Margaret Renn is a Wits visiting fellow in investigative journalism. She is the organiser of Power Reporting, The African Investigative Journalism Conference which is hosted each year by the University of the Witswatersrand. Renn is also a freelance journalist in London.
When did you become the coordinator of the power reporting conference?
I took over 2009 and it was the power reporting workshop and then it became the African investigative conference.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face putting the conference together?
Everything is a challenge. From what people are going to eat, the busses, everything. But I think the biggest challenge is the programme, that’s where all of my effort goes and then I kick myself when I come to the conference and then small things have gone wrong and then I think I should have paid attention to that beforehand but then what I was paying attention was important.
The success of the conference?
I’m impressed by then number of Africans that have come to the conference. I’m impressed by everyone’s positivity about the conference, sure you get the odd person who didn’t not like their hotel or the lunch or they couldn’t find the toilet but what I care about is do people go home at the end of the three days with something new. Where they can go back to their work place and say ‘why don’t we do this, I learned how to that and we should be doing that story’. That’s what it’s all about and it always baby steps, nobody goes from being an average journalist to being a top investigative journalist overnight. You have to keep going year after year … And it is better to train as a journalist today with the internet, all these wonderful ways that people that can learn and that makes it so much easier, I mean you have everything.
What is the importance of Power Reporting?
Overall I think the conference has become an attraction for journalists around Africa. They know this is where they can come and learn something new and learn new skills. It’s like building a community of investigative journalists, we have more networks of investigative journalists around the continent.
What do you think about the standard of investigative journalism in Africa?
You know people elsewhere in the world think that Africa is a country and it’s not. But let’s look at the people that are here [Africa]. In Nigeria, they do fantastic journalism, in Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia. All around the continent there are little groups of people in different countries who do incredibly well and I find that so interesting.