Power Reporting 2010

Posted: November 29, 2010 in Conference, News

Journalists and journalism students from across Africa and almost every media house and University journalism department in South Africa came to Wits for Power Reporting 2010. A huge variety of topics were under discussion: from soccer to dumping toxic waste in Africa; telling stories on radio and in photographs; reporting on climate change and the rich and the poor. The conference started with the hugely popular Joshua Prager – the writer sleuth – talking about the craft of story telling; and finished with the controversial Julian Assange of wikileaks on a video link from somewhere in the world.
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Tromp on burning man

Posted: November 3, 2010 in Conference

By Malcolm Rees

“A teenage girl was dispatched to run up the street to call the police. Others followed, each carrying the same message:

‘They’re killing the Shangaans.’”

Beauregard Tromp’s re-telling of the outbreak of xenophobic violence in the Ramaphosa township held a classroom full of seasoned journalists spellbound, mortified.

The outbreaks that swept across Gauteng and the Western Cape “defined the period,” said Tromp. It was the year’s biggest story.

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Hunting the Rich: Philip Beresford

Posted: November 3, 2010 in Conference

By Samantha Hartshorne

“Appalling, Monstrous, absolutely preposterous. I’ll have to have a word with your proprietor,” says Philip Beresford.

He is quoting the response of a Duke to questions around his wealth in 1982. Despite the abrasive response, Beresford’s forays into “hunting the rich” , were destined to get easier. With the help of Rupert Murdoch, he managed to publish his first “rich list”- a thousand names and entries.

Speaking in the auditorium at the WITS Power Reporting conference this morning, on the same day the United States goes to the polls for the mid-term elections, the British journalist highlighted the social and economic reasoning behind so-called “rich lists”. Much of the world’s wealthy are also the most powerful and that money has a lobbying power like little else.

The Sunday Times list is now eagerly awaited and has spread to many more countries like the Netherlands and China. The Sunday Times publishes a South African rich list.

Beresford says he does everything in his power to minimize the chance of losing his job and Murdoch losing any of his 6,2 million pounds.

While those targeted as names on the list have called the practice “crass” and “vulgar”, Beresford is unapologetic, citing five reasons why he believes the list is an important societal tool.

The rich are also the most powerful- by showing who they are and how they did it will can mitigate their influence on policies.

The rich of any society are part of a debate on how spending should be cut and how austerity measures, in Britain, for instance, contrast to the few who are incredibly wealthy.

Flowing naturally, a ‘richlist’ can name and shame tax havens that siphon off huge reserves of wealth to off-shore accounts.

By cataloguing the wealthy, it is possible to profoundly affect the attitudes of the rich to their own wealth. Enter Bill Gates. His huge donations to charities and the relentless outing of him as the ‘richest’ has increased his donations. The lists have become calling cards for many like Warren Buffet, seeing their wealth as something to be shared.

China rich list in 1999 created a change in attitudes in China and newly rich could feel they aren’t alone and started a move to a plural system of government.

Stalking the rich by rooting out spending, tax returns and house purchases is not without consequences: A Russian man was killed in a drive-by shooting and the 9-year-old daughter of another was kidnapped following the publication of their names on separate “rich lists”. There are also claims that the list stirs up ‘class hatred’. He also says that “About 80% detest what I do…and would love to use expensive lawyers.”

Beresford says the celebration of the rise of the entrepreneur occurs as they provide jobs and pay their taxes. When asked how the compiling team know how much people are worth, Beresford is adamant that he uses factual details and proven documents. Co-operation by the members, some accountants, tax returns all help to put together the list.

On a parting note, Beresford admits to being philosophical about the 1500 people who he can’t prove should be on the list and says, “I hope to go for another decade, Mr Murdoch permitting…”

African Tradition and secrecy

Posted: November 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

The talk on African tradition was eye opening especially discussing the approach one has to take as an outsider to any community. There are many secrets which traditional African communities consider sacred and for that reason journalists often have to reflect on their own intentions when investigating particular rituals. The questions raised about investigating certain rituals for curiosity sake or to uncover some ill practice that endangers people lives did get a little heated. The speakers Gerard Guedegbe and Chief Bisong Etahoben gave balanced accounts of approaches to mainly West African traditions and the reasons why you should approach respectfully with an open mind. The issue around the killing of Albino’s in mainly Tanzania and other SADC countries got the speakers to the root of the issue which is separating traditional African practices with evil practices of witchcraft and the mutilation of people to satisfy one’s desire to be wealthy or acquire unknown power. This is a worthy debate in this continent as it can be looked at from many perspectives from practices that infringe on gender equality and human rights issues to certain beliefs that keep people from progressing and assimilating into ever changing ‘modern’ society.

Gerard Guedegbe and Chief Bisong Etahoben by Scott Simpson

Luuk Sengers on story-based inquiry

Posted: November 2, 2010 in Conference

Luuk Sengers speaks about the importance of story-based inquiry

The rich list

Posted: November 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

Philip Beresford, Editor UK's Rich list by Scott Simpson

Philip Beresford started working on the Rich list in 1989 for the London Sunday Times the list is made up of different sectors of Britain’s high society from mega-rich business people to celebrities whose ‘ bling’  culture often distracts reader from the truly ostentatiously wealthy. The question around why the average man on the street should care about how much money others hand was well answered. The fact is the really rich often have companies that create jobs for many people and their activities peak the interest of the rich, middle class and working class. Once again the topic of the rich in Africa and disclosure was not easy to address because many countries have privacy laws that do not allow for journalists to investigate how the wealth is acquired. It is perhaps necessary for more Forbes lists to appear in African countries to demystify the subject of money and how to acquire it legally because of the high poverty levels.  And to uncover corruption in terms of how state funds may be misused to make a few very wealthy , leaving the poor to fight over scraps.

Certificates of Attendance

Posted: November 2, 2010 in News

If delegates want to receive a certificate of attendance, they should sign up for them at the front desk

By Ruona Agbroko

How do you overcome the constraints of a 65% illiteracy rate in Liberia and a large indigenous population that still can’t read or write?

How do you force notorious mine owners in Zambia who shoot at their workers and subject them to sub-human conditions to grant an interview in one afternoon?

How do you go from reporting on surburban crime to opening a nationwide can of worms and working with the Malawaian police in seven days?

Answer: it’s all in the medium.

Investigative journalists Terza Chirwa, Eric Mwaba, Ruth Kanyanga and Eva Flomo’s sessions ended in an animated discussion on the advantages, downsides and huge potential of TV, radio and the internet in Africa.

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Classroom number 2, FNB building, Wits University. 2pm, Monday 1 November.

There are somewhere approaching a hundred cheap, bright red plastic chairs squeezed behind small school-styled desks in a fairly stuffy room, each of them is being slowly warmed by the rear-end of some or another individual connected in some way to African journalism.  Judging by the number of circles beneath their eyes, the shoddy condition of their hair, their budget clothing, one assumes that these are mostly veterans in the art of storytelling.

And here they sit, rapt.

Their eyes uniformly glued to the spitfire-mouth which for the next 45 minutes will continue to pour over her admirers a ceaseless liquid prose. “Begin to think like a camera,” she is busy telling us, “and humanise your subject”.

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Izak Minnaar teaches CAR

Posted: November 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

Izaak Minnaar will presenting two CAR courses on Monday & Tuesday at Power Reporting.

Monday’s course at Computer Lab 113 from 5pm-6pm:

Online tools to track stories Power Reporting Wits 1 Nov 2010

Online tools to track stories and sources (Advanced)

If you are already comfortable with web, news and social media searching, the next step it to set up online tools that will give you one click access to the latest developments:

  • · Introduction to RSS feeds
  • 4 Google tools (personalised news/beat pages; alerts and feeds; news reader; online dashboard/ iGoogle)
  • Managing feeds

Tuesday’s course in Lab 2A is from 5-6pm:

Searching for documents Power Reporting Wits 2 Nov 2010

Search techniques to find original source documents (Advanced)

An Introduction to effective searching and advanced search techniques (including time based searching):

  • Types of sources (primary/secondary/multiple/official/mediated/reference/original) to reflect official/govt, academic and society views
  • Domain and document type search strategies to find original/source documents