I went into this year anxious, excited and hopeful. I want to change the world with my words. I want to change lives and I want to influence people positively. My dream was about to come alive and it was the best feeling of my life.
In Cape Town Esmaré Weideman, CEO of Media24 told us that as journalists we are in a “privileged” position. We have access to people who other people will never be able to interact with. Although this is a great position to be in, it also comes with a great deal of responsibility. Not only do we have the power to influence people, but we also have the power to destroy lives. We will destroy lives and it is important that we remember that.
My heart sank. I do not want to ruin lives. I want to uplift people and protect them from the grave injustices there are. The crazy truth is in order to do that ruining lives is exactly what I will have to do.
One of the first stories I wrote for the Wits Vuvuzela was about a lecturer who is being accused of sexual harassment. The big debate in the news room was about whether we should name him or not. We were aware that this was not the first time he had been accused and our biggest problem was that there were no developments since a story published last year where he was unnamed.
We named him. We may have ruined his life but at the same time we may have saved other girls from being harassed by him. It is difficult because the truth is it’s his word against theirs and perhaps he is not guilty, but are the ramifications not worse if he is?
When Mondli Makhanya, former editor of the Sunday Times came to speak to us he mentioned the dark side of journalism. He mentioned the “loneliness” of decision-making as an editor. He said that there were times when he had to make the tough calls and the realisation that he was alone in doing so was difficult.
EWN reporter Gia Nicolaides said we needed to realise that as journalists we will find ourselves in very dangerous positions at times. She told us about Marikana and how they were standing behind the police line and the protesters were moving towards them. When bullets started flying the ran for cover behind a police vehicle because they had no idea where the bullets were coming from. I thought “shit! I don’t wanna die young.” But then I realised the impact that the coverage of Marikana will have in this country and I knew on some level, the danger must be worth it.
I was not ready for this. I was not ready to be kicked out of an important meeting on sexual harassment because I was media. I was not ready to be told that at some intervals my boyfriend and my family will hate my job because it will keep me from them. I was not ready to hear I would destroy people’s futures.
My future may be bright but I will face dark times. I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn from people within the industry. They have been so open and honest and I believe that it will help us to develop thick skins before we enter the big bad world.
Some people just jump into the dam without knowing how deep it is. Either they hit their heads at the bottom and get hurt or they drown because they just cannot handle how deep it is. Just walk in, make sure your expectations are not too high but at the same time do not allow the first obstacle to deter you from what you’ve always dreamed of doing.