Two years ago Mahreen Chenia was mocked and ridiculed by television viewers after she, and several of her colleagues, made on air blunders that went viral at the then newly-launched ANN7 television channel. Today she is the recipient of the Sports Journalist of the Year award at the Gauteng Sports Awards. Michael Bratt chatted to her to find out what happened the day everything fell apart on air, and the lessons she has learnt since then.
Chenia speculates the bloopers happened due to not enough practice. “At a new station you have teething problems. I felt that we started too soon and didn’t have enough dry runs,” she explains. After the incident, Chenia says the public reaction was upsetting and unfortunate, and admits that she cried for a month after it happened. “Having spent a lot of time building your credibility, only for it to be torn down in a minute, was extremely heart-breaking… it is very easy for people to criticise but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in television that they are unaware of.”
But Chenia was able to bounce back, in part thanks to her very supportive family. She also admits that the storm of criticism has made her a better journalist and stronger human being. “As the saying goes, whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” Her path led her to winning the Sports Journalist of the Year prize at this year’s Gauteng Sports Awards, which she describes as massive. “It’s a reward for working hard and for having perseverance.” She describes just being nominated for the award as a surreal moment as her fellow nominees were journalists that she watched on TV when she was growing up and she admires.
Before moving to ANN7, Chenia worked at SuperSport. She made the switch to the new television channel seeking a challenge. “I wanted to do more journalism based stories, the investigative kind of stuff. I also wanted to pursue anchoring,” she explains. She says that SuperSport was the perfect foundation for her, as she worked with top sports journalists and learnt a lot.
Chenia’s main aim with her work is to be the voice for the people who don’t have a voice. She wants to continue what she is currently doing for a very long time, anchoring her own show and giving a platform to stories that matter. When asked what lessons she learnt from her blooper and in the time that followed she says, “Some people in this industry will work to break you down, but others will support you. The industry is not easy; you have to have thick skin. As a female in a still male dominated industry you have to work hard to prove yourself and prove you are equal. But all your hard work pays off.”