By Ayanda Mgwenya: The Wits Journalism department was formally rebranded as the Wits Centre for Journalism (WCJ) during its official launch on Friday, August 11 at the Wits Club on West Campus, signifying a new chapter in its academic journey. Through advanced scholarship and direct engagement, the purpose of this Centre connects with evolving African journalism, fostering a link between academia, professionals, and the public.
Inaugurated in 2001 within the Graduate Centre for Humanities then integrated into School of Literature, Languages and Media SLLM, the Wits Journalism department began as a postgraduate initiative that was coordinated by Eve Bertelsen. Anton Harbor assumed the externally funded Chair in Journalism, becoming its first department head and as they say, the rest is history.
The WCJ is recognised as a Centre of Excellence within Wits University, a research unit that has maintained a high level of consistent research and external funding. The WCJ has done this through projects like the Africa-China reporting project, the Wits Justice Project and the annual State of the Newsroom report. Harber said, “Wits Journalism becoming a centre is a natural evolution.”
The keynote speech by Justice Bernard Ngoepe underscored the importance of responsible education and research in the field of journalism. “The media can change a country’s course in history… All of the brutality of 1976 [the Soweto Uprising] was exposed to the whole world through one picture. That is how powerful the media is,” he said.
Ngoepe also touched on the ethical fault lines in South African journalism today, which he said comes from the need to “get the scoop first”, something which can ruin reputations and lives with very little recourse he lamented.
Dr Dinesh Balliah, WCJ’s inaugral director, said that the work done at the Centre would not be possible without the support of its industry partners, who continue to support budding journalists through bursaries and work opportunities.
Former student and Wits Vuvuzela journalist, Tannur Anders is one such recipient and now works as financial journalist at Thomson Reuters.
She said, “It is great to be here for the official launch of the Wits Centre for Journalism; I studied at Wits last year and it was just the most amazing experience, not only did I learn a lot about journalism, what’s news and what’s newsworthy but I made really great friends.”