Saturday, 03 July 2010 21:40
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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