Paula Fray obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Rhodes University in the 1980s, graduating in 1986 into the politically-fraught environment of the period. She moved on from university to work for The Star in Johannesburg, where she received the Olleman’s Trophy for top cadet journalist in 1987.
In 1999, Fray became the first female Black editor of the Saturday Star newspaper and, while a newcomer in this role, was subpoenaed to hearings called by the South African Human Rights Commission (at the request of the Black Lawyers Association) to investigate alleged racism in the media. After negotiations, several editors, including Fray, agreed to testify. The final report, entitled Faultlines: an inquiry into racism in the media, mentions Fray by name, noting her work as editor of the Saturday Star: “Her style is enabling, and she has sought to create a good working and cooperative working environment among the small staff dedicated to her weekly publication.
She gave an insight into her style when she said that it was not so much what we write about gender but how stories about gender are handled. Her view is that …’ when we practice good journalism, when we practice honest, accurate journalism, when we strive for good journalism, that certainly those three work together rather than against each other.”’
The report notes, “It is important to spend time reflecting on the approach of Ms. Fray because she is a black woman editor, and it was interesting to discover how her sense of identity was reflected in how she went about her business.”
After resigning from the Saturday Star in 2003, and a stint as Operations Director for Blackrock Communications, Fray founded Fray and Associates to improve journalistic standards; the company recognised that journalism is a dynamic profession that requires its practitioners to keep up to date with the latest trends and changes in the industry. The company is today known as Fray Intermedia and, after significant demand for training and mentoring, branched to form a sister company, Fray College, which offers e-learning and in-person courses. Fray serves on the Press Council of South Africa as a public representative.
In 2019 she was one of the founding members of Accountability Lab South Africa and currently serves as a board member. Her recent awards include the SANEF Stephen Wrottesley Award 2017, the PDMSA 2015 Print & Digital Media SA Fellows award, and the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women Class of 2015 award.