Great words, clear thinking, strong light

Colleagues from the Journalism School at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo visited our J-school during the winter break for a workshop designed by Jeanne du Toit. She put together this event to help the Mozambicans think about their curriculum and how best to re-design it so that Mozambique gets the journalists it deserves.

When she asked me to contribute to the panel on Voice, identity and the journalism student, I saw an invitation to think through why I teach what I teach. I saw an invitation to lean on great words, on literature – on poets. If they help me, perhaps they’ll help in Mozambique too.

First up on our panel was colleague Simon Pamphilon on professional identity and what that might be.  His closing comments on the challenges of teaching identity formation created an effortless segue into my piece, which is mostly about how Virginia Woolf and Margaret Atwood tell me what I should care about when I teach journalism students. My old-fangled ideals (such as forging journalists who set out to change the world) led easily into colleague Chris Kabwato’s presentation on our imperative to tell the story not told.

I love academic texts, honest I do (goodness, some of them even go to bed with me) but it’s poets who light my way. Consequently, I aim to insert them into every academic opportunity (and perhaps also consequently, they usually get deleted from my journal articles). So I was surprised and pleased – brimmed with joy, in fact – to hear Chris quote this poem by Bertolt Brecht and reference Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti via author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Chris’s people may have better struggle credentials than my people but it’s gratifying to know Virginia and I are not alone in the journalism academy.


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