“OURS IS AN INDUSTRY LIKE NO OTHER”-DASEN THATHIAH
*Caption: Dasen Thathiah with his recent achievement
Written by: Ndumiso Nxumalo
Journalismiziko had the honour of interviewing award-winning journalist, Dasen Thathiah during his busy schedule to talk about his life and work.
Thathiah was born and spent his early childhood in the little area called Greenwood Park in Durban before moving to a different part of the city. He is a product of the public education system, having spent his entire schooling career in government schools.
Thathiah started his journalism studies at the Durban University of Technology in 2003, back when it was called the Durban Institute of Technology (DIT).
He began his working career when he did his internship at DITonline, a campus news website created by students. Thathiah later joined the eThekwini Municipality to complete his internship after the website crashed prematurely.
It was there where he started to provide content for the city’s website and magazine. Later, he worked at the CSIR and the Daily News. While at the publication, he also lectured journalism part-time at Varsity College for two and a half years.
Thathiah said that the signs were always there from the very age that he will become a journalist.
“At 4, my father gave me a little radio with a built in mic and tape recorder. I used to sneak around the house, hiding behind walls, and record conversations adults were having and I’d play them back later for my entertainment,” he said.
After his mother brought an old typewriter from the old office items being thrown out to from work, he began to secretly write short stories.
“I also read a lot as a child, thanks to my older sister who used to bring me books from the public library. As the years progressed, my curiosity grew…and the rest, as they say, is history,” he continued.
With all the difficulties of being able to adapt from varsity and the working environment, and the mandatory in-service training required by DUT assisted this process, because it forced students to get settled in a work environment quickly in order to graduate.
Thathiah described the journalism industry as an industry like no other, saying a large part of a journalist’s job depends on people and interactions. As a result, each day and each story are completely unpredictable, this is both good and bad.
“Getting a story to air is a long and tedious process, especially when so many elements are out of our control,” said Thathiah.
Looking at the state of media in this country, Thathiah said that as journalists, they are extremely blessed to have such media freedom in the country. The diverse range of media houses, covering a variety of news and the public is kept informed about important goings-on in the country. He continued by saying that although there are attempts to interfere with their work, they have a glorious constitution that protects what journalist do.
Some of his accolades include four Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards, for his work in television. He was also featured as a guest to discuss his stories on BBC Radio in the UK, East Coast Radio and Power FM here in SA. Thathiah has been given assignments in other parts of South Africa, and in other countries such as the Philippines, Seychelles, Mozambique and Swaziland.
Even though Thathian says he is happy with being on the field and loves the adrenaline rush of breaking news, training young minds is one of his other passions and he hopes to explore that more seriously later in his life with also looking at focusing more on documentary-style storytelling.
Describing his relationship status, Thathian said that it is extremely tough to make plans and he can never answer the question “What time are you knocking off work?” as the work day never ends – it just pauses sometimes.
“Fortunately (or unfortunately – I haven’t decided which one yet!), I’m not married or a father yet. Keeping everyone happy is a tough balancing act, and it’s imperative that those around us – girlfriends, family, and friends – understand and respect our work. I’m blessed to have people in my circle who do just that – but it does get tricky now and then,” said Thathiah.
Word of advice from Thathian to a young person that has the desire to become a journalist was that they can read every book on journalism and score an A aggregate at university – but passion is not taught. That should be central to why you want to do this. When you have it, it shows in your work.
“If you don’t, you’ll complain about why you ended up in this field. We’re not here to get rich and we shouldn’t be here to get famous. We are here to tell great stories and, ultimately, to make a difference. And if you end up getting rich and famous in the process, well, hey, that’s just a bonus,” concluded Thathiah.