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JMS alumni are new M&G editors

Date Released: Fri, 2 August 2013 13:20 +0200

The Mail & Guardian announced their new editors on 22 July 2013 and Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies is well-represented by alumni Angela Quintal and Verashni Pillay. Quintal has been appointed as the editor of Mail & Guardian newspaper and Pillay has been promoted from M&G Online deputy editor to associate editor.

Quintal obtained her Bachelor of Journalism degree and her LLB from Rhodes University in 1988 and 1990. She will join the editorial team in October when she completes her duties as editor at The Witness in Pietermaritzburg after being away from Johannesburg for four years. She says, “The M&G has adopted a digital first strategy. I’ll be responsible for the newspaper and will work with Chris Roper, the editor-in-chief, who will drive the digital side of things.” In her student days Quintal started the Law Faculty magazine In Camera. In her career her law degree has been a “perfect fit on several levels, from the discipline and logic, to a continued interest in legal issues, the transformation of the judiciary and legal profession, as well as constitutional issues”.

Quintal says shifting her focus from local and community reporting to a national newspaper will be a challenge, and so will getting used to the more high-profile side of editing the M&G. “I prefer to work behind the scenes and would be perfectly happy not to have a profile at all. It’s a case of just leave me to produce a good newspaper and I’ll be in my element.”

Quintal says her time at The Witness was “hectic, frustrating, exhausting, but also very rewarding”. She explains, “I felt like I was in limbo for more than a year in terms of our growth plans, because of the drawn out Competitions Commission and Tribunal process relating the Media24 merger.” Another challenge in the newsroom was seeing how editorial appeared not to have been a priority. However, she says, “It was great to see young journalists rise to the occasion, tackling stories they would never have dreamt of doing, simply by pushing them to go beyond what they had been used to.” Quintal continues, “Thankfully, Media24 also understood that editorial was the engine of any future growth for the publishing side of the business, so while other departments in The Witness had to deal with retrenchments, similar to what was happening elsewhere in the industry, editorial was spared.”

Pillay graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2007 and she specialised in writing and editing. During her time at university she did freelance work for mainstream publications like the Mail & Guardian and FM Campus, blogged prolifically, worked for Rhodos, and did a number of odd jobs that taught her discipline and helped pay her fees. She studied political science, was an active member of the debating club, student politics, and served on the SRC as academic councillor from 2003 to 2004. She also served on a national SRC body, which gave her key leadership skills that she still uses in the workplace.

As associate editor Pillay will be a senior journalist. She says, “I will be taking a break from management and running a large department, and stepping back into reporting to hone my skills and credibility as a reporter.” Pillay says the challenges to her new position are stepping outside the comfort zone of a management position back into the field, and letting go of her online department that she’s been invested in over the past few years. “I’m preparing for it by remembering how much I adore reporting in the first place,” she says.

A highlight in Pillay’s career has been covering the ANC’s Mangaung conference in December. “I loved the thrill of the constant breaking news and being so close to key decision-makers. I also love using various new media tools to tell stories and I did a lot of that in Mangaung,” she says. “I really do love multimedia story telling in the sense of using different story-telling tools online to tell stories both complex and popular. And of course I’m deeply invested in social media.” Her love for using online and digital tools for innovative story telling won her the inaugural CNN African Journalism digital award in 2012 and the inaugural Standard Bank Sikuvile multiplatform award in 2013.

How did they get where they are today and what advice can they give to future journalists?

Quintal says, “I worked incredibly hard - I still do - and also had great mentors.” Her advice to aspiring journalists is, “Read anything and everything. Remember you are a journalist, not a stenographer, so question, question, question. Travel as much as possible and see your own country and the world.  Be principled, fair, ethical and independent. Finally, if you can’t find a job in journalism, ask for work experience or shadow someone in the newsroom.  It’s a way to get your foot in the door and ultimately a job offer when the next vacancy occurs.”

Integrity and hard work are crucial to Pillay. She says journalism students should read widely about industry trends and practice their craft any way they can. “Go outside of your course to learn new skills and practice, practice, practice, be it a blog or editing your own videos or designs. Don’t wait for permission from a big mainstream organisation. Start honing your craft in any way you can.”


Words by Annetjie van Wynegaard

Photographs supplied by Angela Quintal and Verashni Pillay