Click here for pictures of my apartment in Pretoria
Journalism training takes two forms in South Africa — at a general university or at a technical university. The model for the technical training is Tshwane University of Technology, where I am teaching in Pretoria. The general plan is that students study only journalism for four years, and for two of those years they are getting hands-on work experience at a news organization.
During years one and two, students take journalism classes on campus. In year three, they have a year-long internship, with a supervisor at the work site and a faculty supervisor. Also during the year-three internship, the student must find a community organization that needs help publishing an internal publication, and they must accomplish this task. For instance, they might start a newsletter for a church or an environmental club. In year four, they are considered to be trained well enough to be working as a full-time journalist, which they do. On periodic Saturdays they come to campus for lectures on topics like politics. They also study newsroom culture and are taught how to fit in and survive it.
The selection process is rigorous at a technical university, so the students who are admitted are there because they really want to be journalists and because the university believes they already have had a broad education.
At the general universities, journalistic training is more as it is in the United States, with about two-thirds to three quarters of the classes constituting a basic liberal arts background, including courses in communication theory. The remaining courses are journalism.
The technical university plan seems to better address concerns of U.S. news organizations and journalism professors that there is not enough time to teach all the basics, have the students become proficient in those basics, and then also teach multimedia skills required in digital journalism. The flip side is that as the world becomes more complex and interconnected, students also need basic knowlege of economics, history, geography and literature, as well as second-, or even third-, language skills.
The movement here is to somehow try to combine the plans at the two different universities into one program for journalism training. And I’m told it won’t be easy.
Everyone here tells me it’s about time I learned to drive on the “right” side of the road, by which they mean the “correct” side, by which they mean the “left” side.
It was bad enough to have to think about always staying on the left side when making turns, but that was complicated by the fact that I was driving a small Toyota truck with a manual transmission in rush-hour traffic. I haven’t driven a stick in about seven years. That part went OK, but it was complicated by having to sit on the right side of the truck and shift with my left had. Every time I tried to put on my blinkers, I turned on the windshield wipers because of the reverse placement on the wheel shaft. And, likewise, every time I tried to signal a turn, I aways turned on the opposite blinker because of everything being reversed. When I got home I was exhausted.
I arrived in Pretoria Saturday morning. Two of my students picked me up at the Johannesburg airport, and a little later the head of the Tshwane Universiity of Technology Journalism Department, Pedro Diederichs, came by my apartment to tell me take me to lunch and tell me how the month will shape up. I will be teaching on three campuses in Pretoria, and guest lecturing in Johannseburg and Cape Town.On Sunday, Pedro invited me to a barbeque at his house – lamb, pork and sausage. He and his family are delightful. I almost hate the fact that I have to start work on Monday, because this weekend has been so nice. But I’m really looking forward learning how to teach students in a country that has 11 official languages – and English is only the fifth most popular. Internet connectivity and availability is only a small fraction of what it is in the U.S.
I’ve started to think that the world divides into three kinds of people: 1) bloggers, 2) those who blog and 3) those who don’t. Bloggers are good at this, do it regularly and often have interesting observations and reports. Those who blog are part of the self-publishing-enabled mass who blog because they can. Their blogs often aren’t as interesting as those of the bloggers. And then there was my group. Those who don’t blog.
Blogging is difficult work that needs to be done regularly. That’s why I haven’t done it. But circumstances have forced me to enter the group of those who blog. I’ve received a great opportunity to spend a month at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa, to work with the journalism faculty there, to teach some classes and to do some consulting.
Everyone here says, and I’m sure they’re right, that this will be a life-changing experience. Consequently, I feel a responsibility to blog about what I observe and what I hope I learn in a part of the world I know nothing about.
I’ve already had the pains of crack withdrawal when I learned yesterday that the apartment I’ll be staying in for a month has no Internet connection. Eventually, I thought, well, I could read books or go to cafes and talk to people. This might be good for me.
And it’s not as if I’ll have no Internet connection for a month. All day on campus I’ll be connected. So maybe what I need to do in the evening is get a life … or at least a hobby.