Each week, frayintermedia highlights a journalist doing good work on the continent and honours them as our #FaveOfTheWeek. Meet Zambian media executive Mary Mbewe, Women In News’ 2020 Editorial Leadership Award Laureate for Africa. Mbewe has been dedicated to telling human interest stories that are often sidelined.
Q. How did you become a journalist?
A. It sort of started as a childhood dream when I was in grade five and my brother used to force me to read books and then explain to him in my local language. So that actually introduced me to reading and explaining, interpreting the story in my local language. And he would force me to watch the news and report back what was on the news when he came home from work. So that gave me an interest in journalism.
Q. What is the value of mentoring upcoming women journalists?
A. It is important to be someone that the upcoming generation can rely on, to guide them, give them advice, and just to tell them that it's OK when you are criticised because that will make you grow. It's OK.
You're going to encounter jealousy from both men and women, especially men who are, you know, scared of women. Those are the biggest threats. But it's OK. You can overcome them by doing your job in an exceptional manner. Do your interviews, have your niche and go after it.
And I just want all the young ladies who are thinking of entering this profession to know that it's not easy, but they have to keep on fighting. Keep on getting the good stories, the scoops, tell the story from the people's point of view, not necessarily all the time from the political view.
Do this especially for people who are more worried about how they are going to get a meal the following day, where they can get medical care, which schools are affordable and where they can take their children. Those are some of the issues which are overlooked in mainstream media and which I think the upcoming generation can focus on.
Q. What does being the WAN-IFRA Women in News 2020 Editorial Leadership Award Laureate for Africa mean to you?
A. The recognition, firstly by my peers and also by the industry players, says a lot about me personally and that people have noticed the effect that I make working with the young generation, both men and women.
I'm just so humbled that I was picked out of so many. It also speaks to the people that I work with. We are trying to do this in a very tough industry, not always friendly, sometimes hostile. But we've kept on going against all odds.
Q. Why, despite all the challenges in the profession, do you stay in journalism?
A. Because I love doing what I do. I love the fact that I'm helping shift the narrative in the country and bringing out the topical issues.
And, well, it also gives me a source of income, which I need for my family. So definitely, I think I will continue in the industry for many more years to come. And I hope that during that time I can show other ladies why they should stick it out and not rush to leave the industry. You need someone to stick it out and tell the story.
Q. What makes an exceptional journalist?
A. The ability to stick to issues will distinguish journalists from other people. The ability to follow through on stories and just to stand your ground, whether people are happy or not. You stand your ground as long as you're not infringing on other people's rights and you go with what you believe to be correct and as much as possible, you stick to journalism ethics.
I think that is important. You try to balance the ability or the need to sell the newspaper with a need to observe ethical conduct in journalism. I think that is very important indeed, something that as a newspaper, we hold very dear.
Is there a journalist you would like to see featured as a #FaveOfTheWeek? Let us know at email@example.com.