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Interview with Debora Patta: Not all Glamour
30 May 2008
Sue Segar

OkAY, so her eight-year-old daughter did a presentation on the death penalty for show and tell, but e-News editor in chief Debora Patta considers her position to be “just another job”.

“Having children is a great leveller. It means I can’t take myself too seriously at home,” says Patta.

Patta has been a broadcast journalist and editor for more than 15 years. She has headed e-tv’s news department for four years and led a team that has made e-News the most watched English language television news bulletin in the country.

Asked about the format of the channel, she said: “We have fragmented the day into different news shows, with key focuses on morning, lunch and evening. It will be a rolling news format in half hour cycles, but we will bear in mind that if a story breaks, we will run with it. That is the nature of 24 hour television.

“We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. It will be similar to the CNN format, bearing in mind that people don’t watch 24 hour news 24 hours a day.

“There has to be a measure of repetition, but we will update through the day.”

She said the channel has ongoing subscriptions to Reuters and CNN, but most of the news gathering will be done by its own team.

Patta, who will carry on presenting the investigative programme Third Degree, believes South Africa is one of the most exciting places in the world to live and work. “From a news point of view, we can’t get better than to have the glare of the camera on us for 24 hours a day. If someone is up to no good, life will become a bit harder - and for us all to be involved in the national debate will be wonderful.

“We can now provide more in-depth analysis and perspective - and can cover SA in all its diversity. “We won’t just have one half hour of news at the end of the day, but will have the whole day to get to grips with a story and understand it.

“It’s good for the industry and it’s great for democracy. It also offers young journalist opportunities to compete on the global stage. When I was a young journalist I used to long to be a foreign correspondent in another country. Now we can offer that.”

For Patta, setting up the new channel has been the hardest part. “Once we are on air, we will empower people to just get on with it, which is my style.”

Asked how she copes with such a demanding job and with two small children, she replies: “It’s hard, but I have an amazing hands-on husband. You can’t have it all at the same time. Right now I am intensely focussed on work. I manage as best I can. At least my children will be able to say they have an interesting mother who does amazing things!”

A morning run every day, as well as doing stretches and pilates are what keep her sane. “I am fanatical about my exercise. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, but I drink lots of coffee and I make sure I eat lots of god chocolate at the end of a hard day’s work.”

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