SA Nieman fellow forced to quit job

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B_Tromp .

A senior journalist at E-TV has landed one of the most prestigious journalism fellowships available to South Africans - but he has been forced to resign his job as the TV station refuses to give him time off.

Beauregard Tromp was awarded the Nieman fellowship, which grants him the opportunity to study in his field of journalism interest for a year at Harvard University in Cambridge, Masachusetts.

But the E-news Africa senior field reporter was forced to quit after being informed he couldn't have a leave of absence.

Tromp, formerly an award-winning reporter for The Star, is a South African journalist in a long line of other reporters from the country to be awarded the Nieman Fellowship, which is a highly-sought after accolade. South Africa has consistently sent journalists to the programme since 1961. News organisations in the country have a history of supporting their staff members in the endeavour.

Tromp said that after he had been refused a leave of absence, he deliberated on what to do for two weeks. He then resigned because he was unwilling to pass up an opportunity of this "magnitude," he said.

"People who have been on the fellowship before told me amazing stories about how it opened up the world for them," Tromp said. "That made my decision a lot easier."

Tromp said the reason he wasn't granted leave was because he had been at the company for less than a year. E-news recently instated a policy that requires a minimum of three years employment before staff members can be considered for earning a leave of absence for a fellowship. E-news senior staff released a comment yesterday(wed) afternoon where they said they were incredibly "proud" of Tromp's selection.

Unfortunately, since Tromp only joined e-news last year, the release said he was "not eligible as per [company] policy."

"This is the strangest decision that I've seen in a very long time," said Tim du Plessis, Chair of the Nieman Trust of South Africa Fund. "It's not as if [Tromp] won't come back from Harvard with added value - he's going to Harvard to further his education in African studies."

The last time a journalist was denied permission to accept the award was in 1965 because the apartheid government refused to grant a passport to journalist Nat Nakasa.

Tromp's predicament was covered in the United States journalism community.

When Tromp arrives at Harvard in August 2012, he will join 11 international and 12 American journalists for the duration of the program. After his fellowship ends, Tromp plans to return Africa and continue his work as a journalist.

"My heart and my passion are here in Africa," Tromp said. "This is where I see myself putting all of my energies during and after the fellowship."

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