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BENITA LEVIN: Through the eyes of a radio news mother

Benita Levin
EWN Johannesburg Editor Benita Levin.
Opinion

Journalists, too, feel the pain, writes EWN News Editor Benita Levin.


As reporters and editors, our days often feel like hurricanes of stories, deadlines and manic bulletins. It’s only late at night that we are left alone with our thoughts, digesting all the tragedies and miracles that unfold around us.

We are often accused of being desensitised because we deal with a barrage of information on a daily basis. All too often the details are graphic, gruesome and disturbing. The focus stays on telling the story – giving accurate, reliable, immediate information to millions of listeners.

If I look back at the last few years, so many stories stand out.

I often think of Steven Siebert’s parents. The six-year old Johannesburg boy was killed by a paedophile while on holiday in Plettenberg Bay in December 2005. The last time he was seen, he was playing in a tree in a garden at a holiday home. His body was found the following day - Christmas Day. It was a story that stunned the community and the country. 

I was five months pregnant with my first child at the time. Being at the crime scene was devastating. Seeing an experienced policeman crying as he described what happened was overwhelming. Speaking to relatives was mortifying. I had nightmares for weeks afterwards. I think of Steven’s parents every December holiday.  I am haunted by thoughts of their unimaginable pain.

In passing sentence, Justice Essa Moosa told the child killer: “…while you strangled the child you watched him die with no emotion”. There simply are no words.

Fast-forward to June 2012. A story breaks in the newsroom. A fire at a house in Montana. We send our Eyewitness News reporter in Pretoria to the scene. We are quick. We make the deadline. 

And then comes the detail that sends shivers through my spine. A mother, realising that her young children are trapped in the burning house, tells them to “hide inside the cupboard“.  Her children died in the blaze.

That heart-breaking scenario raced through my head that night – again and again. A tragedy no parent should ever experience.

Yes, we got the story. Yes, we were accurate, reliable and immediate. 

Desensitised? Not always. There are times we do feel the pain. And in many cases, it stays with us. 

And then there are those beautiful, positive stories. The heart-warming story of the remarkable fighter Pippie Kruger set the maternal part of this ‘desensitised’ journalist into overdrive. The 3-year old child was burnt in an accident at a braai at the beginning of this year. This month she survived groundbreaking surgery in Johannesburg. A story Gauteng leaders said had made the province and the country proud. A reason to smile.

Again our reporters were there. Providing regular updates on the night the bandages were finally removed from the little girl’s body.

As a mom in the newsroom, I felt the pain, the angst and then, the joy.

And yes, there are times we feel the emotion. And in many cases, it stays with us.

Benita Levin is Eyewitness News' News Editor: Johannesburg. She is also an accredited life coach. Follow her on Twitter @benitalevin

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