Duke Menell Media Exchange inspires CFMS future journalists

23 Jul 2018 - 16:15
Speakers at the 2018 Duke Menell Media Exchange


Three CFMS students, Lara Moyles, Ruby Chikwiri and Upasna Maharaj, recently attended the 2018 Duke Menell Media Exchange in Johannesburg. Lara (CFMS Hons Media Theory & Practice) and Ruby (CFMS Hons in Political Communication) shared their experiences of the conference with us.


The depleting state of the South African newsroom is a subject that continues to occupy media practitioners, academics and students alike. With the calls from university students to reform curricula to become increasingly more focused on Africa, the need to break and rebuild the newsroom has been brought to the forefront of discussion.

The Duke Menell Media Exchange 2018 saw prominent figures in the media industry gather together to discuss a topic that was on everyone’s lips: innovation in the African newsroom. While the conference theme was centred on the topic of ‘Breaking and Building, the conference attempted to take on a more positive spin. Instead of breaking, speakers encouraged the audience to go out and seek ways of restoring the newsroom, and restoring the trust of the people towards the media industry.

This was the second year the Centre for Film and Media Studies (CFMS) at UCT has funded students to attend the MMX conference, which was also attended by students from local and international universities including Tshwane University of Technology, CPUT, and the University of Johannesburg partake in the coverage of the event in the Student Newsroom. CFMS’s Associate Professor Wallace Chuma, along with three postgraduate students, Ruby Chikwiri, Lara Moyles and Upasna Maharaj had the opportunity to attend this year’s conference.

The conference brought to light the need for university students to attend conferences like MMX; hearing, firsthand, about the struggles and triumphs within the newsroom. The lessons learnt throughout the conference can all be summed under one idea: to tell the African story in everything that you do. “Tell the African story in its complexities and completeness,” said Group Executive of News and Current Affairs at the SABC, Phathiswa Magopeni.

Overall, the Menell Media Exchange is an invaluable experience for any student aspiring to enter the media industry. Break out of the comfort zone of academia, and experience both the challenges and the successes of the industry.


In a world of social media, fake news and ‘snack’ media, journalism is undergoing constant and rapid changes. The 2018 edition of the annual Menell Media Exchange (MMX) conference, addressed various challenges faced by the media sector and provided creative as well as digital solutions.

Keynote speakers included the likes of, Betsy Klein, CNN political reporter, who shared the lessons she learned during her time covering the 2016 United States Presidential election. These lessons included viewing social media as a blessing and a curse as well as the need to always be accurate when covering any story. “Verify, verify, verify,” she said. Klein also made the point all media houses should make the effort to diversify their newsrooms to ensure that a variety of voices are represented and heard.

In an effort to reflect on the state of journalism in South Africa, there was emphasis placed on the topic of, ‘stories we’re missing and why’. During this panel discussion, it was said that stories that involved women, individuals from rural areas, health and the Southern African region were often neglected and covered in problematic frames of reference. Soul City Institute for social justice CEO, Lebogang Ramafoko, made the point that “Women’s voices are silenced daily,” and attributed this in part to the entrenchment of patriarchy in the South African society.

The Mail & Guardian’s Africa editor, Simon Allison, lamented the dearth of news coverage of Africa outside of South Africa. Her said; “There is such a severe shortage of unique African news coverage…particularly north of the South African borders.” He briefly touched on ways in which journalists could find cost-effective ways to gain access and travel to countries in the greater African region in order to cover stories.

Other highlights from the conference included talks about building the relationship between the media and foreign diplomats. This panel included Cynthia Harvey, the spokesperson for the United States embassy in South Africa; Hooman Nouruzi, communications head for the UK High Commission in South Africa, and Sandra Bisin, head of Communication and Partnerships at UNICEF. The key takeaway from the address was that a strong relationship between foreign diplomats and South African journalists would beneficial to the credibility and depth of stories covering international events.

Phathiswa Magopeni, head of news at SABC, was the second keynote speaker at the conference. She described how the public service broadcaster was working hard to regain its reputation and credibility after years of crisis. Said Magopeni; "We're working hard to reimagine and repurpose ourselves…we are repositioning ourselves to tell stories rooted in communities.”

From tips for digital storytelling to tricks on how to fact check and promote innovation in the newsroom, there was no shortage of insightful and innovative lessons during the conference. It was a truly enriching experience!


Lara Moyles created an infographic on why students should attend conferences: