e.tv news anchor Melanie Rice shares her 25 year journey in broadcast

Melanie Rice. Picture: Supplied

Melanie Rice. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 26, 2024


With 25 years of experience in broadcasting under her belt, Melanie Rice has earned her stripes in the industry.

Aside from co-anchoring the 8pm e.tv News bulletin, she has been wearing the hat of executive producer on “Judge for Yourself” for two decades.

Rice started her career at the channel as a cub reporter.

At the time, she had obtained her Honours degree in English from Stellenbosch University and her Master’s degree at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Chicago.

Rice explained: “It was really about being at the right place at the right time. I graduated from Northwestern in September 1998 and I came home after graduating. I heard via the grapevine of this new free-to-air channel that was opening.”

She wasted little time in throwing her hat in the ring. She bagged a job working with the team of 10 to put out the first news bulletin that was going to take on the SABC.

She added: “It was a case of look, we are doing this news bulletin, we don’t quite know what it is going to look like yet but we know it’s going to be San Reddy, Jane Dutton, Debra Patta, Megan Rusi … all these legends.

“I was incredibly lucky. I think in the beginning, I was quite a confident reporter and I wanted to do the crime and the courts, and there was a man who came in.

“We had CNN trainers and all these, you know, icons in news who were there to help us as we launched the first news bulletin.

“And there was a man there who always tried to give me advice and I kind of like fobbed him off. I thought: ‘Who is this man in a plaid jacket who is trying to teach me“ I know what I know.’”

Sadly, she discovered only a little later that he was John Rubython, a war correspondent in Afghanistan.

“He was murdered not long after that. And when I went to his funeral, it was Trevor Manuel and these Cabinet ministers there. He was this wealth of wisdom and knowledge and, from that moment on, I was like: ‘I’m never going to ignore an opportunity to learn from a mentor like that.”

When she got wind that Judge Dennis Davis was in the building and in talks, she seized the moment to ask to be involved in the show in whatever way.

Twenty years on, “Judge for Yourself” is still going strong.

Rice said: “The foundation has always been exploring the rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution. And so, for me, it’s role has become more and more crucial in the two decades that we’ve been doing the show.

“One of greatest mandates with that show is to ensure we maintain the integrity and credibility of it.

“It’s not about sensational, loud voices screaming at each other. It’s about educating people about the rights that are guaranteed to them.

“I don’t know that there is a lot of that out there, in terms of a balanced, reasonable debate that is looking for solutions.”

Tapfuma Makina. Picture: Supplied

On co-anchoring the news bulletin alongside a seasoned and charismatic Tapfuma Makina, Rice said: “Well, we’ve had different iterations of the 8pm news. I left e.tv in 2009 because I had three babies in four years. The idea was that I was going to get back to my career quickly.

“And so I came back in a freelance capacity and I’ve actually only been the 8pm news anchor, permanently, for two years.”

She added: “He heckles me during the ad breaks all the time. He tells me to focus. I think Taps brings the magic to the news bulletin. His presence is just so strong. And he is fun.

“Anchoring with him takes my anchoring to another level because I bounce off that energy. And the two of us are good friends, we see each other outside the newsroom. I hope that that shows on air that we genuinely like each other and respect each other.”

Rice pointed out: “We are now the leading news bulletin in the country. From local news, murder trials, crime stories, politics, international and something feel good at the end, viewers have said to me, certainly, they know what has happened on that day in the country and around the world and they find it pacey, informative and entertaining.

“Also, we have a very big hearing impaired community. I think there are 400 000 hearing impaired in SA and we have a huge following on e.tv news.

“We have three senior sign language interpreters who are interpreting the news for us, every night so that the hearing impaired community is included.

When it comes to selecting the guests for the show, she has a simple criteria.

“It has to be a guest that is going to take the story forward, obviously. My primary concern is with making sure the public has the information that they need. It is bread-and-butter issues.

“Having somebody from government explaining why something is happening or defend themselves against residents who are perhaps protesting in a community.”