What attracted you to journalism?
I was lousy at everything else except writing! I gravitated towards a career where I would use my best skill and that was making up awesome essays for creative writing all through school.
I studied at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology where the course included a one-year internship, which I believe is its best asset.
Why is winning this award significant to you?
The award is the most significant thing that I have ever achieved in my life and career. To be considered one of the best up-and-coming journalists in the country is a humbling experience, and I am extremely grateful to my editor (Elliott Sylvester) for nominating me and the Vodacom judges for choosing me. I have received other awards and bits of recognition along the way, but this exceeds everything else. These include: Getting chosen as a UN global youth reporter for the World Summit on Sustainable Development; being chosen for the Independent Newspapers Learnership programme; and winning the regional award in the Vodacom Journalist of the Year for my exclusive interview with murder-accused Najwa Petersen (Petersen is accused of murdering her husband, Taliep).
Which has been your favourite story to date?
The Najwa Petersen story may have been my most famous to date because I won a Vodacom award for it. It was also widely followed by other media because Najwa refused to speak to any other reporter. But my favourite stories are the quirkier, more offbeat ones, like 21-year-old twins who wear the same clothes every single day, and Golden Banana, a male model who became our very first local male on page 3. I think writing a funny story that sticks in people’s minds is so much more challenging than a straightforward hard news piece.
How did you manage to persuade Najwa Petersen to speak to you?
Getting the interview was a culmination of a few things – good reporting, people skills and plain luck. There was a lot of activity around the murder home, but I met Taliep (Petersen)’s sister and stayed in contact with her for days after the murder. Because of my relationship with Taliep’s sister, Najwa agreed to her first interview with me. After the interview I maintained a good relationship with her and we spoke often until her arrest in June 2007. We still greet in court and she has agreed to speak to me again when the time is right.
You’ve been recognised in a category for journalists with experience of five years or less. What challenges do young journalists face?
As a young reporter in the tabloid industry, training opportunities are non-existent so you are forced to learn on the job, every day. Journalists are also badly paid, so the industry suffers when talented youngsters and more experienced staff abandon their jobs for better-paid positions in PR or government. As a young reporter, I think the lack of mentors in the industry is a big problem.
What role do you believe tabloids play in South Africa?
I think that tabloids play an extremely important role. The Daily Voice was launched in 2005 and has around half a million readers at present. Considering that the readerships of publications like the Cape Argus and Cape Times did not see a significant drop in sales when we came on the scene, means we have attracted readers who were previously not buying any newspapers. Also, the Daily Voice caters to people on the Cape Flats – a market that has largely been ignored by broadsheet publications. I think our readership figures prove just how grateful these people are that a paper like the Daily Voice has been launched especially for them.
What would you still like to achieve in your career?
I only have my diploma at the moment, so I would like to complete my degree next year. I would also like to work my way up to a position where I am considered one of the most influential women in media one day. I have a true passion for my job, so I’m sure this will become a reality.
- This Q & A first appeared in The Media magazine (December 2008)