Few people have had the privilege and pleasure of working as closely with you as I had during my time in Makhanda. From the beginning, you entrusted me, a keen student journalist at the time, with increasingly important stories about our community and the wider Eastern Cape. I’ll never forget the first story I did for Grocott’s; it was about cattle polluting the runway at the local airstrip. Like any about Makhandan livestock, donkeys, goats, or dogs, this story was fitting for a small town.
Your editorial and leadership style was gentle, which was what I needed at the time. You allowed me the freedom to develop my writing and reporting style, encouraging me to push boundaries in my work.
If I’ve enjoyed success so far in my career as a journalist, this all started during my time with you. Without you, my in-depth investigations into psychiatric care in the province would not have been possible, and my subsequent love for health reporting would not have flourished. Although you taught me a great deal about writing, reporting and keeping one’s bases covered during undercover (or slightly sketchy) investigative work, perhaps the most critical thing you instilled in me was the importance of building and preserving relationships within a small communication ecosystem.
Makhanda is the epitome of a small town, and yes, everybody does indeed know everyone’s business! Water may not be flowing all of the time, but rumours, news or hearsay are never in short supply. Working for Grocott’s is harder than working for a national media outlet because your readers are closer to you. As a journalist, you are responsible for respecting them and treating their stories, testimonies, and experiences with integrity. This is hard to do at times. People can be irritating, pushy or just flat out ridiculous, but you taught me to roll with the punches, respect the voices and their stories, and keep reporting with honesty and integrity. You taught me to be compassionate and follow the stories, the dirt or the paper trail, whatever it was, for things that I felt strongly about.
I am sad to hear that you will no longer be with Grocott’s or the School of Journalism. Still, I am confident that your work as a media practitioner and mentor will continue to impact future generations of journalists.
Thank you for everything, Sue. For supporting my work from the beginning, for printing pictures of bucket toilets on the front page because you knew it needed to be done, for coaching me through endless communication challenges with the Eastern Cape Department of Health.
And, also, for being my friend.
Yours in gratitude,