The popular Sierra Leonean presenter Ted Folarin Roberts of the weekend Nightline Africa programme broadcast to Africa from the VOA studios in Washington is finally retiring after a long and successful stint.
Uncle Ted as he is fondly known was here in October last year when he helped launch the VOA FM transmitter here in Freetown.
Revered by millions. Ted Roberts is “Uncle Ted” on his signature “Nightline Africa,” a family magazine on VOA that has been a staple for Africans and Caribbeans all over the world for years. Known for his wisdom and compassion, Roberts has carved his way to success in the highly competitive world of international broadcast journalism.
During his post at the Voice of America, he has written and produced documentaries dealing with conditions in Africa and the Diaspora.
He led a team of reporters to cover the Zimbabwe parliamentary elections in 2000. Shortly thereafter he presented a documentary series on street kids in Zimbabwe, which eventually spilled over to cover all of Africa.
He also produced a documentary on child soldiers and conditions in war-torn Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Roberts founded “Nightline Family,” his fan club of Nightline Africa with 7,000 registered members and chapters established all over Africa and the Caribbean. True to his humanitarian nature, he uses personal funds to support students, refugees and needy families in Africa, most of whom are “Nightline Family” members. Another of Ted’s contributions to VOA is “The Missing Link,” a program segment that brings together families separated by wars in Africa. More than a hundred families have been successfully reunited since he created the program in 1995.
He was also the first to introduce Africa’s arts, culture and theatre into VOA programming.
In addition to being producer and managing editor at VOA, Roberts is a tenured associate professor at Howard University’s School of Communications, which he was instrumental in creating in 1972.
He has held that post for thirty five years, during which time he has chaired the department twice. He was Founding Assistant Manager for Public Affairs and Training at WHUR FM, Howard University Radio in 1971.
Some of the staff members he trained are now directors, managers and station owners in the U.S.A. and abroad. Nearly a decade ago he established an ongoing internship program at the Voice of America for Howard University students to learn the tools of the trade in a real-world setting with seasoned professionals.
While at Howard University, he was awarded two Fulbright Fellowships to Nigeria and a faculty grant to teach at University of Guyana.
He was also an Exchange Scholar at Rand Afrikaans University in Johannesburg, South Africa now the University of Johannesburg.
Roberts has published three books, A Reporter’s Guide (1977), Practical Radio Promotions (1991), and The Independent Producer (1996). In addition, he wrote, produced and directed “Payday,” a 12-episode radio drama. The editor, writer and producer’s rich contribution to academia and broadcasting has not gone unnoticed, earning him the Voice of America’s coveted Annual Award for Excellence in Programming eight times within a ten year span for documentaries dealing with conditions in Africa and the Diaspora.
He also won awards for “The Missing Link” as well as “A Tale of Two Cities,” a special documentary on conditions in Sierra Leone and Monrovia during the war. He helped launch the VOA 24/7 frequency in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 2008 with his Nightline Africa program.
The program, for the second time, was done live from Africa. The first time was in Zimbabwe during parliamentary elections in 1998. Roberts attended the University of Maryland, College Park and started his broadcasting career at Liberian Broadcasting Corporation in 1962. Since 1964 when he joined the Voice of America and 1972 when he joined the staff at Howard University, the broadcast journalist and educator has been blazing trails and making a name for himself for more than four decades.
He considers himself a simple human being who happens to be in communications and broadcasting, but few will agree after seeing his trail of accomplishments. Uncle Ted will be sadly missed on the airwaves but Sierra leoneans need not despair as he has promised to put his vast knowledge in the field of broadcast journalism to use in Sierra leone. Ted has also been donating lots of journalism books to the school of journalism at Fourah Bay College.