The delegates of the second World Journalism Education Congress, which was held at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, are on their way home to spend some time unpacking what was covered at the congress, because the only antidote for information overload is information download.
Many of them would wish to click ctrl+z but the system would promptly tell them "can’t undo". Some adventurous ones among them would also want to click repeat but the information savvy ones probably kept pressing ctrl+s. With the array of topics, the intimidating list of scholars, the enabling ambience of the venue and the insightfully detailed preparation of the organisers, the conference could not but have been the huge success it was. The participants were often at a crossroads as to what to sign up for and who to listen to. Sometimes the choice was so difficult that tossing a coin was a considerable option.
The entire Congress was not devoted to academics alone; there were special meet your heroes, sponsors or policy makers sessions. The opening keynote speaker was Adv Pansy Tlakula, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa. While Monday the 5th July saw delegates having dinner with former President of Ghana, Mr John Agyekum Kufour, Wednesday 7th of July was an African night out with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who gave the closing keynote speech.
There were 14 syndicate discussions and two specialised ones for Chinese and French language speakers. The syndicate discussions covered topics such as Entrepreneurial Journalism; Diversity in Journalism Education; Democracy and Media Innovation in Africa; Teaching Mobile Journalism; The Ultimate Journalism Education; Optimising Cooperation in University-based versus Industry-based Journalism Education; Teaching Mobile Journalism; Journalism Research and Journalism Education; Blogging/ Reflective Writing as Teaching Methods; Social Media, Citizen Journalism and Media Curators; Teaching Climate Change in Journalism Classrooms; Journalism Ethics; Teaching Media Literacy as well as Media Training, Journalism Education and Gender Equality. All the sessions were well attended and the participants generated robust communiqués which were reported back to the general assembly on Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th July.
Research papers were presented in 11 simultaneous sessions and the themes were as varied as the interests of the presenters. A total of 158 abstracts were submitted. As is usually the case, a few of the presenters could not make the congress because of issues ranging from difficulties in securing visas, lack of funding and other intervening circumstances. Papers were presented on topics ranging from Conflict issues, Youth and Transition, Work Perception and Prospects, Training and Industry Changes, Citizen Journalism, Pedagogy and Scholarship, Ethics and Self Regulation, The Interface between Classroom and Newsroom. African Journalism Education with submissions and case studies from across the continent; Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, Botswana ,Rwanda, among others; Culture and Power, Industry and Social Issues, Pluralism and Impact, Sport Representation, Power and Identity as well as The role of the Media in Social Change.
The most “colourful’’ outing at the congress, without doubt, was tied to the reason why South Africa is the current global news hotspot - the 2010 FIFA World Cup. One of the major sponsors of the World Journalism Education Congress and the Official Sponsor of the FIFA 2010 World Cup, MTN painted the congress YELLOW on Tuesday night. The event was the MTN dinner which was accompanied by the match between Netherlands and Uruguay. The venue was the Great Hall and the décor was in the corporate yellow colour of MTN. The night was cold and as if MTN was responsible for the change in weather, every delegate was kitted in bright yellow mufflers and head warmers to fight the cold. In addition, delegates had the ‘cheeky’ experience of blowing yellow Vuvuzelas or pretending to blow one.
The World Journalism Education Congress has come and gone but the educators, journalists, students, media consumers, curricula, teaching and the entire media landscape will for a long time feel the impact of this power packed event.