Current Occupation: Journalist for the business-technology print magazine iWeek (www.iweek.co.za)
So what is exactly is it that you do: I write stories about the business and financial activities of IT and telecoms firms in South Africa and abroad. I also write stories about cutting-edge consumer technology, and IT solutions that can help other businesses to be more efficient and profitable, and broadcasting.
Why in the world would you choose a career in Journalism? Being a journalist allows one to continue learning all the time. There isn’t a day that goes by when I, as a journalist, don’t learn something new (FirstStep notes: that's awesome!). It gives me exposure to top business and technology professionals. Aside from this, the free gadgets, fancy business functions and the free trips overseas can be rather nice. Then there is the idea that, as a journalist, I am helping people to learn certain truths about the world around them, helping educate others, helping people make better decisions… basically giving somebody some kind of value in return for them spending the time to read my words.
Did you study, how did you go about learning your trade? I studied a 4-year honours degree in Journalism (BJourn) at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape. In between semesters I would work at newspapers in Cape Town, George (my hometown) and Grahamstown. In my final year of studies I did a specialised course in ‘new media’, and began learning about technology (FirstStep notes: a well structured plan).
Give us a brief run down of your average working day?
My days vary between simple ‘office days’ where I will:
- seek out news stories and angles
- generate ideas for interesting articles
- respond to news pitches from public relations companies
- discuss topical issues with colleagues as well as various contacts and sources
- conduct telephonic or email interviews
- track the stock-exchange announcements and relevant developments
- monitor the international IT and telecoms markets and their reference to the local markets
- get updates on developing stories
- actually write the stories
- organise photographs and other images
- and spend a little time on general research.
What type of challenges do you face on an ongoing basis?
As with any job where you have to deal with actual people, you’re going to get let down a lot. Ensuring that articles are fair, and at the same time interesting or evocative can also be a challenge. Journalists have to be aware of the fact that everyone has an agenda and this needs to be taken into account with any interaction. Other than that, the biggest challenge is the “slow news day” or the slow news week in my case. Sometimes things don’t go right, nobody does anything particularly interesting/brilliant/stupid – no matter how hard you try there is no way to “manufacture news” out of nothing.
Do you recommend studying to get into your field?
It’s a tough one, because on a theoretical level I would say ‘no’. By this I mean that I have learnt far more about the media industry and the profession of journalism through working, than through studying. There is no substitute for experience in this field – because it is not really a profession, but more of a craft… the more you do it the better you tend to get.
However, on a practical level it is important to realise that a media company will not hire you without having at least a quick look at your CV. Without a degree, it might be difficult to get a foot in the right door. I’d recommend studying journalism, but taking a major in another subject that you are interested in, but could also be useful for another career path.
Quick questions with Dave!
Funniest moment of your career:
In between terribly boring press conferences from IBM at an event in North Carolina, our small group of journalists from around the world managed to hook up an illegal live stream of the Champions League final into the big screen they were using for presentations. These top IBM execs weren’t sure how to tell us that we have to go back to death-by-powerpoint, especially when one of the journos from Portugal asked for a bowl of nuts and some beer…
Highlight of your career so far:
I won an award earlier this year, one of the Telkom ICT Journalist awards. This was probably the highlight.
If you weren’t a (journalist) you would be a…..? fisherman in the Caribbean. I still might be…(FirstStep say's hmm...)
Favourite food: Chicken, cooked any way
Favourite Country: SA
Favourite City: New York City
Dave's message to young South Africans:
In terms of one’s career, just remember that the workplace is never going to be fair, but that with hard work you can make it seem a little fairer. Establish contacts, you never know when you may use them, so make sure their impression of you is always professional and competent.