Pretoria – Newzroom Afrika TV journalist Zikhona Tshona is one of the 10 alumni of the iconic Rhodes University who have been selected as the institution’s School of Journalism and Media Studies this year marks its 50th anniversary by honouring 50 of its “most distinguished” alumni.
Tshona told IOL that her passion is human interest stories and journalism that seeks to achieve social justice, thanks to the training she received at the Eastern Cape institution.
“It's exciting to be honoured while young by an institution you went to. My passion for human interest stories and journalism that seeks to achieve social justice started here in Makhanda, in the streets of Joza. Since I found out I have honestly been in disbelief,” said the seasoned broadcaster.
“The beat of journalism I cover is not one that gets much attention, so to be this recognition says the work I do is seen, heard and matters. I would like to thank Rhodes Journalism School for the honour and recognition.”
Regarding her personal views on the direction of journalism in South Africa, Tshona said there is a concerning trend of journalism which only touches on the surface and gives all priority to politics.
“Journalism in South Africa today is surface-based and obsessed with political heads and events as news. I feel like we are running on a FOMO (fear of missing out) base as opposed to asking how and why we are telling that story. We are all chasing and chasing,” she explained.
“A positive is that we are alive and are free to question whoever holds power whenever we get opportunities to.”
Regarding her secret to a thriving career in journalism, Tshona said authenticity is at the centre of what she does.
“My secret is to be authentic. My secret is to look for stories where no one is looking, to have heart and to allow people to tell their own stories. My secret is be different,” she said.
“I grew up in and go home to an area whose social issues don't make news, so I aim to amplify stories that would otherwise be hidden. I tell South African stories, pain, triumph, love and celebration.”
Rhodes University’s acclaimed School of Journalism and Media Studies is this year marking its 50th anniversary by honouring 50 of its “most distinguished” alumni.
The first 10 will be celebrated on Friday night at a graduation ball which is happening on the sidelines of a series of in-person graduation ceremonies taking place at the institution in Makhanda, formerly known as Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape.
A cohort of the university’s newly minted journalism graduates were capped at three ceremonies on Thursday and Friday.
“The 10 we will honour on Friday at the ball are: Guy Berger, Zubeida Jaffer, Rich Mkhondo, Krivani Pillay, Margaret Jjuuko, Harugumi Mutasa, Pippa Ehrlich, Yusuf Omar, Zikhona Tshona and Kathryn Cleary. Our intention is to recognise both those who have had very distinguished careers and impacts and those who have more recently graduated but are already making their mark,” said Professor Anthea Garman, head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies.
She said the Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies has grown by leaps and bounds, from a two-people team in 1972.
“We are a big school. I think we are the biggest in the country. We’ve 50 staff members, and a lot of temporary people including contract workers. We also have a big technical component,” said Garman.
“We are in the range of 600 to 700 students. We have at least 500 undergraduate students. From a course in 1970, we now offer Bachelor’s in Journalism and Media studies. That is a three-year degree. We also offer a Bachelor of Journalism which is a four-year degree. You can do an Honours, Master’s or Doctoral degree with us, and you can also do three kinds of diplomas.”
Garman said over the 50 years, the graduates produced by the university “have gone out and changed the world”.
“They have changed the world. They have gone and become editors, they have become policy directors and some have gone to become mayoral liaison people. They are everywhere. They are in Los Angeles, Sydney, Tokyo, and other places,” she said.
“If we have been able to give anything to the world, it has been in our alumni. They are the ones doing wonderful things in the world. We thought this year we need to reconnect. There are nearly 5 000 people who have come through this school in the past 50 years.”
Garman said the 50 alumni to be honoured have not been selected but the process is ongoing starting with the group of 10.
Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies also announced that the 50th anniversary programme is being guided by seven “outstanding alumni” who serve on an external steering committee: Zubeida Jaffer, Rich Mkhondo, Stephen Grootes, Sherwin Bryce-Pease, Janet Heard, Heather Robertson and Luzuko Jacobs.