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BEHIND THE NEWS | At the coalface of journalism

Rhodes student and grade 11 pupil share their job shadowing experience at the Daily Dispatch

Avuyile Mkhabe and Anna Ford enjoyed their time at the Daily Dispatch to learn what it takes to be a journalist .
Avuyile Mkhabe and Anna Ford enjoyed their time at the Daily Dispatch to learn what it takes to be a journalist .

This week, Avuyile Mkhabe, a first-year Rhodes University student, and Anna Ford, a grade 11 pupil at Merrifield, accompanied Daily Dispatch journalists as they conducted interviews and followed stories, with each contributing and even being a part of some of the newspaper’s top stories of the week. 

We asked the two to share their experience with our readers.

Avuyile Mkhabe: 

I come from Mpongo location in Tsholomnqa, outside East London, and am a first-year student at Rhodes University where I am studying towards a bachelor of journalism degree.

One of our tasks is a portfolio assignment, which, for me, was job shadowing at Daily Dispatch.

I applied to a newspaper because I wanted to be at the source and gain the experience of working in print media.

Before I started my training at Daily Dispatch, I had only ever studied the theoretical aspect of journalism from writing academic hard news, features, and profiling.

My experience at the Dispatch showed me that a career in journalism was harder than I previously believed.

University lectures cannot convey the restrictions and strictness needed to convey the truth through hard facts, without injecting your own opinion.

This realisation even made me question my intention to follow a career in  journalism.

However, I also gained insight into the ethics and morals required and what it takes to write hard news pieces.

I discovered that beyond the five Ws of writing, I should also consider another: “What were the consequences?”

I was taught that our job is to state facts without trying to conjure up elaborate metaphors as the reader’s interest should come from the story, not the feelings or opinions of the reporter.

Fortunately, while completing my short period of training, I gained experience and new motivation.

Despite reporters being under constant pressure, the Daily Dispatch staff were all calm and maintained a positive drive.

I realised things were not as bad as they seemed.

I was also given duties to fulfil such as working with other news reporters on stories that enlightened me and expanded my knowledge about journalism.

Surprisingly, I was given an opportunity to work as part of the team on a story involving President Cyril Ramaphosa and police minister Bheki Cele.

I felt the encouragement and it opened a space in my heart that has made me hungry to continue studying journalism because I enjoyed my stay and being part of the newsmaking.

Anna Ford:

As a grade 11 pupil, I am at the uncomfortable stage where I have a difficult decision to make: what do I do with my life?

I’ve always been drawn to English and writing, so it seemed obvious for me to choose a job incorporating this along with my sociable nature.

I have always considered journalism as a potential career path but didn’t know much about the intricacies behind the job until I started job shadowing at the Daily Dispatch.

The experience has only drawn me more towards the job, despite jokes from staff warning me it was a bad idea.

In just three short days I learnt how to use my people skills, to be confident and welcoming in interviews, and then use my research and intel to structure a proper article, something that is not taught in schools.

On my first day, I job shadowed senior reporter Matthew Field. We visited local businesses to find out what impact load-shedding was having on their businesses.

This shared struggle endured by South Africans made it easier to relate to business owners and my introduction to interviews was comfortable, which allowed a few personal additions to the final article.

I also participated  — as in driving alongside the runners cheering as reporter Rosa-Karoo Loewe joined in the last 5 km — in the coverage of the end of the Selborne fundraiser run from Gqeberha to East London for Ubuko Mpotulo,14, who lost both his legs and seven of his fingers after contracting viral meningitis when he was three.

At the end, we interviewed some of the matric pupils who had completed the 300km, which allowed me to work further on my interviewing skills.

I listened in on the newspaper’s meetings where the next day’s stories are discussed, which taught me how big decisions are made regarding the structure and set-up of a newspaper — a skill that can only be learnt by experiencing it.

The environment at the Daily Dispatch is one of safety, ease and camaraderie.

The staff made my intro into journalism an incredibly didactic experience with their balance of honesty, truth and independence, along with their considerate mentorship.



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