VIDEO: My year at The Citizen in 5 minutes

On Thursay, November 29 was the we had to do our end of year graduate presentations for our mentors and fellow graduates.

It was really cool to see what other people did with their year and how much they learnt. there were only three of us at The Citizen – so we only knew each other.

Anyway I decided to make a short-ish video as my presentation. We were tasked with telling people a little bit about our backgrounds and explaining the ups and downs of our time here:

 

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Black Wednesday: Remembering the pain

About a week ago, I went to a film screening of a short doccie on Black Wednesday, hosted by the Steve Biko Foundation at the Bioscope in Maboneng.

I imagined that it would be enlightening and robust debate would be had. I didn’t imagine that I would cry throughout the entire thing.

I “know” our history, I’ve studied it extensively in school, varsity and in my private time to make sure that I never forget, I never become complacent, complicit and and and. Some say I am obsessed and I think we need to be if we truly want to “fight” the system – but that’s a discussion for another day.

Black Wednesday: On October 19 1977 three newspapers and a number of anit-apartheid journalists were banned. The movie we saw was about that, linking that day to the broader effort by the apartheid government to weaken the Black Consiousness Movement as a whole.

Seeing a grown man cry about how Steve Biko’s death was more than just a loss but something that left an indelible mark – at which point he cried, I cried. Personally I will never ever be able to forgive that. Killing Biko on September 12, a month prior, was more than an act of extreme hate but a convoluted plan to break a people – and it may have worked.

Anyway there was a cool opportunity for a Q&A session with the journalists who were banned that time, Joe Thloloe and Juby Mayet. Some highlights from that discussion:

Q: There’s a dirth intellectual leadership amongst emerging generations. They engage with Pan-African ideas at a very superficial level because it’s the “in” thing. The black rage they feel is fabricated. Thoughts on that?

Joe Thloloe: When you say fabricated anger, I disagree with that. It’s still the same anger. But we tried to sanitize it and in the process we find it erupting in ways we didn’t imagine… Since 1994 we have started to believe we are a rainbow nation, we are a miracle nation – when in fact the issues of the time still haven’t been solved. That’s the tragedy of our history.

Q: If that’s the case, can we be saved?

Juby Mayet: The black rage that exists today is directed at the current leadership, because there is such a vast gap between the haves and the have-nots. The haves are not necessarily white anymore…There is such a simple solution, don’t do it  for the t-shirt and the free food hamper – think. You’ve got the vote now, use it.

Q – asked by my friend, Shandukani Mulaudzi: What would you have liked to see happen in ’94?

JT: The first disaster was at Kempton Park, where a whole nation was hoodwinked into believing that a miracle is happening. The first thing that should have been negotiated was – how do we make up for all these years of suffering? That question wasn’t answered. And it still hasn’t been answered. We just went right to ululating and saying we are free – when in fact the basic issue was not resolved. Today a few of us have been co-opted into the old apartheid structures – we just have a few black faces there. I wanted us to answer the question of what do we do about 300 years of painful oppression.

Q: The term Black is now being used as a divider, rather than a term to unite. In the era of BCM, it was used to identify all people who were oppressed. The term Black is being abused by the current holders of power. How do you identify yourselves?

JM: When I had to fill in forms in those days and I still do this – where it asked for race I used to say human. If all of us do that they’ll soon chuck away all of the forms.

Q: Recently Minister Lindiwe Sisulu that people under 40 were not affected by apartheid, therefore should not benefit from redress measures like receiving RDP houses. Thoughts?

JT: That’s absolute nonsense. The child who is unable to read and write in Soweto today – is a product of the apartheid system. Is a product of Jan van Riebeeck landing in the Cape. So it’s 300 years that you are talking about and that will not be removed by the wave of a magic wand. When we talk about redress we must be talking about how we fix the systems, the hurt and damage that was done – mental, physical and spiritual.

Q: How do we address correcting the wrongs of the past if we don’t identify who is Black, White, Coloured etc, if we go by the human race definition?

JT: Saying we are part of “the human race” is a nice little intellectual trap we have set for ourselves. We have to be Black or Coloured or Indian to redress the past. Ultimately we are looking at all people who were oppressed, people who couldn’t vote, couldn’t get work, live where they wanted to etc.

JM: Millions are spent on nonsense things like Nkandla, expensive clothes, flying here and there. That money could be spent on other simple things like education. They did away with Teacher Training Colleges – where must our teachers learn to do what they do? There also needs to be more emphasis on reading from a very young age. Open more libraries, have mobile libraries in rural areas. My informal education largely came from reading when I was young – I just read everything that was in the house.

Q – asked by me: I’m a new journalist and obviously a black female. I find myself in a space where I am expected to write about Nkandla being so bad and that minister being so corrupt – when I know that that is not the real issue – white supremacy is. I suppose my question is, how today, as a journalist can I move beyond the anger I feel towards Jacob Zuma and focus on the real issue we have had and will probably have for I don’t know how long? It’s so very depressing to me to think that my children and their children and their children will have to live through this. It’s an all-encompassing frustration and depression that emanates from me not knowing what to do.

JM: You used the term “white supremacy” – there’s no such thing. It doesn’t exist in my world. In ’94 when we blacks went to vote for the first time were so blindsided by this rosey image of what was happening. We need to lay blame at Nelson Mandela’s feet. Yes, he was a terrific person and a great inspiration but we blindly voted for his party because of who he was – we didn’t see beyond him. We need to conscentise one another, to change mindsets.

JT: The media is a reflection of society in general. We have come to glorify the sensational. The media are businesses, they provide society with what society wants. As journalists we need to reflect who we are in our writing, not what the powers that be want. We are guerillas operating in enemy territory – the newspapers and radio stations are not ours but we must use them.

Q (asked audience member from Bolivia): I would like to see South Africa become a clour blind society. Because with this rainbow of this rainbow nation thing, there are just too many tribes – like in South America. It’s another form of apartheid to say black or white or coloured. People use “black” to play victim.

In response I said: It’s useful to label ourselves because there is a bigger system that supports those lables. It is not a coincidence that the people who liv e in dire poverty are people of colour. Until that is no longer the situation, the labeling of ourselves is necessary.

It was a lovely evening and much more was discussed in the hour long conversation. Keep learning, keep growing.

Where I’m at

That headline is probably a grammatical sin of note but I’m 23 and kind of cool so let’s just be strong.

So I have been a working girl for a few months now and figured it’s time to say something about that.

The Job

I am currently working at The Citizen newspaper, as you can tell from the infrequent posts I manage to put up. I’m an intern at the daily paper and I rate so far so good.

I have managed to end up on the front page a few times – which is really very flattering. I’m fortunate to be working somewhere where I am allowed to do that – most interns don’t really get the opportunity to write as frequently as I do. Most people do the things senior journos are “above doing” – making phone calls, rewriting press releases that kind of thing.

I almost feel guilty that I have all this freedom to do pretty much any and everything while some of my friends are on the press release end of the spectrum (note: I have nothing against press releases I use them as well just not enough to want to die yet).

On the other hand I feel like I was NEVER ready for a daily newspaper – life here is really fast. Sometimes it feels like I’m on a rotating conveyer belt – type, file, type, file, type, file – on and on. What doesn’t kill you right?

The money

Being in the working world, paying my own way through life has taught me a few things about myself. Initially I was like “who would ever use this much money in a month? Losers.”

In the beginning I could not spend it all, I saved some, spent more and carried over the rest. Then I decided it was time to invest in things I really needed, a new camera and laptop. It didn’t seem like that much money at the time but soon that coupled with careless social spending, ever increasing petrol prices brought me back to reality.

Last week I ended up with R40 and only enough petrol to go to work before pay day – it was the worst feeling (I’m very liberal with hyperbolic speech). I suppose I have to learn how to budget now. Having money is nice but it makes everything look shiny and like something I “need”.

The social/not so social life

Coming into journalism everyone warned me about not having a life. Something which I experienced a bit last year when I was doing my honours at Wits – I became the friend who cancelled plans last minute and was always late to things. I suppose last year I didn’t feel it as much because my classmates became a huge part of making up for the nonexistent social life.

This year, without them things are different. I do go out when I can but I mostly just want to sleep. Everyone works now so making plans, finding times that fit is another struggle – because you know they have boyfriends and things.

Then I go to stories and other journos know eachother and I just play candy crush to pass time. I suppose I didn’t count on the loneliness when I decided I want to work in the media (to paraphrase Fitzgerald Grant).

Two-year backlog clogs post office depot

FILE PICTURE: A post office sign. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark
FILE PICTURE: A post office sign. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark.

NOTE Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on May 19, 2014. 

small post office depot is chock -a-block with thousands of letters, many of which may have gone undelivered for two years, according to a source at the Post Office.

The Post Office last week ordered an internal investigation after an employee at the affected branch blew the whistle.

The whisteblower insisted that colleagues not be allowed to “hide this thing” by dumping the mail in an effort to save face and “not face the customers affected”.

The Post Office branch in Wesselsbron, Free State, doubles as the postal depot for the area.

“The mail has been sitting there since 2012, we don’t have space to move,” the whistleblower is reported to have said.

Following the whistleblower’s efforts, the matter ended up at the Post Office’s headquarters in Pretoria.

Janras Kotsi, spokesperson to the group executive of Mail Business, said two senior investigators had been assigned to conduct a “thorough investigation into the undelivered mail that was discovered in Wesselsbron”.

However, the source alleged that members of the investigation team had wanted to hide the incident. “They wanted to convince the manager to not publish the report, which is just wrong.”

Only some of the delayed mail would be required by the SA Police as evidence for prosecution, Kotsi said. Most of it was “ordinary mail” which would be delivered as soon as possible.

He added that the Post Office has a “zero tolerance” policy on postal crime.

“A disciplinary procedure and suspension which may lead to dismissal.” If criminal acts are uncovered, they would be referred to the police for criminal prosecution.

The Newsroom 2.0: I’m back!

Happy New Year and all that jazz, I do realise that I’m like a month too late, but better late than never goes the adage. Started working as an intern at Wits Journalism last week. Going to be here for a few weeks, “mentoring” the new bunch of Journalism Honours students.

Last week was mad hectic because there were only four of us in the newsroom but somehow we managed to produce an entire paper. Here are links to all the things I did last week:

I’m the editor this week, so there will be lot’s more coming,in my round up of the week over the weekend.

ps – unlike last year I won’t be uploading all my work on this blog, but will put up my favourite pieces for that week on here 🙂

#teamvuvu: Nokuthula Manyathi

iThuli or Thuli with an ‘i’ is another native from the Ridge. She is however a nomad, who travelled to Diepsloot every evening and on weekends. This Oprah stan is the personification of the phrase dynamite comes in small packages.

Looking summer fresh.
Looking summer fresh.

Me: How would you describe your outfit today?

Thuli: Summery (is there such a word?)

Me: How would you describe your style in general?

Thuli: Clean and casual

Me: Are you sure about this journalism thing?

Thuli: Yes, I am. In my  16+ years of being in the school system I have never felt more at home then I do now.

Me: That said, if you weren’t doing what you doing this, what would you be doing?

Thuli: I’ve never seen myself doing anything that doesn’t involve people. I’d be doing something that involves interacting with people on a daily basis, like teaching.

Me: How have you found your honours year?

Thuli: This year has been amazing. Everyday even on my worst day I was excited to come to class. I don’t remember bunking or skipping a day of school. This year a fire was ignited or a passion within me that I hadn’t thought I had. I’m generally excited about the future but this year took my excitement level about the future to another level. I’m in love.

Me: What’s been the most challenging thing and the most rewarding thing for you this year?

Thuli: I’m not a writer. I express myself best verbally. So I was challenged in that I had to explain/express my thoughts and concepts on paper. When I arrived I was very insecure about my writing I would spend days on one story to try make it perfect but now(because of practice) I file stories faster and people understand what I’ve written which is a big win for me. This was both a challenge and reward. (Oh and live tweeting used to kick my ass).

Me: Where will you be next year and what will you be doing?

Thuli: Next year I’ll be at City Press here in jozi. I’m really excited to be challenged and to be pushed to the edge. I can’t wait to be pushed into the deep end and see myself swim cause that’s the only option I’ve given myself.

Me: How would you describe #teamvuvu in three words?

Thuli: Passionate, visionaries, extended family

Me: A word of advice for the incoming team for 2014?

Thuli: Enjoy boot camp that’s the most time free time you will have in afternoons to have a social life. What you put in is what you will get out. Your growth is dependent on what YOU are willing to give. Don’t stress, even the “experienced writers” in class are insecure about their work. Take every opportunity.

Quickfire Q & A: 

#teamvuvu: Liesl Frankson

Liesl [pronounced lee-sil] has been of the most feisty and sassy people in our class this year. I will miss our early morning banter and conversations through looks.

Holiday mode: ON. Just shopping, chilling.
Holiday mode: ON. Just shopping, chilling.

Me: How would you describe your outfit today?

Liesl: It’s inspired by the sunny weather. The heat especially, that’s why I’m wearing shorts and a very thin, loose, flowy top.

Me: How would you describe your style in general?

Liesl: I wear whatever feels comfortable. I’m very driven by the weather. I would hate to be inappropriately dressed for the weather.

Me: On to the less frivolous, are you sure about this journalism thing?

Liesl: I’m sure about it to a certain extent. I think you can’t lose when you study Journalism. Print maybe not so much, radio is definitely more of my thing.

Me: If you weren’t doing what you doing this, what would you be doing?

Liesl: Um, I would be doing this, there’s no other way. When I applied for this course it was Wits Journalism or bust. I didn’t apply for anything else because this is all I wanted to do.

Me: How have you found your honours year?

Liesl: Challenging but fun.

Me: What’s been the most challenging thing and the most rewarding thing for you this year?

Liesl: Being in a class with a whole lot of other females with their personalities has by far been the most challenging thing for me. I had to hold my tongue a lot of the time.

 

The most rewarding thing has been getting to know these people and getting to see your work in the newspaper. Also getting to see the newspaper being acknowledged, getting awards and stuff [#winning]

Me: Where will you be next year and what will you be doing?

Liesl: I still don’t know, it’s bad.

Me: How would you describe #teamvuvu in three words?

Liesl: Very loud, almost like a family – that’s not three words but ya, like a family because everybody had their roles, so there were mother hens, there were big sister types ya.

Me: A word of advice for the incoming team for 2014?

Liesl:  Take everything very seriously, everything you do is going to count. So when they say rock up there with however many stories to pitch, you need to have those stories cause that shit counts

Quickfire Q&A: 

#teamvuvu: Leigh-Ann Carey

Leigh-Ann (aka LA, yes as in Reid) is another migrant from the Ridge, who later got her life together and moved to Diepsloot, dankie ANC.

Me: How would you describe your outfit today?

LA:  Today I’m wearing shorts, a crop top and flops. I think I look pretty cool. I’m also rocking my afro and chunky earrings. 

Holiday's treating home girl best. Photo: Provided
Holiday’s treating home girl best. Photo: Provided

 

Me: How would you describe your style in general?

LA: I wear comfortable clothing, um a mixture of vintage and retro. Anything that’s cheap and looks good on me, that’s on the vintage side is what I’d describe as my style.

Me: On to the less frivolous, are you sure about this journalism thing?

LA: I know for a fact that I don’t wanna do politics and print journalism, I’m more of a radio person. Radio is a passion, it comes easy to me and I feel at home when doing it. I mean, I’m pretty sure that I can write but I just don’t want to be writing for like City Press, unless I’m doing writing that isn’t political or hard news.

Me: If you weren’t doing what you doing this, what would you be doing?

LA: I would be doing my honours in advertising at UJ. I got accepted for that, so I would have been doing that.

Me: How have you found your honours year?

LA: It’s been extremely hectic, a whole lot of reading, writing for Vuvu, trying to read in between – um – trying to socialise as well. So many things have suffered because of the hectic schedule.

Me: What’s been the most challenging thing and the most rewarding thing for you this year?

LA: Finding my style of writing has been challenging. I think with journ everywhere you go people or organisations have an idea as to how you should write, I guess that’s one of things that make me think I don’t ever want to be a writer. Not that I wouldn’t ever wanna be a writer, but I feel like you constantly change your style to adapt to a publications style. Like this year I had to write according to Vuvu style and if I went to another publication next year, I would have to write in their style, so it’s like I don’t even know what my style is because I’m forced to adapt to so many writing styles.

 

I’ve learnt so many things this year. I’ve learnt how to make sense of a story, what to include, what to write. I think my writing skills have definitely improved, without a doubt. That’s been the most rewarding thing. I think the assurance that this is either what I want to do or not, made me learn a lot about myself as well.

Me: Where will you be next year and what will you be doing?

LA: I’ll be working at CNBC Africa, I don’t know what I’m gonna be doing. They asked me what I wanted to do and I said anything apart from writing, so I could do events, PR, maybe try my hand at graphics, ya.

Me: How would you describe #teamvuvu class of 2013?

LA: We had a lot of big personalities, just a different bunch of people. Some people had some sort of “deeper passion” for journ, whereas some people were just trying to learn how to become journalists, whereas other people were actually serious I guess.

Me: A word of advice for the incoming team for 2014?

LA: Don’t lose yourself.  I think people assume you’re a better writer if you’re spying and reporting on the fact that Jacob Zuma has a side chick [hahaha], that’s not who you are. If that’s not what you want to write about don’t force yourself to write about it and don’t feel stupid for wanting to write entertainment stories or stories about make-up. Ya, don’t lose yourself for a career, it should come naturally. We are all different kinds of writers.