“I wanted to change the world”

Straight out of her mouth the words came pouring out. There was no question about the firmness and conviction in her submission about why she had chosen to pursue a career in journalism.

“I wanted to change the world”, Nicky Hlanze said to me when we sat down to talk about her aspirations for the years ahead. She however pointed out, “so far it is work in progress… I want, some way somehow, to touch people and to change the way people see things, and the way they see the people that they live with. Change the way you see the guy in the street, someone you see every day but you don’t really know them, type of thing.”

Her name is Nicky which comes from ‘Siniketiwe’ i.e. Swati for ‘we have been given’. This is complemented by the surname Hlanze which means ‘bush’. She is from Nelspruit in Mpumalanga in the North Eastern Province of South Africa. A final year student pursuing a Bachelor of Journalism in Rhodes University in Grahamstown who says to me as we plan what the afternoon will look like, “a lot of the times when I do the work I do, I want it to have an impact.”

She is one of those people you are not too sure about when, as a guy, you meet at a dinner. You are not sure what question to ask and ponder over what sort of response you will get. I however asked her, in a deep baritone voice, “What is the state of the journalist in South Africa” (cool huh?)

She smiles and answers “I can tell you that I have been told a lot of times that this profession doesn’t pay and that a lot of the people that are in the industry are not in it for the money, they are in it for the cause, you know… I think there is a lot of chance for you to break ground in the sort of work that you do. But also there is the people that are controlling the media, so you try to do the best that you can with what you have and the best you can control.”

“It frustrates me but then it also gives me more reason to want to get into it. It gives me the energy to go out there and do it. But it also means that, in terms of being frustrated, I have people who are ahead of me that I can tap into as resources for advice”.

It hit me there. This lady is being real with herself. A little idealistic, considering she is yet to get into the field to ‘practice’ in its realest sense, but she has a plan B at every corner. She knows the field does not pay much (and it’s true) but she is willing to work at it. She is not sitting back demanding of the system. She is not expecting to graduate and gain automatic access to a job where she can do ‘some’!

She continues “I think there is a lot of spaces that we haven’t infiltrated yet and that’s what I want to do… there is something about you, even though you are different from me, but there is something valuable that I could learn from you and that’s what I mean by infiltrating these spaces. I think there is a lot we can learn from each other and take from each other.”

How much are we willing to learn from each other as countrymen, as colleagues, as compatriots, as competitors? How much are we willing to share in order to realize our greater good? How much are we willing to risk, despite knowing full well the implications, to make things happen? Those are my questions.

Nicky says to me “that’s what I will like to use as foundation for my character to build on; so that the work that I do, that’s where its resources are from.”

There is a spark in her eye when I ask her about the future of the profession she had chosen to immerse herself in for the rest of her life and she says, “I am so excited. When I just think of the things people are doing already… I find that journalists in disadvantaged countries in Africa are doing much more with the little they have and that is so inspiring, it’s so exciting. The possibilities are endless.”

She wants to learn and see as much as she can in three years after her graduation. She would like to open her own production house for both TV and radio in ten years.

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