Plainsman – my partner in time

Lauren OConnor-May

This month, the Plainsman, my partner in ageing, and I both turn 40.

The Plainsman and I have come a long way. I’ve progressed from reader, to intern, to reporter, to lay-out sub, to team leader in this strange, long journey of growing up alongside a newspaper.

My early “reader” interactions with the Plainsman were to survey the fashionable-clothing and takkie prices and to scan the sports pages for pictures of my crush at the time, who happened to play soccer.

Other people I knew started popping up on the news pages too – a neighbour who lost an eye to a stray bullet, my brother at a school event, parishioners from our church in social pictures – and spot-the-person-you-know became a favourite Wednesday pastime.

Many years later, I had the Plainsman to thank for giving me my first real job. Cape Community Newspapers (CCN), which publishes the Plainsman and its 14 sister titles, offered me an internship post. That year, I turned 21, alongside the paper. I still have the souvenir edition, the first one I had ever worked on.

My internship ended, and I went back to college. Four years later, I was back again, this time as a full-time reporter.

I had just missed the 25th anniversary edition, but I didn’t miss the 30th. It was one of the last editions I worked on before I left for my other life.

I would not see the inside workings of newspapers again for many years, but my departure would not be permanent.

In 2016, I was asked to come back on contract while the senior Plainsman reporter, Fouzia van der Fort, was away having her first baby. The contract turned into a permanent post on a sister paper, the much-older Constantiaberg Bulletin, but after a few years, a post opened on the Plainsman again – not for a reporter but a team leader.

The Plainsman then became one of my many babies, and I can say, without a doubt, out of all my babies, the Plainsman is by far the most “troublesome”.

With its large size (it is the biggest paper in the stable), its over-abundance of news (Mitchell’s Plain can never be accused of being boring) and large coverage area (Mitchell’s Plain is practically a city on its own), the Plainsman keeps me far busier than any other paper I have ever worked on.

Most of the calls, messages, emails and letters I receive are related to the Plainsman.

And now this demanding baby and I share another milestone: our 40th birthdays.

What more will this noisy, busy, colourful, time-consuming paper have in store for me? God alone knows.