Writing the first draft of history is a big responsibility, but an absolute honour. This, according to award-winning journalist and fraycollege facilitator, Jamaine Krige. Speaking to Media Management graduates at the fraycollege Into the Future conference, she said that by amplifying voices that would otherwise not be heard and including them in history’s first draft, journalists can bring about real change.
This is not always a systemic, legislative or policy change, but can often be seen as shifts in individuals and in society. “And 50 years from now, when people talk about these communities, I can say that I was there, that we were there, and that they were there, and this will be known because of that first draft of history that we were privileged enough to write.”
She cautions that this is not as easy, idyllic or idealistic as it may sound. “I’m a practitioner in an industry that has, over the past year especially, been discredited, disregarded and defunded,” she says. “We are an industry in crisis.”
While many challenges exist, Jamaine believes that good journalism inspires a sense of social solidarity. “Stories and storytelling allow us to relate,” she says. “They make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving and more compassionate.”
She acknowledges that many of these are considered traditionally feminine qualities, and that they have not always been considered compliments or strengths. “But what stories have taught me is that we can reclaim this narrative and blaze our own trail, and in doing so, we can use our stories to pave the way for those who come after us.”
LEADING DIFFERENTLY FOR THE FUTURE WE DESERVE
To achieve this, the female perspective is not just needed, but vital for success. “That doesn’t mean changing ourselves to fit the mould,” she explains. “We can be journalists, managers, industry leaders, mothers… we can be women without sacrificing who we are to be leaders – we just lead differently, and that’s okay.”
This realisation does not always come easily. “I’m here today because I was tired, and I think other women are too,” she says. “Tired of waiting for mentors and role models who think and feel the way we do, and tired of seeing newsrooms that don’t represent us and our lived realities.” Instead of waiting for the leaders they want, a new generation of women in the media space are stepping up to become them instead. “Going forward, we are the role models and mentors we wanted but never had, and never again will a generation of African women in the newsroom say that they are not led, that they are not represented, and that while amplifying the voices on our continent, they themselves are not heard.”
This new generation of women in media are not just stepping up to lead the newsrooms of the future, but are actively working at creating the future newsrooms they know they deserve. These women have decided to not just change the narratives of the societies they live in, but their own as well. “When it comes to change, real-world change, storytelling and the narratives we push are the most powerful way to put ideas into the world,” she explains. “As an industry we like to say that we don’t tell people what to think – we just tell them what to think about, but if people start to think about the right things, and focus their energy, and if the message is conveyed in the right way, then change does follow.”
TAP INTO NETWORKS AND SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY
Journalism is one of the ways to create that change. “We drive the discourse and frame the issues – we point the lens and make people see what needs to be seen,” she says. “There is a quote that says if someone tells you it’s raining and another person says it’s dry, it is not your job to quote them both; it’s your job is to look outside and see which is true.” Only then can the public make informed choices about how to prepare for the actual weather conditions.
This task becomes easier when shared, and Jamaine is quick to admit that her accomplishments are not only her own. “My successes stem from a network of passionate individuals who share my goals and my ideals, even if we sometimes differ on the delivery,” she smiles. “A network of people who believe in and feel as strongly as I do about including our continent’s narrative in today’s news and in tomorrow’s history books.”
She urges journalists to develop their own networks and make use of them often – and this includes the fraycollege alumni network. “You’re part of the fraycollege family now, and you’ve got support, structure and a safety net,” she explains. “We can call on each other for brainstorming and guidance, cross-border collaboration and support, because we’re here to help each other carry this privilege and responsibility that we bear as storytellers.”
She knows that bearing this responsibility, as an individual and as a collective, often comes at a great cost. “It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.”