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Thick skin, thin wallet


Under these circumstances, niceness was not nor could not be prioritised, so we bickered and cursed and shrieked and fell silent

Picture: Danie van der Lith

I recently started a new chapter in my life and am no longer a staff reporter for the DFA. No, I wasn’t fired. They never caught me.

I started at the paper way back when Jake White was ruining Springbok rugby, a time when beetroot was key to our survival as a species and baby Bush was the worst president the USA, and the free world for that matter, had ever known.

That was way back in the “naughties”, the good old days, and much has changed since then.

I may have been young and naive but, evidently, I was not the only one.

After more than a decade of working with Patsy Beangstrom, her news team and others, getting myself re-accustomed to not covering the happenings of the day in Kimberley has been quite a challenge. It’s still going to take some time and effort to adjust.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no yearning to share the worst event of some unfortunate soul’s life on a daily basis.

However, despite plenty of valuable lessons I wish I could unlearn and insights that I will never be able to unsee, I actually miss the DFA and being part of the team.

Contrary to the opinions of many who seem convinced that the paper’s reporters “don’t know who they are messing with”, nor that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition, they are actually a great bunch with thick skins, thin wallets, strong convictions and the public’s interests at heart

Hardly a day went by that there wasn’t bickering, cursing, shrieking, then silence.

We disagreed about everything, fought like cat and dog and usually went straight for the jugular unless the genitals were exposed.

Golden rules like “If you can’t say something nice ” were luxuries we simply couldn’t afford.

These jewel-encrusted guidelines were known but ignored in much the same way that the laws of the land are applicable to the prosperous, popular, powerful and problematic we encountered every day.

Under different circumstances I don’t think we would really want too much to do with each other but in the newsroom environment, something that needs to be experienced to be understood, many an unlikeable, uninhibited, unforgiving, unpredictable and uncensored figure has proven both a nemesis to shout at and a shoulder to cry on.

After all these years, it’s going to take me some time to adjust to “normal”, “natural” working conditions and “normal”, “natural” colleagues.

You see, when you are living and working in the capital of “rape and suip”, in a city where the stripping of natural resources for the benefit of the wicked and wealthy, at the expense of the malnourished masses, somehow enjoys the approval of many, nothing is normal and nothing is natural.

Under these circumstances, niceness was not nor could not be prioritised, so we bickered and cursed and shrieked and fell silent.

However, throughout all the arguments, animosity and altercations, I gained nothing but respect for my colleagues at the DFA who may not always be nice but are so desperately needed by an unappreciative audience who always seem to know better and waste little opportunity to shoot the messenger.

You see, turning the page when the published facts contradict your opinion is easy enough for the reader yet all but impossible for a reporter. Especially for one with a thick skin, thin wallet, strong convictions and the public’s interests at heart.

Blind eyes and deaf ears are other luxuries journalists simply cannot afford as they can lead to a dismissible offence. Fortunately, I was never caught.