Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Pearl Nicodemus

The Student Journalism Association (SJA) organised yet another exciting guest lecturer this week.

The award winning editor of the Sunday Times’ Insight & Opinions section, Fred Vusi Khumalo, graced the aspirant journalists with his presence on 17 May 2010 at the Soshanguve Main Campus. Fred is also renowned for his rich literacy contribution to the arts. He has published numerous books such as the European Union Literary Award winning novel Bitches Brew, Seven Steps to Heaven and his riveting memoir Touch My Blood which has also been turned into a Market Theatre production.

His forthcoming book is called Life and Times of Jacob Zuma and he had to sit down for a chat with the president before writing it.

When he speaks Fred has amazing humility. He has a guy next door type of easiness which is similar to his satirical yet provocative style of writing. He made it quite clear to the students that he is not well acquainted with technology and prefers candid interaction with them.

As many of those he was talking to are under 21 and wouldn’t remember apartheid South Africa, Fred, spent a good thirty minutes explaining how working as a black reporter was in those days was. He said even being accepted into journalism school was quite a task as he had to get permission from education minister, FW de Klerk, to study at the white Technikon Natal. After getting that permission the university still refused him entry but he fought until he was accepted.

He said that experience and the political landscape of the country at the time shaped the kind of journalist he became. He said a major shock was when he arrived in Canada to work as a reporter in his twenties and found stories about cat rescues making it to the important page three. Now he had to change the stories he wrote and found that people of that country wanted light stories as well, unlike South Africa, Canada wasn’t burning.

image by wordpress                               Other salient issues that were dealt with were ethics in Journalism. Of course you cannot speak about ethics in Journalism and not mention the distressingly brilliant Kevin Carter photograph of a vulture waiting eagerly for an emaciated toddler to die before feeding on the little girl. While the photographer became a world renowned celebrity - he received tremendous criticism for taking the picture and not helping the child. The photographer’s explanation was that he had done his job and journalism comes before being a human being. This has since stirred up serious debates on media and Journalism ethics.

Fred also stressed that we as future journalists need to cover the unfolding stories of our country. He said it is our responsibility to understand the state of the nation, report on matters passionately but accurately. He also seemed excited to see a huge number of females studying journalism as it is a male dominated profession.

Then it was time for a question and answer session. These are just some of the questions asked.

Q: Is it more challenging to be a journalist now then it was during Apartheid?

Fred: Yes because political matters have become more complex. It is no longer a matter of black against white only.

Q: Are you ever criticised for your humorous approach when writing on serious issues?

Fred: You will constantly be criticised. When people stop criticising you as a journalist, you should be worried.

Students thoroughly enjoyed Fred’s visit and said the lecture was insightful and they liked the fact that he encouraged people to read and write more. There were however some who were not entirely satisfied with all his answers and especially the fact that he did not discredit journalists who left the field into other areas.

In spite of the diverse views the students have regarding the guest lecture, there is one common thread in the minds of all learners who were present - TUT always caters the Bests of the Best in the industry!!

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