Gasant Abarder gives a glimpse into the life of a newspaper editor and the stories behind the news, in his book, Hack with a Grenade: An editor’s back story of SA news.
An editor has a responsibility, says Abarder, to ensure that what they publish doesn’t make an already bad situation worse – in other words, they’ve got to keep the pin in the grenade.
“Our role as newspapers in society is to make sense of what is happening in the world, make analyses, bring down the temperature and not inflame the situation by tossing a ‘grenade’ into a volatile situation.”
Abarder, 43, from Kenwyn, has 21 years of experience as a journalist. He was deputy editor of the Daily Voice and editor of the Cape Argus, the Cape Times and Eyewitness News.
Hack with a Grenade is his first book and was launched in December last year. He started working on the manuscript 10 years ago to chronicle his experiences at the Daily Voice.
The book tells of how Abarder, as editor of the Cape Argus in 2015, sought to change the way Cape Town’s homeless people are seen, or, more accurately, not seen. The paper invited the late Danny Oosthuizen, a homeless man, to write a regular column about his and other homeless people’s experiences.
“I wanted to change the narrative around homelessness in Cape Town so we gave them a voice,” says Abarder.
Also in 2015, the Argus ran a #Feesmustfall special edition. “We co-edited an edition with students involved in the Fees Must Fall protest,” says Abarder, “and I handed over control of the paper to them for the day to cover that edition.”
Part social commentary, the book explores gentrification, the hangover of apartheid-era injustice, female innovators, religion and prejudice.
For the past three years, Abarder has found himself on the public-relations side of the news business. As acting director of institutional advancement at the University of the Western Cape, his responsibilities include marketing and media communications.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity,” he says, “as I am able to apply all my skills learnt in journalism to promote some of the groundbreaking work done in research on the planet, which is all done in this hub called UWC.”
Abarder has started Loud House Media, an online-content website where he posts videos about media trends, tools, techniques and ethical issues. He also has a guest-host slot on Radio 786 once a month.
“I do all this to still keep in touch with media and journalism,” he says.
Abarder believes his book will be of interest to all readers, whether they have worked in the media business or not.
“This book tells the extraordinary stories of ordinary South Africans through various complex topics,” he says, “and I would like readers to take from the book that there is more that brings us together than keeps us apart.”
Hack with a Grenade: An editor’s back story of SA news can be purchased from retailers such as Bargain Books and Exclusive Books or online from Loot, Amazon and Takealot.