Guy Berger

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Next WJEC in Belgium, 2013

Brussels is the venue of the 3rd World Journalism Education Congress, to be held in the European summer of 2013. The hosts are the European Journalism Training Association (EJTA) and the Flemish/Dutch Network of Journalism Institutes (VNOJ).

The WJE Council meeting in Istanbul in mid-2011 set parameters that the maximum registration price will be 350 Euros for the three-day congress, with tiers of payment dependent on the economic level of delegates’ home countries. There should also, said the Council, be a minimum of 30 scholarships for attendees from developing countries.

A planning meeting will be held in 2012. This will be hosted by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), as part of its centennial celebration. The venue is Chicago, and dates are August 9-12, 2012. The AEJMC will provide complimentary conference registration to all WJEC member representatives as well as hospitality for a one-day meeting. (Meanwhile, see recent articles compiled for the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication on WJEC 2010 by Robyn Goodman and Joe Foote).

The WJE Council also encouraged journalism educators to use World Press Freedom Day in 2012 as a venue for launching bilateral discussions between journalism programs internationally. During 2011, a number of schools took advantage of the day to organise similar activities (see story below).

3 MAY: WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY is a way to keep our international relationships thriving in between tri-annual congresses.

Take a moment during April 2011 to identify and contact a counterpart in a different country, with the aim of planning a symbolic link-up on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May. This is an initiative that's won letters of support from two prestigious international bodies who recognize the importance of our sector: UNESCO and Wan-Ifra (the global publishing industry).

We suggest that you:

  • Check the WJEC census to locate an interesting counterpart -  see http://wjec.ou.edu/census.php
  • Then connect across North-South boundaries, even spanning language differences.
  • Possibly involve your students in multi-lateral emails or Skype dialogue with their counterparts elsewhere.
  • Do a distance-mediated joint seminar, or just share the top three issues around press freedom in your mutual environments.

Let's evolve this collaboration into the equivalent of an annual Earth Day observation, and help put global journalism education into practice on a sustained basis.

Please This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and we'll publicise them here. And when the council of the WJEC meets during the IAMCR in Istanbul (July 13-18), we can celebrate the achievement.

Other news: WJEC convenor Joe Foote says of the 2010 WJE Congress: "There was a special spirit there that I hope still remains with the delegates.  It was a great week for journalism education from the plenaries to the syndicates to the individual conversations". Proposals for the next WJEC will be considered in mid-2011, at the IAMCR conference in Istanbul (July 13-18). IAMCR is offering a 50 Euro discount for the official WJEC delegates (one to an organization) who attends the meeting.  The IAMCR website is iamcr.org.

In 2010, Joe Foote also responded on behalf of the WJEC to a solidarity request by South African educators who are facing strong pressures on press self-regulation and information transparency, writing a letter to the SA president. A total 19 South African schools published a statement in the local  press on the matter, and many organised activities around this. Rhodes itself convened a colloquium on 16-17 October 2010 which was attended by representatives from 18 South African j-schools - with key policy-makers as respondents. The colloquium statement highlighted the value of academic research in the context of a polarised debate. Eight papers from the colloquium have now been submitted to a special edition of Ecquid Novi: African Media Studies.

In a meeting at the AEJMC conference in Denver in August 2010, several exciting ideas were put forward as possible WJEC activities between now and 2013:

  • Extend the existing WJEC global census of journalism schools to include providers beyond than higher educational institutions (see http://wjec.ou.edu/census.php).

  • Encourage journalism schools worldwide to use the same census to identify a foreign partner institution and link up the different students on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May (a date that is recognized and commemorated annually by UNESCO, the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors' Forum.

  • Read the report on WJEC 2010, and an article that was published in Journalism and Mass Communication Educator.

Coverage of the final day of the WJEC and Highway Africa is now online in a special online edition of "Open Source", the daily newsletter of the conferences. There's a great photo of Archbishop Tutu and a vivid accompanying story on the front page of the pdf. See him also on http://www.youtube.com/rhodestv (and other WJEC videos)

You can also find the earlier editions online: Day 1 - Monday 5 July, Day 2 - Tuesday 6 July, and Day 3 - Wednesday 7 July.

 

 

 

 

 

Caption: Archbishop Tutu closed WJEC by signing the Declaration of Table Mountain on African press freedom.

Links to articles about the conference:

Insights, by Robyn S. Goodman, Alfred University

Insights, by J. Foote, University of Oklahoma

SA and the future of journalism

Should j-education conquer the world?

US Academic predicts resurgence of professional journalism

Where is the source of our pride?

Story from World Association of Newspapers

World Association of Newspapers on Tutu signing the Table Mountain Declaration (en Francais)

Radio France International coverage

MediaShift: Journalism Education 2.0: Training in an Age of Radical Change

AEJMC members attend the WJEC

Africa's campaign against Insult Laws has won the endorsement of Archishop Tutu at the closing events of Highway Africa and the World Journalism Education Congress on Wednesday, 7 July.

The campaign centres around the Table Mountain Declaration, adopted in Cape Town in 2007 at the conferences of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum.

Top of the campaign's targets is the need to scrap a series of hangover colonial laws which prohibit any criticism of people in high places.  These laws date back to an era when the dignity of a public office was conflated with the incumbent of that office. That clearly runs contrary to the nature of democratic accountability, and has served only to harrass journalists and chill their work in many African countries.

The Declaration also calls on governments to scrap dispensations where defamation is treated as a criminal, rather than civil, offence. Again, it's an issue of laws that belong to a different era, and of getting African countries to align their legal regimes with modern times.

Participating at the Grahamstown media events ahead of Tutu's endorsement, retired Ghanian President John Kufour told how his administration had acted on these contraints early in its term of office... which is one reason why Ghana today gets the highest media freedom ratings around the continent.

In attracting Tutu and Kufour to their proceedings, the Highway Africa conference, and the World Journalism Education Congress, demonstrated their ability to concentrate energies around media freedom.  Highway Africa, as the world's biggest annual gathering of African journalists, is taken seriously - and rightly so - more and more each year. The journalism educators at this year's events also took pride in their roles as part of the global recognition and profile of Tutu and Kufour.

The political impact of the Tutu-Kufour combo was amplified by Advocate Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Information in Africa, who also called for acceptance in Africa of the freedom of expression of sexual orientation.

If the combined impact of these speakers goes some way towards expanding media freedoms around Africa, that could serve to encourage both the journalists and the journalism educators to intensify their own voices on the matter.

In this way, the input by Tutu, Kufour and Tlakula could have the pleasant side effect of bolstering the confidence of the two constituencies (media practitioners and teachers of media). If these leaders take journalism and j-education very seriously, so too should practitioners of these professions - and society more widely.

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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