When I started out as a cub reporter at The Star, there was an intimidating mahogany row of mostly white, male editorial executives. Fortunately, today traditional newsroom floor hierarchies have been disrupted (and lately gone virtual) and there has been a sea change in diversity of senior editorial staff.
But we are not quite there yet. So here are some tips for those starting out.
Find your voice
In my experience, men still generally have a greater sense of entitlement than women, who need to work harder to be heard. Don’t be drowned out; speak up.
Support your colleagues
When I started out, there was great camaraderie among reporters and photographers. Reach out and support each other, especially female colleagues who may have shared challenges about, for instance, tone-deaf race and gender issues, cyber-bullying and other harassment. It is important to gain strength by talking about experiences and also to alert your line manager, who can hopefully offer guidance – if looped in.
Find a mentor
Navigating your way around a tricky story can be daunting. Pester experienced colleagues beyond your news editor, who is multitasking and time-short. Find a mentor and accompany them on stories to see how they conduct interviews, manage volatile conflict situations and ensure fair, fact-checked reporting. Pick up tips by offering help with research for their investigative stories. I am grateful to old hands who taught me the power and skill of “Show, don’t tell”, and how to navigate the sensitivities and nuances of reporting, including Jo-Anne Collinge and the late Alf Kumalo among many others.
Practise ethical journalism
The press code is the gospel of journalism. Follow it, and do what is right and ethical, even if you are told otherwise by somebody in authority (who may have an unreasonable expectation that compromises principle, or worse, may be an unethical scumbag).
And finally, remember to breathe.
~ Janet Heard is day managing editor at Daily Maverick.
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