 12 different topics they want my opinion on, then I’ll research all 12. I send them an email with a brief opinion on each so they know what my general direction is.
At 5pm I pick up my son from nursery and bring him home. Then I get ready and head out to the office. I get to the studio for about 7pm. It’s hair and make-up first, then we have a meeting with all the panellists together and we’re given the final list of topics.
At 9pm I’m in the studio and we’re live. At 10pm we finish. We normally hang around afterwards in the green room to chat and catch up with each other. I get home for maybe 11 – 11.30pm, rewatch the news and summaries of the day, listen to podcasts and I’m in bed by about 1.30am – 2am.
Other days I’ve got to do the column. I fit that in where I can.
With deadlines and the fast-paced environment of journalism, it must be quite a pressurised and stressful job. How do you relax in your spare time?
I’m quite active: I play football a lot, I do boxing and basketball. I really like playing sports, I always have, from when I was young. I also watch Netflix – I watch a lot of TV series and films.
How do you prefer to be contacted by people (email, telephone etc)?
Twitter. I get lots of DMs on Twitter and people message me on Instagram.
What time of the day is best to contact you?
Anytime. As and when.
How can people submitting news stories best grab your attention with their press releases?
It’s got to be relevant to me. When I was digital director for Okay! magazine obviously all I cared about was content that was appropriate for my readers – so showbiz, entertainment, fashion. If somebody sent me an email about property prices going down, I wouldn’t even bother reading it. People have to know the audience they’re pitching to. It’s annoying when people send you stuff that’s irrelevant.
How important is it for people to supply photographs/images with their press releases?
It depends on what they’re selling. If it’s a product then they need to send me pictures of the product if I’m going to have any kind of chance of running it. If it’s a story – we’ve done a poll among Generation Z and these are the top 10 people they admire – then it doesn’t matter so much, I can get those elsewhere.
What advice can you give on the type of photographs/images to supply?
They have to be large files, as big as possible and they have to be royalty-free. It has happened a few times where someone has sent me a picture and I have uploaded it to the website, then I’ve been told I have to pay for the picture – no!
JJ can be found on Twitter and Instagram @JJAnisiobi.