Thursday, 08 July 2010 15:35

Tutu: “Tell it like it is!”

We need you [journalists] to dream dreams. We need you to remind us of where we came from. We need you to remind us of the ideals that have driven us. Let us make every day a World Cup day in South Africa!” declared Archbishop Desmond Tutu in closing this year’s Highway Africa and World Journalism Education Congress. “

For goodness sake, tell it as it is!” he implored the audience, “we are not going to make it with uninspired and uninspiring teachers.” Lifting the already merry mood with a pastor’s oratory, Tutu concluded, “I only see our country as a scintillating success waiting to happen. Help it to happen.”  The archbishop was sweet icing on top of a wildly successful four days of several simultaneously organised events by the Rhodes School of Journalism and Media Studies.

“It’s become a bit of a festival, not just a conference,” grinned  Prof. Guy Berger of Rhodes University, before a manful attempt to add his vuvuzela voice to the chorus of positivity emanating from the closing ceremony earlier.  Buoyant, Berger encouraged delegates to the Highway Africa Conference and the World Journalism Education Congress leave with some questions.

“Is South Africa, Africa? Is Grahamstown South Africa? Is Rhodes University Grahamstown?” Berger asked, before adding with more sober joy that “we weren’t perfect, but we showed it is possible.” He got a standing ovation.  

“Up to a few minutes ago I thought Guy could do it all,” joked Joe Foote over Berger’s spluttering vuvuzela-blowing skills.   But he continued in similar spirit in the WJEC report-back. “It’s impossible to give because I have no idea what the impact of the conference,” he said, “it all depends on you [the delegates].”

It is my feeling that journalism education is much stronger today than it was four days ago… Just the energy going outward is going to help us all,” he continued, before asking delegates from the various continents to stand in recognition of the conference’s diversity, extolling African in particular.

 “You will never know how much you have contributed,” Foote said about Africa. “From the collective grateful hearts in this room, we salute South Africa for all they have done to make this such a successful meeting.”

Chris Kabwato whom Berger had dubbed ‘Mr Highway Africa’ lauded his boss’ leadership, noting that conferences, “usually transient”, need unyielding impetus to survive. “You have given us a vision,” he said, “this sustainability is your vision.”

The uniqueness of Highway Africa is that it is 14 years old, and we keep getting better Kabwato said,  adding with pleasure that his worries now included too small a venue.

“How do we stop people coming to Grahamstown? It’s a lovely nightmare, I assure you.” He admired the WJEC for their “madness to agree to hosting two parallel events,” and bid the delegates farewell with great vigour. “Thank you and bon voyage!”

Professor Jane Duncan also presented a report on a “very very successful” Digital Citizen’s Indaba, which aimed to “empower ordinary citizens to become digital citizens.” The enriching experience was further augmented by the WJEC and Highway Africa, meaning that events included “very interesting cross-pollinations” of thought.

“We have definitely achieved our objectives this year,” she said. 

Nomasonto Ndlovu, the Global Manager of Business Tourism in South Africa, said South Africa’s “almost irresistible” offer of hospitality was demonstrated by the FIFA World Cup, “showing, not telling, what South Africa is about.”

“The international press has been singing our praises,” she said, and encouraged the delegates to do likewise, using the most powerful medium: word of mouth.

“And of course digital,” Ndlovu joked, “I have to show I was listening! Spread the word, spread the good news: that South Africa is open for business!”

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Wednesday, 07 July 2010 11:57

Book launches for Africa

A collection of scholarly works on media policy reforms in Southern Africa has been launched at Rhodes University in South Africa.

The book, Media Policy in a Changing Southern Africa  was edited by two Zimbabwean scholars, Dr Dumisani Moyo, an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Literature and Languages at Wits University and Wallace Chuma from the University of Cape Town.

The book seeks to bridge the gap in the policy and regulatory sphere, as not so much has been written about in the region.

“This book is an attempt to review media reforms that have taken place in the last 20 years,” said Dr Moyo.

The book traces the media policy reforms that have taken place in the six Southern African countries namely Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, since the Windhoek Declaration of 1991.

“A lot has happened since and there is not much that has written about by African scholars. What we are doing is sort of taking stock of what has happened since the broadcasting charter was drawn up in Windhoek,” added Dr Moyo.

The book is ideal for those in media policy advocacy as well as for students and the public in general. A major strength of the book is its focus on policy-making across media sectors, including broadcasting, print and the new information and communication technologies. It represents an effort to bring to debate on media policy reform back to the centre, to initiate a stock taking exercise.

Another book also launched during the ongoing WJEC here is, Challenges and Perspectives of Digital Migration for African Media by Professor Guy Berger, head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University.

The book sets out the issues involved in digital transformation in broadcast media from the viewpoint of African media stakeholders and especially, community radio stations. It aims to correct widespread misconceptions that analogue radio will cease to exist in the next five years as part of ‘digital migration’.

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Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:41

Africans called to report Africa

What is Africa and how do we report this thing?” asked Guy Berger, Head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, at the WJEC plenary 1 discussion held this morning in Eden Grove Red. Fackson Banda, senior Unesco official, presented a preliminary answer that Berger described as “scraping the surface” when he introduced Unesco’s syllabus for reporting Africa. 

Banda outlined four main areas, identified at a preparatory meeting held in Grahamstown last year, as key launch points for the syllabus. The impetus derived from a need to interrogate the “foundations” of African journalism education and analyse “the complexities of national educational policies and their implications”. It also arose out of an experiment with new teaching and learning methods as well as the need to understand the “impact of African journalism education on journalistic practices and socio-political change.”

An online consultation network was set up, through Unesco, to invite further contributions, but it “was not as successful as we thought it would be,” said Banda. However, “the depth of the responses was sufficient” to show “the need for an indigenised syllabus on reporting Africa.” It also reaffirmed the consultation’s emphasis on “understanding the political history of Africa as a means of locating the practice of journalism in the African context,” and accentuated “peace journalism as a means to respond to the troubled history of conflicts in Africa.”

The crucial objectives of the four-course syllabus on reporting in Africa were to “root students in the African historical context of journalistic production”; to encourage self-reflective, ethical decision making; to develop an understanding of African development contexts and priorities and to “experiment with culturally and linguistically innovative media forms” which promote democratic journalistic practice. Banda argued that the course on developmental journalism would “revive” a topic “much maligned… particularly by Western scholarship.” He described the syllabus’ “state of play” as “a work in progress” and, invited as many journalism educators as possible to contribute.  

Guo Ke, Dean of the Public Opinion Research Centre of Shanghai International Studies University, presented a declaration of the WJEC’s Principles of Journalism Education, which aimed at increasing the field’s value to students. While the principles acknowledged the interdisciplinary nature of journalism education, they asserted its existence, in its own right, “with a distinctive body of knowledge and theory.”

Ke underscored that “journalism educators need to maintain strong links to media industries,” and that they should “critically reflect on industry practices and offer advice to the industry based upon this reflection.” He also emphasized the technological aspects of journalism education and commented that insofar as internet is “changing the landscape of journalism education,” it is now a “global endeavour” where students “should learn that despite political and cultural differences, they share important values and professional goals with peers in other nations.”

Ke described the “most important goal” as being collaboration with colleagues worldwide so that “we can help journalism education become more effective” in reaching its potential.

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