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KAS Media Africa holds "Teaching Business Journalism" Workshop in Johannesburg

by Stephanie von Meien

“Teaching Business Journalism”

At a workshop following this year's Power Reporting conference in Johannesburg, participants from eight sub-Saharan countries discussed possible improvements in teaching business journalism at their universities. The one-day event tackled some of the challenges that universities face in preparing their students for this specific branch of journalism.

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The participants agreed that there is an urgent need to improve students’ understanding of economic principles and processes in an African context. In order to convey to readers key facts and developments without much room for background, the author needs a decent degree of financial literacy so he can explain, instead of just repeating, business trends. Especially since the internet is placing today’s journalists under much greater surveillance than before, it is ever more important to get the story right. Otherwise there is the risk to jeopardize one’s own credibility as a journalist as well as the credibility of the medium one is reporting for.

The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (Wits University) already offers courses on financial journalism for non-economists, which focus on basic writing skills as well as financial literacy. Kevin Davie, financial journalism scholar at Wits University and business editor at the Mail&Guardian, stressed the importance of this interdisciplinary approach. Teaching content is just as important as the communication aspect of the studies.

His formula for interesting and informative financial and business reporting: An article should not just tell a story, but relate it to personal fates. That way, business stories are being “humanized”, enabling the reader to adapt the information to his own situation. Especially in Africa’s many informal markets, it is less of concern what for instance the Central Bank is deciding, but more about the practical implications these decisions may have for one’s small business or one’s individual economic situation. Davie gave the example of a Financial Times article, which always starts with a short paragraph on why the following information might be important for the reader before presenting stats and numbers.

Reg Rumney, director of the Rhodes Centre for Economics and Journalism in Grahamstown, South Africa, introduced a model of short-term courses taught at his institute. Mid-career journalists are given assignments to work on and have to attend a week of classes every so often, but can well manage to continue working in their present job.

Other participants also reported on the circumstances of teaching business journalism in their countries, most of them showed great interest in the business classes at Wits University. The following discussion emphasized two overall topics: the shortage of qualified staff for teaching business journalism and the lack of training offered as well as the procedure for including new teaching materials and curricula. In this context, the participants also discussed E-Learning as having great teaching potential in times of spreading internet availability in sub-Saharan Africa.

The scholars agreed to continue the fruitful exchange among each other and suggested to organize a “train the trainers” workshop in 2015. On top of that, possible next steps include a working group to develop a concept for a short mid-term course on business journalism.

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Christoph Plate

Christoph Plate bild

Director Media Programme Southeast Europe +359 2 942-4971 +359 2 94249-79


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