By Kemiso Wessie: Staying true to herself—that’s Pheladi Sethusa, the spirited coordinator of the career-entry honours programme at the Wits Centre for Journalism. Pheladi embarked on her educational journey at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Media Studies in 2012, followed by an honours degree in journalism at the Wits Centre for Journalism a year later. After making waves in the professional world for several years, this tenacious academic went on to secure a master’s degree in Digital Documentary from the University of Sussex in 2021.

After an early childhood in Lebowakgomo, in  Limpopo province, Pheladi’s journey took her to Pretoria when she was four years old. As a child, she was captivated by the idea of chronicling events in her life and observing the world around her. Her passion for history and the English language naturally inclined her towards journalism. The turning point came when a local journalist spoke at a career fair, igniting Pheladi’s curiosity in the profession. After an aptitude test suggested careers in marketing and other creative fields, Pheladi firmly decided, “I don’t want to sell stuff for a living; I’d rather tell stories.”

Pheladi is captivated by the authentic exposure to “the real South Africa in its most naked form” through the lens of journalism, a unique vantage point she cherishes. She revels in connecting with new individuals and uncovering unknown facets of the country. Sethusa remarks, “A lot of us live in our own bubble and never get to see the other side,” and adds that broadening one’s horizons can leave a deep impression on your personal growth and journalistic prowess.

As the world of journalism faces potential shifts and growth, Pheladi envisions a thriving industry that doesn’t lose the battle of disruption but rather wholeheartedly embraces transformation. She eagerly anticipates the promising prospects that change could usher in, potentially leading to a more inclusive and daring industry where diversity, innovation and experimentation are welcomed with open arms. 

Pheladi focuses on practical work in her lectures. Pheladi is a firm believer in the power of practical learning in her lectures and believes it’s the best approach for rapid understanding and real-world application. She recently conducted a practical class on misinformation and disinformation using Chat GPT to examine AI’s role in both. “Teaching through practical application is essential,” she says.

Pheladi’s research interests encompass journalism education, podcasting, digital technologies in journalism, and decolonisation in the field of journalism education. She is currently working on an article for a special edition of African Journalism Studies that examines attrition rates in the industry concerning students. By investigating what journalism students do post-graduation, Pheladi aims to provide valuable insights into the state of journalism education for both educators and the industry. This article is expected to contribute significantly to refining course offerings, ensuring they remain relevant and sustainable. 

Furthermore, Pheladi is part of the 2023 Early Career Academic Development (ECAD) programme at Wits University, a platform designed for budding scholars to elevate their profiles and fast-track their advancement within their respective organizations. She hopes her involvement in this program will facilitate multi-disciplinary research collaborations with fellow ECAD participants. Outside academia, Pheladi is involved in podcast and documentary production, allowing her to nurture and sustain her creative passions.