Lesley Cowling

Associate Professor and Master’s in Journalism coordinator

Lesley Cowling is Associate Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where she coordinates the Masters and PhD programmes in Journalism, and teaches media theory and writing. Her research focuses on the relationship of media to public life, with a particular focus on journalism forms such as long-form reporting, opinion, analysis and debate, and their role in creating publics. A related interest is in media histories in Southern Africa, including the legacies of literary journalism in the region. She has worked as a journalist, a soap opera writer and a media consultant.

Cowling is co-editor, with Carolyn Hamilton, of Babel Unbound: Rage, Reason and Rethinking Public Life, and is an associate researcher at the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative (APC) at the University of Cape Town.


PhD (Journalism and Media Studies) Rhodes University, Grahamstown, 2015
MA English/Journalism, Ohio University, Athens OH, 1992
Honours (Comparative Literature), Wits University, Johannesburg, 1983
BA (Literature), Wits University, Johannesburg, 1982


2017 Understanding the “Sowetans”: journalism as a product of organisational culture.
African Journalism Studies, vol. 38, no.1.
2016 Echoes of an African Drum: The Lost Literary Journalism of 1950s South Africa.
Literary Journalism Studies, vol. 8, no. 1.
2014 Building a nation: The Sowetan and the creation of a black public.
Journal of Southern African Studies, vol. 40, no. 2.
2012 With Carolyn Hamilton. The Public Life of Reason. In Creary, N. (ed)
African Intellectuals and Decolonisation. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.
2011 With Carolyn Hamilton. Producing media debate: Journalistic practice and public
discussion. Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies, vol. 32, no. 3.
2010 Framing essay: The media and the production of public debate.
Social Dynamics, vol. 36, no. 1, 78–84
2010 With Carolyn Hamilton. Thinking aloud/allowed: pursuing the public interest in radio
debate. Social Dynamics, vol. 36, no. 1. 85–98
2008 With Carolyn Hamilton. Whose public is it anyway? The Media, October 2008.
2008 With Adrian Hadland & Felix Tabi Tabe. The Third Arm: New forms of “paid-for
content” in the South African print media and the implications for journalism practice.
Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies.
2007 The SABC and the ‘blacklist’ controversy: Debate about debate.
Rhodes Journalism Review, 27, 62
2007 With Adrian Hadland & Felix Tabi Tabe. Advertising in the News: Paid-For Content
and the South African Print Media. Cape Town: HSRC Press. Research monograph.
2005 The Beloved South African: Alan Paton in America.”
Scrutiny2, 10, 2, pp.81-92.
2004 The rising sense of unease. Rhodes Journalism Review, September 2004.
Research projects:
South African media histories (info to come)
Media and public debate (link to Media and Public Debate page)
Advertising and news media (page to be edited)


Email: Lesley.Cowling@wits.ac.za
Twitter: @vanillacaramel