High-flying hack: on mining for the truth and meeting my Deep Throat

High-flying hack: on mining for the truth and meeting my Deep Throat

Time flies at Roving Reporters and I cannot believe barely a month has passed since I started my internship, writes Thabiso Goba in his first training blog.

It has been fast paced and exciting. There is something about having to continually challenge yourself that gets the blood pumping.

My first story was a high court application brought by an environmental advocacy group against the Tendele anthracite mine in Zululand.

I went through copious court papers, several times for clarity and because I did not want to mess up on my first assignment.

The story taught me that the world is shifting beneath our feet and that too often we focus on the big headlines, missing the story behind the story.

“Court bid to close KZN coal mine” certainly grabs your attention but there are other, compelling stories if you go beyond the headlines, scratch a little deep — like what is happening to Sabelo Dladla and his family, who struggle to breathe because the mine is polluting the air.

Indignity

Other families have suffered the indignity of having their ancestors’ graves dug up and moved to who-knows-where without consultation.

This is a community slowly losing its homes, memories, neighbours, heritage and other intangibles as they are forced to move.

I was surprised when I learnt Roving Reporters was the only news organisation at the Pietermaritzburg High Court for the Tendele case — and pleased I wouldn’t be scooped. Although by the end of the five-hour hearing there was a media frenzy outside court.

I learned valuable lessons about probing deeper into environmental stories — what they mean, their impact, who is affected and how things play out in a wider context.

Whereas in my previous reporting job we were mainly concerned with covering the news as it happened, with Roving Reporters I am taking a more thoughtful approach.

I feel like more of a journalist than a reporter, like I have jumped the queue. And it feels good.

Surreal

Having stories of quality and relevance in my CV can only help me in future.

It felt surreal to meet my first high-level source — my own “Deep Throat” — for a story on Durban’s Virginia airport.

I’m being tongue in cheek here because you can’t compare the original Deep Throat who spilled the beans on Nixon’s abuse of power to the Washington Post with my municipal informant.

But it was gratifying and I realised there are people in government who trust the media, want to do their jobs to the best of their ability and like many in the media are tired of the permanent stain of incompetence and corruption on the country’s public sector.

Toxic times

Also last month, I went to Wentworth for the launch of Toxic City, a booklet detailing the harmful effects of different industrial emissions.

Half the people gathered for the launch, in the south Durban suburb’s community hall, had cancer or feared they were on their way to having cancer. The rest knew of a relative or friend who had died of the disease.

These was real people with real problems; this was reality.

I am now enrolled on the UCT_GetSmarter Feature Writing online course which runs concurrently with my training at Roving Reporters, which I am enjoying immensely.

It’s another step towards improving myself as a writer, a  reporter and as a person. – Roving Reporters

 

FEATURED IMAGE: Roving Reporters intern Thabiso Goba in a Virginia hangar. His report on plans for the Durban North airport made front page lead in the Daily News.

 

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