The covid-19 lockdown is proving to be a global newsroom for this Wits Vuvuzela student journalist.

The times we are living in are presenting great challenges for us all but for student journalists, this has been a crucial time to learn the trade and tell stories. 

The novel coronavirus has devastated many nations across the globe, altering human social behaviour and changing production patterns, affecting even the greatest economies in the world. However, the virus has also created a unique environment for a student journalist to exist in.

My classroom has transformed from being located on the 10th floor of University Corner, Wits University, to the world. I am now forced to learn not only from my lecturers in the classroom but from everyday journalists covering stories around this pandemic. 

Reflecting on my experiences thus far as a Wits Vuvuzela student journalist, here are three major lessons I have learned. 

Facts always lead

As editor Glenda Nevill recently wrote in TheMediaOnline, “Never has there been such an urgent need for proper, fact-checked reporting. With social networks adding an element of pandemonium to the pandemic with the proliferation of fake news, trusted news brands have never been more important in ensuring the public has the facts at hand.” 

I have learnt it is most important to ensure you have the story right rather than first, especially at a time when misinformation spreads like wildfire. Learning from the mistakes of the likes of well-established outlets such as News24, which had to apologise for publishing a false story about philanthropist Bill Gates. Such mistakes have a long-lasting effect not only on the reputation of the writer, but that of the brand.

You will get rejected/’ghosted’, take a moment and try again.

Rejection is part of the game. People could refuse to speak to you for various reasons, so it is important not to rely on a single source. Rejection can even hit in the newsroom when you pitch a story, this is where I have taken quite a few knocks myself. It’s important to keep your game face on and try again. This has really been a confidence booster for me, as I have developed a thicker skin because of it. 

Build yourself a network, it will come in handy.

As a first time Wits student, being from the Western Cape, I have learned, as a journalist, it is important to build yourself a network of people. This was difficult for me at first because Wits was a totally different environment and the fact that I am a socially anxious person made matters worse. I struggled with instructions from our lecturers: “Take down people’s phone numbers; speak to people in the lifts; don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a person in front of you in a queue, you never know when that contact could come in handy.” 

As I continue to define myself as a journalist in this world, I will carry on taking down notes and telling the stories that matter. As British playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard says, “I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”

FEATURED IMAGE: Akhona Matshoba is a student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela. Photo: File.