19 October, 2013


By: Tendai Sibanda

    When this semester began, attending my first journalism Lecture (Wednesday 24 July 2013), I recall the astute warning that we received from our Journalism Lecturer Professor Marc Caldwell ‘writing is hard’.
   While not attempting to impose a theoretical frame work on this subject matter, Prof Caldwell brought to my attention a compelling and, at times, highly overlooked bitter truth of   journalistic work and writing.
    Onset let me clearly affirm that, it will be far beyond the reach of this article or of my knowledge to offer a comprehensively an unambiguous opinion for such an intricate predicament, but I will offer an eradicate intellect outlook nevertheless. To those who are ignorant and not keen writers/journalist it will appear to be a serious and shocking disclosure that was made by Prof Marc Caldwell but yet so true,  one that can be witnessed in almost in our daily lives, real time because of  current technology and the nature of the world we are living on.  Emphasis on writing has become so professional, because knowledge has become so vast, so complex, so diversified that not even to the surprise of most talented and well trained writers/journalists who still struggle to write, it is absolutely impossible to consider yourself a complete writer.
     If a Professor of media and communications observes that writing is hard, it triggers many questions, people are left wondering if we as communicators/journalist struggle so much with this art of writing which in practical to a layman sense in some ways, defines who we are and what we do? I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s not the writing that’s the problem. It’s the writer/journalist. As Prof Marc Caldwell acknowledges in his own words, “It is extremely difficult to get your approach and writing balance right”. Nor is he very vocal about his own personal experiences as he comments, “I find myself faced every week with the dilemma of how to approach my writing angle to get my ideas right and despite the fact that writing is a daily encounter”.  But, as he made us to take notice what we have been neglecting, I remember vividly his words. “Here is a little secret, writing is hard but with a bit of little effort and practicing ,the art of writing can be crafted,” A critical reflection on Prof Caldwell experiences, to me it becomes apparent that even to the most proficient writers/journalists its normal for them to have days when the words simply will not flow.
    Prof Caldwell delves into his experiences with the leading writers, journalists, thinkers who agree at least in principle that journalistic writing is hard and that good writing makes a good journalist, talented writer, good citizen and employee. It will not be out of place for me to say that almost any journalism/communication student will benefit from this bold statement, ‘writing is hard’, be it as an doorway point to motivation to inculcate the spirit and desire to become a better writer/journalist either many will use it as a reference point to improve their writing skills or perhaps as a reminder and inspiration of that writing is learnt not inherited.
    To me it is not amazing how words careful thought about can transform a simple idea and make it real. In writing it is neither about the words, nor the way those words are constructed. Good writer’s/journalist’s work must not lack both the context and the meaning on which the writer/journalist put up his/her ideas in a way that tempts us to imagine. And, most of all, writing it’s not either about just writing or communicating thoughts. Writing is an expression of the deeply human need; hence it must not only be to the best interest of the writer/journalist. This is why practising good writing skills for a journalist/writer so important. Writing is hard because we are person. Human beings are concerned, delicate individuals who think of every sole justification to adjourn that which we ought to be doing.
    Writing is full of life and a never ending process and this is what most people find hard about writing. That’s why some people prefer to call the art of writing; “the writing life” for it defines who you are and what you do. To me the complexity of writing has nothing to do with pen and script. It has to do with the human element, approach to ideas, empathy, character, and the brains behind the words.
    Writing as a skill is tricky, for it encompasses a lot of imprecise anonymity. Writers/journalists have not to pursue their entire interests but they are also obliged to think about their societal and audience needs, style of writing, and about the tone.  The combination and getting the balance of these factors right is hard to anchor down. In journalism, writing is inextricably tied to the newspaper’s editorial policy, the media house ideology and the identity of its readership. The journalists/writers have to think about what a media institution stands for, where it's going, and how that media house ideologies should be presented to the public and at the same time not forgetting their primary aim of serving the citizens with balanced factual reporting which also makes it even the writing part harder.
    Remember the 5 Ws+H [who (is involved), what (took place), where (did it take place), when (did it take place), why (did it happen), how (did it happen)]. It is basic, but how you order information is fundamental to better writing. There’s no reservation that writing is a talent, but with greater commitment, practice, determination rigid effort, countered with a right attitude and mind, and skills its of no doubt that it can be a rewarding form of experience and creativity.  The way to become a better communicator/journalist is just to write and perfect the art of writing. As Ray Bradbury once said: “Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”


04 September, 2013

Future Journalists Programme

Future Journalists Programme
By Nandi Majola

All roads led to intense discussion and debate at the 17th annual Highway Africa Conference. 

At a workshop held on Sunday 1 September, delegates deliberated on the relationship between the media, researchers and civil society organisations (CSOs).

This workshop featured a panel of representatives from six African countries.

Ashley Green-Thompson, a former Director of the SA Network of Trauma Service Providers, and a current consultant of the Southern Africa Trust chaired the panel discussion.

The Southern Africa Trust which supported the discussion, is an independent, non-profit agency that facilitates processes to increase participation in policy dialogue with a regional impact on poverty.

The panellists included the Deputy Editor of New Vision newspaper, Catherine Mwesigwa Kizza (Uganda), science writer and journalist, Leoni Joubert (South Africa), the Chief Reporter of the Ghana News Agency, Linda Asante-Ageyi and the Senior Investigative Journalist at National Publications Limited (NPL), Wisdom Chimgwede (Malawi).

The panel discussion kicked off with Kizza discussing the dependence of the media on CSOs because of their affiliation with grassroots organisations.

Despite the perceived role of the media as a voice for the voiceless, Kizza criticised the media for being accessible mostly to the elite who manage and influence news. 

Kizza then went on to discuss the goals of New Vision newspaper who aim to work closely with CSOs to encourage innovation in society.

Asante-Ageyi reflected on how the collaboration between her media organisation and CSOs helped to publicize high traces of aflatoxins in maize and cyanide in water.

She acknowledged however that there is a large gap between researchers and the media because media practitioners often do not understand scientific jargon.

She argued that this issue needed to be dealt with because the media address the inner issues and are the voice of the voiceless.

Chimgwede stated that the media needed to maintain its independence while in relationship with CSOs and stressed that the stories presented by the media needed to suit the standards of the newsrooms without “merging” agendas with the CSOs.

Joubert who has written on issues of sustainability and poverty built on Kizza’s argument about the elite interests.

She stated that newsrooms only cater for the ideals of their constituencies who are mostly urbanised and also highlighted the expense for newsrooms to cater for stories in remote areas. Her view was that the media needed to push for funding from the CSOs in order to have grassroots’ stories included on the agenda.

Interesting questions and comments bounced around the room when the discussion was opened to the floor.

Most media practitioners were critical about the relationship, and raised their concerns about ensuring that stories from rural areas appealed to people from the urban areas.

Another delegate cautioned against “cognitive capture” i.e. making the views of the CSO one’s own when reporting.

Green-Thompson probed the panellists for information on the impact that their collaboration had on policy-change and all agreed that the impact was minimal yet visible.

The floor and panellists spoke about how news organisations could maintain their independence by using counter-narratives or not publishing a story immediately until it was suitable for the agenda.

The panellists also remarked that the marginalised people of rural areas could be a vital audience to cater to by engaging with their issues, especially due to concerns that the audiences of print publications are dwindling.



Media to make waves on BRICS

By Loyiso Malgas


Professor. Herman Wasserman of Rhodes University chaired a session on the rise of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, China, and South Africa).

Russian journalism lecturer, spoke about the impact media has on Russia saying censorship in his country is very important.

“Tradition can never be overcome instantly, and journalism’s responsibility to Russian society looks rhetorical” he said.

BRICS was initially a concept of economic change within the developing countries, the media is expected to play a huge role in making sure that the government is accountable and that the media itself report to the public.

Another speaker present was Professor Shakuntala Rao from Plattburgh State University of New York.

She believes that the news focus has shifted from “truth seeking, conferring and oppositional to sometimes complicit with ruling ideology of the state.”

It was also shocking to learn that South Africa is the protest capital of the world.

Statistics reveal that an average of sixteen protests take place every four minutes in the country, and that South Africa is the most unequal society in the world.

Dr Julie Reid who is an activist for media and press freedom and also the Deputy President of the South African Communications Association however believes that South Africa needs to focus more on public service delivery.

“South Africa has a healthy regulatory environment that does not much monitoring but still far behind as compared to the countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China,” she said.

Krog se Kind

By Youlendree Appasamy

“She’s blonde and short and adorable looking.”

That is the first introduction to Annetjie van Wynegaard I receive.
She is indeed blonde and short and adorable but those characteristics fail to describe her vivacity and near manic pace of life.

Annetjie is currently the commissioning editor for Rhodes Journalism Review, alongside being a research assistant in the department.
She also handles all of the Rhodes Journalism Department’s social media.  Being a Rhodes graduate herself, she was thrilled at the chance of coming back to Grahamstown and a job. 
“My job with social media right now is to make the Rhodes journalism brand visible on social media platforms,” she says.

Annetjie graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with writing and radio as her specialisations.
However, Annetjie’s main focus when younger was to become a writer. “I thought doing a Bjourn would be the best way to get me to where I wanted to be with writing,” she says.
“As a journalist I would be getting the information to write about interesting life experiences,” she continues.

China Mieville and Lauren Beukes are her favourite authors at the time of interviewing her, “but they change a lot, because I read a lot,” she says and laughs.
Science Fiction, True Crime and Fantasy are amongst her favourite genres, but again, with a bookworm this varies greatly.
Poetry is also one of Annetjie’s interests, citing Antjie Krog as one of her favourite poets.  This social media maven has a blog called annetjiesepoems.wordpress.com, where one can read more of her own poetry.

From being a “top-redenaar” when she was in Grade 8, to working towards a Masters degree, Annetjie is determined and extremely hardworking.
“I came from a very poor family – my dad was a street sweeper and my mom was unemployed,” she says. 

When being awarded as the “top-redenaar” (or best speech) by the  Afrikaanse Taal- en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV) Annetjie could not afford the blazer, yet received honours in her high school for her achievement.
 “I didn’t know what to do, but when I walked into my hotel room after the speech I found a blazer lying there – my teacher had bought it for me, so I could wear my honours colours,” she says excitedly.

Annetjie is one of those people for whom hard-work and dedication is an inherent part of their being.

Opportunities are seized wholeheartedly by her and as Jade Smith, one of her friends say, “She is the bubbliest person, who will smile even when she’s really angry – she’s the only person I know who does that!”

You can follow Annetjie on Twitter here: @annetjievwb

Data 101: lessons with Anina Mumm

By Noko Pela and Odwa Mkentane

 Data that isn’t processed is meaningless.  

This is the world according to Anina Mumm, the coordinater Data Clinic - an African Media Initiative, at the Highway Africa conference.

Mumm, together with University of Witwatersrand Journalism lecturer Dinesh Balliah conducted a rather successful workshop which aimed at equipping journalists with the right techniques of data processing.

The pair believes that processing data ultimately results in information for the reader. The data was presented and interpreted using the spreadsheet Microsoft Excel 2010.

The workshop focused on calculating data, sorting it according to its different categories, filtering, and how to transform the data into different shapes and graphs mouths.

According to Dinesh Balliah, the significance and purpose of this workshop is to introduce data journalism to journalists and she believes that using excel will be a basic start to data journalism.

She further adds that data journalism involves manipulating, interrogating and asking about information data sets.

Tshegofatso Bafana, second year Media studies and Communication management at Tshwane University of Technology student says, “Data Clinic was an insightful, informative and cultivating workshop.

“I didn’t know that numbers are important in journalism; I always thought that it’s something for BCom students. Anina and Dinesh have given me a new prospective on journalism, and that is data journalism,” she said.

Balliah says that data journalism is used in most cases when a politician makes claims prior to the elections that they have increased jobs or decreased the crime rate.

 In these cases journalist are able to challenge or check the information before incorrect information is published.


By Mbali Mzinyane

A panel of speakers from four different countries gathered during the Highway Africa conference panel session yesterday to discuss the media’s role as a partner to effect government policy change.

The workshop reflected the media’s role of six countries namely, South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana, Uganda, and Kenya.

On the panel was Catherine Mwesigwa Kizza, deputy editor of New Vision newspaper in Uganda, South African science writer Leonie Joubert, Ghanaian chief reporter for Ghana News Agency, Linda Asante-Agyei and Wisdom Chimgwede, senior investigative journalist of Malawi’s National Publications Limited.

The revelatory discussion was based around suggestive ideas of bringing about better governmental policies that reflect society’s needs through the collaboration of the media and civil society organisations (CSO’s).

The panellists discussed how the media within their respective countries was working with civil society to address issues that are often marginalised and bring to attention the day-to-day problems that have risen due to other changes such as urban-rural divide within society.

“There is a big gap between the policy makers and the voiceless, and that is where the role of the media comes in”, Asante-Agyei said during her discussion of how Ghana News Agency is working with CSO’s to address societal issues in order to influence policy makers.

However, the question of the media retaining its independence whilst being involved with CSOs was highlighted during commentary made by delegates attending the panel session.

“The question to ask ourselves is if media is part of civil society and if media can work with CSO’s and the answer to both these questions is ‘yes’. However, media and CSOs should not be friends”, said Chimgwede. Chimgwede, along with the other panellists emphasised how media should remain true to their identity and retain their independence whilst fulfilling their role as reporters.


Girl Media power goes Global

By: Global Girl Media

GlobalGirl Media, is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to empowering high school age girls from under-served communities from around the world.  

Through media training they are taught to have a voice in the global media universe and their own futures.

GlobalGirl Media invests in girls to become their own agents of change in bridging the gender digital divide, providing concrete skills with which to improve their personal situations.

We firmly believe that working with young women around the world to find and share their authentic voice is an investment in our

GlobalGirl Media grew out of a coalition of women broadcasters and journalists from around the world who recognized that much mainstream reporting focuses on flash points of violence, celebrity or disaster.

The everyday experience and voice of the invisible majority, particularly young women, passes silently under the radar.

With the explosion of social media networking and user-generated content on the web, the fact remains that this media is only open to those who have access to these technologies, leaving many youth, especially young girls behind.

GlobalGirl Media seeks to address this disparity by supplying the equipment, education and support necessary to help young women become digital and blog journalists, bringing their own unique perspective on their lives, their communities and world events to the global web and social media community.

Video Introduction at:


Networking: Building relationships with potential bosses

By: Nompilo Mncube

Networking can be quite an intimidating thing to do, especially in a room full of the best of the media industry.
The Highway Africa conference is one event that has student journalists on their toes, trying to sell themselves to big media champs in the span of a minute.

While networking is a convenient way of getting your name out there and building relationships with potential employers, it takes courage and an overdose of confidence to pull it off.

Student journalists of the Highway Africa Future Journalist Programme (FJP) shared their thoughts and experiences on devising small talk with the biggest names in the media industry.  

Khethukuthula Lembethe of Durban University of Technology felt intimidated when it came to approaching well-known delegates at the conference.

“I can’t just walk up to someone and approach them,” she said. “I’m just waiting for the right opportunity.”

However, interviewing delegates is a different story for Lembethe. She finds that delegates are open and often have a lot to say about what they represent.

Being amongst the top names of the media industry from all corners of the world is a privilege and an inspiration for Siyabonga Myeni, student journalist of the University of Zululand.

Myeni is held back by his shyness and believes that people of this importance deserve to be approached in an honourable and respectable way.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone of the delegates yet, but I would like to particularly speak to delegates from outside South Africa,” Myeni said.

University of Limpopo student, Alfred Makhubela took the bull by it horns and made his long lived dream come true when he spoke to Power FM presenter, Thabiso Tema.

“When he was speaking at the Barclays Africa Dinner, I thought he was an easy-going guy and decided to walk up to his table,” he said.

Being amongst big names made Makhubela feel as if he was also big and by networking he helps establish and grow himself.

Simwogerere Kyazze, Rhodes University lecturer and FJP trainer, explains how great of a platform the Highway Africa conference is for training journalists to make themselves known.

“These young journalists meet people from the top of the food chain in the media industry – people who are hard to meet,” Kyazze said. “The industry is looking for youthful exuberance and therefore young journalists should show potential and a promise of what is possible to these delegates.”


By Matthew Alexander

The burning question around media regulation is: who watches the watchdogs?

The main issue is not whether or not self-regulatory bodies work or if statutory bodies work.

The issue resides in who will be in charge of the regulatory body. It is seen as unethical if a media representative were to be in charge because it is assumed that all ethical barriers will be broken.

If it were a governmental figure heading the body, it’s assumed that all news would be in favour for a political party.

It’s easy to create assumptions; the real truth is to simply experience both scenarios. Certain aspects that were taken into account were: the type of content being produced, whether or not the content being produced would be effective, the content will be enjoyable and that the media’s objectivity would not be in question.

But not all media is ethically correct. There have been many instances where the media has overstepped its mark.

The only thing stopping our nation from becoming a totalitarian state is our right to free press and freedom of speech.

It’s alarming to think about having a governmental figure being a head of a media organisation regulatory body, especially with the emergence of the state of information bill.

But even so, in only a small group of countries has self-regulatory bodies succeeded. So is our only option to break even and to have a small body consisting of governmental and media representatives.  

It’s all speculation at this point. The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that media needs to be regulated for the correct reasons and not for personal gain.

After all, a nation is only as informed as its journalist’s. Stifling their ability to report on a sensitive and vital manner would only hinder our nation.

But it’s also the responsibility of a journalist to be fair, to write carefully on a delicate matter and to ultimately uphold the ethical code of a journalist.

Jornalists speaking truth to power

By Alice Paulse

Delegates arriving, press passes flashed around. Volunteers wait hand and foot to assist where possible. This is the scene at  the 17th Highway Africa Conference, the largest gathering of African journalists in the world.

The topic of this year's conference was, "Speaking truth to power?"Media,Politics &Accountability.

To kick off the two- day conference, delegates were welcomed by Chris Kabwato, the Director of Highway Africa Centre.

Important topics such as media and politics as well as ethics in the media- what is broken and how can it be fixed were discussed. 

Esteemed academics such as Professor Shakauntala Rao, Dr Jacinta Maweu and Amadou Mahtar Ba were panelists and had to answer  some tough questions about ethics and their opinions on the matter.

Other interesting topics of the day were; press regulation and journalistic accountability. as well as media being a partner for change and transparency.

 Highway Africa is an opportunity to network with journalists from around the continent.

The Highway Africa Conference reminds journalists that in order to speak truth to power, we as journalists need to speak truth to ourselves.

For aspiring journalists; this is a once in a life time opportuninty as you get to meet many journalists that are making waves in the industry.

As a aspiring journalists myself, I feel that the conference has added value to my studies and I will not forget the valuable discussions that took place.


02 September, 2013


By Sarin Drew

For journalists, unemployment and unpaid internships have become a rite of passage into journalism.

Highway Africa’s Future Journalists Programme (FJP) seeks to provide a unique training and networking opportunity for journalism students from different South African tertiary institutions.

We believe our undergraduate degrees hold us in good stead for the future, but this is far from the truth.

Journalism students will grovel, slave and make coffee after our graduation parties. FJP serves as a gateway into the media world.

We have had training schools throughout the year to equip us for our engagement with media during the Highway Africa conference.

“We are here to share our opinions about the current state of the media and engage with people involved in media. As an aspiring journalist this has been an eye opening experience.” said Khethukuthula Lembethe (20), a journalism student from the Durban University of Technology (DUT).

For FJPs the opportunity to network at this conference is equivalent to receiving the confirmation for a breaking story.

Unathi Nkumi (22) from the University of Fort Hare is maximising this opportunity. “Although it is very intimidating to speak to heavyweights in media, I just want to network as much as possible so that I can take a step closer to achieving my goals.”

The seminars and discussions about accountability, transparency and the emerging social media have been particularly enlightening. It helps us realise that our generation of journalists have a lot of challenges to face.

Michelle Atagana, Managing Editor of Burn Media said that the changing format of journalism doesn’t mean a decline in the standard or credibility of the journalistic profession.

For the FJPs, we have taken heed of the many messages that have been sent to us by our future peers. It is our belief that the future of the media lies squarely on the shoulders of aspiring journalists. As FJPs we promise to make the programme proud.

The future of journslism—hopefully

By Sarin Drew 

The Highway Africa Future Journalism Programme was created to bridge the gap between industry and journalism training, especially for universities that are not very well equipped.
For any journalist, unemployment, unpaid internships and work experience have become a rite of passage into the journalistic world. Although, we are made to believe that our undergraduate degrees hold us in good stead for the future, we all know this is far from the truth.

The truth for any journalism student is that grovelling, slave work and coffee making await us after our glorified graduation parties. However, it is opportunities like the Highway Africa Future Journalist Programme (FJP) that are a direct gateway into the media world.

The FJP runs Schools throughout the year and culminate at Highway Africa every year. It is here that we begin to see the fruits of our labour as we converse with journalists from the world about issues that plague the media. We have had training schools throughout the year to equip us for our engagement with media during the conference.

“We are here to share our opinions about the current state of the media and engage with people involved in media. As an aspiring journalist this has been an eye opening experience.” said Khethukuthula Lembethe (20), a journalism student from the Durban University of Technology (DUT).

However, for FJPs the opportunity to network at this conference is equivalent to a receiving the confirmation for a breaking story.

Unathi Nkumi (22), from the University of Fort Hare is exploiting this opportunity. “Although it is very intimidating to speak to heavyweights in media, I just want to network as much as possible so that I can take a step closer to achieving my goals.”

The seminars and discussions about accountability, transparency and the emerging social media have been particularly enlightening. It helps us to realise that our generation of journalists have a lot of challenges to face. One key idea has been repeated throughout the conference. Michelle Atagana, Managing Editor of Burn Media articulated the idea that the changing format of journalism doesn’t mean a decline in the standard or credibility of the journalistic profession.

For the FJPs, we have taken heed of the many messages that have been sent to us by our future peers. It is our belief that the future of the media lies squarely on the shoulders of aspiring journalists. As FJPs we promise not to disappoint.