Future of journalism in the spotlight at local conference

COVERING THE BIG NEWS: Business Day editor Songezo Zibi. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

COVERING THE BIG NEWS: Business Day editor Songezo Zibi. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

This year’s Menell Media Exchange conference played host to much needed debates and commentary about the future of the media industry. 

The conference, which took place in Sandton, Johannesburg this Friday and Saturday, was not short on humour as delegates and speakers confronted the prickly issues of the future of the media industry and sustainability in the digital age. The second day kicked off with a comedy roast of South African media by the Late Night News (LNN) team of Loyiso Gola and Kagiso Lediga.

The duo took a stab at almost everyone in a media roast, including controversial media veteran Allister Sparks, to news organisations like the Sunday Times and the Mail&Guardian to radio host Redi Thlabi.


Celebrated radio personality John Perlman of KayaFM joined media strategist Shaka Sisulu, commentator Palesa Morudu and Business Day editor Songezo Zibi on the first panel that focused on how South African media covered the big stories of the day. These included the coverage of xenophobic violence in South Africa along with Nkandla. Perlman offered advice to journalists struggling with coverage of big stories which can be chaotic: “We need to be comfortable with confusion and not being right,” he said.

Sisulu was critical of what he referred to as a predetermined narrative in the media and added that the South African story needs to be told in a more diversified way.

While Zibi received much applause for his contribution to the panel discussion.

Wits University had a strong presence on the second day of the conference. Wits Journalism’s Ashfaaq Carim and Dinesh Balliah  formed part of the panel discussion on new ways of storytelling. TV lecturer Indra de Lanerolle presented a short talk on the 10 things you need to know about South Africa’s digital space.

Andrew Phelps from the New York Times highlighted the challenges when faced with breaking news in the digital world. “No one remembers who was right first but everyone remembers when you were first and wrong.” He said that journalists need to choose accuracy over speed when working with online stories.

The conference wrapped up on a positive and optimistic note although the uncertainty around the future of journalism and in particularly, sustainability, will linger long after.


Media gathering takes off in Johannesburg


NEW TOOLS: Laura Grant of the Mail&Guardian demonstrated some new applications for producing digital journalism. PHOTO: Katleho Sekhotho.

The 2015 Menell Media Exchange conference started today at Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg. 

Some of South Africa’s most respected journalists, media practitioners, educators and students joined international visitors and guests for the second Menell Media Exchange conference.

Peter Ndoro, Lester Kiewet and Jeremy Maggs were some of the prominent speakers and guests on the first day of the conference in Sandton, Johannesburg, which focused primarily on training and workshops.

Themed as “innovation, brand and sustainability”, the opening panels focused on brand building by individuals and journalists in particular. Veteran journalist Gus Silber provided key insights into the use of social media for journalism and as a tool for journalists to increase their visibility.

The Mail & Guardian’s Laura Grant and SABC’s Tegan Bedser, demonstrated various apps that can be used in digital storytelling. 

Jeremy Maggs joined eNCA’s Patrick Conroy on a panel that explored the difficult subject of funding journalism in ways that does not impede it.

Andrew Phelps, senior product manager for the New York Times, gave the afternoon keynote address and stressed the importance of innovation in newsrooms.

The conference continues tomorrow.

African archeology association finally comes to South Africa after being shunned by Apartheid government

new image pan africa

Nearly 500 delegates were hosted by Wits University for the 14th congress of the Pan-African Archeological Association this week. Photo: Anazi Zote.

 It’s been over 60 years since the Pan African Archeological Association and Related Studies (PAA) lost its bid to come to South Africa for its second congress. In 1948, the nationalist government  withdrew its support for the congress and delegates made their way to Algiers in 1951.

This week, Wits University, initially intended as the 1951 venue, hosted PAA members from all corners of the continent at the 14th installation of their congress.

One of the conference organisers, Dr Karim Sadar, who lectures archaeology at Wits University, said the conference was a landmark event. 

Sadar explained that the apartheid government did not want to associate with other African countries because it believed in racial segregation.

President of the association, Benjamin Smith, a former Wits professor, described the congress as the biggest gathering of PAA members so far with almost 500 participants: “We have delegates coming from across Africa and this is the largest Pan African congress we have ever held,” he said.

Delegates were treated to oral and poster presentations around the theme: ‘African Archeology without frontiers.”

 Speaking at the opening of the congress on Monday this week,  deputy director general in the Department of Science and Technology, Professor Yonah Seleti praised the work of the PAA and its members.

“The work that you do contributes not only to the scientific knowledge around origins, but also contributes to our social cohesion and cultural identity, and much more, it carves a path to modernity which is Africa, Seleti said. 












OPINION: African women resist ‘Destructive Extractivism’

Just a few kilometres away from Wits – in Hillbrow, the African immigrant heart of golden Jozi – a group of more than forty-five feminist activists and researchers from across Africa, and other parts of the world are gathered to talk about what is now being called ‘extractivism’. The impacts upon women are extreme, especially on our continent, justifying a new network, WoMin, to link resistance.

Extractivism refers to the now dominant neo-colonial model of ‘development’ in many poor countries. It is characterised by the extraction of vast quantities of non-renewable natural resources – minerals, oil, gas, and old-growth forest products – as well as the abuse of other resources including water. These are typically extracted for export from local and regional territories to the Global North and to the new BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-SA) bloc.

What is Extractivism?

Extractivism is a model of development which is characterised by vast social and environmental destruction, including climate change, where South Africa joins oil exporters as one of the major villains. The costs of extractivism are principally borne by workers and affected communities, which in its current form foments violence, conflict and deep inequality.

It is apt that critical conversations between African activists about this extractivist model are happening in Jozi, a city whose buildings and advanced infrastructure were constructed from vast profits accumulated by mining capital off the exploitation of irreplaceable mineral riches by the cheap labour of black men and the invisible unpaid labour of women. The workers came from across Southern Africa. [pullquote align=”right”]Extractivism refers to the now dominant neo-colonial model of ‘development’ [/pullquote]

Apartheid Capitalism

Wits alumnus, Harold Wolpe, made the argument forty years ago that a racialised system of migration from apartheid’s Bantustans and neighbouring European colonies characterised the mining sector, helping mine bosses by eliminating the need to pay a family wage because women at home would raise children and look after sick workers and pensioners with very little state support under the capitalist social system. Wolpe concluded that apartheid capitalism was able to thrive by paying black workers a wage “below [their] cost of reproduction” with the balance of these costs sustained through the unpaid care of black peasant and working-class women.

Good thing we got rid of apartheid – and with it, migrancy! Or did we?! As so many learned from Marikana, the underlying logic continues to this day. In this contemporary period the site of exploitation of women’s unpaid labour is no longer just the rural village, but the vast informal settlements that house the mineworkers and their primary or secondary families, where women with few services and little state support feed, clothe, and care for the workers and the next generation of labourers, many of whom will be surplus to the requirements of capital. And the men still evade the irrational 1885 Berlin-treaty borders; they come to SA mines from across the region – many more immigrants have come since 1994 – with their rural women still super-exploited.

[pullquote] Women bear the brunt of extractivism’s environmental and social costs[/pullquote]The women visiting us are from places such as Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Ecuador and Canada, where both social and environmental devastation also accompany extractivism. We visited communities in Witbank and Carolina, where people are ill from the acid-poisoned waters and where farming lands are sterile after decades of coal mining. We spent time with communities in Ekurhuleni where children suffer from respiratory health problems and eye disorders, and communities live in shacks bordering onto slimes dams, the toxic waste repositories of mining companies and other industries.

This environmental destruction leaves women most susceptible, because of the division of labour which makes them primarily responsible for provisioning safe water for their households (and who endure great stress and worry when they cannot do so) and exposes them to the poisoned waters as they wash, take care of family members and process and cook foods.  Peasant and working class women bear the brunt of extractivism’s environmental and social costs – the companies ‘externalise’ these – and yet they enjoy none of the promised benefits of jobs and ‘development’.

WoMin, which is hosting the dialogue and strategy meeting, is housed in a regional alliance of organisations working on land and natural resource issues, and is closed allied to the Wits Sociology Department’s Society Work and Development Institute (SWOP). SWOP has a rich history of support and solidarity to workers and their struggles and continues this fine tradition in its work alongside WoMin. Together they provide a research platform that considers extractivism, especially its gendered features.

The planet and our continent need us to turn away from destructive extractivism. The route beyond requires knowledge gained from, and in support of, the grassroots and coal-face women now building a movement to force society to consider the alternatives!