SLICE: World Press Freedom Day goes green 

To commemorate the necessity of a free press while tackling the  climate crisis, this year UNESCO looks to greener pastures for environmental journalism 

The 31st World Freedom Day, which highlights the importance of the press and journalism around the world focused on ‘A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the face of the environmental crisis’ which aims to give journalists liberties when reporting on climate change issues. 

World Press Freedom Day takes place annually on May 3 – and it sheds light on the struggles and impact of the press in tackling issues and raising awareness. As journalism works to reflects what is happening in society, this year’s theme is significant as the climate crisis has had negative impacts on the world and its ecosystems. The recent floods in Dubai and the ongoing heatwaves in Asia are just a few examples of the world’s spiraling weather patterns. 

Journalists have a seemingly crucial role to play in informing the public about climate change, and its effects as they are responsible for sharing climate news. Along with this responsibility, journalists are also obligated to report in the public’s interest, and the climate crisis falls well within the range of public interest reporting. And currently, there seems to be some challenges.  

The United Nations mentioned on their website that the significance of environmental reporting lies in its ability to shape democratic societies by raising awareness of the increasing environmental crisis and its consequences. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO mentioned in a statement on May 3, that “without reliable scientific information about the ongoing environmental crisis, we can never hope to overcome it… On World Press Freedom Day, we must reaffirm our commitment to defending freedom of expression and protecting journalists worldwide.” 

As a result, some news organisations across the world have increased their coverage of global warming and the climate crisis. A clear indicator comes from the reporting of the flooding in Dubai, which climate scientists have stated could be related to the world’s skyrocketing temperatures, and many mainstream media outlets have mentioned this in their coverage, with publications like CNN highlighting climate scientists’ views that global warming is causing these issues. This highlights how publications have made strides to improve climate related coverage and have invested resources in doing so. 

Reggy Moalusi the executive director of the South African National Editors Forum has mentioned that one challenge that journalists face in reporting on climate related news is a lack of resources. This is because newsroom sizes are decreasing, and journalists are having to cover more topics themselves. This means that journalists cannot dedicate time solely to climate reporting as they must have their hands in every jar at once, unlike 30 years ago. “Any kind of specialist reporting has gone down,” he mentioned.  

Established journalist and editor, Candice Bailey, told Wits Vuvuzela that South Africa has a lean environmental journalism landscape, meaning that this field in South African journalism is established, but can be built upon. She mentioned that “the focus on climate change improved the vision of environmental journalism.” Which indicates that the increasing relevance of climate issues may bolster the environmental journalism space in the country. 

This year’s World Press Day aimed to look at these issues between the press and the environment and find innovative and engaging solutions for them. UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day conference will be held in Chile on May 2-4  2024. 

World Press Freedom Day: Inadequate funding impedes news production in SA  

SLICE: Journalism is my future, but it is in crisis

Daily Maverick’s ‘shut down’ successfully highlighted the dire state of journalism, but also left student journalists with fears about the future.

A screen grab of the Daily Maverick home page on April 15, 2024.

Profile: Like the climate, Dr. Enoch Sithole is one degree hotter

‘When I get into something, I don’t let it go, regardless of how difficult it is,’ says the newly minted PhD holder.  

Lecturer at the Wits Centre for Journalism (WCJ), Dr. Enoch Sithole recently obtained his PhD on his extensive research into media coverage of climate change in South Africa.  

Sithole was born in the old mining town of Barberton in Mpumalanga, in 1965 to a Swazi mother and a Tsonga father. He left Barberton at the age of 12 and went to Mozambique with his dad, spending nine years in the country. Sithole attributes the move to his multilingualism, he is proficient in Tsonga, Swati, English and Portuguese. 

He returned to the country in 1983 and followed his father’s footsteps by working at the same mine in Baberton. “My interest in journalism came under anti-apartheid activism when I joined a workers’ union and became a heavy consumer of news,” shared Sithole.  Consequently, he was recruited at an anti-apartheid newspaper in 1988 called New Nation, he joined permanently as a reporter after three months of training. 

“When I was thinking about my PhD, I tried to find something that would be unique. I could have done my PhD on a purely journalism subject because that is my background.” Sithole decided to research on climate change for his doctorate, noting that the media only covers the topic during conferences or when there are disastrous events. 

His research emphasized that climate change should not be looked at as only existing in the physical science space because solutions to the global issue are also found in social spaces. “If we’re going to involve everybody in fighting climate change we need to communicate. I want to take a subject such as climate change to the masses through journalism and other communication methods,” said Sithole. 

The father of two children and three grandchildren graduated with honours in 2017, a master’s in 2018 and recently a doctorate on April 24, 2023, whilst working as a lecturer at the WCJ. Sithole said the field of journalism is demanding especially when one is trying to complete their studies while working. “One needs to plan their life accordingly, even your family will understand that it’s work, it’s not something you can avoid,” said Sithole. 

Sithole is currently working on a proposal to “determine empirically, not speculatively” why media rarely covers climate change and why people find climate change an elusive subject. This is in addition to a report he wrote for Fojo Media Institute about the inadequacy of climate change reportage in South Africa between 2021 and 2022.  

Programme coordinator at Fojo Media Institute, Jean Mujati described Sithole as a very humble and professional person. She further mentioned that he was recommended by the former WCJ director Professor Franz Kruger. “We [the institute] needed an expert who understood the South African media landscape, [which is] something that we found in Dr Sithole,” Mujati said.  

While Kruger said he worked with Sithole at New Nation in the 1980s. “I appreciate Enoch for his experience in the media, and his insightful way of thinking about issues in journalism. His focus on climate change reporting is timely, and I am very happy that he completed his PhD in the area.”  

“I have my PhD, now it’s a matter of making it work” said Sithole. He further noted that he would love to continue teaching journalism and increasingly combine it with climate change.  

His final words were, “One thing I would like people to know about me is that I tend to commit to what I want to do, I grab hard. When I get into something, I don’t let it go, regardless of how difficult it is”. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Dr. Enoch Sithole posiing for a picture at his office at the Wits Centre for Journalism. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

RELATED ARTICLES:

SLICE: Finding more than I bargained for in journalism

The world of journalism is awash with endless possibilities, and after entering it with the aim of ending up in broadcast journalism – a year’s worth of training has unveiled many other interests I never imagined I had.

Looking back to my high school days, I had often watched e-News and fell deeply in love with broadcast journalism after seeing anchor Nikiwe Bikitsha doing a live crossing during the funeral of the late great Nelson Mandela and testing prominent South Africans with tough questions.

As I took in her work on a daily basis, I admired the way she articulated herself, put corrupt officials in the hot seat by asking them tough questions live on air and how she moved effortlessly between television and radio.

Bikitsha certainly inspired me to pursue journalism with the hopes of one day being a senior news anchor on one of the world’s respected news channels. And so, with this in mind, I started my honours in journalism and media studies degree at Wits University in 2018.

After getting admitted to the journalism honours programme, I chose to major in television/videography with the aim of learning how to speak with confidence and poise in front of the camera before I finished my degree.

Little did I know that I would end up learning how to operate a camera, to be the one interviewing people from behind the camera and editing the footage into an entire news or lifestyle package.

I have basically learned how to produce videos that have more than just talking heads, but include sequences, cutaways and whatever else is needed to make a great video even fit for television. This was certainly way more than I had bargained for and I fell in love with the craft more and more as the year progressed.

The scope of experience I gained in the Wits journalism department proved that videography was not the only aspect of the course that became my ‘thing’. Investigating and writing ‘spicy’ stories, as my peers would call them, became one of my favourite things to do as a young journalist.

The excitement that came with hearing the rumours about a certain professor being dismissed from the university for nondisclosure of a relationship with his student was exciting enough, but it didn’t match the thrill of digging deeper,proving the story was actually true, and getting to interview all the people involved.

Beyond those spicy stories though, I also admired feature writing from a distance. After having to work on a feature article for the 2018 in depth project, I learned how difficult it is to find the right words to describe one’s surroundings in the form of showing instead of telling. Although I have not perfected the art of feature writing as yet, I certainly know a thing or two about such articles, all thanks to my mentors.

Now that I am a qualified journalist, I have come to appreciate the multifaceted field of journalism and certainly look forward to using each and every one of my skills to expand my horizons as opposed to only heading to the one thing that brought me to Wits Journalism, broadcast journalism.

RELATED ARTICLES