• A retrospective 200th column
The first-ever Society Talk was published on September 6, 2019. While I had written other articles before, none of them was a representation of me.
You see as a journalist, my teachers and mentors through the years were always the stringent journalistic types. From Joe Kadhi’s unrelenting old-school journalism values, to Dr Botma’s detailed study of academic journalism. I was a good student and a mentee, and from time to time, I can switch back and forth between a proper journalist and an academic researcher in the field.
I don’t mean to toot my own horn; if anything, I believe this means that I was a great student. I learnt from the best and embody the best qualities of my mentors. However, while I am a capable professional in any of the many aspects of the field, I found the work deeply lacking in one thing: my voice. I wanted to become a journalist to be the voice of the voiceless, and to speak on issues that affect us as a society.
When I was employed at Radio Africa Group, my job was to write promotional material for radio. I loved the gig, it was creative and challenging, but something still felt lacking. I befriended the then features editor, Paul Koitie, and soon after, I was pitching an article. My first feature story was a two-page spread on the details of Hajj. After that, I would submit random feature stories whenever the inspiration hit.
By the time I left Radio Africa, I had befriended most people at the Star. During that time, the newsroom was one big hall separated by desks, so we knew everyone. I continued contributing to the newspaper as a food reviewer, 'A day in the Life' writer and other small feature stories for many years after.
When I started my Master's, I found myself with a bit of time on my hands and pleaded with the then then-features editor, Wycliff Muga, to let me try out weekly film reviews. Wycliff knew me very well since my RAG days and was sceptical at my maintaining a column for extended periods of time. He was pleasantly surprised when the column ran longer than it did to get my Master's. In fact, I wrote reviews for so long that the online review website Rotten Tomatoes got in touch to have my articles posted on their website as an approved critic.
When Covid hit, some articles were cut to scale back the number of pages in the newspaper. After about four years, I lost my review column to the scale back, which I resumed after about six months and continued up until I gave birth, when I subsequently lost my passion for TV watching. However, it was during the time that the paper was being transitioned that my current editor, Tom Jalio, asked if I wanted to start up another column.
It was then that Society Talk materialised because this column had been the subject of my dreams for a long time. It was the missing part of journalism for me. I was not just a reporter detailing facts in a story, or a researcher formulating theoretical approaches to an event, nor was I writing a story from the outside. This time, my voice was THE voice. It was the voice that mirrored what the society was discussing, it was the voice that spoke out on issues affecting our communities, and it was the voice that represented the people.
Today is the 200th column of Society Talk. As I write this and reflect on the decision to start this column, I cannot help but think about all the times I almost gave up because I felt unheard. I would often want to give up because I questioned if I really did represent the people and one person would leave a comment or a retweet and I felt that my cause was worthwhile. To all the people who read, share and comment on my stories, you make me feel heard. Without you, Society Talk would not be in circulation for four years. I salute you.