What is your background?
align=justifyBorn in Durban, I started my career as a cadet reporter on the Natal Mercury, working also for the Sunday Tribune. I worked as a news editor for what was then the Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers) in Bloemfontein before transferring to Cape Town, covering the High Court and then education during the turbulent eighties. That’s when I joined the Weekly Mail, setting up and running the Cape Town bureau. I news edited the paper during the first democratic elections in 1994 and returned to Cape Town to cover the first democratic parliament. I was political editor of the Mail & Guardian when I joined Primedia for the launch of Cape Talk. I’ve been with Primedia for the past 10 years, working as a show host and producer of programmes, online editor and currently, group parliamentary correspondent. I’m also a member of the South African National Editors’ Forum council and chairperson of the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association.R
align=justifyWhen is your position as group deputy political editor of the Independent Newspapers effective?R
align=justifyI take up the reins on October 1.R
align=justifyWhat influence does your new role have?
align=justifyIndependent Newspapers is the largest English-language newspaper group in the country. As such it has enormous reach and potential when it comes to making and shaping opinion.
align=justifyMy job will be to lead and manage a team of parliamentary and political journalists: Setting news priorities, planning, ensuring copy flow to all the different titles in the group and making sure our coverage is accurate, balanced and fair. I will also be helping provide analysis, opinion and commentary.
align=justifyWhat challenges do you anticipate in your new job?
align=justifyManaging the demands and deadlines of all the different titles in the group, which include daily editions (both morning and afternoon) as well as several Saturday and Sunday newspapers, will be an early challenge. Providing credible, informative coverage that will help readers map their way through a rapidly changing and often bewildering political landscape will be another. But I will be working with a great team of people and am excited, rather than daunted, at the prospect.R
align=justifyHow do you plan to overcome these challenges?R
align=justifyThe danger is burning out, which is no help to anyone. Achieving and maintaining a balance between the demands of work and family will be crucial. I plan to keep a cool head, to delegate and to ask for help when I need it.R
align=justifyWhat are you hoping to achieve in this role?R
align=justifyExcellence in performance – my own and the team’s.
align=justifyWhen reporting on controversial topics, such as ANC President Jacob Zuma, how do you remain objective?
align=justifyBy remembering that objectivity is not a given. Our views are shaped by our class, background and experiences. It’s important to recognise that and remain open to – and to reflect – other views and opinions, especially when they’re contrary to one’s own.
align=justifyIn your opinion, what is the biggest threat to press freedom in South Africa?
align=justifyPlans to set up a statutory Media Appeals Tribunal – which could bring to an end the situation in which the media is largely self-regulatory – are a real threat. But they are an expression of the degree of frustration felt by government and the ANC with the media. There’s a view that the media believes itself to be untouchable, isn’t strict enough on enforcing its own rules of conduct and, as such, needs to be reined in. Other more subtle threats lie in draft legislation before Parliament, including the Protection of Information Bill. This aims to provide a regime for government to manage information, but – if passed as is – will see journalists facing years in jail for requesting or receiving classified documents. It will not only make probing the dark nooks and crannies of government more difficult, it will also give lazy and incompetent officials an excuse not to co-operate with legitimate requests for information. That said, I believe media operators need to look at themselves and engage with critics, rather than adopting a knee-jerk, “Hands-off, we’re untouchable” kind of attitude.
align=justifyWhat are you reading at the moment?
align=justifyI usually have a number of books on the go at the same time. Right now I’m reading Xolela Mangcu’s To the Brink: the State of Democracy in South Africa and former opposition leader Tony Leon’s memoir, On the Contrary. Audrey Niffenegger’s novel The Time Traveller’s Wife is my current fiction fix.