This year Mandy Wiener wrote a bestselling book, Killing Kebble: an Underworld Exposed, got married and won a few awards, including the Women in The Media Rising Star award. Not bad for a journalist who is not yet 30. The Media magazine caught up with the Eyewitness News reporter and author.
How and why did you become a journalist?
I always knew that I would become a journalist. Its one of those vocations that is just inherent – either you have it in you or you don’t. I have a picture from the family album of me in my pram at around two years of age reading a copy of Newsweek. I studied journalism at RAU (UJ) and began working at what was then RAU Radio.
Describe getting your first job as a journalist.
While working at RAU Radio, there was an opening at Primedia. I started off doing the early morning shift, writing traffic on the Rude Awakening for Aki Anastasiou. I was also call-screening overnights which was just gruelling. After a few months of begging editor Katy Katopodis, she finally gave me a job.
I remember the first story I was sent out on, about water cuts in Houghton. I was held up at gunpoint and somehow managed to record the entire thing. It was a sure fire way to get myself on air!
What do you enjoy most and least in your job?
News is cyclical, there are days when news is breaking and we’re all spinning; and there others when nothing is happening at all and that can be incredibly boring. The busy adrenalin-filled days most certainly make up for the quiet ones.
What is it about radio that attracts you?
It is so immediate and there is so much space for creativity. It really is theatre of the mind.
What is it like working at Eyewitness News?
It is a remarkable environment to work in. Contrary to popular belief, radio news really is a team sport and there’s a fantastic sense of camaraderie. We can be a peculiar breed, us radio news journos, and we tend to rely on one another for support a fair amount. No one else really gets us.
What has been some of the most memorable experiences of your career so far?
I have been extremely fortunate during my tenure at Eyewitness News. I was in Grant Park when Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech and in Madrid when Spain won the 2010 Football World Cup. I’ve met Oprah, Bono and Madiba. The most memorable stories I have covered are from the days when charges were dropped against Jacob Zuma and when Jackie Selebi was convicted of corruption.
What drove you to write Killing Kebble: An Underworld Exposed?
I didn’t think a comprehensive Kebble/Agliotti/Selebi book had been written. Barry Sergeant’s book focused on Kebble’s business empire and Adriaan Basson took an analytic look at the Selebi corruption – I wanted to pull it all together and interrogate the link between business, politics and organised crime. I wanted to tell the story of the shooters, of Agliotti, the prosecutors, the parallel investigations, the political interference and the effect it all had on the criminal justice system.
How did you manage to do it with a full-time job?
I was extremely fortunate that my editor at Eyewitness News gave me some time off last year to write the book. However there was a long period where I was waking up before dawn, going to work and writing late into the night in order to make deadline.
How has working on the Brett Kebble story impacted on your life and career? Following the full evolution of the story from the day Kebble was killed to the day Agliotti was acquitted, was extremely beneficial. I grew with the story over five years. I felt that I needed to take that all a step further and put it into a book. Writing the book has impacted considerably on my career. Newsmakers now know who I am now when I call them up.
What did you learn about yourself during the time you followed that story?
I learnt just how much I love breaking an exclusive story. It’s like the smell of napalm in the morning!
Why do you think people have reacted with such enthusiasm to your book?
I absolutely did not expect it to get the reaction that it did. I think the book really struck a chord. I was incredibly fortuitous with the timing – it came out at a time when there was a real focus on the underworld. Radovan Krejcir had just been arrested and Steve Paparas was acquitted. It also resonated with people because so many people who read it, know at least one of the characters or have had some kind of experience with them. It’s all very close to home.
What don’t people know about you?
I hate liquorice, cinnamon and coconut. And I’m terrified of the paranormal.
What do you in your time out?
There’s a lot of reading, sleeping, hanging out with friends and ideally, going to gym, but that doesn’t happen as often as it should.
You have won awards, got married and written a bestseller, what now?
I plan on spending some time enjoying being married and relaxing. I’m not sure I’m very good at relaxing, so I need to practice!
This story was first published in The Media magazine.