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New Show Challenges Idea That 'Nobody Cares About The Caribbean'

Zahra Burton is the Host and Executive Producer of <em>18 Degrees North</em>.
Dave Cross
Zahra Burton is the Host and Executive Producer of 18 Degrees North.

Former Miss Jamaica Universe Zahra Burton enjoyed being a local reporter in Kingston, but always dreamed of reporting in America. So she moved to the U.S., earned a Masters in Broadcast Journalism, and began an internship at Bloomberg. "Luckily for me, my dream came true," she tells NPR's Michel Martin.

Burton reported from Wall Street during the height of the financial crisis, and remembers it as "an incredible time to be a financial journalist." But after seven years, she began to feel an urge to tell "stories that made me feel better about what I was contributing to society." So she headed back home to her old beat in Jamaica, but with big plans to tell a wider story.

Burton is now the Host and Executive Producer of 18 Degrees North, an investigative news show that is broadcast in 27 countries. "What I wanted to do was to show the world that, when you're talking about global affairs, there are a lot of Caribbean stories that should be spoken about," she explains.

Interview Highlights

On being serial killer Lee Boyd Malvo's chosen interviewer

One of the reasons that he agreed to do the interview...was because he's never been able to fully address a Jamaican audience ... the message that he wanted to impart to ... Jamaican parents is that, when he was being raised, he had parents who were living abroad. And yes, they might have sent material things, but what he really needed was time to learn how to become a man, a responsible man. And the person that became that kind of father-figure for him was John Allen Muhammad who he met in Antigua. He wanted to make it very clear to the Jamaican parents who sometimes migrate, live overseas, send stuff back, 'Look guys, that's not what is important, what's important is time. You make sure that you're creating solid individuals so that they don't have the kind of holes that I had emotionally to invite this kind of trauma into my own life.'

On how America helped her go global on her show

We're the number one rated show in our time slot, at least here in Jamaica...And I believe that because of my time in the U.S., I am able to look at a story and recognize 'What's the hook? What's the angle? How do you go about telling that story so that it will matter to somebody in Japan, somebody in Turkey?' It does not matter where you are in the world, here's a take on a story and it's coming from this island.

On observing Black History Month

Black History Month means to me, a celebration of all these kinds of personalities that we see across the globe...the people who you look up to and you remember that, regardless of where you're coming from, it's not about that; it's where you're going. Yes, you might have had a tougher time to getting where you needed to get to, but the point is you pummeled through it, you kept going, and you got to where you got to, and you deserve the credit.

Tell Me More is observing Black History Month by speaking to voices with roots in Africa who are making an impact around the world as part of a global diaspora.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.