The Pretoria News team celebrating wrapping up coverage of the 1974 general election. From left, Back: Mostert van Schoor, John Brunda, Tom Roy (obscured), Dan van den Heuvel, Fleur de Villiers, Tom Duff. Front: Jonathan Hobday, Neil Jacobsohn, Lisa Spiro, Eve Vosloo, John Rolt.
I can vividly remember entering the Pretoria News building back in 1972.

Fresh out of Pretoria University with a BA degree in English, Psychology and Art History, I was looking for a career. Journalism appealed because I was insatiably curious, hungry for experience of all kinds and I thought it would be interesting.

I was interviewed by then editor Tertius Myburgh. Afterwards, he grumbled good-naturedly about all the better candidates being women that year and I thought I had a chance.

I was appointed and trained at the Argus Cadet School, learning shorthand, which I still use, and visiting all sorts of places, including down a mine shaft, on to the stope, seeing how aircraft were repaired, going to institutions, government and private, learning how to observe, write and about newspaper production.

I emerged a few months later as the winner of the Ollemans trophy as the best cadet of my course, raring to start work.

And what an adventure awaited me when I did.

I went to interesting events, embassy parties - where I met amazing people from around the world - theatres, movies and art exhibitions to write reviews, had tea with the president, covered seminars on all sorts of subjects, on the minus side went to horrific accident and crime scenes, visited townships in my own city for the first time in my life and made friends there, even jumped out of aeroplanes, rode a motorcycle round the country, arranged 12 puppies for a picture, one of my more difficult assignments because they would not sit still!

In short, in a very short space of time, I saw more and learnt more than I could possibly have done in almost any other profession.

With all this experience, it was impossible not to become politically aware. Covering events like the Steve Biko inquest, the Saso BPC trial and the Cillie Commission of Inquiry into the Soweto uprising by young people finding the last straw was going to be forced to have their instruction in schools in Afrikaans.

The country ignited and seeing it all at first hand you had to understand that the circumstances of the majority of your countrymen and women were terribly harsh and totally unjust.

We highlighted as much as we could, weaving our way through draconian laws obstructing us every step of the way, got the message across, with our phones tapped and security police surveillance of our offices and sometimes our homes.

It was often pretty scary.

Many young staff members were waking up to a new reality, which changed our perceptions forever.

And the majority of our countrymen and women were denied the opportunity to have the experiences I was having and that was extremely upsetting.

That has of course completely changed. Our newsroom and subs room are now filled with young and older people who have opportunities.

I see them going out, performing well, way above their experience level, learning fast, just like we had to and working like professionals, learning so much along the way about their work but also about life.

When I started, women were not even allowed to be sub-editors in the production department. For me it led to a 10-year fight to be allowed to do so, until eventually I became chief sub-editor of three newspapers and two magazines and a production editor of one newspaper. Very satisfying work I was finally allowed to do.

Now women do everything, including, like Pretoria News editor Val Boje, actually steering the ship. That was unheard of back then.

There has also been a technological revolution of note, from manual typewriters and hot metal typesetting to full page layout on computers, digital photography and mutitimedia reporting. These are radical changes in 40 years or so.

But the people using these tools are still instantly identifiable as newspaper people.

There might be a few shades of difference between the old guard and the new but they are on the surface only. At the heart of the matter, where it really counts, we are the same people and I am really proud of all my younger colleagues who have picked up the baton and are running a really good race with it.

I watch you all and identify with you all and see my young self in you so clearly and with much admiration for the people you are and the work you are doing.

It is very comforting after a long career, during which I travelled and worked all over the place and made many lifelong friends, to find myself back where I started as a freelancer, and in the words of TS Eliot, knowing the place for the first time. It’s a good place, with a proud 120-year history of which we are all lucky to be a part.

It has changed radically in that time, but in some ways not at all.

The essentials are the same: observe, pay attention, read the signs, convey what you see to the reader as honestly and accurately as you can.

If you’re in production, make those pages look good, be careful with that copy, take pride.

We all did that, we all still do that here.

Indeed, the more things change, the more they stay the same