26 July 2017

South Africa: We Celebrate Three Years of Telling Our Own Stories

August marks The Journalist's third birthday

August marks the third birthday of The Journalist, a publication which stresses the importance of African storytelling and digs deep into the archives to bring the black heroes of African history back into the limelight. Albie Sachs, former Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Mandla Langa are among its supporters.

Praise for The Journalist has come pouring in from notable South African figures from a variety of industries. The publication provides historical context to readers to create a better understanding of current political happenings, trains journalism and media students and links them to stalwarts in the industry. The Journalist also recalls black pioneers in the industry that have been erased from public memory.

"For far too long, Africans have watched while their history, stories and reality were captured and interpreted by others," said Jovial Rantao, chairperson of The African Editors Forum, putting its full support behind the publication "[The Journalist] affirms our own mission of getting African stories told by Africans and achieving continent-wide freedom of the media," said Rantao, emphasising the success of the online platform despite 'tough conditions' presented by governments and financial constraints in the media industry.

One of the greatest aspects of the project recalling the pioneers of black media history in order to record what was once erased."For many years Africa's stories were told by European explorers, slavers and colonialists. Africans played no role in describing their culture, lifestyles and history; they were actors in a silent movie narrated by settlers," said Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

"When Africa found its own voice, through its earliest journalists, the doors to the liberation of the continent began to swing open. These pioneers are worthy not just of acknowledgement, but of the highest praise," said Tutu, referring to Pioneers profiled on the site including Sol Plaatje, Helen Nontando Jabavu and M.T. Moerane.

Albie Sachs has been an avid supporter of The Journalist since the start. "I have been a reader of The Journalist from its inception and look forward to its regular publication on my screen. It is a quality production brought out by experienced journalists who fought for a free and engaged press in the Struggle years. They now offer a well-informed and thoughtful array of pieces that provide critically engaged materials on current events in our ever-evolving landscape," he said.

"The Journalist fills gaps left by mainstream media houses when they rely unduly on regular and self-referential journalists. The Journalist brings in new, community-based voices... [and] helps to train a new generation of young journalists by imparting both the ethics and the skills required today." he said, commenting on student writers who are encouraged to tell larger stories making use of personal narrative techniques.

"This project will do more than simply provide biographies of pioneering journalists whose names have been lost. It will help to compose the larger story of a continent seeking to develop its own reporting methodologies, styles and voices," said Sachs

South African poet and novelist Mandla Langa said that The Journalist "fills the vacuum" and helps to "deepen our hard-won democracy".

"In this period of a cacophony of voices and confusion, we tend to miss the importance of stories that anchor us to the reality of our country and our continent... The enduring tragedy affecting this country is not so much the mendacity and corruption of people who, in the words of James Baldwin, sit on the thrones of the mighty, as the dearth of information for the public - information which helps them analyse events for themselves and make informed decisions," said Langa.

Rantao added: "The Journalist represents a major milestone in the quest by independent African journalists and editors to tell their own stories."

The Journalist is an independent, not for profit organisation working with the academic community and a range of credible online entities to make knowledge more accessible to the wider public. Please argue, engage, contribute and send us your stories.

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