South African journalist and author Jeremy Maggs. (Photo: Gallo Images / Business Day / Tyrone Arthur) / Rebecca Davis of Daily Maverick. (Photo: Supplied)
Jeremy Maggs is a veteran journalist and TV and radio presenter best known for hosting the South African version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and for her anchor roles on eNCA and her own show Maggs on Media. In his hilarious and compelling new memoir, My Final Answer, he shares excerpts from his extraordinary life in South African newsrooms.
With over 30 years of experience in print, television and radio, Jeremy Maggs has had a truly spectacular career in South African media.
His new book, My final answer, was released in May 2021, and the title is a clear nod to the hit TV show’s “This is my final answer” slogan Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? – which Maggs hosted on local television from 1999 to 2005.
On Wednesday he spoke about his memoirs in a Daily Maverick webinar hosted by journalist Rebecca Davis, and shared some anecdotes about her front row seat at some of South Africa’s biggest news events.
Written in a self-deprecating style, My final answer is incredibly outspoken and witty, Davis commented.
“If you don’t like it, you’re dead inside,” said Davis, who referred to one particular clip that made him laugh out loud.
Maggs writes, “There are two types of makeup artists: those who think that a light dusting of powder is all it takes to mask any shine. I work well with these people and they inevitably end up receiving a little Christmas present. Then there are those who have a secret desire to be part of a pioneering reconstructive surgery team and end up turning you into a drag queen. I have a hard time working with this group and they normally receive a shallow nod and a harsh look when Yuletide arrives.
Despite the titular reference to the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Maggs spends relatively little time discussing the series in his book and instead writes about the many other moments that have shaped his life and career.
Born in 1961, Maggs described his upbringing during apartheid as a “privileged, white, middle-class suburban existence in north Johannesburg.”
“My father always used to bring The star home. It was a very sanitized version of what was going on in South Africa at the time, ”he recalls.
From a young age, Maggs was drawn to radio and listened to Springbok radio religiously. After 30 years of working in different media, radio will always be his medium of choice.
“It will always be the radio,” he said. “There is privacy; there is magic in the radio.
Like many in the media, Maggs embarked on a career as a journalist. He said he was “never supposed to get into journalism” because his father wanted him to pursue a career with Nedbank.
He remembers his father telling him, “At 40, you can be a branch manager at Edenvale. “
“And I’m so lucky to have a voice that got me into the media because I would have been terrible in banking,” he said.
He mentions a few incidents where his mathematical errors put him in difficult situations; one being his mistake in counting the matrix results while he was working as a journalist for the time Herald of the Eastern Province.
After miscalculating the results for Gray High School and Theodor Herzl on the newspaper’s front page, Maggs described how his then-editor threw a calculator at him when he returned to writing the next day.
“I was then given a refund and had to answer the phone for the rest of the day to angry parents apologizing for making a mistake,” Maggs said.
Maggs is the one to admit his past mistakes, and throughout the book the author is “very frank and outspoken about mistakes. [he’s] done on air and off, ”Davis commented.
One of these errors occurred at the Nelson Mandela Memorial, where after about 12 hours on the air, “in the last part of the show”, Maggs referred to the “Jacob Zuma Memorial”.
“There was nothing I could do about it,” admitted Maggs. In journalism, “you’re going to make mistakes. I live with them and I just think [they] add to the scars on your back ”.
In My final answer, Maggs describes how he never intended to take the “quiz” and considered himself a hardcore journalist. But he had always been a bit of a trivia junkie and was part of the Eagles Quiz team in grade school and led his “nerd squad to a glorious victory” where they defeated Hawks House by just one point.
“This was the start of my career in quizzing,” he said.
Maggs said he got a phone call from film producer Anant Singh just as he was stepping out of a SABC morning TV show, who offered him the role of host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
“I remember being absolutely insulted – in fact, offended,” Maggs said. “I said to him, ‘Anant, that doesn’t interest me … I’m a serious journalist’.”
Singh sent him a videotape and asked him to think about the decision.
“Rebecca, I realized within seven seconds of watching the UK version of the show that I had made a horrible mistake [and] that was something I wanted to do, ”Maggs said.
He described the game show as “a good time in [his] life ”and said the secret to the show’s success lay in its“ screenability ”factor – the ability for audiences at home to yell at their TVs if they knew the answer and the contestant had no idea.
“I think we need another quiz show on TV,” he added.
Maggs resigned from eNCA in March 2021 after stepping down as interim editor of the eNCA in February of last year. He had worked for the news broadcaster for 11 years.
“I was the face and the opening voice on eNCA when it launched, [and] I was delighted to be part of a pioneering project in South African media, ”he said.
But Maggs said he got to the point where he felt like he had “passed [his] welcome ”, and prevented others from pursuing an on-air career.
“It was time for me to go,” he said. “There is no hard feelings, there is no animosity… I wish the station good luck.”
When asked if he was done with journalism, Maggs said he was currently busy “with a new news project”, but it was time for him to switch on TV and the radio. DM
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This notice was published: 2021-06-03 14:46:47