Sinesipho Tom is a kick-ass journalist who qualified at the Nelson Mandela University. Her work instantly grabs the attention of her readers, often giving a voice to the voiceless. She digs deep… But not many people know, though, that she was just a girl when she decided to pursue her dreams.
Why did you choose this profession?
I always had a passion for writing – since primary school. Reading novels by Jodi Picoult really sparked my interest in writing. But it was watching former SABC veteran news anchor Noxolo Grootboom, who made anchoring in isiXhosa fashionable, and Debora Patta, a broadcast and investigative journalist, do their thing that that sold me to the idea. Seeing to power women on my TV screen as a young girl gave rise to the lioness inside of me. I knew then and there that there is nothing else I would rather do. I need to make a difference in the world.
What training did you undergo?
I studied for a National Diploma in Journalism at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth.
What kind of personality suits journalism?
You need to be someone who loves researching because that’s what you will be doing throughout your career. You need to patient and as polite as you can be with your sources because at the end of the day you need them more than they need you. But you also need to remember you are the voice of the voiceless therefore getting people to answer questions that need answering is vital. You need to be inquisitive and curios 80% of the time because sometimes a story comes when you least expect it. Lastly, sometimes finding a news story is not always about thinking outside of the box sometimes it is about thinking inside the box. Think about the things that impact you and your family the most in the world.
What do you enjoy most?
I enjoy the thrill of gathering information, calling sources and fact checking. And then coming to the realisation that I am writing an article that will benefit someone is always unreal for me. But I wake up and do that 5 days in a week and it gives me so much pleasure.
What don’t you like?
I hate it when I have a difficult time finding sources who can help me with my article or when I have to sit for hours trying to make my article make sense because the information is not aligning.
What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
My highlight was being approached by the London based News Africa Magazine, a bestselling pan- African news magazine that provides unparalleled insights and analysis on African politics and economics. They asked me to be their South African based freelancer. I never expected anything like that. Due to the covid-19 lockdown I literally believed the world had come to a standstill, but it happened and blew me away. They said they tracked my alcohol-ban stories on Food For Mzansi throughout the lockdown and loved how multi-sourced they were – thanks to the advice and teachings of my two bosses, Ivor Price and Kobus Louwrens.
Any advice for high school learners who want to become journos?
You need to be passionate about journalism. You can go to school, graduate and even get a job, but it is only your passion that will keep you afloat in this industry.
My future says “media mogul”, but first I need to work as a journalist either in New York or Paris before coming back to South Africa to start my own media conglomerate.
Your job in three words
Fast-paced, exciting, fulfilling.