The life and times of a news hound » TheVoiceBW

  • The narrated life of a scribe

When it comes to our print media, there are some journalists who can boast a career as epic as that of Spencer Mogapi, who entered the newsroom from the bottom and is now rising to the top as a respected editor, editor, and thought leader. .

Mogapi’s departure to pursue other communications interests will mark the end of an era at the Sunday Standard and Telegraph newspapers, where he served as deputy editor and editor respectively for decades. he sat down with emang mutapati for a chat about life in the fast lane of newsgathering and reporting.

Has it always been your ambition from the start to become a newspaper publisher and editor or did your career just evolve that way by default?

I never set out to be a journalist. I wanted to be a school teacher or, at best, a university professor. But when I was at the University of Botswana I had a sociology professor, Jay O’Brien, with whom I got along very well.

I really believed that I could become a journalist, I guess because I had watched my presentations in class over time. And he kept telling me that. One day, around our graduation, he brought me an ad for a journalism scholarship. I think it was the Percy Qoboza scholarship, named after the legendary South African publisher.

And he helped me apply for it, but I was denied. Instead, I got a call from the Botswana Gazette. On graduation day, I was already a full-time journalist.

What was your biggest challenge as an editor when you first entered the newsroom many years ago, and what has changed over the years?

It was not easy to compete with big names in the media. Many sources preferred to deal with the Botswana Guardian and Mmegi. You can imagine that The Guardian had good established writers like Outsa Mokone, Mike Mothibi, Mesh Moeti, Mpho Dibeela, Joe Balise and Bashi Letsididi.

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They called themselves a dream team. All the journalists wanted to work with them. One day Outsa, Mike and Mesh invited me to lunch trying to recruit me. They offered me a lot of money.

I turned them down, saying that I thought I still had a lot to learn from Clara Olsen, who was the owner and managing editor of the Botswana Gazette. They thought he was crazy for not accepting her offer. I still believe that I made a good decision.

Many women have described the newsroom as not conducive to them with allegations of sexual harassment coming from the newsroom. What do you think of the gender aspect in the newsroom?

For many women, a newsroom can be a toxic place to work. Some newsrooms resemble a bull camp. It is very important that concerns about gender imbalance are taken seriously.

I know that women have often complained that newsrooms can be intimidating because of the language used by their male colleagues. We have come a long way, but there is still a way to go on gender issues in the newsroom.

Do you feel like you’ve accomplished everything you set out to do in The Telegraph and the SS?

Not at all. I still wish we would have produced more journalists. We did our best, but often they didn’t stay long enough. On a personal level, I think I’ve done the best I can.

What have you liked least about being editor of the Telegraph and deputy director of the SS and what have been the best parts of the job?

For me, reporting has always been the most enjoyable part of my job. I like investigative journalism. Of course, many people have come to know me as the name behind my weekly column, The Watchdog.

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To be honest with you, that hasn’t been my favorite part, especially since deep down I don’t like writing about politics.

What influences the way you think about coverage and news?

For me, above all, a complete story must affect the greatest number of people. In other words, it must be in the public interest. The story must have names in it.

That gives it a human interest angle. And when one finishes reading a story, one should not be left with more questions than answers.

What great stories, not just SS, would you say had an impact on your career over the years?

A few years ago, the Botswana government hired a consultant to review government institutions. He ended up producing a confidential document recommending the sale of Air Botswana, as he put it on Botswana’s Independence Day.

It read like a scene from a movie. We got the documents and it was wonderful to read them. To make matters worse, the airline was going to be sold to his friends.

Apart from that, covering the deaths of Louis Nchindo and Gomolemo Motswaledi has also provided an indelible perspective on my life and career, as he has been covering the story behind the intrigues of the relocation of Botswana’s diamonds from London to Gaborone.

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I enjoyed interviewing Kenneth Kaunda. He was humble and full of humor. He told many stories about Sir Seretse Khama that I found fascinating.

What is the number one quality of a reporter that you would advise editors to consider when hiring?

The journalist must be willing to learn. They must be willing to listen. He must have depth and must love current affairs and be willing to read, watch and listen to the news.

One becomes a good writer only when he reads the works of good writers. And perhaps most important these days, a journalist must have a sense of proportion.

Any young reporters to watch out for right now?

I admire Nicholas Mokwena’s work ethic. I have told him that. I can only hope that he has a clear perspective on how quickly people are becoming dependent on his writing. I like Sharon Mathala.

He is brave in his work. Victor Baatweng is a future industry leader, he can be sure of that. Thobo Motlhoka is a gifted writer. He needs to work very hard at his work rate.

The life and times of a bloodhound

DEPARTURE: Mogapi

How important is it for the media to shape the narrative and how do you think they can do it effectively and ethically?

For a journalist the best way to shape the narrative is to break stories. When the public learns more of the good job of reporting, they get a clear narrative.

And with good reporting there really isn’t much need to explain through the use of opinions or by columnists.

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He has been described by some of his detractors as a renowned propagandist like Goebbels. how does it make you feel?

Whatever Goebbels’ talents, he was a Nazi. And a very senior one at that. As a history student I can never feel comfortable let alone enjoy being compared to a Nazi. For me it is not a compliment, it is a slander.

How did you handle the conflict between the publisher’s interests and the interests of an editor in a newsroom?

Conflicts between a publisher and a publisher are all too often exaggerated. I have always thought of myself first and foremost as a journalist who just happened to own shares in a media company.

There is nothing unique about it. Journalism pioneers here like Clara Olsen, Titus Mbuya and Beata Kasale were in that position long before I was.

The reason I felt very determined to start the Sunday Standard is because I felt I didn’t have enough control over the Botswana Gazette.

The problem in Botswana is that journalists think that having shares in a media house necessarily makes one a publisher. That is not the case.

Do you honestly consider Cyril Ramaphosa a publisher? I hope not, but he has big interests in the South African media. But more importantly, I have never considered that poverty and journalism mean the same thing.

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What is your opinion about media houses choosing to take a stand to support a particular political perspective/point of view, eg right versus left?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The work of journalism goes beyond informing.

It is also about promotional work. In our case, especially politicians consider it a crime for a journalist to support or oppose something like the death sentence, to support or oppose the private sector, to support or oppose abortion.

The problem is that when it comes to its own ethics, our media have always promoted a kind of moral equivalence that only exists in fiction. And the politicians have been trying very hard to keep them against it.

It only occurs in Botswana. Objectivity is not science. The world has come a long way.

Editors, especially those of large and influential newspapers such as the SS, can sometimes be contacted or trusted by both individuals and the government about certain stories and may be asked to withhold certain information for the good of the nation, is there any decision you can make? Have you published or not published that you regret?

Each prominent journalist will be taken in confidence at different times, including by the head of state. It is absolutely normal. Often it is to provide context and background.

Such briefings are off the record. The important thing for a journalist is to understand the reason for such briefings to avoid being used.

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As a journalist, you cannot approach a government official with a story and then agree to be told about it. That is not journalism.

What has been your relationship with politicians?

Everyone says I’m cool, but no one believes what I say. I have just quoted Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish philosopher. I think that is the best description of my relationship with politicians. I guess many of them would have thought of me at different times as a snob.

Any proud moments for you in your illustrious career?

I’m proud of the people who worked for me and became great at what they do. That gives me a lot of pleasure: Spike Ganetsang, Oliver Modise, Batlhalefi Leagajang, to name just a few.

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