Coming to grips with the reality of the working world is not easy.
We entered trepidatiously into a quiet and dimly lit room with tinted windows. Scanning the room, all we could see were hunched bodies typing ferociously to meet fast-approaching deadlines.
Not one of us expected our Honours class field trip to The Citizen to be so…sobering. It was nothing like the bustling newsrooms we’d seen on high-energy TV shows and films or even whatever fantasies we’d conjured up in our pre-university minds.
After being whacked in the face with this reality check, we toured the office space. Each department we visited cemented an unrelenting question that whirred through my mind: am I supposed to be working in this industry?
Admittedly, my thoughts were rather extreme and could have easily been halted by the reassuring “there are so many facets to journalism! You’ll find your place” (something I have heard a lot lately from friends, family and mentors). But even this piece of advice could not have prepared me for the editorial meeting we sat in on.
White men. That’s the first thing that came to mind when I recounted the events of the day to my father. He had excitedly video called me once I’d told him the field trip had concluded. “Didn’t you expect that though?”
I’m not sure what I expected the demographics to be in the newsroom. Perhaps I’d hoped to see a considerable number of black people in the editorial team because of false ideas that the country has been progressing.
I know better than this.
Overall, it was not a complete disappointment. Learning about the mechanisms that drive the publication process was invaluable and one of the primary reasons I won’t forget that day.
I suppose my surprise with the whole experience came from wishful thinking and a sense of hopeful naivete that has been consistently chipped at during this honours degree. Despite my unshakeable disappointment, I’ve been coming to terms with why this experience was what it was as opposed to my fantasies taking shape in reality.
Some reasons include socio-economic factors, South Africa’s racist professional space, COVID-19’s impact on (now ever-shrinking) newsrooms – and well I could go on for hours.
Though this brief diary entry of sorts has been brimming with negative reflections, this experience was extremely fruitful. It made me come to terms with the fact that some of the doubts I’ve had about my career path are not completely unfounded. Most importantly, I realise now more than ever that reality definitely can’t compete with expectations.
And that’s okay…