The University of the Witswatersrand is launching the new Wits Centre for Journalism, laying the basis for a new phase of growth, particularly in digital media and innovation and an increased role on the African continent.

The centre’s founding document states that Wits Journalism has over the past 20 years “become a leading provider of quality post-graduate teaching, thought leadership and practical engagement with the changing world of journalism.

“Building on this strong base and taking into account the radical change underway in the worlds of media and journalism, Wits Journalism is redesigning itself for the coming two decades and beyond.” “  Wits Journalism has gone through several organisational forms over the years, most recently as a department of the School of Literature, Languages and Media. Existing activities will continue through the centre. The document says the changing African media landscape

provides a rich field of study. “There is an enormous need to produce more knowledge in this area, particularly as debates in the field, as elsewhere, are dominated by views from the Global North.” There was a “clear gap” in teaching, research and engagement, and the new centre would ensure the involvement of the African continent in emerging practices and knowledge. “By attracting the best and the brightest to study and research with us, and by creating a space for practical innovation, we believe that we can fulfil that aspiration.”.

The centre has formulated its mission as being “to reimagine and build quality, independent South African and continental journalism that is able to meet the challenge of rapid change. Through teaching, research, innovation, practice and public engagement, we chart the future of African journalism, media and communications.”

The centre’s founding document lists eight key objectives as follows:

  • To develop a new generation of skilled, thoughtful journalists, ready to work in changing newsrooms.
  • To provide quality further education and skills to working journalists in South African and African media.
  • To produce innovative professional research and excellent media scholarship.
  • To contribute to public debate and discussion about journalism, both locally and globally.
  • To advocate for ethical practice and quality production in traditional, digital and social media.
  • To support marginalised voices that find expression in community media.
  • To support innovation in media and journalism.
  • To support investigative journalism as a key contributor to a healthy democracy.

The document says there is “potential for expansion of the continental footprint along three vectors: research, teaching and project outreach”. Much of this would involve partnerships with like-minded university-based journalism schools in other African countries.

In terms of research, the document argues that it is clear that knowledge production on African media and journalism lags far behind other parts of the world. “Of particular interest are the specific ways in which digital media are adopted and used on the continent, often different to other parts of the world.”

The centre plans to extend the footprint of its conferences and newsletters to reach more journalists on the continent. Extending the availability of grants for journalistic projects and developing opportunities for project collaboration with universities in other countries, are part of the centre’s plans for the future.

  • The Wits Centre for Journalism is recruiting a Director to lead the institution by developing and implementing its strategic vision. Applications are now open and close on 20 August 2021. Further details are available here.