In this week’s ’10 minutes with’ interview, Abbianca Makoni, a news reporter for the Evening Standard, tells us about starting her own print magazine at 15, having a frank conversation about racism with Prince Harry and her love for Viola Davis and Kerry Washington.
How did you get into journalism?
If I’m honest journalism or media never seemed like a career that was for me. I was actually determined to be a radiographer like my mother. This was mainly because I was inspired by her work-ethic and partly because radiography, nursing and anything healthcare related were the main career prospects I was exposed to.
But when I was 15 years old, I started a print magazine. It was a platform for young people to express their views on the key issues that were affecting us at the time, from violence to mental health. But it was also a place where we could promote the amazing things young people from my community and other minority groups were achieving. Funnily enough, the now Bafta-winning actor Michael Ward appeared in my first issue!
It wasn’t until after my first year of sixth form when I lost a friend to knife crime that I started to take journalism seriously. After his death I started reading, watching and listening to the news more – I wanted to see how reporters were covering knife crime and the issues affecting different communities. When I realised how bad the diversity was in UK newsrooms, that made me want to get into it.
My head of sixth form helped me by letting me have a few days off school for work experience and after contacting lots of journalists across the UK some (including Megha Mohan from the BBC, who still advises me) were nice enough to invite me to their newsrooms and mentor me for a short period.
After various unpaid work experience placements and workshops, I applied for the Evening Standard’s apprenticeship scheme. I took along all three issues of my own magazine as I wanted to show them the development of the brand. Luckily, I got the job!
Why does journalism matter?
It matters because as journalists we are there to inform people on the truth, to hold those in power accountable and to ensure that we highlight what is going on in different communities. I can’t imagine a world without journalism… no matter how many people may not like the media for whatever reason, we can’t deny that journalism is and will always be a necessity.
Best scoop (yours or someone else’s)?
The New York Times’ Jane Bradley has worked on some amazing investigative stories over the years but her 2018 investigation into the hundreds of slaves recruited on British streets is one of the best pieces. It’s the type of journalism I’m talking about in my previous answer – journalism that holds people to account while also educating others on what is really going on in their country.
What are you working on right now?
I have just released my independent solution-focused documentary looking into girls coerced into criminals gangs. I worked on this for months with producer Samson Falodun, so we’re happy it’s now out there for the public to watch. For the Evening Standard, I’ve started looking into an investigation I’ve wanted to do for a while – but I won’t be revealing anything yet as it’s still in the works.
Career highlight so far?
A world exclusive with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. We spoke about racism, police brutality and the contributions made by Black brits in celebration of Black History Month. Talking about racism can be uncomfortable for some but it is a much-needed conversation, and it was refreshing to see how honest Harry was.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it’s not going to – just keep believing.
Who or what inspires you most?
My mother – it’s such a cliché answer but it’s the truth. She was a single mother straight from Zimbabwe who overcame every challenge that came her way to become who she wanted to be. I am so in awe of her and she inspires me on a daily basis to just believe in myself.
Who would be your fantasy dinner party guests and why?
Viola Davis and Kerry Washington. Apart from being their biggest fan, I think they’re the epitome of being “unapologetically black” in an industry that may not always like that. I can imagine it would be a dinner full of encouragement, laughs and lots of wine. Although our industries are very different, it’s been inspiring to watch their rise to the top. If I had room for one more person, I’d invite fellow Londoner Daniel Kaluuya!
How do you switch off from work?
Working out! Since the first lockdown, I’ve become more consistent with exercising and it’s now my go to thing when I’m feeling stressed or after a long shift. I did try yoga at one point but it’s not for me, I’m afraid.
If I wasn’t a journalist, I would be…
I’m not sure to be honest but I’m very passionate about the youth, so it would have to be something that allows me to give back to younger people, especially those who may have fallen out of education.
If you want to feature in ’10 minutes with’, a new series which celebrates the next generation of talent in our national news brands, let us know.