The media industry has seen a myriad of changes over the years but what about journalism schools, what impact have these changes had on how journalism is taught? The Shorestein Centre, hosted  Franz Krüger, Adjunct Professor at the University of the Witwaterstrand, Wits Centre for Journalism, who presented his paper titled, Disrupted media – Disrupted Academy: Rethinking African J-schools, which delves deeper into how journalism is taught in Africa.

Professor Thomas Patterson moderated this discussion and was joined by Professor Anthea Garman, head of the school of journalism and media studies at Rhodes University, and Dr. Emily Maractho, Director of the Africa Policy Center at Uganda Christian University.

Krüger highlighted these points:

  • The growth of the internet has given more access to all kinds of perspectives, it has become difficult for authoritarian governments to clamp down on these perspectives
  • The internet and web-based solutions have created new opportunities to link to the diaspora
  • The economic weakness that has marked African media has continued
  • The gap between information poor and rich is still very wide

Krüger proposes that “journalism needs to be understood as a constellation of practices within the larger domain of communication”. He added that journalism needs to be understood “as a set of communication practices that serve the public interest in reliable information”. Understanding journalism in this way opens two doors – “firstly it opens the door to a whole bunch of people and practices that previously were not seen as part of journalism”. “Secondly it draws a harder line to other forms of communication, and from the media,” said Krüger.  He explained that the harder line refers to a normative line, which means to do journalism – social responsibility is central.

What do journalism schools need? Krüger said “we need new skills, data, visualisation, analytics and social media. “I think what is an absolutely critical part is understanding the disparities of power, the differences between gender, urban and rural, information disparities, the differences in access to information, because it seems to me that we have an obligation as journalists and journalism teachers to take that seriously and to do something about it,” he said.
Maractho said that “we have tried as much as possible to collaborate with the industry. We have tried to have internship programmes that directly relate to what we are teaching, we have tried to go into areas of public engagement, and conferences. These are the ways we have tried to go beyond the teaching”. 
She said “we have accepted things are changing and the academy cannot stay the same. The academy has to be responsive and we’ve also done research that primarily is just to feed our decisions, not research for publication but just to be able to find out what is happening in the industry so that we are informed.”
To watch the full discussion, click here.
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