#teamvuvu: Mfuneko Toyana

The only dude in our class, Funi – the prodigal son, humoured me by answering my questions via correspondence this afternoon as he sat in a park somewhere and he didn’t get kidnapped while he did it, kudos.

Another selfie, this one with some foreground/background action - dlala Shakes Jnr. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Another selfie, this one with some foreground/background action – dlala Shakes Jnr. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Me: How would you describe your outfit today?

Funi: I’d describe it as very comfortable and simple. It’s grey and black, a bit bland but it works.

Me: How would you describe your style in general?

Funi: Um, apparently I start all my sentences with “um,” so um. When you asked the question I thought you meant my writing style not my dress style, so I’m going to answer both. My writing style is an inside joke and you could say that my dress sense is the same. It’s very chilled, relaxed, loose with an emphasis on comfort.

Me: Now on to the more serious, are you sure about this journalism thing?

Funi: I’m absolutely, 100% sure about journalism and I guess more widely about writing. But ya, very serious about journalism – it’s a calling and it takes time for you to understand what that means, I don’t fully understand what it will entail, but I’m all in.

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

Funi: I suspect I would be doing one of two things, I’d either be studying History or English Literature, probably a bit of both. Or I’d be in advertising, particularly as a copywriter or pushing a desk job as a marketer, which would be terrible, just doom.

Me: How have you found your honours year?

Funi: I’ve found it interesting I guess and useful. More than anything else it’s helped me develop a lot of discipline and be clear about what I want for the future. It’s also been very demanding, extremely demanding.

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

Funi: The most challenging has been the discipline aspect I think. It’s taking what I want to do and what I have to do, and trying to combine those and have and end product. I think I’ve done okay with that though.

 

Hmmm, the most rewarding thing has been being able to write more and consequently being able to go out into the world more. I got to see different things and watch a whole lot of other situations and other people, and just be around journalists – journalists to be and working journalists. And the free food, the free food has been very rewarding for my belly and my tastebuds.

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

Funi: Next year if the world doesn’t end, I’ll be at Wits for the first few months of the year, skivvy for the department – earning my stripes. For three months after that I’ll be at Reuters, watching the markets. Somebody told me it’s like bird watching except there’s no birds. Ya, I’ll be doing financial journalism at Reuters paying them back for school fees this year and I’m not sure what happens after that, hopefully I’ll be in a newsroom, that’s the main goal.

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

Funi: Fuck, that’s tough [these aren’t the words, I hope]. Uh, a whole lot of girls? *chuckles*. I’d day loud, ferocious – no, scratch ferocious, more tenacious than ferocious and very with it, hip , hipsters – yes, that’s how I would describe them.

A fourth word, I can’t believe I left this out very, very, very talented, above anything else. I guess it comes from the other three words.

Me: How did I feel being one of only two members of the opposite sex in the class?

Funi: It felt great, for the first couple of weeks even months. I guess I was excited to tell people that I’m in a class with 15 or 16 girls, depending on how you look at these things. But it was very interesting, I wouldn’t say challenging, who would be challenged by being in a class with 15 women? It brought a lot of insight, I got to be with these 15 very different women, with very different personalities, different opinions and very different ways of carrying themselves – of carrying their beauty, their inner light and their outer light [awwwwwwww]. It was fascinating to see how that all came across in the context of a newsroom, where we’re trying to produce something meaningful for the world outside. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing that and I thoroughly enjoyed the kind of relationships I was able to have and to attempt, because life is just one big attempt isn’t it?

 

There are a few negative side effects – I now scratch my non-existent breasts, because of monkey see monkey do situation. When you see me in public scratching non-existent C or D cups, don’t look down on me,  it’s not my fault.

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

Funi: Take this shit very seriously, take every day seriously, take close to every moment seriously. I’m not talking about a flippant sort of serious, I’m talking about taking this as a calling. More than anything honour your craft which means  understand what journalism is, read every day, be interested, be fucking curious, watch as much news as you can, keep dissecting things, write as much as you can. Be a geek about this shit because it is a calling and it’s a tremendous calling, ya don’t be an asshole about it – be a geek about it. That’s what it takes to be a championship journalist, like we were in 2013, thank you. No autographs *laughs*

[Thanks Will McAvoy].

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#teamvuvu: Nomatter Ndebele

Meet my neighbour in class, Nom Nom. We have been neighbours since the begininigg of this year and as such shared much mgozi over coffee in the mornings.

Selfie vibes. Photo: Nomatter Ndebele
Selfie vibes. Photo: Nomatter Ndebele

 Me: How would you describe your outfit today?

Nomatter: Function over form. I had things to do, I had to get them done so I didn’t focus on looking good – ya I didn’t focus on the form, I just focused on the function.

Me: How would you describe your style in general?

Nomatter: Hobo chic and then every now and again, you know, I throw some niceness in the mix.

Me: Now that we’ve broken the ice, are you sure about this journalism thing?

Nomatter: I’m sure about journalism, I am surer than I have ever been about anything in my life. I think, well I know for a fact that I’m not going to be a print journalist but anything else definitely goes.

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

Nomatter: I think I would be pursuing drama, acting kinda vibes.

Me: How have you found your honours year?

Nomatter: Very challenging and very real – also very realistic. It has forced me to look at things in a different way than I see them in my head.

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

Nomatter: Having to be the journalist that I want to be, in a newsroom of 16 other personalities. Often people pooled onto the one side and I was often on the other, so it was a challenge for me to still be myself and still be a part of the team.

The most rewarding thing I suppose has been achieving that. I was able to remain myself in the course and nurture the journalist I want to be in the future, without having to be the typical serious kind of journalist.

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

Nomatter: Reuters news agency, interning there and interning at the Wits Journalism department for a while as well. I hope to learn as much as I can so I can fly to greater heights.

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

Nomatter: Loud, consistent and dynamic.

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

Nomatter: Always be prepared to put up a fight, write from your heart and filter the white noise. A lot of people are going to have a lot of things to say but you can’t let them get to you. 

The Newsroom 10

Oh my, the end is here – in fact it has already come and gone hasn’t it?

This week was the most relaxed week we have ever had in the newsroom. This was the week that we got total control of the newspaper. As such none of the ‘big people’ were allowed to be involved in the production of our last paper for the year.

News conference on Monday set the tone for the rest of the week, we chose what we would be doing and once that was done went off to the Pig, haha, I knew that the week would be filled with nuts because of this.

For once I was relieved to have a thousand ad’s in the paper, it made our jobs a little easier. This last edition was meant to be fun and light, seeing as we had free reign but unfortunately we have become news writing automatons who can’t help but report the news instead of fun frivolities. Either way by 1pm on Thursday we had miraculously put together a paper. A whole newspaper – even though we were a little short staffed this week.

It was a great way to end off what has been an incredible year, personally speaking the best year of my life. This year was my chance to do what I’ve always wanted to do, to become someone with a public voice, an influential voice that is taken seriously. I’ve had the chance to be a part of an amazing team that ruffled feathers by asking the right questions, and digging and digging until they found some shred of evidence to get the stories. We have caused quite a bit of trouble this year and it’s paid off in more ways than one.

It’s been a roller coaster ride of a year, but a more pleasant one like the Golden Loop – which is quick and fast but not enough to make you scream and cry like perhaps the Anaconda (never again). It was an intense year, chock-a-block with work and fun – no one said it would be easy but no one said it would be so much fun as well. I’m leaving with much more than a degree.

It scares me how much talent is about to unleashed into newsrooms next year, teamvuvu gladiators have bright futures ahead of them shem. Again, it has been nothing but an honour to be a part of this year’s team – they will forever hold a special place in my heart as the people helped my dream come true. The people who held my hand this year, who made me coffee, who sang with me, who had drink after drink with me, the people I missed when I was absent, the people who have become my friends, my family.

It’s time for us to go our separate ways, be great and become the people we are meant to be.

Ducking and diving to get the story

Reporting in war zones of conflict areas can be dangerous for any investigative journalist or photo journalist. Stephen Hofstatter and James Oatway presented ways to stay safe and navigate such areas in ways that will help to get the story a journalist is looking for and stay alive at the same time.

Sunday Times journalists James Oatway (left) and Stephan Hofstatter (right) shared their personal experiences on reporting in conflict areas on the continent. Photo: Prelene Singh
Sunday Times journalists James Oatway (left) and Stephan Hofstatter (right) shared their personal experiences on reporting in conflict areas on the continent. Photo: Prelene Singh

Hofstatter and Oatway have worked together in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Central African Republic (CAR) on stories that have seen the two dodging bombs and confronted by armed rebels. Their presentation on Covering Resource Conflict in Africa started off with Hofstatter outlining the essential and practical considerations they had taken when they went into conflict areas. He said that in conflict areas it’s difficult to sift between fact and fiction because of the amount of propaganda punted by opposing sides. A lot of wire services fall prey to misinformation because they rely on once source in many cases, added Hofstatter.

The pair used their stories to highlight some of the do’s and don’ts involved in covering conflict areas:

The budget that they worked on for their trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
The budget that they worked on for their trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

• Budget: The most essential things on the budget include money for a fixer, a driver and accommodation. Hofstatter said that they used up to $250 a day on a trip. Oatway added that while some news agencies had big enough budgets to include security, this presents a challenge when trying to get close to sources and getting a more in-depth story.

• The right fixer: A dependable and professional fixer is essential to survival in conflict areas said Oatway. Fixers are people who can put you in touch with military commanders and bureaucrats because they have nurtured relationships with these people. Fixers can help in attaining exclusive footage because they can navigate around difficult situations and people. · Background: “It’s difficult to get information when you get there,” this is why journalists need to do all their homework beforehand said Hofstatter. A lot of senior officials and business officials from other African countries live in South Africa, they can be very useful sources.

• Angles: While it is important to present a South African angle when reporting, it is equally important to avoid being insular by ignoring international angles. Hofstatter used an anecdote of their experience with rebel commanders in the CAR to illustrate this. “We didn’t just cover the conflict there (in CAR)…We had to show what kind of regime our government was propping up,” said Hofstatter.

Ethical considerations: In such volatile areas, one can witness grave human rights abuses. The pair tried where they could to make ethical and morally sound decisions where both information and images were concerned. Oatway vividly recalled a situation where they pleaded with rebels to release a prisoner they had in their custody after he had taken the shots he needed but added, “I have no idea what happened to him after we left.”

• Balanced reporting under fire: Again Hofstatter stressed the importance of avoiding falling for propaganda. “Where you can highlight unverified information and highlight where you got that information.” Images and information with grey areas can create false negative narratives.

• Safety first: Oatway said that even though he itched for “iconic photos” when there is a lot of action happening, he sometimes has to ignore scratching that itch by staying away from extremely risky situations. Hofstatter went on to list things to do in the face of gunfire or hand grenades going off, “make yourself as small as possible and lie on your back,” he said.

The Newsroom 7.0

It was 09:45 on a Wednesday morning. The excitement of seeing familiar faces had waned and I had already missed two deadlines. All I wanted to do at that point was sleep. Sleep for longer than five hours.

First week back in the newsroom has been nothing sort of exhausting. Gone are the days of sleeping in, late lunches, series marathons and groove. The break was very, very good to me. I had about six and a half weeks to do the things I no longer had time for when I started this course.

The week started early, the Friday before this Monday – with news conference. We needed to plan well in advance for our 12 page edition, which came out this past Friday. We had a lot of content, which made for stabilised stress levels (mostly).

Along with trying to do this ‘little’ producing a paper thing, we started with feature writing classes. We have been told that this part of the course is one of the most difficult. I had hoped these are just scare tactics, failure doesn’t look good on me. But on the real I am quite keen. I feel like feature writing will make me write creatively and in a way that is less insular than I do on these interweb streets.

Back to the newsroom – I was rusty AF. I wrote one story on newly signed work contracts by Wits cleaners – that wasn’t too bad I rate. My design work on the other had was horrendous *shaking my head at myself* It reminded me that being good requires practice – lots of it. Something which rang true with the photo’s I took this week – the photography work I did in the holidays has made me polish up my skills behind the lens.

My favourite shot was of Albert, a Witsie with ‘the calling’ – a colleague wrote about his story. He had such a great story to tell and I am glad that I got to capture an essence of his lively spirit with the photo(s) I took.

Pictured here, Albert Khoza Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Pictured here, Albert Khoza Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Last night I learnt that there might be nothing more trying than trying to take photos in a dark club. Without a flash or one of those fancy lights hitched onto the camera. I love my Ruby (my Nikon D5100) but there were points last night when I looked at people’s Canon 7D’s with longing.

All in all it has been a great week. It has been tough getting back into the swing of things but I have five fresh days coming up to try again.

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.

Cool Kid on Campus: Atish Jogi

Atish sitting outside of William Cullen Library. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Atish sitting outside of William Cullen Library. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

FINAL year law student Atish Jogi is one of the most stylish men on campus.

His swag—in his own words—is on level “one hunnid.” As GQs Best Dressed Reader 2012 this is not hard to believe.

His hobbies include a mixture of sports he loves and creative art. He plays indoor cricket at the Sandton arena and runs with both the Braamfie and Rosebank run club’s. Artistically he is a photographer with a particular fascination with urban landscapes, street life and fashion.

Why did you choose to study law at Wits?

Wits is a premier academic institution and I really wanted to do law because I want to be involved in finding solutions to some of the country’s problems.

How did you win your GQ Best Dressed Reader title last year?

We had to submit photos of five everyday looks. These photos then went through a selection process by the GQ team, where they selected the top three finalists. Thereafter readers had to vote for their favourite from the top three-which happened to be me.

Is it then safe to say that you’re style conscious?

Well, yes. I don’t plan outfits or anything but I do make an effort to be presentable and wear clothes that make me look and feel good.

Do you think other guys on campus have any sense of style?

Not really. Some guys do try to make an effort but most are the track pants and sneakers types. All I’ll say to those guys is that women appreciate men who dress well.

What are you wearing today?

Vintage Nike Air Max One’s, G-Star Raw jeans, a Country Road cotton v-neck, a Polo jersey and Gucci glasses. I know it seems like I’m obsessed with brands but I’m really not.

Do you have a style icon?

Yes, my close personal friend and model Masego ‘Maps’ Maponyane. His style is unique and fresh.

Pheladi Sethusa