Behind the filter | Herman Eloff
As News24’s Lifestyle Editor, Herman Eloff has his finger on the pulse of what’s trending.
But when he’s not writing about the latest in arts and entertainment, or sharing his curated collection of relaxing reads and real-life stories with readers, you’ll find him stuck with his nose in a book while his cup of coffee is getting cold.
But who is the man behind our readers’ daily dose of inspiration, and the perfect Instagram aesthetic?
In a special Beyond the Byline podcast episode, Jerusha Raath and Herman Eloff have an honest conversation about LGBTQI+ representation and mental health in journalism, before turning the spotlight on Herman’s career, his first big interview with Jennifer Aniston, and his unique bucket list.
As a young crime reporter at the Potchefstroom Herald, Herman was in search of a fresh start, when the bright lights of Cape Town beckoned. The move to the big city wasn’t just transformative to his career, but his personal life as well.
He explains: “When I moved to Cape Town, I didn't know anybody there. And there was an opportunity for me to really just embrace who I am, to really just be myself and to introduce myself to new people as the most authentic me that I could possibly be. And I came out as gay in my mid-twenties about ten years ago now.”
“I was still very much aware of people's perceptions of the LGBTQ community. And I was scared, to be honest. So, I kind of just kept it to myself. But now, ten years later, I have realised the power of embracing my sexuality, of being an out and proud queer person. So that the young Herman who is in high school and not sure about what he's going through, [can] see somebody who is working in a national newsroom can be openly gay and be accepted and be part of a normal newsroom without it having to be an issue.”
He adds: “There’s a traumatic kind of experience that you go through pretending to be somebody else and never being able to just fully embrace yourself. And with that comes mental health issues.”
But he says that the freedom he experienced being able to speak openly about his sexuality has allowed him to also speak freely about his own mental health struggles and depression as well.
From bullying, harassment and receiving death threats, the mental health of journalists is a long-standing problem and weighing in on the issue Herman says: “We're getting there. We are listening. And we are improving. And we are learning. We don't just agree and go along with it. We want to understand it. I think that's important. Understanding it, not just agreeing for the sake of agreeing.”
“By sharing that I'm taking medicine to help me, by saying: ‘Oh, I'm running out of the office. I'm going to my shrink,’ by normalising it [and] bringing it into every day. It takes away the stigmas [around it].”
As Lifestyle Editor, Herman is in the wonderful position to make diversity and inclusion in the newsroom, and in News24’s storytelling, a priority – something that might not have been possible when he started his career.
“If there's a story about somebody who's transgender, I want somebody in the newsroom who can understand that, too; [who] can talk to me about that; who can share an authentic perspective that I, as a gay male, don't have. So, diversity in the newsroom, in every form is so important for me. And I really hope that I just get to expand on this more and more as our newsroom grows,” he says.
Looking back on his career, Herman has had the amazing opportunity to interview some of the biggest stars on the planet, including Christian Bale, Hillary Swank and most recently Taika Waititi.
Sharing his most memorable celebrity encounter, he says: “I think, what stands out is my first interview ever. Well, not my first interview ever, but my first ever big interview was with Jennifer Aniston. I met [her] in London for Horrible Bosses.”
“I just kept trying to keep my cool. We did the interview and then at the end of the interview I was like: ‘This was my first time.’ And she was like: ‘What? This was your [first time]?’ And she literally grabbed me by both hands, and I'll never forget it. And she's like: ‘You did so good’.”
“And I melted. And [at] that moment, I stood up and I hit my head on the lights that were set up above me,” he laughs.