Friday, January 30, 2009


Today was my last day of manning the newsdesk. Early Morning News Ed is coming back from leave on Monday when I will be sent back to the trenches, stripped of the powers that have so temporarily been bestowed on me (until next time of course).
The morning started well. I had energy and enthusiasm, and things were not quiet on the news front. It has been raining heavily for three solid days all over Jozi. This is not London, so this much rain is BIG news. Like yesterday when a guy and his six-year-old daughter got washed off a bridge in his brute 4x4. Today would obviously bring great things.
I surveyed my early morning team of reporters. Diva was the sole person on duty at 6am. Not a problem! "We need a great weather story", I told her, so she jumped on the phone and did all the checks.
And then the story emerged. A giant pothole had opened up in Empire Road and, after yesterday's downpour, was disguised beneath a huge puddle. Unsuspecting motorists from all over were driving their cars slap bang into the hole and bursting their tyres.
So there we had it - front page lead option. The pothole that took out 20 cars! Sorted.
Next problem was the photograph. Now you would think that a photographer standing on the side of the road, large camera aimed at a dodgy looking puddle would serve as a deterrant. Apparently not! While Photographer was busy shooting the pothole picture a driver obligingly drove into it, supplying the paper with a spectacular front page picture of yet another tyre barreling into the depths, dramatic splashes and all. Fantastic.
Lunch time edition down, time to sort out the diary for Monday's paper. It was less difficult than I expected and a pretty decent plan was formulated for the first of next week's newspapers.
Diva returned to court to cover the ongoing trial of the tea-drinking judge. Someone was assigned to investigate an alleged e-mail that looked so much like an urban legend that it will be great if it is not. Boy Wonder, a reporter back from a day off sick, came to inform me of his latest story speaking in his usual vague manner - like the the information needs clearance from the FBI before it can be discussed - said he was heading off to Pretoria to check out a feature story possiblity on a seminary! Okay.
So - diary finally done, conference over and time to end off the day.
On Monday I will be back at the office, at my own desk, ready to get out there and do the journo stuff I love most! Yay!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

reams of random rubbish

Few people realize quite how much junk flows into the e-mail inbox of a busy daily paper in Joburg. I am not sure how people find the address, but they do and they use it and they send in their stuff obviously believing that it is newsworthy. For somebody. Somewhere. Like obviously! Ja, right.

So today I spent doing yet another stand-in stint on the newsdesk. And once again I encountered the incoming stream of news flashes, press releases, adverts, alerts, and copies of correspondence sent by irate consumers to product or service suppliers obviously in the hope that the big boy will be scared off by the fact that the newspaper now knows what’s going on.

But how bad can these e-mails be? I hear you ask. The answer: bad. Pretty bad, my friend.

Take the one from a guy called Deon. “I have a story I think should be told to the whole of South Africa . Obesity is out of control in South Africa and just keeps getting worse year after year.”


He continues: “I went on a diet last year and managed to lose 77kg in 7 months eating precisely the opposite foods from that recommended by the experts. I am now healthier than I have ever been.” And to ram his point home he attaches two photos of himself – the fat “ BEFORE” pic showing him wearing only shorts, manboobs hanging low nestling under his arms as they are split by his alarmingly large stomach. The “AFTER” image shows him slimmed down wearing a black suit, red shirt and tie complete with obligatory cheesy smile.

Now I saw The Biggest Loser and every week watched how large people ran, lifted weights, sweated and lived on lettuce in their quest to slim down. And they did – but not even the winner managed 77kg in 7 months. So do we run this scoop on page one? Nah. *DELETE*

Then a “leading retailer” on a mission to sell tiles without spending a cent on advertising sent in a press release informing the media how they have helped Andre achieve his world record dream by allowing him to sit in a spa bath on one of their show rooms for more than seven days under the beady eye of a webcam. I assume this was to allow people around the world following this amazing world record attempt to go onto the tile company website and watch Andre live as he sat in the bath. For seven days. Riveting stuff! This e-mail served as our invitation to come and catch his last hour in the bath and photograph the momentous occasion of him climbing out as the new holder of the world record for … erm … sitting in the bath. News? I don’t think so. *DELETE*

Then agriculture and biofuels consultant named Fanie hit his send button and so arrived the first Afrikaans contribution of the day. A press release, a graph the size of a stamp so I know not what it was about plus a grim photograph of himself wearing a striped shirt, sporting a bit of a comb-over and a porno moustache. The news angle? South Africa will, in three years time, be forced to import mielies. Gosh! Darn! … *DELETE*

And then another news contribution from an outlying news agency headed “ Mpumalanga housing spokesman says relations between landlords and tenants has improved”. Hmmm – moving along …. *DELETE*

Then a news release from the Consumer Profile Bureau warning that a steep rise in identity theft is costing the country millions. I have to confess, I am not nearly as scared of someone stealing my identity as I am of them marrying me without my knowledge. But then again, yesterday while I was in court our friendly prosecutor mentioned a new case where a woman who discovered that some fraudster married her without her consent went and sued him for maintenance. So now I feel better about that. Anyway, we already all know about the identity theft thing.


Another news alert from little far-away news agency. “Mopani worms are lekker in London”. Now this is truly a cool story. Some women with a small worm processing project in rural Limpop are cashing in on the demand for exotic foods overseas by frying Mopani worms, coating them with jungle spice and exporting them as “worm-based flavoured snacks”. Excellent!

Then, just when things are getting exciting, another dud lands. A small political party wants to make public their statement lauding Barack Obama because his inauguration speech “lacked racism”. Oh ja, and they urged South Africans “not to make and unnecessary demands for handouts”. Gee thanks guys – you only took more than a week to put together that news flash. I am sure President Obama is delighted that you liked his speech, and waiting for those necessary demands! *DELETE*

And so it goes. All day, every day. Hundreds upon hundreds of them. Can’t wait to log on tomorrow morning and see what landed in the night!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


After spending a couple of hours standing in for the early morning news editor this morning, C-for-Serious, my News Editor in Chief, decided that she would take over the putting together of the day’s diary and that I should accompany my colleague Diva to court.

The two of us were to continue working together on the forever and ever-ongoing trial of a high court judge charged with driving drunk and then crashing his Jag into the garden wall of a Joburg businessman. The story is exceedingly exciting for those who get to read it in short snatches in the paper, but not so much for those of us tasked with following the painfully slow court proceedings. Anyway, the owner of the garden wall is a guy whose job it is to secure digital data. On the advice of his lawyer, he undertook to record the alleged drunken ramblings of the accused while the metro cops tried to effect an arrest. The women, who tried to make the arrest, were allegedly sworn at and called some burly colleagues for backup – making for a somewhat colourful recording.

As the defence argued that the recordings were inadmissible while the prosecution disagreed, the sound bytes became the subject of a trial-within-a-trial.

The upshot is that the judge is now "the accused" and the recordings are hard evidence. Every aspect of the case has been examined and cross-examined in court. Experts have testified and days have been spent on issues like back-extrapolations to calculate blood-alcohol levels over time, the effects of smoking cigarettes while drinking and the difference in impact of a few toots on an empty stomach as opposed to a full one.

And so this morning sweet Diva and I ventured off to court for like the millionth time to once again file the latest in the saga of the judge in court. We were there on time, and found only Fabulous Shoes – a court reporter from another Joburg daily paper – ready and waiting in gleaming gold wedges. Nobody else.

We joined her and waited and waited. I finished a Sudoku puzzle and played Tetris on my phone. Fabulous Shoes regaled us with tales of an extremely fat female fraudster who had taken a dislike to her and had become particularly threatening, swearing at her and pushing her around.

Fabulous Shoes: “She saw me and yelled 'You b*tch. I hate what you've been writing about me. I'm gonna teach you a lesson. Then she starts commenting on my hair. It was before lunch and bunches of people were listening so I had to protect my dignity. So I said: ‘Well, you shoudn’t wear those white pants. Your cellulite is luminous.”

More people arrived and the accounts of Fabulous Shoes’s run-in with fat female fraudster were repeated as the growing collection of court reporters listened in horror.

FS: “One time she said ‘You just try and call your photographer to come and get a picture of me’. And I said ‘No. You hit the gym first. Then we’ll talk’.”

A general consensus was made that everyone would, in a show of journalistic solidarity, cover future court appearances of fat female fraudster and ensure that her fraudulent actions are even more widely read.

For two hours solid I sat on the hard wooden bench. Before anything happened C-for-Serious summoned me back – the last on-day edition deadline had passed and I could leave Diva to handle the case as it finally started.

I walked back to the office feeling irritated by the wasted time.

Then I saw a taxi driver almost ride over a scooter driver. The scooter driver yelled back at him, prompting the taxi driver to laugh arrogantly and flip him a sign. Then he spotted the Metro cop next to him. Too late! He got pulled over.

Ah – a Metro cop actually taking action AND a taxi driver having to explain himself.


Life can be sweet in the big city!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fish Murderer

A few weeks ago Little One arrived home on Sunday afternoon with a fish bowl and two little goldfish she had named Michelle and Megan. I was not keen on this new development, but had agreed to allow the new additions to the family after much begging and pleading and promises that she would look after them because she just loved them so much.
Big mistake!
Little One could not restrain herself and repeatedly lifted her fishies out of the water to give them loves and then dumping them back.
A few days later I arrived home to a frantic child running down the driveway yelling "Mom, you know what! My fishie Michelle - the little orange one, not the one with brown spots on called Megan, the just orange one! She dieded!"
So how did she die?
"She did get bited by a vicious mosquito," was the breathless response from Little One, who herself was sporting some big red lumps courtesy of a mosquito attack - no doubt the inspiration for her dramatic account of the death.
We went inside and lifted dear departed Michelle out of the bowl. Little One looked tearfully on as I prepared to drop her into the loo, whispering "But she will be scared down there".
"No. Michelle is sleeping dead and she will be fine. We will send her to be with other dead fishies," I told her as she happily flushed.
Little Megan - the orange fishie with brown spots - was looking a little listless and I was worried. But she regained her strength and was soon swimming around strongly, enjoying the end of the honeymoon period as her young owner stopped picking her up to give her loves.
But, I'm sad to say, her little life has also now ended.
Recently Little One tried to bar me from her bedroom, telling me to keep out. I realised something was wrong and waited until she was in the bath before letting her know I was going to check on sweet Megan, and ignored her protests.
And there she was: belly up in the bowl bobbing next to plastic Bruce the Shark and a few other Finding Nemo characters that had been placed in the bowl.
I returned to the bathroom.
JJ: "Do you know what happened to Michelle?"
Glum Little One: "She dieded."
JJ: "Yes, but how did she die?"
GLO: "A vicious mosquito did bited her."
JJ: "No, I don't think so. Did you do something to her? Did you hurt her by mistake?"
GLO: "No, mom. Don't be cross wiff me."
JJ: "I'm not cross with you. I just want you to tell me the truth. What happened to the fishie?"
GLO: "Okay. I will tell you the truth. But don't be cross, okay."
JJ: "No, it's fine. Just tell the truth."
GLO, with hands out bobbing dramatically, palms up and fingers spread: "The truth is that Bruce the shark did keel her. He bited her badly."
And that was that. All the information I could get out of her.
Subsequent investigations revealed that she may have rubbed some of her sunblock on the fish.
We flushed in silence.
May dear Megan rest in peace as she heads off to join her sister Michelle in the big fish pond in the sky.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Starting out

I recently decided to try my hand at blogging. So I set up my blog and now it's time to start - the question is where.
So here are the basic beginnings.
What is this blog about?
I am a journalist for a daily paper in Johannesburg. Now judging by TV programmes like Scandal, Hard Copy and Isidingo, being a reporter is a sexy, glamorous job that has you flitting about on all kinds of scoops and exposes. The reality however, at least in my experience, is quite different for the most part. Read this blog if you'd like a glimpse of the real deal.
Okay - I have been a crime reporter for many years and that is pretty hardcore in a city like Joburg where you get to see blood and bodies fairly regularly, ride into shootings on the odd occasion (seriously!) and get threatened by dodgy characters. But that is nothing compared to becoming a mom.
I used to think that having children was what ordinary people did, easy as falling off a log. No longer! I now rate my status as single parent to three-year old Little One as by far the toughest, most demanding life challenges I have ever come up against.
What do you need to know about me?
I love my job and adore my daughter utterly.