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Biz journalism education in South Africa

August 11, 2006

Met this evening with Manoah Esipisu, a senior Reuters journalism based in Johannesburg who is also teaching a business journalism class at the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in thw downtown area.

Manoah EsipisuThe journalism class he teaches, which is an honors course, is one of only two related to business journalism in the country. The other is at Rhodes University, but that biz journalism program has been dormant for the past two years after the departure of Nixon Kariithi, who now runs the media studies program at Witwatersrand.

Given the fledgling nature of business journalism education in the United States, it was interesting to meet someone in another country who is trying to accomplish the same objective — improve the quality of business journalism.

Here are some of the details of the class Esipisu is teaching:

— He’s had 12 students in each of the two semesters it has been offered. Most of the students are actually working business journalists who obviously need to quickly develop their skills. The class meets in the late afternoon after the students leave their full-time jobs.

— The class has Saturday writing sessions where Esipisu gives them realistic assignments, such as covering the firing of the finance minister of an African country. Esipisu also likes to forward to his students story assignments he receives at Reuters but is not covering.

— Witwatersrand is looking at converting the program to a master’s degree in financial journalism.

Esipisu is one of the most experienced and talented business journalists in Africa, so I imagine that the class provides a lot of practical application and experience. He was in Zambia before coming to Johannesburg in 2002, and he covers political and general news, macroeconomics and black economic empowerment in South Africa.

A Kenyan, he is one of Reuters’ experts on the African Union and its continental and regional economic groupings such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, a role that allowed him to tour more than half the countries in sub-Saharan Africa as well as England and the United States. He also serves on the team of Reuters’ specialists on trade and globalization.

I had only talked to Esipisu by e-mail in the past, offering advice on teaching business journalism. Hearing his answers to questions about how he teaches his class, gives me a lot of confidence in business journalism education in Africa. He is now working on offering business journalism training in the eastern part of the continent, possibly in Rwanda.

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