Research projects

Research Projects

Unraveling the Ethical Tapestry: An In-Depth Exploration of Public Complaints to the SACP - Trends and Insights from 2018 to 2022


Media ethics is a complex and evolving field, and in recent years, the South African news media landscape has faced its fair share of these complexities and evolutions. For example, the 2021 Report on Independent Inquiry into Media Ethics and Credibility commissioned by the South African National editor’s forum recommended that regulatory bodies, such as the South African Press Council (SAPC), consider ways to engage in research initiatives related to their work. In this regard, two specific points were made, namely, the bodies should “issue annual reports on trends with regard to media ethics and conduct violations” (page 366, para 12.151) and that these bodies need “capacity for compiling statistics and noting trends” (page 362, para 12.138). To that end, there is a need for research that analyses the trends of the complaints and the findings made against South Africa news media entities, with the aim of developing theoretical proposals on issues related to media ethics in the South African context and make practical recommendations to the SAPC where applicable. This paper examines the trends in ethical issues that have been raised in complaints to the South African Press Council (SACP) over the period 2018-2022. Using a mixed methods approach, the study explores the following two key questions:

1. What are the trends in ethical issues that the public has sent complaints to the Press Council over the period 2018 – 2022? Which sections of the press code do these speak to?

2. What are the trends in the complainants sending the complaints and the media houses and journalists being complained about?


Exploring university students’ use of and understanding of AI powered technologies


The recent release of ChatGPT (GPT4) has resulted in many conversations and moral panics about the use of artificial intelligence-powered tools in teaching and learning. In particular, there is a concern that academics will need to change assessment tools, as students can easily use ChatGpt to write their assignments. The results of the proposed study will provide insights into the extent to which students currently use AI tools for their academic assignments, as well as their perceptions of the effectiveness of these tools. The study will also identify the factors that influence the use of AI tools and the strengths and limitations of these tools. However, these tools are not simply instrumental, but can also become deeply meaningful; indeed we as human beings tend to anthropomorphize such language tools. This project will therefore also provide some insights into how students might relate to these tools and how this could shift their understanding of how they conceptualise learning and teaching. We also intend to explore inequalities of data literacy and technology access. This project will be useful to potentially shape policy at South African universities. The results could shape the ways in which academics engage with teaching and assessment moving forward.

This is a 6-university project and this application is requesting ethical clearance for the Cape Peninsula University of Technology segment of the research. Each co-investigator will apply for ethical clearance at their respective universities, to access students on their campuses. The participating institutions are UCT Rhodes, Stellenbosch University, CPUT, University of Johannesburg, and Wits. The aim is to be able to make comparisons across the universities  

Bridging the Academic-Journalistic Gap in African Media: A multi-case study


The dynamics of media and journalism vary widely across African countries, reflecting distinct political, social, and economic realities. As such, understanding how academic insights can address the specific needs and concerns of local journalism is crucial for the sustainable growth of the media sector in each nation. This study explores the impact of academic work on journalistic practice in Africa. Drawing on social constructivism theory, the study considers how the different cultures and norms of academics and journalists in respective African countries influence their interactions and how the different power dynamics between academics and journalists can influence their interactions. The key questions the study will answer are: 

An Underexplored Interplay: Emotions and Radio News in Africa - A Multi-Case Study of African countries


Radio remains the most powerful medium for disseminating news and shaping public perceptions because of its reach, affordability and accessibility. The relevance of radio news for African societies is well documented in literature, where the focus has been on the relevance of radio for political ends. Understanding the interplay between emotions and news on radio is, however under explored. This chapter aims to explore the relationship between radio, emotions, and news in the African context, shedding light on how emotions are invoked and influenced through radio news broadcasts. It will be a multi-case study that considers three African countries. It will employ a content analysis of news content and interviews with radio journalists. It will also use rhetorical analysis to consider the communicative devices used to appeal to audience emotions. Drawing on the affective news framework, this research justifies its use by emphasizing the importance of emotions in shaping news consumption and explores journalists perspectives on the issue. The framework recognizes that emotions play a significant role in how audiences interpret news stories and respond to societal issues, providing a nuanced perspective on the dynamics of radio news in Africa.

Towards a multilingual and decolonialised “Journalism and Society” curriculum through digitised readings from the Early South African black press (2019 - present)

Journalism, originally conceived as a disruptive force, has undergone significant transformation. In today's media landscape, it often mirrors the very entities it aimed to disrupt, aligning strongly with neo-liberal ideologies. The contemporary news media operates as a business entity, and the widespread prioritisation of English, even in regions like South Africa where it is not the primary language, highlights these shifts. This project embarks on a transformative journey to digitise valuable content from the early South African black press. Our objective is to utilise this historical content to revolutionise and enrich 'journalism and society' modules, fostering a more decolonised and multilingual approach. Our project aims to challenge and reshape the prevailing notions explored in 'journalism and society' modules currently taught in South African universities. By digitising and exploring the content, context, and authors of the early black press in South Africa, we aim to illuminate how the discipline perpetuates coloniality and elevates English above other languages. The historical material from the early black press offers a fresh perspective, one that challenges established norms and underscores the importance of multilingualism in journalism education. It exposes how the discipline has historically prioritised English and colonial ideologies.