Each week, frayintermedia highlights a journalist doing good work on the continent and honours them as our #FaveOfTheWeek. Meet award-winning Malawian editor and 2021 WAN-IFRA Women in News Editorial Leadership Award Laureate Edyth Kambalame who is passionate about storytelling empowering women.
Q: How did you become a journalist?
A: It may have been a bit by chance because I was somebody who used to love reading and I was always curious to know what was behind the production of news stories. In those days, Malawi didn’t have a prolific media industry. This was during the one-party system of governance and we only had a state-controlled newspaper.
When I finished high school, it also happened to be the year that the University of Malawi was introducing the first Bachelor of Arts in journalism programme. So I applied for it and I was in the pioneer class of the Bachelor of Arts in journalism programme in Malawi. That’s how I became a journalist. The Nation had asked for some students to work with them. I think they were also interested to see how the first group of journalists in Malawi was being trained. I was lucky to be among the two that were selected to go and work for The Nation during the holidays in second year and then for the internship in my third year.
I worked for Capital Radio, one of the private radio institutions in Malawi and I think that helped me to know where my interest was between broadcast and print media. When I finished my degree I got a job with The Nation and that’s where I’ve worked until now. Besides having an interest in journalism, I think I was also fascinated by the idea to take the news to the people to inform people and be the voice of the voiceless. It’s not that people can’t speak about the things that they experience but with journalism you get a platform where whatever people are speaking is actually heard by the people that matter, so that’s what inspires me.
Q: What does winning the 2021 WAN-IFRA Women in News Editorial Leadership Award mean to you?
A: It’s so humbling. I feel very honoured because I know that there are very many deserving women in Africa who could easily have been nominated for this award.
And to be chosen amongst the many that are doing great work in the media industry in their countries, in their communities and on the continent feels very overwhelming to be honest. It’s something that I didn’t expect at all but I feel very honoured.
I also know that it comes with a lot of responsibility for me to carry the mantle and also continue being an inspiration to female editorial leaders both within and outside my country.
Q: What makes an exceptional journalist?
A: An exceptional journalist should have integrity. I think it’s very key in this day and age of the internet and social media where we have a lot of fake news going around for a journalist to take their time to be able to verify the news tips that they get and strive for balanced accounts of the topics that they are reporting on. I think it’s very key for one to have that commitment to give both sides of the story when reporting or even more sometimes. There’s more than two sides to the story.
It’s also important for one to have an analytical mind for the same reason really. With social media you’ve got a lot of people that are able to share information and get it on the internet but what differentiates a social media person and a journalist is the fact that journalists are able to go beyond just sharing the ÷≥news.
We are proud to announce the recipients of the 2021 Editorial Leadership Award: Edyth Kambalame @EdythK for #Africa #Malawi, @SamiaNakhoul for #ArabRegion #Lebanon & @nyeinnyeinnaing for #SoutheastAsia #Myanmar. Congratulations to the laureates! https://t.co/vC4CnwOel4 pic.twitter.com/MsHBG2K1jS— Women in News (@WomenInNews) November 12, 2021
They analyse the issues and look at how they impact their readers or listeners and try to interpret the meaning of the information that they are presenting. So, it’s very important that one has an analytical mind and they’re basing their stories on evidence and facts and not emotions and also to try and develop some investigative skills.
With the first world that we’re living in, it’s investigative stories that give media institutions an edge where people will actually be looking forward to getting the stories from mainstream media rather than just social media tips and stories that we get every day.
I’m not an investigative journalist but I’ve always focused on analytical reporting but these days I think media houses cannot avoid investigative news reporting. It’s very important for one as a journalist to have those skills in order for them to be exceptional.
I think one also has to be very open to continue learning because you can never get enough skills or knowledge when it comes to journalism. There’s always new things to learn so you have to be improving your knowledge but also be able to learn from others even within the newsroom. You don’t always have to go to school or attend conferences.
You can do that but I think on a day-to-day basis there’s also the opportunity to learn from others that are better that are doing better than you within your work space.
Q: Despite the challenges, why do you stay in the profession?
A: Journalism is a very challenging profession especially for women. Since I joined this profession I’ve become a mother, I have changed positions within the newsroom from reporter to senior features editor to sub-editor to deputy editor to features editor.
I have held various positions within the newsroom at The Nation,so all of those positions have come with their own challenges as well. But there’s also a challenge where people sometimes look at women as less deserving of certain positions.
Sometimes you’ve had to fight to be recognised and you find that it’s just tough to balance the work and life at home.
I think what keeps me going is the passion for the job. I still have a passion for journalism. I still have that desire to speak, to be a voice for the voiceless.
I think for me it’s very important also in a world that is still fighting for gender equality to have women to be able to pick out the issues that matter with regard to women and present them in the media in whatever form whether it’s on radio or television or in the newspaper or online even.
I find that it’s easier for women to tell the story of women and it is for me to do that. I feel that I owe it also to the public, to the women in my community and in my country to speak for them and be part of the change that we’re all looking for.