Khadija Patel is a highly talented and opinionated journalist working for The Daily Maverick (online news) and its iPad sister, iMaverick. She covers the Middle East and Africa with a bit of South African international relations in between.
Why did you choose a career in the media?
As a 13-year-old I was asked by my English teacher what I wanted to be when I grew up. I replied unhesitatingly, “a journalist”. I was inspired by another English teacher who moonlighted as a sports journalist but this particular teacher was disapproving. “Do you think journalism is an appropriate job for a woman? A Muslim woman?” she asked. My bumbling 13-year-old brain was unable to piece together any objection anybody could have to a woman taking up a pen.
I ended up a journalist anyway.
While reading for my postgraduate degree I dearly wanted to join the United Nations Young Professional Programme in Paris. I thought I could change the world, but while I waited for the papers certifying I had the requisite knowledge, I began blogging. Through my blog I met a community of young South African writers who, like me, were blogging with no other intention except to make sense of their own views. I was spurred to write more and soon, I took up a post writing for a community news website. While on assignment a few months later, I was offered the reins (editorship) of Al Huda magazine. About two years later, happenstance threw me in the way of the editor of the Mail and Guardian’s Thought Leader platform. I began blogging for them and was soon contacted by Branko Brkic, the editor of The Daily Maverick, who offered me a column on his news website. I now work as a journalist writing for both The Daily Maverick and Africa’s first daily iPad newspaper, iMaverick.
What is your career highlight and worst moment to date?
After wanting for so long to be able to write in the mainstream, I’m here now. I don’t think I can call myself successful just yet. I am still developing as a writer and as a journalist. I wake up every morning hoping to do better than I did the previous day. I’m grateful for the opportunity I have been given to put words to the day, to make sense of the world for others. I don’t think there’s a particular moment I can pin as my worst moment, but I think, right now, I’m facing my toughest test yet. I’m learning to write with the alacrity of more seasoned journalists, while at the same time carving out a niche for my own ideas, opinions and style.
What makes you tick?
I love news. I enjoy the thrill of being part of something significant but mostly I am nothing without my family and friends.
What is your least favourite part of the job?
I hate that I’m often so busy chasing the news – or more likely, my tail – that I lose track of time. Hours melt into days, into weeks, into months and I have little to show for it.
What are your future plans?
The future seems a long way away right now. I prefer to take every day as it comes. That said, I am nursing an idea for a book that I hope to begin writing in the next year. And then, sometime in that unknown world of the future, I hope to re-launch my publishing company, taking advantage of the experience I may have gleaned in digital journalism to establish worthy titles of my own. But for now, I just hope to be better at everything I do.
This story was first published in the May 2012 issue of The Media magazine.