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.

 

South Africa’s xenophobic state of emergency

A clarion call to act against the wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa was made to government at yesterday’s Mail and Guardian African Truth panel discussion.

“Xenophobia is entrenched in state institutions and the response from officials is clearly xenophobic,” said chairperson of the African Diaspora Forum Marc Gbaffou, one of the panellists at the discussion.

Gbaffou called on the government to respond immediately to the impending threat of xenophobic violence saying “we don’t know where it started but we know where it’s headed.”

The discussion intended to offer a platform for discourse on the wave of xenophobic attacks in Soweto, where shops owned by non-South Africans citizens where looted earlier this year. Researcher Jean-Pierre Misago suggested that there were no “concrete interventions” that dealt with the 2008 xenophobic attacks, which is why it happened again.

Misago blames the government’s ‘denialism’ on the issue as contributing to recent wave saying the attempts at intervention have not been fully effective.  He further went on to explain that characteristics of xenophobia are not unique to South Africa saying “xenophobia manifests itself in different ways and violence is one is one of them.”

AFRICAN TRUTHS: Her Excellency Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke at yesterdays Mail and Guardian's panel discussion on the recent wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa. Photo: Palesa Tshandu

AFRICAN TRUTHS: Nigerian Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke at yesterdays Mail and Guardian‘s panel discussion on the recent wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa. Photo: Palesa Tshandu

“You have shed apartheid but you are still segmented. You live in segments, in pockets. You need vibrancy.”  

Nigerian ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke suggested that South Africa’s apartheid past has contributed to the onslaught of xenophobic violence, suggesting that “poor white South Africans find themselves in the same basket as poor migrants.”

Ajulu-Okeke added that South African society is still segmented “You have shed apartheid but you are still segmented. You live in segments, in pockets. You need vibrancy.”

Journalist and moderator Xolani Gwala suggested that the attempts governments and leaders in creating an ‘African Renaissance’ under a political framework are “high-brow things that do not include society.”

After the floor opened for a Q&A session audience members commented on the lack diversity of the panelists, with one saying that there is a problem with having a panel where the South African government is not invited to engage in dialogue “but a foreign government is given a platform to pontificate.”

Misago however made a call to the audience saying,“if violence against outsiders makes sense, we are all in trouble because we are all outsiders in one way or another.”

Kidnapped student lashes out at lax UJ security

A student was kidnapped on Thursday at the Kingsway Campus of the University of Johannesburg. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A student was kidnapped on Thursday at the Kingsway Campus of the University of Johannesburg. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Mfuneko Toyana and Emelia Motsai

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) student, who was kidnapped on a campus at gun point and then driven around in the boot of her car on Thursday, said she could have been killed because UJ security “did nothing”.

In a live interview with Radio702’s Xolani Gwala, the woman who asked not to be named, said:

“My life was in the hands of UJ security and they did nothing.”

She was describing to Gwala how the man who had kidnapped her managed to drive past boom gates and off the campus in Auckland Park, even though security saw that the card in his possession did not belong to him.

She recalled that the man had driven around for a while with her in the boot until he stopped and she realised he was talking to a UJ security guard at one of the boomed, access-controlled exits.

“He opened the window so slightly, just enough to put out his hand and swipe the card,” she said.

“He rolled forward and rolled forward to ensure his face wasn’t captured by the cameras.”

[pullquote align=”right”]”The whole time he was keeping the card in front of his face so the cameras couldn’t capture him.”[/pullquote]

She was piecing together what she had perceived from inside the boot and from CCTV footage captured by UJ surveillance.

But the card had not been functional and so the security guard approached and asked to the student card.

She says she heard the man speaking to the security guard in a language that was not English, and assumed that the guard had realised the card did not belong to the driver of the car.

The whole time he was keeping the card in front of his face so the cameras couldn’t capture him,” she said.

From the footage caught on camera the 23-year woman said that one could see the security guard taking the card from the man and returning with it to his cubicle.

She said he then put his elbow over the window in such a way that again his face would be hidden from any cameras.

[pullquote]Her student card had been left in the control room and nothing done to verify her whereabouts.[/pullquote]

“He was clever… He knew exactly what he was doing.”

She then describes how the man waited for one of the other booms to open and then drove into on-coming traffic in order to exit the campus.

The woman was found later on Thursday in Eldorado Park, close to Lenasia.

This after the man had forced her to give him PIN numbers for her bank cards, withdrawn the money and then dropped her off near an open veld.

The woman told Gwala that she found out that her student card had been left in the control room and nothing done to verify her whereabouts.

She said “nothing was done” even though the student card contained all her information – car registration, contact numbers of her parents.

An 18-year-old man was arrested today after the woman’s car was traced to a residence in Ennerdale, about 15km’s from Eldorado Park.

In a statement released earlier today UJ said it was currently unable to link the arrest to the kidnapping that happened on Thursday or if the suspect in custody was a UJ student.

Read some of tweets in reaction to the incident here.