Conference an African powerhouse

POWER WELCOME:  (from left) Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Anton Harber and Alex Kotlowitz welcome guests to the three day power reporting conference Photo: Caro Malherbe

POWER WELCOME: (from left) Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Anton Harber and Alex Kotlowitz speak at the opening session of Power Reporting. Photo: Caro Malherbe

Delegates at this year’s Power Reporting conference have labelled it the best investigative journalism platform on the continent.

Idris Akinbajo, editor of Premium Times in Nigeria, was not able to attend last year’s conference but was pleased to be able to share skills with fellow journalists this time around. “This conference is surely among the best if not the best,” he said.

Power Reporting programme director Margaret Renn was introduced to the conference nine years ago when she was invited to be a guest speaker. She said this year’s conference was “by far the biggest” with over 300 delegates in attendance. “It’s managed to establish itself as a place where African journalists hear stories, share skills and share their own experience,” Renn said.

She has  noticed a large number of journalists arriving from South Africa’s major media houses. Some of these included the SABC, eNews Channel Africa, Media24 and Times Media Group. All final-year journalism students from the University of Limpopo and seven staff members were also some of the guests at this year’s conference. Renn said she was pleased that the conference had become an important aspect of skills development for students.[pullquote]It’s managed to establish itself as a place where African journalists hear stories, share skills and share their own experience.[/pullquote]

Renn said she hoped Power Reporting was considered one of the best investigative journalism conferences on the continent. She said the aim was to build a “co-operative ethos” among journalists and to build a community for them to feel a part of.

Hopes for the future

She said the conference is modeled after the Centre for Investigative Journalism’s Annual Summer School in the United Kingdom, which Renn has also run.  “Many of us have been to similar conferences in the [United States] as well and it’s the same model in that you get a bunch of journalists together and you share your skills,” she said.

Rosaveld Parks, a feature specialist and blogger from Johannesburg, was impressed by the session on the use of social media in news: “This conference is about the way forward. We use these tools but don’t understand their power, so these skills are useful.”

Yang Meng is a freelance reporter from China. She and her partner were working on a story about Chinese gold mining in Ghana and attended the conference to learn more about the continent as a whole. She was especially happy with the exchange of ideas and difference in perspectives.  “We heard views from Kenya and Namibia and to us it came as a surprise. On the ground there’s a really different view from what we see in China,” she said.