Higher education communicators share best practices

16 September 2009

MACE Workshop Maximising media: Presenters at the MACE indaba included (from left) UCT's Helen Théron and Aloysius Gowne, consultant Jane Notten, MACE's Adrian Rorvik, UKZN's Deanne Collins and UWC's Luthando Tyhalibongo. (Front) Consultant Illa Thomson.

Maximising media resources and marketing academics and their expertise were topics communications practitioners from Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal universities tackled when they met in Cape Town on 4 September.

The Media and Publications Workshop at the UCT Graduate School of Business was organised jointly by UCT and Marketing, Advancement and Communication in Education (MACE).

Workshop co-ordinator, Aloysius Gowne of UCT's Communication and Marketing Department, said the event had provided a welcome platform for institutions to show how their media and publications units function - and discuss their successes and solutions to the challenges facing higher education in this area.

"Most importantly, the idea was to learn how to work smarter, use new technologies, share resources, save costs and promote environmentally friendly publications," Gowne said.

Speaking after the seminar, UCT's publications and information head, Helen Théron, said: "Communication is undergoing a sea change - you only have to look at social networking sites like Facebook and micro-blogging services like Twitter to see that. And the growth of the worldwide web in the past 15 years has precipitated huge changes in the communication and media industry.

"This demands some tough questions. Will we lose readership if we ditch our print edition of Monday Paper (the UCT newsletter) and run it online only? Can everyone access the web version?"

Environmental issues also demanded urgent attention, she said.

"What is the environmental cost of printing and mailing thousands of magazines to alumni around the world? And what is the cost of not doing so? There are no ready answers."

Communications departments also grappled with other challenges, many under the umbrella of transformation. Multilingualism for one.

Should Monday Paper stories be carved up and translated into the three main languages of our region: English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa? And if so, will we end up 'marginalising' certain categories of information? Who decides what appears in English and what in isiXhosa?"

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