Debating media evolution

By Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi and Luke Reid

The third annual Captivate student media conference, organised by Journalism and Media Studies students from Rhodes University, took place between Friday September 22 and Sunday September 24.

The conference themed “The evolution of student media”, kicked off with a launch party at the African Media Matrix (AMM). Professor Saleem Badat, Rhodes University’s recently inaugurated vice-chancellor, addressed the sparse congregation of Rhodes students, lecturers, Captivate delegates and other dignitaries outside the AMM.

In his address, Badat highlighted the necessity to popularise student issues, and to organise, educate and mobilise students using student publications as informative media.

This year’s series of Captivate lectures, which took place at the Eden Grove lecture theatres, were focused on new media, or web-based media, and its presence in South Africa. A number of locally and internationally renowned journalists, including Matthew Buckland, the editor of Mail & Guardian Online, who gave insightful presentations on the topic of new media, and useful information on how media is changing with the growth in the online sphere.
Rhodes student, Gregor Röhrig, spoke about his award-winning journalistic website, Jo’s Toolkit. Partnered with Captivate’s Executive Co-ordinator, Carly Ritz, the two new media students set up the site as a resource for student and grass-root journalists. It provides advice and tips from journalism teachers, student media practitioners and prominent media players. The two have been involved in student media since the beginning of their studies and explain that, “there has been a lack of communication between student/grassroot media practitioners and academics and professionals. The idea was to bridge this gap and allow for free and effective dialogue.”

The award was presented at the annual SABC Highway Africa conference, held in Grahamstown from 11 to 15 September, and aims to recognise and promote the creative, innovative and appropriate use of new media technology in Africa.
On his blog, Röhrig gave special thanks to Colin Daniels, the pair’s new media lecturer. “He has been an incredible motivator during the entire process, and I am honoured following his footsteps in winning this award.”
“I’m excited about winning this award, as this means more exposure for Jo’s Toolkit, and hopefully more people will benefit from the site,” said Ritz.
Ritz and Röhrig both plan to continue working in online media after graduating next year. They will continue to run Jo’s Toolkit and plan to appoint a student editor to help them keep in touch with the student community. “I am very excited to see where the site will be going from here,” writes Röhrig.
According to new media speaker, Mark Comeford, “the technical divide” is that which is most hampering the growth of South Africa’s new media. Only a small, elite faction of South Africa’s population has access to at least one personal computer and an even smaller division has access to the internet. Vincent Maher, lecturer in the School of Journalism and Media Studies’ new media laboratory, firmly believes that “the newspaper” will be marginalised by electronic media sources in the near future.

Although well-known figures in the media industry like Natalie Dixon, editor of SL magazine, and sports journalist Graeme Joffe from Johannesburg-based Highveld Stereo, spoke at the conference, Rhodes student attendance was poor.

Captivate can be seen, in some aspects, as a conference aimed at giving editors and leaders of student media a chance to congregate and share their experiences in this area.


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