Thursday, August 22, 2013

Welcome to Beijing, Lincoln!

By Annetjie van Wynegaard

This Friday Rhodes University and SPI alumnus Lincoln van der Westhuizen will fly to China to start the next two years as a Master’s student in business journalism at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Lincoln has received an all-inclusive scholarship from the Chinese government and this will be his first time in Asia.

Lincoln holds a BA degree in radio journalism and Afrikaans, as well as a postgraduate diploma in media management (PDMM) from the Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership (SPI) at Rhodes University. He heard about the scholarship through the PDMM course at SPI. Director of SPI, Francis Mdlongwa, had sent out an email that Rhodes University is trying to establish a relationship with Tsinghua University with information about the scholarship. He applied for the scholarship, got accepted in June this year, and accepted the offer shortly after.

Lincoln had received a Primedia scholarship for his PDMM year, and since January until the end of July he has been working for Primedia at KFM 94.5 in Cape Town as an online sports journalist. He didn’t take a gap year after school or travelled after university, because he first wanted to have a degree and experience behind his name. He had planned to travel after he obtained his degree, and with this Chinese scholarship, everything has fallen into place for him.

The business journalism MA course accommodates 10 Chinese students and 10 international students from all over the world. He will be staying in the Zijing international student apartment with other international students. There is an internship component to the MA, and Lincoln also plans on taking extra courses to study Mandarin. He said he will take advantage of the opportunity to travel around Asia.

As for his preparation for the trip, he has decided to go in completely blind. “I haven’t looked at anything; I haven’t eaten Chinese food, read Chinese books.” He has, however, been reading up on social media in China, and he said it’s interesting how they do media without any of the tools we use in South Africa, like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, Flicr, etc. Even Wordpress and Google Docs are banned in China.

Lincoln said his mom’s been sad, because moms are sad, his father’s been stoic, as fathers are, but his family’s been great about his new adventure.

Rhodes University has signed a Memorandum of Intent between the School of Journalism and Media Studies and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. This memorandum is the result of discussions between representatives of the two institutions at the 2012 Highway Africa conference and at the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua, Beijing, in December 2012. It is the intention of the two schools to explore opportunities for co-operation and student and staff exchanges around the areas of teaching, training and research.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

SPI pizza lunch was a success

By Annetjie van Wynegaard

Wednesday, 14 August – Despite the fact that hundreds of Rhodes students were marching on the Grahamstown municipality to protest against a nine-day water stoppage, the annual SPI Pizza Lunch still drew a good crowd of interested students.

The Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership (SPI) hosts this informal event each year to provide Rhodes students with an opportunity to learn about the Institute’s flagship Postgraduate Diploma in Media Management.

This year almost 30 interested students attended the gathering where SPI deputy director Peter du Toit delivered a short presentation and three current PDMM students spoke positivelyabout their experiences of the course so far.

Peter said the PDMM target market includes recent graduates and people working in the media industry who want to advance their careers. He said the participation of professionals on the course was a great benefit to both students and lecturers because they ensured the course stayed on top of current issues.

He said PDMM students completed eight core modules during the year and participated in a compulsory month-long period of participant observation at a media organisation of their choice. This time in the field provides students with a chance to reflect on how lessons learned in the classroom can be applied in the professional world.

PDMM student Babalwa Nyembezi spoke about time doing participant observation at Primedia in Cape Town and Johannesburg. She has been invited to return in September to work for them again. “Who knows what can happen when you do this course?” she said. Babalwa was awarded a scholarship from Primedia to study this year.

Zimbabwean student Robin Tatenda Chaibva said a highlight of the PDMM was the way in which the course encouraged students to reflect on the kinds of leaders they would like to be. Robin holds a Bachelors of Science degree and created a fashion, beauty and lifestyle blog called Concrete Jungle before she started the PDMM course. Her blog placed in the top five of the Zimbabwe Fashion Week fashion awards.

Robin said that she was benefitting greatly from the PDMM scholarship she received from the Open Society for Southern Africa (OSISA). “It’s been a very good opportunity,” she said.

MTN scholarship winner Mike Moodie said he had decided to do the PDMM course because he wanted to learn about the business side of media. So far, he said, the PDMM course has given him a good understanding of the industry. Moodie completed his participant observation at the Media24 publication Men’s Health and described his experience as “the best”.

Moodie said the PDMM programme provided students with a good chance to meet people from outside South Africa and a good experience to learn from each other.

After a brief question and answer session the meeting ended, and students and teachers gathered for more informal discussions about the courses.

The Sol Plaatje Institute also offers a range of short courses to media professionals. For more information visit their website at or contact Linda Snam at

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SPI runs third in-house management course for SABC

JOHANNESBURG – Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatje Institute (SPI) for Media Leadership has just completed a successful in-house course in broadcast management for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in Johannesburg – the third course specifically run for South Africa’s public broadcaster in the past two years.

The July 8-12 course in the Essentials of Broadcast Management (EOBM) included delegates from the SABC’s regional stations. Howard Thomas, one of the SPI’s trainers on the EOBM, said: “These staff members are always appreciative of this type of training as it brings them together to exchange experiences with people who are closer to the head office and who have crucial knowledge of the operations and audiences of regional stations.

“With broadcasting expanding at an exponential rate, there is a developing shortage of skilled staff in all areas. The SABC is fully aware that as much as people need specialised skills and training, this training is of little effect without the context, the big picture.

“The EOBM does precisely this. In just a week, delegates get a clear picture of the context, the environment and the landscape of the media and how broadcasting fits into all this. Through the various modules of the EOBM course, delegates are given the crucial pieces that complete the jig-saw puzzle.”

Professor Noel Pearse taught modules on leadership and management and human resource management; Dr Mashilo Boloka focused on the emerging regulatory environment for the broadcast sector; Thomas lectured on advertising and marketing, as well as programme management; and Jolyon Nuttall took the SABC staffers through strategic planning and managing the budget. Professor Franz Krüger examined the role of editorial independence and media ethics in shaping credible content for a media company. Most delegates praised the EOBM course, saying it had given them key insights which they would use to improve the management and operations of their work places.

One delegate commented: “This course will enable me to do my job better because I now understand what is happening in the broadcast sector much better.”

Another said: “I now have a deeper knowledge on managing people, the marketing segments, behaviourial changes and egos and in how to deal with the performance of individual staff.”

In the past two years, the SPI has run a successful EOBM for the SABC, as well as another management course, the Essentials of Digital Media Management. Both were held on location at the SABC’s headquarters in Johannesburg.