I had the opportunity to travel to Johannesburg from June 7-10, alongside my peer Chelsea Scott (T’18) after being selected as a Student Newsroom Fellow for the Duke Menell Media Exchange conference, the largest journalism meeting in South Africa.
Johannesburg is a bustling metropolis occupied by people from all over the world. Soon after arrival we had the opportunity to steep ourselves in South Africa’s rich history by taking a tour of the Apartheid Museum which chronicles the history of the country’s race relations. The following day, Kamo, a local journalism student, took us to tour Soweto, one of Johannesburg’s historic townships. We toured the Hector Pieterson Museum, which memorializes the death of the 9-year-old boy that led to the Soweto Uprising, visited Vilakazi street and walked through Nelson Mandela’s family home.
“I’ve enjoyed learning about the history of South Africa through community and museum tours and from conversations with our peers in the Newsroom,” Scott said. “It is fascinating to identify parallels between South Africa and the United States and to unpack how our complicated histories inform current political events.”
The days leading up to the conference were great preparation for the event’s theme of “Breaking and Building,” which focused the role of the media in South African politics and society. Hundreds of journalists gathered to discuss the state of domestic and international media in the face of major social and political changes.
As newsroom fellows we had the opportunity to collaborate with journalism students from seven South African universities. We had access to all the panels and workshops, and we pitched, covered and produced stories throughout the event. We interviewed some of the country’s most prominent journalists, produced and edited videos and also managed social media to engage with attendees.
“MMX was such a rich experience because it provided me the opportunity to not only learn from leaders in journalism, but to also apply what I've learned to my work in the Student Newsroom,” Scott said.
My experience in South Africa as a MMX Fellow has been a testimony to the power of human stories. I had conversations ranging from politics and inequality, to music and pop culture with Uber drivers, journalists, staff and fellow students throughout the city.
“People just want to connect,” Dayo Olopade, head of partnerships at Google, said at her panel. My time in Johannesburg has been shaped by human connection, driven by the need to tell stories.