NASTASSIA ARENDSE: Our Tipping Point this week is about understanding how some of our country’s most successful leaders in various spheres become who they are. So today we spoke to Nikiwe Bikitsha, the co-founder and CEO of Amargi Media. She takes us through her journey.
NIKIWE BIKITSHA: I’ve been in journalism for 19 years. I started off as a young radio news reporter at Cape Talk when it launched in 1997. So that’s how I got my start in journalism.
But I suppose it started a lot earlier for me, because I knew as far back as when I was 13 that I wanted to be a journalist, and I remember what prompted my interest was during the first Gulf War was watching Christiane Amanpour reporting live from Baghdad and I was completely enamoured. I thought this was completely wondrous to be this conduit of live breaking news to the entire world. It’s an enormous responsibility, I thought. The sense of duty that comes with being the person who conveys important information to the world really impressed me and I thought: I can’t believe she’s out in the war zone. I think I can do it. She was doing it so well and so composed and getting none of her facts wrong that I thought, my goodness, this is amazing.
From that moment on the bug bit.
NASTASSIA ARENDSE: For someone who is listening out there and thinking I idolised this woman, and I would like to get into the field of journalism one day, what advice would you have for someone like that?
NIKIWE BIKITSHA: I think it’s important also to know why you are getting into journalism because I think there is a misconception of being on television or having this platform where you are well known across the country. That shouldn’t be the reason why you get into it.
It should be about the journalism, the craft of journalism itself. Do you want to be the one who disseminates information? And there is a huge responsibility with disseminating that information. In fact, you have to be well read, you have to research, you have to know what’s going on and be widely read because the responsibility is about getting the facts correct. And then transmitting accordingly to the nation important information and distilling that information is so that the citizenry can make its own decisions.
So people ought to look at it first that way. That’s why it’s an enormous responsibility. I get very disappointed when people say, oh, I just want to be like you, I just want to be on television. I say that’s not why I got into it. So I think it’s important to define the motive for getting into it, and that makes it much easier, because that way it doesn’t matter where you end up with it – on radio, print, digital – because the fundamental task is still based on what journalism is all about, the enormous responsibility we have to the audiences or the readers or listeners that we serve.
NASTASSIA ARENDSE: So what’s stands out for you as the moment when you carved your direction towards your successful career so far?
NIKIWE BIKITSHA: I’m still learning. But I think there have been several important moments for me. I think I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with seniors in the journalism field who were very generous with their ability, with their time and then sharing their knowledge with me.
For example, my first news editor was John Maytham, who was so nurturing and so kind to us as young, green interns when I was like 18 or 19, and had the patience to teach us. I had the good fortune to learn from the best in the industry.
And then, after being on radio for seven or eight years or so, I got to be a co-anchor of AM Live on SAfm, to anchor with John Perlman who, in my eyes, is really one of the best broadcast journalists that South Africa has ever produced. So the opportunity to learn from the best for me has opened so many doors. But you’ve also got to be humble enough to know that you need to learn.
NASTASSIA ARENDSE: That was Nikiwe Bikitsha, the co-founder and CEO at Amargi Media. For the full interview you can go to our website.