Speech by Pheladi Gwangwa at GIBS: BMIA Executive Training South Africa Intake 3

18 April 2016

Speech by Pheladi Gwangwa at GIBS, 2016.

Pheladi Gwangwa

  • Good morning, my name is Pheladi Gwangwa, the outgoing station manager of 702, a talk radio station based here in Johannesburg, and a beneficiary of Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa.
  • Your brochure starts by saying, “Many key economies on the continent are growing in leaps and bounds, yet the positive impact of the development in progress and development is not fully realized” and that the aim of this executive training program is to increase the pipeline of skilled financial journalists and analysts who will embrace data-driven journalism culture across the continent.
  • This is such a welcome and positive move by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Ford Foundation because business journalism, although common in most industrialized countries, has a very limited role in third-world and developing countries, which leaves citizens of such countries in a very disadvantaged position.
  • In this depressed economic climate, financial journalists are of more relevance than political journalists. We should not just write about numbers, but we should give meaning those numbers.
  • But most of all, business journalism should be about accessibility and relevance to everyday life. Some of my most enjoyable business articles are by a journalist and a fellow ALI Fellow from Kenya, Christine Mungai. She studied a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science and Technology and yet she has risen to specialize in analytical and data-driven journalism. She writes about everything from music to chocolate to commodities and privatization.
  • We should aim to make business news accessible and useful to the everyday man on the street. That is why we at 702 changed the name of our business show and called it “The Money Show”; because we wanted it to talk not just about “business news”, but for it to be a reference source for all things related to money. That is why we talk about anything from the annual budget speech to stokvels. And that is why, the Business Day, was in my view, made accessible under the editorship of Songezo Zibi. I found myself enjoying it as a reader, and not just reading it as part of my job.
  • We – financial journalists – should be the most influencers when it comes to the national conversations about money and the various things we do with it. People should look for our articles, to confirm investment advice that they have been given by their financial advisers; just to check and confirm that their financial advisers are on point and that they have taken crucial movements in the markets into account.
  • We have local government elections coming. These elections are in my view, more relevant than national and provincial elections, for they are about the day-to-day interactions between the people and their government. I want to see more financial journalists reporting on these elections. During the recent Pikitup strike, I hardly saw stories about the long-term effects of the strike or any relevant analysis; simply reportage about the rubbish strewn on our streets and the infestation of rats as a result thereof.
  • But accessibility should not just be about the simplification of the content. It should be about reach and platform. Most business journalism happens on traditional media. I would like to see more of it on social media. I want to read more about the cement and the bread cartels on my twitter timeline than about Queen Twerk.
  • Social media is giving us traditional media platforms a run for our money. We found it hard to keep up with the #FeesMustFall protests and other similar news stories that unfolded on social media. But we must, in our quest to beat social media, stay true to our trade; to our ethics and basic journalistic principles. Recently, The Star newspaper was embarrassed when one of its reporters wrote about a heart-wrenching “story” of a young woman who was brutally murdered and savaged by his killers, only for us to find out that that was the results of an 18 year old’s fertile imagination who calls herself @JustKhuthi. Even we at EWN faced the same embarrassment when we wrote about the National Speaker’s “apology”, which was based solely on a fake twitter account.
  • Our profession suffers from public trust deficit, so we should work very hard to regain and maintain that public trust. We should take care to verify details, no matter how tedious that might seem. We should always aim for accuracy over breaking the news first. In order for society to take us seriously, we must first take ourselves seriously.
  • We should also get out of the rut of writing for ourselves. Our middle class status seems to have taken us further away from people’s everyday problems. We should not be distant and remote from people’s everyday problems.
  • We should also focus on development journalism, for our continent to thrive. And here, I am not by any means advocating for sunshine journalism, but I am challenging us as journalists to write for the greater good. Elisabeth Ribbans, former managing editor of the Guardian said: “A good journalist must not only describe, but delve, debunk and decode. International development is complex, slow, non-prescriptive and uncertain. It requires the reporter to appreciate and explore the interplay of diverse realms such as health, education, environment, governance, local and national economics, and culture.” Development journalism is expensive. It requires extensive research, but at the end of the day, it is what moves societies forward. And we should do it ourselves. We should not leave it to foreign journalists to come into our countries and out continent to tell us how far we are lagging or how progressive we are. We have beautiful stories to tell about our struggles and our triumphs and we should do it ourselves.
  • It is for this reason that you should not take this investment made by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Ford Foundation for granted. It is not just an investment in your own growth and personal development. It IS in fact an investment in the development of your country and your continent. This is your opportunity to shape how the world thinks of us and how we will think of the world.
  • So in the next couple of months, stay alert, focus on the task at hand, but most of all remain true journalists: keep an open mind and ask questions. And I urge you to do it the Bloomberg way – with a shared direction, a sense of mission and a common purpose.
  • I wish you everything of the best in this exciting journey that you have just embarked upon!