TV news anchor Thami Ngubeni hosts the “Daytime Update” and “Newsfeed PM” on Newzroom Afrika (DStv channel 405).
In the industry for two decades, her passion for telling empowering, enlightening and transforming stories had led her to becoming a journalist.
I chatted to her to find out more about her career in TV news.
Before Newzroom Afrika, where did it start?
Before Newzroom Afrika I hosted the Liberty Radio Award winning Radio show ‘Talk on 2000’ which was a news and current affairs show on Radio 2000, I’ve also written for several Magazine publications, authored a book published by Penguin Books and was editor of Oprah Magazine SA. I started off my career over two decades ago as a newsreader on Metro Fm.
Why did you choose TV journalism?
I have a passion for telling stories that are empowering, enlightening and transforming. Ultimately news and current affairs is not only meant to inform the public but also to put events in context in such a way that viewers are equipped with the information and insight to form their own opinions which will enable them to make the best choices for themselves whether socially, politically, personally or financially.
What feeling does the job bring each day?
It’s an exciting and challenging profession that requires one to be informed, alert and in the moment. When doing interviews or even reading the news I always think of the viewer and delivering or asking the questions in such a way as it succinctly yet dynamically answers questions they might have.
With live TV, every second counts and anything can happen at any time, from escalating tension during a live crossing with a reporter on the field, to breaking news on air and having to manoeuvre your way around unexpected technical glitches without breaking a sweat. Whatever happens you have to roll with the punches. I love this! Every day is different. It’s also a privilege knowing that your viewers choose you to be their go-to source for news. And so, you have to give them your best.
What’s a typical shift like for you?
With news and current affairs, you have to ‘live prepared’. This means knowing what is happening in the world around you and interrogating different perspectives. My slot is weekdays 12pm to 3pm and Saturday 6pm to 9pm but preparation takes place hours before I go on air.
What the viewers get to see is the end of a long process with many stakeholders and multiple processes involving bulletin writers, sub-editors, bulletin editors, researchers, and executive producers among others on the editorial side. We select the topical stories of the day, explore angles, research, and seek out the relevant individuals to interview to help our viewers gain insight and offer differing perspectives. Apart from the content of the bulletin and show, there’s also the make-up, hair and wardrobe which takes a good hour to get done. We have a fabulous glam-squad that goes all out to make sure that our look is on point.
Thoughts on more and more people tuning in to the news now that the pandemic has hit?
Staying informed is a key weapon in fighting Covid 19. It’s essential to see how the whole country is affected by and how communities are dealing with the pandemic. Apart from keeping SA informed about the measures that the countries’ leaders are putting in place, we also have to hold them to account and continue questioning and following the money trail in the usage of resources meant for relief efforts.
Several humanitarian issues have also resurfaced with greater intensity like landlessness and land invasions and evictions, hunger, poverty and gender-based violence. It’s important for us to tell people’s lived experiences as well as interrogate all the factors that influence our reality and future as a nation and people.
Where to from here?
And the fame?
My career has been in front of the cameras and in the public space for over two decades and I have a relationship with viewers and listeners, so when people stop me and want to chat or appreciate my work, I cannot take that for granted. I appreciate the love from those who love me, and I love them right back.
Something your fans don’t know about you?
I’m a sucker for tulips and yellow, white or pink roses.