The Newsroom 5.0

This week has been an exceptional one.

I had semi decent pitches on the news diary (nothing to write home about but whatevs) making for a busy week. I was also the photo editor for the week. Meaning I would get to make the decisions on all the pictures in the paper for the week, yays.

On Tuesday I covered One Day Without Shoes on campus. Luckily it wasn’t particularly chilly on the day, so it was easy to leave my shoes behind as I got dressed for the day. I quite enjoyed walking around barefoot. Getting to feel all the different textures I never seem to consider when I have shoes on.

People were very concerned about ‘hygiene’ and asked how on earth I could stand being so dirty. To which I said one wash will take it all away. I really couldn’t be bothered with how dirty my feet got. It was awesome to see so many other Witsies supporting the initiative by donating shoes or just being barefoot on campus.

Production this Wednesday was particularly hectic for me, so much so that I missed an exhibition I really wanted to attend. On the plus side I managed to start working out at the gym again, was starting to feel like a right porker. Thursday morning followed the same vain, some tempers flared during production but I was too busy trying to design a front page to be on that boat.

On Thursday afternoon our photography lecturer, TJ Lemon organised us a very cool guest speaker, James Oatway from The Star. A super talented photo journalist. He showed us some of his shoots as a way of teaching – which was different and very helpful. His photographs are really worth a thousand words as the adage goes. I was left saddened by his photographs taken of what is left of a Khoi/San community and more recently some taken in the Central African Republic. It made me realise once more how powerful photo’s can be. For example his CAR photo’s told me stories I would have never even read in the paper, because sometimes seeing is believing.

Our guest speaker also highlighted the dangers of the profession. Just last week he had an encounter where a gun was waved right in front of his face by a Seleka rebel. He told us anecdotes of people who had lost limbs and lives trying to get the perfect shot. I came into the year with photo journalism as THE thing I really wanted to do. I’m not so sure now. I would like to have babies at some point. Or just be alive you know.

On Friday I spent at great deal of my day covering “R U Silent” on campus. I could not have expected how that event would move me. I am very glad I got the opportunity to be a part of it all. I got a sneak peak into the brave hearts of men and women who wanted with all their might to fight sexual violence in our country. My “debrief” came in the form of a concert later that night. All in all a very fulfilling week was had. More to come next week.

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Silent Protest at Wits

Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

I offered to be the photographer for this event as soon as I saw the posters on campus a few weeks ago. I knew I wanted to be involved with this event, as I had seen a friend’s pictures from last year’s Silent Protest at Rhodes University.

By the time I arrived on the Library Lawns for the handing out of t-shirts on Friday, April 16, it was already drizzling. This didn’t make people run off, they all just whipped out their umbrella’s and continued to queue for their shirts. There were three different shirts being handed out: shirts specifically for rape survivors (those brave enough to wear them); for supporters of the protest (who had to go a step further and have tape over their mouths) and lastly shirts for supporters who for health reasons could not join in being gagged the whole day.  

Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

From what I understand the reason for taping supporters was that they had to endure the burden of being silenced, in their case for a day. Symbolic of the silent struggle that many rape survivors go through. Those who were taped could not take that tape off until later that afternoon, when they would be able to “break their silence.”

At 12.45 all the R U Silent Wits supporters met at Amic Deck for a silent march through the university. 

The march was powerful in its silence. People are too used to loud protests/marches, which makes them somewhat indifferent to them. In this case the silence of the protesters caused more of a stir for onlookers. There were audible murmurs of people asking one another what was going on, wanting to know how they could join etc. The flip side of that were nasty jeers from people who wanted to belittle the protesters. I heard a group of young men laughing as one amongst them shouted “you have sexy ambitions with this thing you are trying to do,” to which I saw a few faces scrunch up in abhorrence.

The final destination was Senate House Concourse, where a few speakers were expected. Rosie Motene spoke on behalf of POWA, a rape survivor from the crowd Tumi shared her experience and Kelly Gillespie, Wits academic, also addressed the crowd. They all managed to resonate with and inspire the gathered protesters. In between the speakers shocking rape stats were read out to the crowd. Things like 100 year old woman rape, 4 year old raped and mutilated… It made the rape statistics we hear about so much more real.

After this was what they called the “die in,” when all in attendance lay on the floor in remembrance of those who had died from rape related violence. It was at this point I began to see reddened eyes and tears streaming down people’s faces. I saw friends tightly holding one another’s hands and boyfriends mustering up courage to lend strong enough shoulders, or just wiping away tears. It was at this point that I stopped taking pictures, lay next to my friend, to hold her hand.

Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

 

The silence of the “die in” was broken by wails from two actresses who began their skit in the middle of the crowd. A moving piece which illustrated the torment rape victims go through and their struggle to speak out.  After the performance those whose mouths had been taped all day could finally “break their silence” by taking the masking tape off of their mouths. This came at the right time as, the debrief thereafter would be the space in which people could reflect on the day and share their experience

Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

.

No media was allowed in the debrief, so I simply went in my personal capacity. It was a very emotional experience. Brave young women and men took heed to the messages to break the silence and shared their stories. I heard stories I will never forget for as long as I live. I heard things that made the stats resonate, that made them real. The sheer numbers in that lecture venue of survivors made me shudder. One must keep in mind there were probably more who were too afraid to speak out to that large body of people.

I was thoroughly depressed when I left that venue. Drained. But I realised that I needed that experience. I needed to know the reality of the situation. I can only hope that the day helped others in the way that it helped me and that the movement continues to gain momentum.

PS**

The Newsroom 4.5

This week was the first that I haven’t had anything published in the paper.

I don’t or didn’t feel particularly left out or incompetent – just strange. It was weird standing on the sidelines while I subbed things for everyone else, while they filed and scheduled their articles for online.

It even felt weird putting the paper to bed on Thursday afternoon, with not one of the pages on the board bearing my byline. Strange.

However, it was nice being able to take a bit of a breather. I won’t often get to rest on my laurels in future. It was illuminating getting the rare chance to watch things happen and just observe as things unfolded in the newsroom.

That said – it was swak watching my dad looking high and low for my stories in this week’s edition. At which point I whispered that I had done some stuff online. I’m not quite sure what the whisper was for. Or maybe I do.

We Are One

RAINBOW OF COLOURS: What it looked like when we threw the colours at the end of a countdown. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
RAINBOW OF COLOURS: What it looked like when we threw the colours at the end of a countdown. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Never in my life did I think I would have this much fun at an event that emanated from a religious practice.

I had wanted to attend from the minute I heard that Holi One (which later changed to We Are One) was coming to Johannesburg this year.

I had seen the Hindu colour festival on TV before and knew I had to do it at least once in my life.

I dragged my feet on getting tickets, which did not serve me well when they were sold out a few weeks before the event.

Luckily for me I know someone who knows someone and managed to get a ticket the day before.

Within in the first five minutes of walking into the venue some over eager festival go-er decided to throw some colour on me robbing me of the before picture I wanted to take.

15 000 people had bought tickets and those same 15 000 were on the grounds of Emmarentia Dam.

I imagined it would be chaotic but it really wasn’t. There were enough bars, food stalls and toilets to cater to everyone’s needs.

There was also ample space for people to move around. I never felt uncomfortable in the crowds.

The highlight of the day for me, were the colour throws that happened every hour. Being in the crowd when they happened was the reason we were all there in the first place.

When you threw your colour up into the air it felt like a New Year’s countdown. Then it felt like you were in the midst of a dessert battlefield as all the colours came down and their residue hung in the air.

AFTERMATH: Moments after the countdown colour throw - torturous to the lungs. Photo: Pheadi Sethusa
AFTERMATH: Moments after the countdown colour throw – torturous to the lungs. Photo: Pheadi Sethusa

The music was great throughout the day. Various DJ’s made our bodies move to their sounds. Goodluck were the headline act and ushered us into the night beautifully.

They also announced that due to the support this festival had received, the band would be travelling to Germany for a Holi One festival later this year.

The festivities started at 11am and were due to end at 8pm. By the time 7pm came around, my feet and legs were done in for.

Towards the same time, none of us looked colourful anymore, just dirty.

It took me a full 40 minute shower to scrub myself clean and an additional 20 minutes to clean all the contents of my handbag. By which time I was exhausted from the day’s events.

I only began to understand the “we are one” title by the end of the day, when we all looked the same.

WE WERE ONE: From left to right, Megan Hamilton-Hall, Paige Fenenga, Pheladi Sethusa and Kayleigh Pierce. Photo: Tracey Hamilton-Hall
WE WERE ONE: From left to right, Megan Hamilton-Hall, Paige Fenenga, Pheladi Sethusa and Kayleigh Pierce. Photo: Tracey Hamilton-Hall

Even though we were all covered in a rainbow of colours, we all looked the same and indeed were the same in that moment.

The Newsroom 4.0

This week was very short and therefore a little hectic in the newsroom.

We went on a ten day break, which was just what we all needed. I got to sleep for more than five hours every day, imagine that?! But that was then.

On Tuesday morning things got real again. Our news conference was a hot mess. No one pitched anything that they believed in, or anything that was super newsworthy or even the least bit juicy. This left us with a very “thin diary.”

To be completely honest I pitched nothing. I literally had nothing, save for an old story that kept being taken in and out of the Zion that is our “revised folder.” You have to understand – when your story is finally in the revised folder you are two or three clicks away from being in the paper that week. A place you really want to be.

Luckily I ended up with something to contribute to this week’s issue. I unexpectedly offered to write our Slice of Life segment. Which is exactly what the name implies, an opinion slash diary slash refection piece. I wrote about the only interesting that has happened to me in while – my graduation.

The piece was originally a blog post of mine (I say this with great confidence now that the paper has already been sent off and there is nothing that the powers that be can do to stop me – mwuhahahahaha). Obviously I edited to be fit enough for the paper (but not so much that it lost its flavour). Not because I was lazy or couldn’t find a new angle but simply because the blog post captured the way I felt and still feel about my graduation. My colleagues seemed to like it, I just hope everyone else does.

I actually haven’t been nervous about anything I have written in the paper. Now I am. My picture accompanies the article and my unbridled thoughts will be right there for everyone to see. Oh well, they best get aquainted 😉

ps – I totally dominated with design today, I really enjoy it and suspect I will be quite legendary at it soon enough.

The Newsroom 3.0

This week was a very short one. We had a three day week thanks to Human Rights Day on Thursday.

It was quite a relief to have the news conference pressure taken off our shoulders on Monday morning. Instead we went on a little field trip. This trip was a few streets down from varsity, corner Sauer and President street,

The Star.

THE STAR: "Telling it like it is and beyond" Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
THE STAR: “Telling it like it is and beyond” Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

I had been waiting for this trip for a while. I was excited to how things were run at a ‘real’ newspaper. Not to say that our paper isn’t real, but you get my drift. Upon entering the building we were handed visitors passes, some of which never made it back to reception.

I’ve only ever seen the building from the outside. I imagined that the inside would be ten times more impressive than the ginormous gold sign outside. I guess all that glitters isn’t gold.

Anyway our tour guide, Vusi,pumped us full of stats  and history as we walked through different departments in the building. The space I most enjoyed seeing was their photography room (I don’t know if they actually call it that but anyway).

We were meant to attend their news conference but that never happened. instead we had tea and biscuits then that was it. Disappointing trip really.

The highlight of the week in the newsroom came on Wednesday. Mondli Makhanya came to speak to us. He told us some of the most entertaining anecdotes from his career and offered the most inspiring pearls of wisdom.

The most memorable thing he said was that we should all retain the idealism we came into the profession with. That we shouldn’t give up on our dream to change the world with our writing, no matter how improbable it seems. I liked that.

The Newsroom 2.0

This week was a lot less exciting than last week (content wise).

My pitch at Monday’s news conference was boring to say the least (the very least). I might have been too tired to care at the time. Luckily a semi-interesting story fell right into my lap the very next day.

I was tasked with doing the follow up article to one of the sexual harassment stories we covered last week. There was an ethical issue that we had to deal with, which led to me taking over the story (full details here).  I don’t want to comment on the reasons for and the reasoning behind the decision made but I will say I was grateful to get the opportunity to dip my toes in this particular issue.

I was not an integral part of the sexual harassment exposé’s last week, which I mentioned made me feel a little left out. But then again I didn’t go out of my way to be on that train. All I did in that vein was sit in on one of the interviews with an alleged harasser. I went along with a colleague to “hold the recorder” as she conducted the interview. Despite my brief I ended up butting in to ask a few questions. That’s all I did last week to add to the teams efforts.

Anyway I digress. I went off and interviewed the head of school to ask a few questions about what the school was doing to deal with the allegations. I was impressed to find that over the weekend they had come together to figure out ways that the school could begin to mediate the situation. There is nothing the school can do to deal with the allegations, for example they don’t have the authority to launch a formal investigation.

I then went on to speak to the alleged victims to get their comments on how things were progressing and to find out what their next move would be. It was a fairly standard piece to write – or so I thought. There was a bit of an issue with the way I phrased things and small words I overlooked when paraphrasing. Things so tiny to me that they bordered on nonsensical, but in the grand scheme of things, actually made a huge difference when I corrected them. This taught me to think beyond my own understanding of things. I assumed that people would read it in the way I intended them to and that is rarely ever the case.  Lesson learned.

A much cooler thing I learned this week was how to design a page. I had never considered this component of production. I suppose I imagined – let me not lie I have never ever thought about how and why a newspaper page looks the way it does. It has never occurred to me that ad’s need to be placed and locked in a boarderd box, that bylines and headlines need their own custom styles and that it is not a simple process of copy and paste.

We had a design workshop on Tuesday. A workshop I couldn’t afford to be productive in because I had an assignment to finish and an article to pen. Luckily I catch on quite quick, which saw me designing a whole page by myself the next day. I did need help here and there but I did do a lot by myself. That was my proud moment of the week 🙂

The Newsroom 1.0

This week has been INSANE. Insanely awesome that is.

We only started ‘working’ in the newsroom last week, when we had our first real news conference. News conference is when we all pitch possible news stories we have and plan the diary for that weeks paper.

The first time doing this was extremely nerve wrecking, even the second time I suppose. You’re never sure if what you have will be good enough or even news worthy. This week I pitched four stories and as it turns out they weren’t as rubbish as I imagined.

Yesterday during production all our threads started to come together. We edited pictures and articles, then  peer subbed (over and over again). I had the honour of having two of my pieces sub edited by Anton Harber. Yes, THE Anton Harber. I don’t know if it will ever really sink in that he is my lecturer.

We have worked really hard this week and are going to put out n amazing edition of Vuvuzela. We really went out to make as much noise as we could with this one. Every page will be jam packed with brilliant stories.

Basically – I love what I’m doing. I am exactly where I should be.

To tweet or not to tweet…

…that is the question.


Okay I lie, there is no question – I just like drama. I have to tweet, scrap that – I need to tweet. I just need to do it differently to how I have been.

We had a class on the how to tweet, when to tweet and what to tweet by our social media lecturer Dinesh Balliah. She presented the lesson to us with an impressive PowerPoint presentation. It made me realise how important twitter is as a social media tool.

Not to say I never thought about it like that, but I never considered how it can empower tweeps, journalists in particular. The gist of the presentation looked at the fact that social media is no longer just about chatting to your mates and discussing the mundane. Social media is now used as a platform to disseminate vital information – sharing video’s, link’s and photo’s that focus on hard news and issues, as and when they happen. Beyond that getting to engage meaningfully with a diverse range of people. As opposed to the ins and outs of little Hannah’s fifth birthday party or the very particular description of that morning’s breakfast.

Social media, if used wisely can essentially “make” you as a journalist. Even though twitter in particular has the power of launching people into (sometimes) illusory prominence. It’s not to say that journalists don’t have legit followers, who largely follow them based on the content of their tweets rather than pure popularity.

By the end of the lesson I was questioning how I have been using twitter for the past two years. That night I had a look through my archive and I realised that my 30k tweets are mostly annoying. There is a lot of whining and whingeing – some of which is funny but a lot of it isn’t.  I imagine it an irksome experience going through my TL. Especially when I was in a particularly good/bad mood – I felt it my duty to inform the world, ALL THE TIME (see what I mean). However, most of them are informative and go beyond the purely personal.

I guess this whole post has been a roundabout way of saying I need to change my tweeting habits. If not for my not-so-distant career, for the sanity of my followers. I won’t go as far as creating a personal account and a seperate professional one.I already manage four blogs, two facebook pages and three email accounts amongst other things. I could not possibly add a new twitter profile to the lot. Along with this I am deeply devoted to my twitter as is, it just screams Pheladi through and through.

I will attempt to tastefully and strategically mix the personal and the professional. It might be a challenge but I’m sure I’ll manage.