It was the end of a long day for Kader Asmal, then Minister of Education. He'd wrestled with the disaster of schooling in the country, then had a long meeting with the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef). It was circa 2004, and I was part of the Sanef delegation. The memory came to me this week when hearing the news of his death.
Our request for the Sanef meeting with the Minister was twofold:
It's long been a bother that Rhodes' J-School has not had capacity to systematically cover education in health journalism, not least of which is the tough topic of HIV-Aids. Ok, you can't do everything, but after all this is a pretty central issue for society!
At the African Media Leadership Conference, I was asked to speak on the topic: "'Broad Market'" journalism training is dead;welcome journalism training for specific media clients".
Here's the irony: talking to a broad audience about general principles - and trying to achieve specific value for each person...
Another irony: it's not the audience (jointly or singly) who benefits most from training; the most learning is done by the trainer.
South Africans have two self-righteous bodies with major divergences in their mutual perceptions. Put in simplified form, you can say:
• SA’s journalists see themselves as watchdogs on power on behalf of the public.
• The ANC and government see the press as a bunch of hyenas.
• Politicians have a proclivity to be demons, according the watchdogs.
• Our leaders are angels, according the ANC.
Quick - what are the top most important topics for journalism education to be teaching today?
If you're South African, you might want to say - in the light of recent belligerent comments from those in power - it is this: "How to make a case for media freedom and self-regulation." You wouldn't be wrong.