“When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended for self-flagellation solely.” – Truman Capote
It isn’t easy being a journalist.
It’s long hours, horrible pay and trauma.
I studied journalism and media studies for four years.
Initially the only reason I decided to go into the journalistic sphere is because I just wanted to write. I didn’t care what I wrote about I just wanted to get my words out because I thought my opinion mattered.
Those idealistic opinions soon change when you enter the practical environment. The fast paced nature of newsrooms, the spur of the moment trips into dangerous terrains and the hourly deadlines seems exhilarating at first but soon loses its gloss.
After my four years of studying I was thrown in the deep end of the pool. I was sent to the biggest tabloid newspaper in the country. I was filled with bravado, I was filled with excitement and I was naive. It was probably to date one of the most traumatic experiences of the 25 years I have been on this earth.
I was suddenly thrown into a world of murders and rapes. I was not Trained to deal with what I saw. I was not trained to deal with an 11-year-old little girl sitting in front of me and explaining how some of the boys in her class tried to rape her. I wasn’t trained to deal with seeing brain matter on walls after people were shot executioner style in front of their mothers. I was not trained to deal with the heart wrenching screams of pain while mothers held their dead children. I still hear those screams from time to time.
I still feel the pain.
I don’t think it will ever leave me.
My lack of dealing with trauma and not quite understanding the emotions I am forced to suppress led to me being too scared to sleep at night. The world became too real when I fell asleep.
It was only recently, after two stints in hospital, that I have learnt how to deal with what I see in my job. It is still difficult from time to time but it gets better as you gain experience. It also made me realize that there is a bigger picture.
I had a social obligation that needed to be fulfilled.
Most people have this misconception that as journalists we write stories from a tower where nothing touches us. If only that was the case.
I have a love hate relationship with journalism. When times get tough and I feel like it isn’t worth it, I tell myself that it is my job to give a voice to the voiceless. I think it is also a means for me to tell myself that there is a greater purpose to all of this.
Does it actually work? Sometimes. Is it worth it? Not quite sure.
In South Africa many lose their lives and it goes undetected.
Just another statistic.
It is nearly impossible to report about all the crime that happens in South Africa but my job as a journalist is to write about human beings whose voices have been silenced. I like to think that my articles allow their legacy to live on, even if it is only in words.
I think that is the only reason why I still do what I do. I tell myself this is bigger than me. It is for the greater good of the country. Am I naive for thinking this? Perhaps.
But it needs to be done. I guess I am trying to do my part.