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.


Voting is like a one-night stand, says Sisulu

SRC pic

PLEASE VOTE: (L-R): Pitso Moses, IEC member in Gauteng; Carien du Plessis, a journalist and radio personality Shaka Sisulu, were hosted by the Wits SRC at a discussion on voting last night. Photo: Palesa Tshandu.

A small group of Witsies came together last night to discuss the issue of spoiling a vote in next month’s national elections.

The Wits SRC (Students Representatives Council) hosted journalist Carien du Plessis and radio personality Shaka Sisulu in a discussion that appeared to be a reaction to the NoVote! campaign launched earlier in the day.

In contrast to the Sidikiwe Vukani campaign started by ANC (African National Congress) veterans Ronnie Kasrils and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge yesterday, the popular opinion at last night’s gathering was in support of social responsibility through voting.

“Democracy only works when you work on it yourself”, said Wits Dean of students, Dr Pamela Dube. “You should vote because you can … we [as South Africans] have a lot to be proud about and contribute [towards our democracy].”

But not all the audience members shared the sentiment. “I’m from the Eastern Cape,” one student commented during the talk. “Even after 20 years of democracy, there is still no electricity [in my hometown], there are still no jobs … what will my one vote do to [to change anything]?”

Sisulu, in response to the student, said that South Africans need to participate in the affairs of government beyond just casting a vote once every five years: “What makes us think that we can have a relationship with our government like that – that’s not a relationship, that’s a one night stand … We must be in a constant dialogue.”

The discussion included talks by the Wits SRC President Shafee Verachia and Pitso Moses of Gauteng’s Independent Electoral Commission and was attended by about 50 people.


ELECTIONS: Born to vote

Pre=recorded videos and live streams from the other provinces were projected onto the wall behind the panel. From left to right: Khadija Patel, DJ Fresh, Kagiso Lediga, Shaka Sisulu and facilitator Tumelo Mothotoane. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Pre-recorded videos and live-streams from the other provinces were projected onto the wall behind the panel. From left to right: Khadija Patel, DJ Fresh, Kagiso Lediga, Shaka Sisulu and facilitator Tumelo Mothotoane. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

For a group of people largely labelled apathetic, the youth in attendance at a debate on a Tuesday morning, braving the temperamental and rainy Joburg weather – were anything but apathetic.

Yesterday, JoziHub in Milpark was the venue for the To Vote or not to Vote debate aimed at so-called ‘born-frees’.

Bornfrees stand up

There is a particular fascination with this year’s youth vote as this year the “born-free” generation, children born in 1994, when South Africa became a democracy, will vote for the first time. How they vote and who they plan on voting for are of particular interest because they have grown up in a democratic South Africa.

Lesedi Molefi of the organisers Live magazine said in the past three months they have interviewed a number of born-frees and found that, “we’re not apathetic and have an incredible role to play,” not only in these elections but in steering the country’s future.

The panel consisted of comedian Kagiso Lediga, journalist Khadija Patel (@khadijapatel), DJ and tweleb DJ Fresh (@DJFreshSA) and social activist Shaka Sisulu (@shakasisulu). The panelists were chosen because they are seen as accessible to the youth and their ideas. 

[pullquote]”we’re not apathetic and have an incredible role to play”[/pullquote]

Why should born-frees vote?

Addressing the question, why should born-frees vote, Lediga said: “If you’re not voting, you’re not participating.” DJ Fresh added that participation goes beyond just voting, part of that civic duty is to hold politicians accountable. Sisulu provided an anecdote to explain further: “If you’re dating someone, you can’t see them once every five years – it won’t work, it’s a one night stand then. Put your ballot in the box but make sure to maintain and nurture that relationship over the five years coming.”

The debate was live streamed from Johannesburg to Cape Town and Ginsberg, King Williams Town with questions coming from all three places to the panel. A common complaint from all three provinces was that the youth were never heard. DJ Fresh responded by saying the onus was on political parties to appeal to the youth on their level through channels like twitter and instagram: “Politicians talk at young people and not to them.”

The focus in the latter part of the debate was on what the born-free vote can achieve and individual agency. Patel said, “agency is important – it means having the power within yourself to do something.” The crowd responded well to this and the conversation started to look at ground level solutions and social activism that gear them in that direction.

Lethabo Bogatsu, a self proclaimed born-free said the talk left her feeling empowered and keen to be an active citizen, “I was always going to vote but now I’m not going to stop there. It’s not just the vote and then I’m done. I’m going to work on the relationship, my man is going to be my vote, my political involvement is going to be my man. I’m going to have a relationship there because being single is rough.”

The entire debate can be viewed here.

Day 3: SRC Elections – PYA celebs booted

TELEVISION personality Pearl Thusi (@PearlThusi) and youth activist Shaka Sisulu (@shakasisulu) were prevented from distributing Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) election material on campus today.

The celebrity duo was invited by the PYA to encourage Wits students to participate in this year’s elections. “We encourage Wits students to vote. Once they vote, they will make the wise choice,” Sisulu said.

 Threats of disqualification 

Chief electoral officer Jabu Mashinini stopped the duo and threatened that if they continued to campaign, the PYA would be disqualified from the elections.

“The rule says only students can campaign. This is Wits University, don’t campaign for them. They cannot approach students. I don’t want this debate,” Mashinini shouted at the two visitors. Mashinini also said Thusi and Sisulu’s presence is seen as campaigning for the PYA, which would give the organisation an advantage in the elections.

Mashinini added: “You can’t bring people to campaign, as they will get an advantage. Only Wits students can campaign, it’s part of an election rule. I will disqualify them and this is a last warning.”

[pullquote]“The rule says only students can campaign. This is Wits University, don’t campaign for them. They cannot approach students. I don’t want this debate”[/pullquote]

Roping in Thusi and Sisulu did not bode well for the opposition organisations, who accused the PYA of using under-handed tactics by bringing influential people to campus.

Opposition organisations react

A group of PYA candidates argued that anyone in a democratic country can bring anyone to campaign, as “all of the organisations have been doing dirty things”.

They also accused Project W of buying votes by allegedly awarding students couches worth “R25 000” in a bid to win the elections. They also raised concerns over Project W’s intentions to participate in the elections. Candidate for Project W, Gautam Rao, slammed the PYA’s allegations of buying votes and said “the couches were donated by corporates”.

Rao added: “We were not doing this [buying couches] for votes. We don’t need anarchy at Wits. Anarchy will not help this university. We were told to abide by [election] rules when we joined the campaign. We need to bring integrity back to Wits.”

Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (Daso) candidate, Rebone Segopolo, also weighed in by criticising the PYA’s election move. “How do you bring Pearl Thusi? They should have brought a Wits alumnus, someone more relevant,” Segopolo said.

 Last day of the elections

Today marks the last day of this year’s SRC elections. According to presiding election officer, Nosi Sosibo, the votes will be counted overnight. She also said an indication cannot be given as to which organisation is leading in the election race. “Last year was busier than this year. Last year was worse,” Sosibo gave an indication on voter turnout. The election results will be announced tomorrow.


Wits Vuvuzela, Day 2: SRC elections, August 29, 2013

Wits Vuvuzela, Day 1 of SRC elections 2013, August 28, 2013

Wits Vuvuzela, VIDEO VOX: What are Witsies voting for? August 28, 2013