Sunday, 31 May 2015

Into the belly of the beast

Last week I started a new job. As senior journalist for the Joburg North West branch of Caxton Newspapers. Mainly the hard news beat for the Northcliff Melville Times, Randburg Sun, and Roodepoort Northsider which, together, cover a pretty vast section of Johannesburg's north-western suburbs.

The people are great, the office is nice (a little cramped and sometimes a bit noisy for my liking, but not unbearable), and the commute totally doable. When all the traffic lights along Beyers Naude, from home in Northcliff to the office in Honeydew, are actually working, it's an easy 20-minute drive, against the worst of rush-hour traffic. When one or more lights are out, however, or there's loadshedding in the area, it's a complete nightmare.

The workload is pretty intense. Office hours are 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, and during that time each journo has to turn in three stories a day, every single day.

On top of that, each journo has one week a month when we are 'on duty' 24 hours a day for seven consecutive days/nights (Wednesday through Tuesday), including the entire weekend. In other words, over and above our regular office hours, after hours we also have to attend any important meetings or functions, be on standby for any breaking news (mainly crime stories), plus attend back-to-back events on both the Saturday and Sunday.

My first 'on duty' week is 3rd - 9th June. Which basically means that from 4pm on Wednesday 3rd June till 8am on Wednesday 10th June, I will be working round the clock. When I knock off duty after those seven days/nights, another journo will take over and I will revert back to my normal office hours. To recharge our batteries after one of these grueling 'duty weeks', we get that Friday off (in my case, 11th June). It works on a cyclical roster system, with each journo having an 'on duty' week every four or five weeks.

My first story with pictures last week was called It's a dog's life, and it focused on the far from favourable living conditions of animals in a Kya Sand squatter camp, about 10km from the office. We were escorted by a Constable from the Douglasdale Police Station.

Below: A video clip I took from the back of his cop van, as we arrived at our first port of call. Kya Sands was the site of brutal xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in 2008, with SAPS deployed to the area to try and curb the violence.

Below: A series of pics I snuck in for my blog, in between the ones I took for work.

I am probably not going to have the time (or energy) to blog much from now on, but if you want to follow the writing and photography I do for work, I will be regularly uploading links to all my best stories in this board on Pinterest. Be sure to follow!