MMX16: The South African Story: Headlines, Bylines and Storylines

August 19 and 20, 2016

The Maslow, Sandton, Johannesburg



Issues of race, equity, opportunity and the ongoing challenges of decolonisation have dominated the news agenda over the past year. The subject continues to infuse our newsrooms, from our top management structures to whom reporters talk to in the field and ultimately how we choose the stories we are telling and how we choose to tell them. Meanwhile, the industry is also facing increasingly fierce challenges to essential press freedoms alongside a desperate need to address a changing business model.

These varied issues affect our most basic duties as journalists: informing the public through accurate, inclusive and independent storytelling. How do we maintain our editorial independence in a hostile regulatory environment? How do we choose our storylines and headlines to ensure that we address the issues and concerns of the entire range of our population, particularly those who have traditionally had so little voice? How do we genuinely transform our newsrooms and our industry so that we can represent and support a nuanced public discourse about complex issues of transformation? And how do we do all this while also being rigorous reporters and more engaging and authentic story-tellers in a shrinking newsrooms with fewer resources?

While examining our structural challenges, this year’s MMX will examine the state of the media and its impact on public discourse and democracy. We will review the basic challenges, and tackle some solutions considering our newsroom structures, production practices and delivery mechanisms through case studies, workshops and conversations.  Overall, we’ll be focusing on different ways of shifting our newsrooms and our story-telling so they are better reflective of the South African story, in an effort to disrupt our entrenched headlines, bylines and storylines – and the bottom lines.


Friday Keynote:

Sisonke Msimang, columnist and author

Writing South Africa: reflections on place and time

Saturday Keynote:

Fran Unsworth, Director, BBC World Service Group (BBC World Service, BBC World News and

News Organizations: Representing Audiences, Not Governments

Saturday Host:

Iman Rappetti, eNCA



The Year In Review: How Well Did We Tell The South African Story?

As we come off the recent elections, we will reflect on a year of protest on our university campuses – confronting issues of decolonisation, fees and the country’s pervasive rape culture – and our city streets.  We’ll examine how the industry covered those issues as well as the other big stories of the year from President Zuma and the issue of state capture to the local elections and the economy. What stories did we miss? Where were the high points? What were the low points? And what stopped us from being more authentic in our pursuit of the South African story?

Producer: Khadija Patel

Moderator: Lester Kiewit (eNCA)


Tim Cohen (Business Day)

Reggy Moalusi (Daily Sun)

Krivani Pillay (SABC)

Pontsho Pilane (Mail & Guardian)


Media in the Crosshairs: Editorial Independence, Censorship and Democracy

While election coverage dominated much of the news cycle over the last two months, the happenings at the South African Broadcasting Corporation – which acts as the primary news source for 40 percent of South Africans – took a close second.The SABC became the news, many times feeding the breaking news cycle with their banning of violent protests, followed by the firing – and then reinstatement – of employees who dared to question the policy. But it is not just the SABC that is under threat. Newsroom editorial independence is under pressure around the world, with South Africa seeing this unfold as “good news” narratives and pressure from the state with increased regulation in the digital news space as well as financial implications which blur editorial lines and compromise the most basic newsroom operations. How do we, as journalists, protect the independence of our media organisations? And how do we cover such stories when there are such significant ramifications for employers and colleagues?

Producer: Tanya Pampalone

In Conversation with Iman Rapetti (eNCA)


Dario Milo (Media lawyer, Weber Wentzel)

Jane Duncan (University of Johannesburg, Journalism Department)

Micah Reddy (Right2Know)

Vinayak Bhardwaj (Africa Check)


T Time: A Practical Guide To Transforming Our Newsrooms – And Our Stories

We’ve been talking transformation and diversity for the past 22 years. While there have been great strides, we all know just how short we are falling. It’s reflected in our newsroom make-up as well as the sorts of stories that we tell and how we tell them. But instead of another talk shop on our failures, this panel will give us some practical action points. Each panelist will present their ideas – from one big idea to ten things you can do today – that will allow us all to take practical solutions back to our newsrooms. These will range from approaches individual reporters can take to check and balance their reporting to how newsroom managers can bring in more diverse voices into their stories and ultimately how we can better shift the overall diversity of our newsrooms.


Candice Bailey (The Conversation)

Facilitator: Palesa Morudu (Cover2Cover Books, Clarity Editorial, Business Day)


Ferial Haffajee

Mapi Mhlangu (eNCA)

Verashni Pillay (Mail & Guardian)



Digging Deeper: Re-Thinking The Story, Reshaping The Narrative

Like the country and its people, South Africa’s narrative is a fractured one. Many times stories are filtered by a Western or ‘white’ dominant narrative and all-too-often the stories of the majority – the unemployed and poor which make up nearly half of the country’s population – are left untold or tragically under-reported. With constrained resources and the need to tell stories with the latest technology, how can writers and editors increase the numbers of stories about the majority in interesting and innovative ways? What structures can we ‘break’ in the newsroom to do this? To rethink our entrenched approach to news, our panel will tap into story-tellers outside the traditional newsroom to see what we’ve been missing.

Producer and Facilitator: Tanya Pampalone (Independent Writer and Editor)


Quaz Roodt (Poet)

Sisonke Msimang (Writer)

Kwanele Sosibo (Mail & Guardian)

Kagiso Lediga (Comedian)


Convergence and Content Regulation: Tackling the Grey Areas

Convergence changed editorial workflows, required new newsroom skill sets and editorial approaches as well as new types of content and platform strategies. But it also has brought on new regulatory challenges – a need to move away from a platform-based system to a content-based one. Recent industry developments are being driven by convergence, including the Press Council for print and online media with its updated Press Code and Complaints Procedure; the Film and Publication Board’s online content regulations; moves to extend Icasa’s broadcast regulatory reach to include digital content; and industry efforts to establish a one stop media complaints mechanism.

Producer: Izak Minnaar (SABC)

Moderator: Paula Fray (South African Press Council)


Julie Reid (The Media Policy and Democracy Project)

Joe Thloloe (South African Press Council)


SHORT SHARPS: Experiments in Story-Telling

10 minute presentations on case studies, reflections on ‘how we did it’ and what worked and what didn’t


How We Get Our MoJo

What I learned from running a mobile journalism internship

Presenter: Seamus Reynolds (eNCA)



How a bunch of young people at the Daily Vox set the news agenda for #FeesMustFall

Presenter: Khadija Patel (The Daily Vox)


Poor Story-Telling

Research on why we don’t tell the story of the majority and pander to the middle classes

Presenter: Wallace Chuma (University of Cape Town)


Complaints, Challenges and Curiosities

Presenter: Dinesh Balliah (Deputy Public Advocate, Online Journalism)

The newly revamped South African Press Council handles complaints related to online publishing. Dinesh takes a look at 10 of the more curious, challenging & unexpected complaints to come her way as the deputy public advocate.


Adventures in Digital-Storytelling

Presenter: Andrew Trench (Times Media)


Poets: Storying The Telling

Thuto Lesedi and Quaz Roodt


Friday Afternoon WORKSHOPS

Building a Better Newsroom – Building Better Stories


Storytelling with Data

Laura Grant (Independent Data Journalist)

and Alastair Otter (Independent Media’s IOL)

Data can be a great source of stories for journalists and you don’t need to be a programmer, or even that good at maths to tell compelling stories with data. Laura Grant and Alastair Otter will show you how at the story-telling with data workshop.


Visual Storytelling Techniques for Non-Designers

Amy Selwyn and Cornelis Jacobs (Storytegic)

Visuals help us tell our stories quickly with impact and emotion. But they have to be the right visuals. In this workshop — for non-designers! — we present 10 ideas you can implement right away to present data and information more clearly and more powerfully.


Making and Shaping your Journalism with a Mobile Phone

Seamus Reynolds (eNCA)

Journalism is in the midst of a visual revolution but to have your content stand out from the torrent of daily uploads you need to exploit that powerful computer in your pocket. This workshop will demonstrate some of the best mobile apps to use for recording images and audio, then we’ll show off some of the key post-production apps to shape your amazing story for distribution.


Decolonizing African Data

Nechama Brodie (Africa Check)

Skepticism around the accuracy and bias of African data means many journalists choose data sources that carry international credentials – from agencies like the United Nations, World Health Organisation, or World Bank, to global non-profit and non-governmental organisations. But these data sources, many focused on aid and welfare programmes, can create an inherent selection and confirmation bias that elides much of the African reality. This session looks at why it’s time to challenge and change our notions of African data, and provides information on how to find and interrogate local data sources.


Using Analytics to Better Understand Your Audience

Yavi Maderi (BlackBox Media)

Journalism and social media interact, engage, and connect in many ways. The Internet and social media have created this new media ecosystem, which is more social and VERY fluid, with different practices related to audience participation and collaboration, and this shift affects journalists and journalism, which should be taken into account when journalists interact and engage with their respective audiences.

Understanding data and analytics behind their stories will make journalists understand how to use social media to ‘market’ their stories and themselves.


Donor Funded Journalism: What Does It Take to Get – And Keep – The Money?

Mia Malan (Mail & Guardian)

Donor funded journalism brings much-needed resources. But it comes with unfamiliar territory and a considerable amount of additional work: proposals, donor progress reports and measuring the impact of your work.


Entrepreneurial Journalism

Hannah Clifford (Journalists for Human Rights)

and Asmaa Malik (Ryerson University)

Got a media venture to launch? Have one going, but you are looking to scale it? The team from the Future of Journalism Lab workshop, set to launch in September as part of the Digital Innovation Zone at the University of the Witwatersrand, will offer some practical tips to help get your idea off the ground.