Wow, two days in a row – that’s quite something for me.

Well, a newspaper wants the story I’m working on, which is cool, so I’ve spent the day sending emails and making phone calls. The only problem is that I won’t get comment from the police until tomorrow morning, and my deadline is 12:3o (I have to lecture at one), so tomorrow will be a bit nerve-wracking.  The story is looking good, though. Maybe if it’s really good I can get another regular writing arrangement with them. I hate selling story ideas to strangers.

I noticed yesterday that the ads on my blog page are targeted for catholic memorabilia, I assume because I wrote about the patron saint of the Internet. I’d better write a whole lot more, so that the ads change. I would hate for anyone to see this page and think I have anything to do with the Catholic church.

OK, months later, and I am once again trying to revive this blog.  I’m back in Johannesburg, semi-employed and have a home internet connection, so I see no reason why I should not be bombarding you (whoever you are, out there in domain namespace) with witty thoughts, riveting insights and my inner torment.

Semi-employed, actually more like demi-semi-employed. The funding for my lectureship at Rhodes has run out, so I am back here, glad to be living in the same city as Martin, but not gald to not be working. Initially there were plans for me to teach a course at the Wits Journalism School, but their funding also ran out; I was writing for the Mail and Guardian on Technology issues, but they decided to cancel the section (which I was supposed to take over editing). I am currently teaching a few hours a week at Tshwane University of Technology and at Boston Media House.  Freelance teaching is fine, but it doesn’t even begin to pay the bills, especially since you don’t get paid for prep, or marking, or anything else.

The freelance writing is more frustrating, since I have loads of stories, and no-one to tell them to. The problem is that I am a very good journalist, but a really bad salesperson. I hate having to sell myself, or my stories. I am currently sitting on something of a  scoop which I am desperately trying to sell to people and am not getting very far with.

Ok, well like most people writing an online diary/journal, I started out all full of the fires of enthusiasm, and then petered out. After only two posts, nogal.

Anyhow, I have been very busy recently, I was in Durban yesterday, training staff, and tomorrow it’s Bloemfontein. However, the main reason I think I haven’t updated is because I don’t have an internet connection at home, which means I have to plan my postings, not exactly ideal.

And why don’t I have home Internet? Well, because the options in South Africa are pretty limited on this point.

I can go for dial-up, which charges per call, and I would have to have a land-line installed, something I don’t have any other use for.

I can go for ISDN, which is even more expensive, and I would still have to pay per use.

I can go for ADSL, which is more expensive in South Africa than pretty much anywhere else, mainly due to Telkom’s desire to have people sign up for the more lucrative ISDN, and protect their margins.

I could also opt for the new MyWireless, from Sentech, which is a proprietary wireless system, IPWireless, and looks pretty good, except for the fact that it is a) proprietary technology, whcih nobody else appears to use (and I remember Sentech/SABC’s analogue satellite fiasco), and b) it requires me to sign a 24 month contract. The 24 month thing is a big issue, since the industry is being deregulated even as we speak, so I am unwilling to tie myself down to two years of technology that may be overpriced and obsolete in two months.

So, that was a rather long-winded and convoluted excuse for why I don’t update more often, sorry.

A few days ago, I got asked who the patron saint of journalists was. It’s the sort of question I often get, not because I am a devout Catholic (I was raised to be one, but it didn’t take), but because it’s the sort of random trivia that my mind is stuffed with. Anyhow, on this occasion I couldn’t remember, so I looked it up. In the process of doing so, I discovered this, which has to be the most irony-free, begging-to-be-spoofed thing I have seen in a while.

Catholic Online – Fun Facts

In fact, the whole site is pretty disturbing to me, both because aesthetically and content-wise it reminds me of my convent-school upbringing, and because most of my exposure to catholic tat over the last decade or more has been in the form of friends who find glow-in-the-dark virgin marys and st christopher medals hilariously trashy. I’m not sure how I feel about this. There are several stores locally that specialise in ironic religious imagery and spoof 1950s advertising, and while I generally appreciate the humour, I still have embarassing childhood memories of really really coveting a pink glass bead rosary with a painted crucifix, just like the one now being sold as an arch ornament at the “Trendy ‘n’ Trashy” shop in my nearest mall.

I guess catholic aesthetics may be harder to shake than the guilt.

P.S. the patron saint of journalists is St Francis de Sales, who was bishop of Geneva at the height of Calvinism. He tried to convert Calvinists, and became a mystic. Apparently he wrote a lot of religious tracts and books, which by Catholic logic I suppose makes him a role model for people reporting the news. He also fell off his horse a lot, which may be a better reason, given the rampant drunkenness in the profession.

Well, I have finally succumbed. Through ten years of building websites for other people, writing about the web for newspapers and magazines, teaching university students about the web and conducting academic research into the web and its impact and importance, I never once built my own vanity site, or registered my own domain.

But, now, for some reason, I have succumbed and am creating a blog. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it has more to do with the format of blogging, which appeals far more than the format of a personal “home page” as they used to be called.

As you may have surmised from the first paragraph, I am a journalist, web developer and academic, not in that order. I am currently the Johnnic Lecturer in New Media at Rhodes University, in Grahamstown, South Africa. The New Media Lab is part of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, the leading english-language journalism school in South Africa, and probably Africa.

Right now, though, I am on secondment to the South African Broadcasting Corporation, working specifically with the news division on coverage of the 2004 national elections. I am working primarily on a GIS-based election results system, which will be used to provide ongoing information to journalists working on four TV channels and 16 radio stations, as well as to provide results directly to the online news service, the phone-based Newsbreak system, and to automatically generate television graphics and tickers.