Stevie Godson, who started her writing career as a journalist in England (East Kent Mercury, Motor Trade Gazette, Folkestone Herald and Hythe Gazette), turned her focus to entertainment on arriving in South Africa, joining Cinema and TV magazine as an entertainment reporter, and going on to edit several entertainment magazines (Top Twenty, Starbeat and the more serious music industry publication Music Africa).
Soothing tortured souls
She spent two years as a critic and columnist for the now-defunct and long-lamented Rand Daily Mail before moving out of journalism for a while, crossing over to the “dark side” as entertainment publicist for Sun City Entertainment, where she worked with such music stars as Queen, Elton John and Rod Stewart (writing about them, staging press conferences and doing whatever else it took to promote them – that’s when she wasn’t running around after them or trying to soothe their tortured souls).
In between, she also wrote the original lyrics for three Sun City Extravaganzas.
The corporate world beckons
After leaving Sun City Entertainment, Stevie became head of media relations for the Bop Broadcasting Corporation and was a founder member of the National Association of Broadcasting, involved in lobbying for the deregulation of the airwaves in South Africa.
Music and marketing
In the mid-1990s, she joined BMG Music as manager of strategic marketing. Her primary responsibilities were promoting top local artists like Soweto String Quartet, TKZee, and Just Jinjer, who she signed to their first recording contract in the days when they were called Just Jinger. She also put together music compilations and wrote CD liner notes, booklets and publicity material.
While with BMG, she represented the company on the board of South African music industry body ASAMI, where she was actively involved in issues of intellectual property and music piracy.
Stevie was a non-executive board member of broadcasting organisation Africa On Air, and subsequently Primedia Broadcasting, for 11 years, resigning in 2007 when the company de-listed.
Coming full circle
After moving from Johannesburg to the Eastern Cape, Stevie edited a popular weekly tabloid newspaper, the GO! and Express.
She subsequently joined the copy editing (sub-editing) department of a daily newspaper in East London, South Africa where, as the senior revise sub-editor, she was the paper’s grammar “guru” (or grouch, as her colleagues called her whenever they thought she wasn’t listening).
While there, Stevie entirely rewrote the newspaper’s style guide, bringing it up to date in terms of modern English usage.
She still writes a regular column for the newspaper and her light touch and quirky take on life have earned her a large and loyal following.
After deadline, she takes pics, eats chocolate, paints (see left) or rips her fingers to shreds working on her next – usually commissioned – mosaic project (see below), all the while listening to everything from Mbaqanga to Metallica on her headphones. To contact her, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Stevie was a member of the beta-testing panel for American business guru Guy Kawasaki’s bestselling book
Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions which, after its first week of release hit three bestseller lists: New York Times (Advice, How-to, and Miscellaneous); Wall Street Journal (Hardcover Business); and Publishers Weekly (Hardcover Nonfiction).
During beta-testing, and to Stevie’s great delight, Guy Kawasaki wrote to her:
“Stevie, You have a really good ear – or is it eye? I made almost all the changes you suggested.”
Her reviews for the New York Journal of Books include:
Stevie edited The Death of Our Society, a book by leading South African academic Prince Mashele
Stevie and Peter Godson edited Kalahari Dream by Chris Mercer and Beverley Pervan – a dramatic account of one couple’s efforts to rescue wildlife in the Kalahari.
Peter Godson arrived in South Africa hoping to gain experience of the “beloved country” – and, of course, its media – before a planned return to England to continue his journalistic career there. It was a plan that failed because, as he now admits, he was swept up in the excitement of the times with rumblings of change bubbling just below the surface, then as an undercurrent and later as a full flood, following the release of Nelson Mandela – a page one lead story he handled as production editor (chief copy-editor) on what was then Africa’s highest circulation paper, the Sunday Times.
Peter had made the decision to emigrate with his young family at a time when England was struggling with its own problems, including the ever-increasing influence of unions; in fact, one of the first articles he handled in South Africa was illustrated with a photograph of a lorry driver swinging an iron bar at angry pickets, taken by his photographer-friend while they covered the story at Dover’s Western Docks.
Peter was news editor of the Dover Express and East Kent News, then a paid-20,000 circulation weekly, when he was offered a sub-editor’s position on a Time-style news magazine in South Africa where a former colleague worked. Two months later, the Godsons arrived in Johannesburg. Three months after that, Peter was promoted to chief sub-editor and saw the magazine go from fortnightly to weekly production.
Two years down the line, he was head-hunted as news editor of The Citizen, a new daily with a big in-house reporting staff and bureaus in Cape Town, Durban and Harare, Zimbabwe.
He was subsequently offered the chance to become foreign editor and became a major contributor to the leader page on world affairs and, locally, on “independent” homelands which the Nationalist government insisted were “foreign territory”. This, in turn, led to requested contributions to a monthly magazine aimed at the burgeoning black intelligentsia. Within a year he was offered the editor’s position of Hit magazine, became a shareholder and, with the directors of the printing company, set about building a publishing group of weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines.
A world without words
Journalism had been his life, but was that his only destiny? No, he thought, so he sold his shares, gave up his directorships … and started a restaurant. But that wasn’t the answer: he felt cast away in a world without words.
Peter decided to open a freelance editing and art studio offering services to existing publications. The studio initially did well until a financial slump in South Africa cut into the business. That prompted a decision to return to his original plan to continue his career in England, but first he wanted to gain proficiency in the Atex computer system that was at the time used by most newsrooms in Fleet Street. He joined the Sunday Times as a sub-editor, quickly moving up the ladder to production editor, and was one of six Saturday night “duty editors” of the then-600,000-plus circulation paper. During his six years there he gave writing courses to working reporters, and also found time to fill contracts to edit a number of books.
Adventures in broadcasting
He was head-hunted by an independent broadcasting group as corporate affairs manager, a position that subsequently carried strategic planning responsibilities for the two TV and three radio services, within a new broadcasting environment being established by what is now South Africa’s regulatory body, Icasa. Always interested in television, Peter jumped at the chance to be part of what promised, for him, to be an exciting new field. He wrote the company’s submissions for a series of public inquiries into broadcasting and also served on the National Association of Broadcasters. A number of his ideas are part of the television landscape in SA today.
The call of the sea
When that corporation was absorbed by the national broadcaster, he took the opportunity of taking on a new challenge by starting a recording/rehearsal studio with in-house artist management.
A home invasion led to a decision to quit Johannesburg and move to Port Alfred, an idyllic little resort on the coast, where he continued book editing and served the local council as a ward committee member before his journalist wife, Stevie Godson, was offered the editorship of East London’s weekly newspaper GO!
In East London, Peter decided to return to mainstream journalism and joined the sub-editing department of the Daily Dispatch where he was, until recently, the splash sub on the night shift.
Now he works from home – editing books and as a “remote sub-editor” for major daily and weekly newspapers. He’s embraced the digital media but printing ink still runs in his veins, just as it has ever since the day as a young reporter he received a telegram from the London Evening Standard that read “Congratulations on scoop. Tangible reward follows”.
After deadline Peter’s a Premier League soccer fanatic, is currently a “retired”15-handicap golfer, loves surf angling and takes every opportunity to go on wildlife photographic safaris in the South African bush.
To contact him, e-mail email@example.com