In his debut book, aptly titled “Hack with a grenade”, Abarder explains: “Storytelling is the only skill I know. It is a craft I am dedicated to, it is a craft I treasure, and it is a craft that we must pass on to the next generation.”
This book is indeed a gem of a story - a deeply personal account of Abarder’s journey from rookie journalist to editor of two of South Africa’s oldest newspapers, the Cape Argus and Cape Times. But it is also an incisive commentary on South Africa’s racial, socio-economic and cultural complexities.
Woven through the back stories of a collection of headline-grabbing articles from his time as a journalist and editor, is Abarder’s unflinching interrogation of the truth, his attention to detail
and his unwavering ability to spot a good news angle. Abarder has worked in print, as well as in radio and TV.
There is also humour and honesty - in his chapter on “The forgotten heroes”, Abarder admits his regret at running an insensitive front page lead about an upcoming rugby clash. He also shares his career lows, and many highs - such as recruiting Danny Oosthuizen, a homeless person, as a Cape Argus columnist.
As he explains in this extract: “Danny Oosthuizen could write. Sure, the writing needed a bit of polishing, but this guy could tell a story, had a great turn of phrase and an excellent sense of humour to boot. I wanted to meet Danny and propose something that would disrupt his life and the lives of the folks who worked at the Cape Argus in a big way, in a good way and in a potentially life-changing way.”
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Abarder’s book is a vivid reminder of why journalism matters, and why the stories of ordinary people on the Cape Flats, in Woodstock and throughout South Africa should be grabbing the headlines. As Abarder explains in the introduction, “This book is dedicated to all the men and women who deserved to have their stories told, but who didn’t have the kind of access they needed due to our unjust past, which existed in all spheres of life, including the media.”
Sifiso Mahlangu, current editor at The Star, said when Abarder launched his book in Johannesburg, that the stories therein touch on difficult issues, such as race, politics and religion. “But they are stories that all of us as South Africans need to talk to each other about while we are still here.”
Radio presenter and writer Eusebius McKaiser noted: “Each chapter is so beautifully observed in terms of the people, that each of the chapters becomes social and political commentary about Cape Town, and South Africa.”
Watch McKaiser’s interview with Abarder HERE.
Dr Rashid Omar, imam of the Claremont Main Road Mosque, said: “He is what I call an organic journalist. Someone who is really anchored within the community; being a voice for the voiceless.”
Former Cape Times editor Ryland Fisher has described Abarder’s book as “important”, saying: “For me, it challenges some of the perceptions about editors. What editors do and the things that influence their decisions.”
Watch Abarder talk to Lance Witten about “the conversations we are not having”, at the Cape Town launch of “Hack with a Grenade”.
Hack with a Grenade
An Editor’s back stories of SA News
Published by BestRed - an imprint of HSRC Press: 2020
*Hack with a Grenade is available at leading bookstores and online retailers. Or contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.