In commemoration of Freedom Day on Saturday and to better serve and forward democracy in South Africa, the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ) has fully revised and upgraded its website. Former President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Nelson Mandela noted the Institute’s role of the Institute in supporting democracy in South Africa. “The timeframe of their [the IAJ’s] work runs almost exactly parallel to that of democratic governance in our country… The role of the Institute is to ensure that quality journalism plays a role in the future of our democracy.”
Democracy is best supported by a media that is free, diverse and of high quality, delivering information to audiences that support engaged citizenry. The Institute remains at the forefront of skills transfer from more established journalists to younger, upcoming professionals.
“We feel that the new website is far more in keeping with our leading-edge training offerings and will allow the Institute to better serve both the media sector and the cause of democracy in South Africa” says IAJ director, Michael Schmidt.
With ongoing threats to media freedom in South Africa (and Africa), the work of the Institute is now more important than ever. Many of the challenges to press freedom centre on alleged unethical and shoddy journalism.
The IAJ has worked for the past 21 years to improve the skills of journalists to root out this kind of journalism, and continues to do so into the digital era.
“The Institute has made a fundamental contribution to the role of the press in helping liberate ‘South Africa and advance the cause of democracy in the rest of Africa” says Allister Sparks, founder of the IAJ and former editor of Rand Daily Mail and recipient of Allan Kirkland Soga Lifetime Achiever Award.
And the challenges are greater than ever, with the failures of the education system compounding difficulties experienced in increasingly younger, less experienced newsrooms. The pressure for high-quality, relevant content is also greater than ever with the multiplying of online sources of information, and lowered readership of traditional newspapers.
Not merely an impartial training service provider, the Institute maintains strong ties with industry associations such as the Professional Journalist’s Association (Projourn), the South African Editors’ Forum (SANEF), the Press Council and the Southern African Freelancers’’ Association (SAFREA) to support professional journalism in South Africa.
Partnering with like-minded organisations such as the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), and the Right 2 Know (R2K) campaign, the IAJ also lobbies against threats to media freedom.
But, lobbying is not enough without improved skills. Supported by solid international expertise through the Poynter Institute, after which the IAJ is modelled, the IAJ uses revolutionary training methodologies. IAJ also partners with Universities throughout South Africa to deliver much-needed, relevant and up-to-date skills.
“A cursory glance at the new website will demonstrate how the Institute continues to meet the changing demands of the media sector, which needs to engage with digital migration and multiplying online platforms” says Sandra Roberts, Writing Unit manager at the Institute. “Have a look for yourself” she adds.