Wednesday, 07 July 2010 10:45

J-curricula faces tough tests

The panel discussion, on driving the future of journalism curricula was described by panel coordinator Kaarle Nordenstren. as a “panorama pointing out hotspots”. To date, 54 journalism schools from 44 countries have expressed interest in adapting the Unesco model journalism curriculum.

Michael Cobden, one of the authors of the Unesco curriculum, said that it aims to promote “de-westernisation” and “fight against developments from our baser instincts,” such as “the insinuation of advertising and marketing” and the “tabloidisation of journalism.” He wouldn’t “tinker” too much with the content, but nevertheless mentioned that “there is a lot of rethinking to be done”.

“The [syllabus is the] best part, as far as I’m concerned. Academics tend to guard their syllabuses jealously.” he said.

Launched three years ago, the updated curriculum reflects an “emphasis on intellectual knowledge and development,” with “a special emphasis on writing and reporting throughout the programme” said Cobden. He noted its generic imperative, pointing out that many journalism schools have been “scrambling to adopt their programmes” to technological changes, but “might be better off reinventing them”.

“I must say, Unesco can be proud of the contribution to journalism education and to the public,” he concluded.

Asia’s contribution was next, as Violet Valdez, from Ateneo de Manila University, presented a “hybrid learning programme” in her curriculum for Asian journalists that has courses given on campus and online. She acknowledged, that Unesco provides a “valuable benchmark” with its project, and that the proposed Asian curriculum reflects the two principles emphasised by Cobden.

Asian adaptation
Guo Ke, of Shanghai International Studies University, provoked laughter when he joked that China’s 650 programmes are “a huge amount”. He described China as having a “dilemma between fast paced media and the slow catch-up” with traditional media education methods.

“Due to rigid controls in China, reforms can be slow,” he said, and there is a “growing difficulty to maintain the curriculum.” Challenges included, “English journalism education programmes finding it difficult to identify themselves as a real academic discipline.” When asked whether he was happy with the state of journalism education in his region, Ke replied, “That’s a very tough question. We still have problems but there is progress. If you really want an answer I’d say yes, I’m happy, but there’s still a big but.”

Latin America, often overlooked in these discussions, according to Nordenstreng has, like China, had “phenomenal growth in the last 30 years” in journalism education. Sophia 

Virginia Moreira, of Rio de Janeiro State University, was nevertheless dissatisfied with journalism education in Brazil. “We mostly have curriculum problems. I think the curricula are very old; we don’t keep pace with the students learning. They are struggling, debating a lot of things that they wouldn’t have in real life,” she said. Cultural variations hamper the only Portuguese speaking country in Latin America, since not being able to read in Spanish “makes a lot of difference” for collaborative efforts.

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Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:51

Melting Pot of African thought

This year’s union of the second World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) and the 14th Highway Africa conference (HA) is proving to be a melting pot of ideas to revolutionise the future of journalism education and practice.

At yesterday’s opening ceremony delegates discussed Africa’s progression into the new digital age, and the struggles for the promotion of democracy. Mathatha Tsedu, chairperson of The African Editors Forum (TAEF), cited the recent murder of Jean-Leonard Rugambage, deputy editor of Umuvugizi newspaper in Rwanda, as an example of Africa’s struggles with press freedom. Prejudice against press freedom remains a struggle in many African countries today. Advocate Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, said progression is only possible with the free flow of ideas. “In Africa, freedom of expression is deteriorating and the spaces in which the media can practice are shrinking,” she said.

The WJEC and HA union, however, have prompted innovation in the African continent. Miller Motola, CEO of the International Marketing Council, said, “The future looks at advances in ICT’s, citizen journalism and social networking and branding.”  Motola encouraged the idea that South Africa is open for business, and said the idea of open reporting and freedom is of vital importance for Africa’s progress. Pinky Moholi, managing director of Telkom South Africa, shed light on Africa’s journalism front with Telkom’s expansive reach around this year’s soccer World Cup. “Media technology is changing and growing and if the environment is fluid then Telkom has to be,” she said.

Telkom’s reach into mobile and data communication is taking off and promises to connect all to the global media discourse.

Mamodupi Mohlala, Director-General of the Department of Communications, provided a positive outlook on connectivity in South Africa, with the department’s focus on the delivery of information communication technologies to rural areas, internet access to schools, health care centres and promoting broadband access across the country. “People must not be left behind in the digital revolution,” she said.

Africa and the world have come together to share their ideas for the future of journalism. South Africa and Grahamstown are truly hosting the world. “Rhodes University is juggling eighty balls at a time,” said Professor Guy Berger, Head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University. Advances in communication technology in Africa are creating a new Africa with unlimited possibilities.

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Can a middle class, Indian woman understand the life of an upper class, black male, a lower class, coloured man, or even a middle class, white woman? The truth is – we can’t. Working on this basis, the question remains whether it is possible for journalists to adequately represent those other than themselves?

Issues of representation are rife in media studies and a plausible solution to the concern “who can talk for who” comes in the shape of citizen journalism – a journalism produced by the public.

Professor Fackson Banda, senior Unesco official in Paris, launched his book, Citizen Journalism and Democracy in Africa, last night at the Absa Africa Night Dinner.

Banda’s book provides an analysis of “the nature of citizen journalism in Africa and its impact on the institutions and processes of democracy”. The book addresses the impact information and communication technologies (ICTs) have on practices of citizen journalism, looking at issues such as operational, contextual and strategic aspects.

The institutionalisation of citizen journalism is also addressed, taking a look at the “level of uptake of citizen journalism by conventional media”. As the title suggests, the book addresses the “democratic value” of this fast developing form of journalism. Banda engages this issue by looking at aspects such as “ownership of communication channels, civic participation, access and accessibility” and others.

Citizen Journalism and Democracy in Africa couldn’t have come at a more relevant time. The book answers pressing questions often asked at conferences such as these what methodology does citizen journalism use? What themes are emerging within it? What impacts do globalisation and democratisation have on citizen journalism? What is the future for citizen journalism?

The book launch, hosted by Happy Nsthingila, will be held at the 1820 Settlers’ Monument last night. Dignitaries such as His Excellency John Aqyekum Kufuor, former president of Ghana attended the launch.  

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Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:38

Training global journalists

Online technology poses a challenge to traditional forms of journalism, questioning the profession itself. Citizen journalism is on the rise with the average joe transforming into a commentator, reporter or photographer of current affairs.

 Jeanne du Toit, radio lecturer at Rhodes University, is currently writing her PhD on journalism education and notes how global patterns of journalism education are changing. “Journalism has changed into the new liberal arts degree for the 21st century,” she says adding, “We are training them for what the profession could evolve into.”

Du Toit explains how radio students at Rhodes University draw material from both international radio, such as the BBC, as well as national platforms, such as the SABC. Rhodes University’s emphasis on practical education in journalism is based on what du Toit calls “organic relationships” with national media institutions. Not only do students immerse themselves in material from local media institutions, they also progress, by improving the news environment. The workplace is not always the focus; “Students experience the practical side of journalism but we do not necessarily simulate real-world circumstances. We make them better,” explains du Toit.

The World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) provides a platform for educators to share ideas about the evolution of journalism education as well as, how to save the profession in the global sphere. Kanina Holmes, assistant Professor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, feels the WJEC can provide educators with new ways of educating students for the workplace. “We, as educators, struggle with changes in the media but the programme keeps us up to date with journalism’s challenges,” says Holmes, adding that she is “excited to hear ideas from all over the world”. The WJEC provides opportunities to network and exchange ideas so that the ever-changing industry is ready for the future global journalist.

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La reprise des travaux de ce jour a demarre avec un resume des points de discussion de la journee de lundi 5 juillet. Ensuite la parole a ete donnee a chacun des participants pour faire un bref expose des problemes majeurs de son ecole ou institut de formation. Après le tour de table on retiendra en substance les aspects suivants qui on ete releves.

Plan institutionne:  le nombre de plus en plus croissant des effectifs des etudiants par rapport aux capacites des infrastructures institutionnelles, la difficulte des interrelations entre les universites , les tensions recurrentes entre les enseignants universitaires et les professionnels, la tendance a accorder plus de place a la theorie qu’a la pratique professionnelle, les loudeurs administratives  qui freinent les reactions des structures de formation.

Plan pedagogique :  l’evolution des systemes d’enseignement vers le systeme modulaire ou le LMD qui pose des problemes en termes de formation des formateurs et des ressources a  metre en oeuvre, la disparite des cadres de references : CAMES pour les uns et gestion autonome pour les autres, contexte pas toujours approprie pour les stages pratiques en conformite avec les exigencies academiques, curricula en constante evolution.

Plan financier et materiele : la faiblesse de l’investissement des Etats dans la formation, difficulte de renouvelle des equipements.

Plan de l’evolution des carrieres :  l’inexistence de cadres de publication des travaux des enseignants ou la difficulte de parution des  revues disponibles.

Plan des perspectives :  creation d’une revue et offres de stages par l’Union Africaine, soutiens divers de  l’UNESCO aux centres d’excellence et de reference,  necessite de creer un cadre d’echange et de partage pour les ecoles et instituts de formation en journalisme francophone.

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Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:34

Traversing the Great (fire)Wall of China

China’s rapid transformation has not been limited to industrial, financial and economic growth, and has been felt across the country’s media landscape. A panel discussion on new media and journalism education in Asia offered insights into the diverse and varied state of the media in Asia, with a strong focus on China.  Moderated by Professor Guo Ke of Shanghai International Studies University, the presentations touched on the state of Chinese media, as well as journalism education issues in the country.

Dr David Clark from Bolton Foreign Studies University presented an overview of the media landscape. He explained that Chinese media is often misunderstood because people imagine that it’s homogenous. Although state-run media seem to form the overriding perceptions of Chinese journalism, there is also the metropolitan media, which is semi-independent, and the internet, he said. 

Clark argued that although social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, one should not underestimate the presence of social media in the country.  Most people in China know how to get around the censorship. “There are lots of ways to climb over the Chinese firewall,” said Dr Clarke. “It’s not an issue, just an inconvenience.”  There are many social media sites not known outside of China, simply because they are in Chinese, he added. 

Although China has a history of media censorship, people’s perceptions might not always be correct, added Zhang Xiaoying, also from the Beijing Foreign Studies University. “All perceptions have a basis,” she said, “but everything is changing so fast.”

“There is the state-run media which is obviously controlled by the state – that’s clear. But there are other organisations that are commercialised. All of them are going through transformation though. It’s an age of change,” she said.

China is advancing technologically along with the rest of the world. “There is a trend toward media convergence,” said Xia Baojun, from Jinan University. “The new generation of media relies on the internet.”  Reflecting this trend, Clark’s students have no equipment in their classrooms. Instead, they are supplied with fully-equipped backpacks. Inside the backpacks students find laptops which they use to produce media and learn about the world.

Interestingly, China’s newspaper circulation is growing at the same time as convergence is taking off. “One can’t argue specifically for a cross-media approach in China. The trend is going in the opposite direction to the rest of the world,” Clark said. South African newspapers with their dwindling readership can perhaps learn a few things from China. 

“We have benefited from globalisation, but there is the fear of it getting out of control. It’s a great challenge to the state run media,” said Zhang Xiaoying. “It’s a very interesting scenario at the moment, a period of transition.”

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Tuesday, 06 July 2010 10:26

New syllabus for reporting Africa

Former UNESCO chair of Media and Democracy at Rhodes University, Prof Fackson Banda presented a paper at the World Journalism Educators Conference on Monday addressing the challenges of developing a syllabus for reporting Africa.

Now a UNESCO program officer in Paris, Banda has returned to Rhodes to share the outcome of a UNESCO project to develop a syllabus for reporting Africa. He impressed upon WJEC the following needs:

  • The need to interrogate epistemology and ontology issues
  • The need to interrogate new teaching methods
  • The need to assess the impact of training in Africa.

Banda said that to report on Africa aspiring journalists needed four levels of orientation. 

Firstly, students needed to be rooted in the historical context of Africa from an African perspective.  Secondly, they needed a self reflective ethical orientation using African morality and philosophy.

The issue of an Africana, as opposed to African, came up recognizing the need to be able to generate modules for training Africa related issue anywhere in the world. 

A third input required a critical understanding the developmental context.  Historically, under the label “development communication”. This meant imparting development related messaged that would inform the masses and define direction.

Today, said Banda, it meant learning how to speak to an engaged citizenry.  Training needed to prepare students for the task of managing messages in culturally and linguistically diverse forms.

A lot of the original thinking came out of a WJEC preparatory colloquium chaired by Banda last year at Rhodes.  The aim of the colloquium was threefold, namely to:

  • Affirm and strengthen pan African intellectual contributions in articulating a shared agenda for African journalism education in the global educational public sphere;
  • Validate and accentuate, through rigorous African peer review, individual and collective scholarly analysis and evaluation of African journalistic traditions and cultures and how these influence journalism education and research across sub-Saharan Africa; and thus;
  • Outline and propagate a shared agenda or identity for African journalism training within and without Africa.  The colloquium affirmed and strengthened individual and collective contributions to the field of African journalism education.  Through this colloquium, said Banda in his introductory remarks last year, scholars were helping to frame the agenda for conceptualizing, researching, teaching, and practicing journalism in Africa. A model African journalism Training curriculum has been developed.
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Monday, 05 July 2010 16:31

Media still in danger ...

WJEC2 and Highway Africa conferences kicked off with the realisation that countries in Africa are still grappling with problems related to freedom of expression and information. Whereas the consolidation of democracy in many African states has expanded political space, and enhanced media developments, there are huge differences between countries that have adopted freedom of information and those that have not.

This was the exposition made by Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa, Advocate Pansy Tlakula. Tlakula posited that while the media has made significant contributions to democracy, it still suffers serious impediments as a consequence of laws that hinder press freedom. This became even clearer when Mathatha Tsedu, head of Media24 Training Academy in South Africa, recounted the recent killing of Rwandese journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage by people alleged to be state security operatives or close to those in power. Although the claim is yet to be verified, Tsedu asked Rwandan president Paul Kagame to expedite investigation into the murder which has recently shocked the media fraternity not only in Rwanda but also in countries where journalists are increasingly in danger especially because of their investigative work.

So far, the conference has been a rich ground for discussions into the application of media in democratic processes, and whether journalism is a boon or indeed a danger to democracy. In the Democracy and Media Innovations in Africa syndicate, for instance, it was noted that media information may not always aid democracy. In some instances, it may lead to apathy where citizens feel demotivated from engage with politics or politicians. What’s more it may create a disconnect between the consumers of information as voters and the producers of information. This is based on the notion that the elite seek to hog power by using the media for their own selfish interests.

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Sunday, 04 July 2010 17:41

Tweeting in a time of radical change

Dr Levi Obonyo (Daystar University, Kenya) and Dr George Lugalambi (Makerere University, Uganda) learn about real-time journalism toolsJMC educators need to refresh Media and Communication Studies curricula to help make sense of a radically changing mediascape. This was the message to delegates from UNESCO's Centres of Journalism Excellence and Reference who attended a programme titled Capacitating COE's for Real-Time Journalism and Media Studies just ahead of the second World Journalism Educators' Congress.

New Media Lab lecturer, Jude Mathurine shared lessons from Rhodes' School of Journalism and Media Studies' own change to a converged curriculum. He called on delegates to consider three key ideas:

  • Media Studies educators should not be afraid to seek help to understand new technologies and the context of changing patterns of consumption and production;
  • offer students critical tools for media literacy that enables interrogation of the constructed nature of their own media use (as well as public broadcasters and big media);
  • and maintain a focus on how new media can be used to challenge the dominant relations of power that remain asymmetrical despite the promises of modernisation.

Tweeting along
Australian hackademic, Julie Posetti followed up this session with a rapid-fire workship on the use of Twitter and real-time blogging tools for 'mindcasting', storygathering, curation, publishing and engagement. Posetti who has widely researched social media presented a workshop called: Twitter for Communications and Journalism Education. With 13,015 tweets to her name, the self-confessed "twitter addict" and senior lecturer at the University of Canberra was a fitting candidate to initiate some participants to the Twittersphere.

Newbies learnt the basics of adding followers, how to tweet functionally and socially; as well as information on how to break news on Twitter while respecting journalistic values.

Posetti says it is important to host workshops because platforms like Twitter can help "cross cultural barriers and to interconnect around the globe in a way that not only breaks down barriers but facilitates conversation".

"Expand and compress the world through Twitter!" tweeted Kenyan Dr George Nyabuga during the presentation.

The JMC educators will cover WJEC2 conference syndicates and panels on the WJEC blog and Twitter using the #wjec2 hashtag. WJEC will also host a Tweetup at the popular Rat and Parrot pub on NewStreet at 18h30 on 5 July.

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This week Grahamstown becomes the media capital of Africa and the Journalism Education Capital of the world, with the Africa Media Matrix its hub. It's already the National Arts Festival capital, and now the energy is set to be boosted by the influx of 600 new people whose passion is journalism.

The magnet for this global attention is the 2nd World Congress on Journalism Education. There are 350 journalism trainers from across the globe coming for this -- hailing from countries as diverse as India and Iraq, Moldova and Mexico.

WJEC2 is being staged in conjunction with the 14th Highway Africa. Over the years, this event has grown to become the world's biggest annual gathering of African journalists.

Together, the two events -- convened by Rhodes University's School of Journalism and Media Studies -- aim to improve journalism both continent-wide and worldwide, especially regarding the imaging of Africa.

Inspiration

In 2009, Rhodes JMS won a tough bid battle to host the 2nd edition of this congress. The first congress was in Singapore three years ago, and we worked hard to ensure that it would come to Africa next.

I attended the first WJEC and personal experience of meeting journalism teachers from elsewhere in the world opened my eyes to the value of difference. You learn huge amounts from other people's experiences, and in the process you also learn more about yourself and your own strengths and weaknesses. The idea of a world congress that will provide the same opportunities to participants is what inspired me.

Under the theme “Journalism education in an age of radical change”, the participants at WJEC2 will be able to take part in 130 research paper presentations, 16 task teams, and six expert panel discussions. Proceedings will be live-cast at http://wjec.ru.ac.za, and up to 11 parallel research sessions will be streamed simultaneously at various times.

We will be sharing experiences with each other – and with anyone who follows us on the web. The main focus will be on how training can help prepare journalists to deal with challenges of the recession, collapsing traditional business models and the Internet.

The topics under scrutiny range from teaching “entrepreneurial journalism” and cellphone journalism, through to building media literacy and training reporters in the coverage of violence.

Simplistic perspectives

It's intentional that these two conferences – WJEC and Highway Africa - are being held during the World Cup. The moment is ideal for analysing what the media make of the mega-event. And besides scrutinising the local impact of the coverage, there's also the issue of how the global media are reporting the story.

For example: Is the Cup coverage reinforcing the negative stereotypes of South Africa and Africa more broadly? Is there still an overwhelming spin about savagery and basket-cases? On the other hand, is there a different scenario at play -- one with diametrically opposite coverage of the continent through rose-tinted imagery? Is the picture one of smiling tribal dancers and awesome wild animals? Of swish stadiums and glossy shopping malls?

If the options are only between these two simplistic perspectives, the only choice for media audiences is to switch understandings from one extreme to the other whenever something affects the plausibility of one side.

How the media can avoid caricatures and instead capture the complexities, and reflect both the good and bad, will be high among the debates in Grahamstown. Unesco will use the occasion to present a model syllabus for "Reporting Africa" that may address some of the challenges.

As the two conferences serve to engage media stakeholders, it follows that there will be a swathe of media output about the deliberations.

There's a daily conference paper and the Highway Africa website will have a vibrant blog. SABC is co-host of the conference and will be covering it closely. For their part, the journalism educators' website will have live video-streaming sessions between July 5 and 7, including of 11 parallel research paper presentations. There will also be continuous tweets at #wjec2 and, of course, this blog will pump out daily conference coverage and columns like this one.

Thanks to conference sponsors MTN, Telkom, Absa and the local organising committee, delegates to the conferences will also get a lot of exposure to the football -- including big screen broadcasts where they can analyse the coverage in real-time.

It's always interesting to hear how outsiders see South Africa. On this occasion, outsiders with media mindsets will be giving their views right from the belly of the South African beast.

Projected Outcomes

Besides for networking with each other, I hope all delegates will learn something about the practice of journalism education, and something about South Africa and this continent more broadly. That of course is not an end in itself, but a means towards increased impact in journalism education that translates into better journalism.

In time, the conference delegates will leave, like the Cup itself. But having been part of a unique buzz will likely stay with them for a long time. One day, they'll tell their grandchildren that in 2010 they were there -- at the media capital of South Africa.

Prof Guy Berger is the convenor of WJEC2 and the Head of School of Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies.

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