I am passionate about human rights and social issues above all. I see journalism as a tool to inform the public about these issues.
Renata is a Brazilian girl living in Cape Town. She is one of the most important people in my life and she makes everyday count. She inspires hundreds of people every day and if you are interested in journalism please don’t miss this interview.
We went to the little restaurant at the company gardens for lunch. (Delicious!)
1. 8:30, the sun is shining.. What is the first thing you do?
First thing I do (related to my work) is to check my emails and then read the news in different websites, newspapers and magazines. Because I mainly work as an international correspondent in South Africa for Brazilian publications, I need to do this 3 times: get informed about what is happening in South Africa, then what is happening in Brazil and then what the international news are covering. This is essential for my work, because what is news in South Africa may not be relevant for the international media. So I need to figure out what is happening in South Africa that is also relevant for people in the rest of the world, and especially in Brazil as this is the country I report for. It is very tricky to figure this out, but it starts to make sense when you work as a correspondent. In journalism, we call this local news x international news. Unfortunately we live in a “Western Dominant” world, where EVERYTHING that happens in Europe and the United States becomes important to the rest of the world and important facts (sometimes horrible tragedies) that happen in the African continent is completely ignored by the international media. I battle with this a lot.
2. And as the stars come up, how do you wrap your day?
It really depends on the day, and that is the beauty of journalism. You never know what is about to happen. If I am working on a story I usually use the night to write, as for some reason I get super inspired during night time. Sometimes I have to use my night to interview a source for a story. For example, one time I went for dinner with an important South African economist that was essential for my article because that was the only time he was available for an interview. Other nights I am live on national television in Brazil reporting from South Africa. Due to the hour differences, is usually 10 pm or 2 am in South Africa when I am live on Brazilian TV.
3. What is the best part about your job?
The contact with different people and realities.
4. What is the worst part of your job?
The feeling of impotence that you experience sometimes, especially if you are covering a tragedy, writing about a crime or realities of poverty and misery. It is horrible to interview victims of a crime and see hope in their eyes when they talk with you because they really believe that the media attention will help their case. Sometimes it does, but a lot of the times it does not make any difference. It is a horrible feeling of impotence, but as a journalist I have to keep a professional posture and do my job in the best why I can. It is impossible not the get emotionally involved thought. In journalism schools, we learn that we can never promise anything to our sources, and I never do that because it in unethical in so many ways. But we also learn to do our job and believe that the power of the media will help that person. Well, with time I got real with myself and realized that sometimes this is not true. Before I am a journalist, I am a human being. Therefore, a few times after writing and publishing a story, I went back to talk with the person I interviewed and offered help in the best way I could.I did an interview with a refugee from Congo once and later on I helped him to find a place to live, find a job and get his life together. We are friends until this day.
5. If you want it to help someone wanting to be a journalist, what advice would you give?
- Make you sure you are passionate about it.
- Be open-minded about different realities – ALWAYS
- Always question your limitations and prejudices, and work on them to become a better person – the last thing we need is (more) racists, sexists, and LGBTfobic journalists. I actually think you should not be a journalist (EVER) if you have any type of prejudice.
- Journalism is never about you, it is about the public. As a journalist, you are basically a public worker for the people by reporting the truth and informing the population. So if you want to shine more than your story, this is not the industry for you.
- Be humble and listen, in journalism you will listen more than you will talk. As I said before, journalism is never about you.
- You are NEVER to good for a story and your ARE NOT special – our generation has an entitlement issue that I will never understand. We think we are so special and amazing, that we should only do what we love and work with things that give us pleasure. That is not how it works in the real world. First thing: we are not special. We are just like anyone else, not better and not worse. Second: yes, it is awesome to do what you love, but even by working in something that you are passionate about it, you will do boring things eventually. In journalism, you will start covering the stories that no one feels like it, especially if you are an intern. That is OK, just do the best you can and go for it. I already had to cover teen concerts (you have no idea how boring it is), write the obituary for a newspaper (all my respect for the people that currently do this) and even listen to the 2-hour-interview that other journalists recorded and typed it all so they could choose the best parts to include in their story. It sucked but is part of the job. I cannot count how many interns I saw refusing to do this type of things because they were “so great” and “so special”. They all ended up losing their jobs because the industry is not like your parents house =)
- Make sure you are ready to be part of the best profession in the world =). It is awesome to be a journalist.
6. Why do you love being a journalist? And what made you get into journalism?
I am passionate about human rights and social issues above all. I see journalism as a tool to inform the public about these issues. I believe in investigating to report and reporting to change. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge, right? (Yes, this is a Dr. Phil quote). Therefore, I am passionate about (hopefully) making people aware of social inequalities and different realities so they can empower themselves to work for a better and more equal society for all.
7. What is the work that you are most proud of it?
The work that I am most proud of it is not really related to journalism, but with social change. I am actually not sure I would call it a work, it was more like a social responsibility. I met an amazing woman in 2012, Mama Sylvia. She has an orphanage in Khayelitsha where she takes care of 13 orphans, and she adopted all of them. Her and Tata (her husband) give an amazing life for those kids, but they were living under unprivileged conditions. All of them used to live in a 1 bedroom shack. So in 2013, I did an online crowd-funding campaign to raise money to build them a proper house. Now they live in a 3-bedroom house, with kitchen, living room, and bathroom. I visit them every Saturday and now I am part of their family. I love them with all my heart.
8. How can people contact you?
If you would like to donate for Renata’s biggest project you can contact her or go to http://umacasapramama.com/como-posso-ajudar/.
(Photo: Renata’s facebook page)
Renata, once again thank you so much for your daily work in making our world a better place and thank you for taking time for this interview.