Hello Nelspruit

Vivian Attwood

MBOMBELA – After 30 years spent interviewing subjects for stories, making the shift to being the interview subject myself is a novel twist. All the thousands of times I have asked questions of others – ranging from the pedestrian to the deeply personal – there has been the awareness that agreeing to talk to a journalist is an act of trust.

No-one (other than perhaps an elected public official) owes you answers to the questions you hope will form the basis of a riveting story. And yet, almost without exception, I have found the many people I have interviewed in the course of my career to be generous and forthcoming with their stories of the events and concerns that shape their lives.

As I assume the role of editor of Lowvelder, a well-loved newspaper that acts as the mouthpiece of many in Mbombela and the rest of Mpumalanga, I thought I would share some personal details and experiences with our readers. It is a very abridged version of a long and lively career, but when I meet you, as I hope I shall, we can always continue the conversation.

I was born in Cape Town, educated in the Eastern and Western Cape, Namibia, the UK and KwaZulu-Natal, and studied drama, post-matric, at UCT. I quickly abandoned thoughts of a career on the stage when I spotted an opening for a junior reporter at a community newspaper in Paarl, and once I had made it through the door, the die was cast.

There has not been a day in the interim when I have been less than grateful to be a news hound; to be entrusted with looking at the world around me, weighing up the great, the good, the mediocre and the awful, and distilling events into stories others want to read – stories that as far as I am able to ensure, are accurate and fair, balanced and honest, and above all, fun and informative.

If it matters to you, it matters to me. I have come full circle and returned to my roots in community journalism, and I could not be more delighted. It is a pleasure to meet you, as it will be a pleasure to steer the team that brings you the quality stories you have come to know and love in Lowvelder.

The highs and sighs of a ‘hack’

Memorable moments in my career

• 1986 – Joined the staff of Paarl Post & Wellington Gazette. Was privileged to be on the spot when former president Nelson Mandela was released from prison, walking through the gates of Victor Verster Prison with the world media spotlight trained on him.

• 1994 – Off to pastures new. A stint spent working on the editorial team of The Reader’s Digest in Cape Town, and then on to KwaZulu-Natal to join the Republican Press stable, which was taken over by Caxton. Chief subeditor and journalist on the evergreen Living & Loving parenting magazine and then senior writer on the now defunct Personality magazine under the legendary editorship of Dave Mullany.

• Fast forward to the late ’90s, and I earned my stripes as a radio news reporter with the SABC in Durban, where I might be reporting on the annual sardine run one day, and flying by helicopter to the palace of King goodwill Zwelithini, the next.

• After a foray into advertising copywriting I focused on my freelance writing career and contributed to national and international publications for six years, and then returned to my first love – newspapers – in the Independent Newspapers stable. I worked across titles from 2008, on The Mercury, The Daily News and The Sunday Tribune. An exciting period during which I was able to explore both hard news and in-depth feature writing on these very different publications.

Stand-out events in my memory of this time include:

• Covering the plight of street children and the homeless – an issue that deserves the compassion of all South Africans.

• The trial of the Lotter siblings, Nicolette and Hardus, who are now serving long sentences for the murder of their parents, Riekie and Johann. Their co-accused, Matthew Naidoo, was judged to be the mastermind behind the crimes that had the whole country talking.

• The 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup. Who could forget it? The euphoria we all felt as our country united in celebration and showed the world just what it means to be proudly South African.

• The Charlie Hebdo killings on January 7, 2015 and the Paris attacks in November 2015, both conducted by radical extremists, reminded us of our common humanity. A blow to one is a blow to all. Reporting on both tragedies, I communicated with South Africans in Paris and what emerged from those conversations was the awareness that it is in adversity that we display our most noble attributes.

Vivian Attwood
Lowvelder Editor

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