My sister found the speech that my mentor, Jonathan gave at our grad in Cape Town all those years ago. Almost cried at work this morning coz I now mentor other young writers, talk about full circle
Being a cadet graduate is part of an exclusive club, says group training editor Jonathan Ancer.
Delivering the keynote speech at the Cape graduation ceremony for the editorial cadets on Tuesday November 30, he says: The old Argus Cadet School turned out exceptional journalists many of whom went on to become some of our country’s top editors, but the media landscape is changing rapidly. Newspapers in particular are under a lot of pressure.
Editorial standards have been slipping across the industry and this year our company did something courageous to address this. We relaunched our Cadet School – and invested in the journalists of tomorrow – quite literally tomorrow.
We signed up 12 cadets from around the country and we embarked on an intensive 10-month programme of experimental and experiential training. This group of cadets are pioneers.
For three months we trained them in a classroom, giving them shorthand skills, teaching them to sub and how to boldly not split infinitives.
They were taught to find stories, take photos, report accurately, write creatively and laugh.
They analysed the news (and how newspapers reported the news), they followed strangers, harassed Julius Malema and had regular chat shows with Chris, who played the role of Larry King Live on Thursday afternoons.
Our learning model works because the people who have come in to do the training are our own staff – wise journalists who have been in the newsroom trenches.
In May the cadets where sent to their regions where they worked on titles.
It was a hands-on course. It has been a rewarding time for all and I must express our sincere thanks to a number of people:
Firstly, to Chris and Martine for their vision and support and for helping to yank open doors that seemed firmly shut.
To Ishmet, for giving his time to teach the cadets about the wall between business and editorial and also for his unwavering support.
To the facilitators – Michael, Andrew, Renee, Graeson, Melissa, Craig – for their hard work, patience and commitment.
To the editors and news editors, who took time from punishing production schedules and cruel deadlines to show an interest in the cadets and to make this learning experience come alive.
To staff who took cadets under their wing and acted as mentors – Ivor, Dave, John and Gaye.
To fellow trainers – David in Durban and Ridwaan in Gauteng.
Also thanks to HR in Cape Town (especially Gillian) for overseeing all the logistics and for helping to make the programme work. It has been a minor miracle.
Finally, I would like to thank our cadets in Cape Town:
Neo’s friendly personality lights up the room. She’s calm and composed and ready for anything. She sailed through the classroom phase of the programme, always bringing a fresh perspective to debates and discussions and worked hard at her writing skills. She was selected to go to the Weekend Argus because she seemed to have the right temperament. Working for weekly newspapers is not easy for young reporters; most struggle. However, Neo did remarkably well, and settled well into the weekly rhythm, which shows a lot of character. Although Neo was sent to the Weekend Argus on her first day in the newsroom she wrote a front page story for the Cape Argus. She chose environmental reporting as her specialization – and John, her mentor, believes she’s got a bright green future in journalism.
Neo is going to be working at the Cape Argus.
Sibusiso was the top of the class during the three months the cadets spent in the classroom. His general knowledge is good, and he has lots (and lots and lots and lots) of opinions. Sibusiso took a while to settle down at the Cape Times but he gradually found his newsroom feet. In September he decided to do something scary and chose to spend his specialisation at Business Report where he produced a wonderful story about a glass recycling enterprise in the Western Cape. Sibusiso is a promising reporter, who will be an asset in any newsroom.
He reports to the Cape Argus tomorrow.
Is a natural born journalist, who thrives under pressure. Her portfolio is bulging. From the first day of being at the Cape Times she was chasing big stories – and she hasn’t looked back since. Michelle chose to join the Political Bureau to do her specilisation – and she continued to impress. She was flung into the deep end and found her swimming legs quickly. She wrote many hard-hitting pieces, including Page One leads (on one day she had stories on both the front pages of the Cape Times and the Argus).She has energy and passion and is enthusiastic – her one month stint at Bureau turned into three months and now a job. Michelle is well on her way to becoming a great reporter.
When we interviewed Heidi she seemed so serious – we thought she might be too serious. Heidi is a bit older than the others, she had already worked as a social worker. She admitted in the interview that she was at a crossroads, she was bored and she wanted to make a leap. Heidi was making a brave decision – and it was because she was prepared to be brave that we decided to be brave too. We want courageous reporters – our industry sometimes lacks courage – so we chose her. We made the right decision. During the classroom phase she continued to be brave, going into drug dens to find stories. She also showed that she’s “a story magnet”. She witnessed a man being assaulted by police and followed a white sangoma who was being harassed by security guards and then got invited to the sangoma’s graduation. Heidi went to the Cape Argus and struggled. Her feistiness got her into a bit of trouble but this proved to be learning experiences. Heidi joined Ivor’s investigations team for her specialization and excelled. This is because she is determined to get to the bottom of a story. Heidi sent me a quote from Robert Frost that helped her to finally realize what she loves doing. “We dance around in a ring and suppose. But the secret sits in the middle, and knows.” Now to quote Heidi. “Secrets. And finding them out. Going into places that no one else sees. Knowing something is there, and looking for it, and looking for it, and then looking some more, and then, just maybe, finding it. Even if it’s just a small piece of it. Knowing that the scratchy feeling in the pit of your stomach was right all along. Knowing.” I’m glad we were brave. Heidi will be joining CCN and the Tattler.
To the Cape cadet class of 2010, my warmest congratulations to you all for doing so well. I must confess that I get a blush of pride whenever I read one of your stories. But the challenge really begins tomorrow: You have a big responsibility – your job is to not only save the world through the journalism you produce – finding the secrets, exposing corruption, strengthening our democracy and telling stories that matter – but you have to save our newspapers too. You need to produce quality copy that makes our papers essential in the lives of our readers. You need to make your snowflakes different. I know you can rise up to the challenge… and continue to fill me with pride.