Prof George Claassen, former Head of the Department of Journalism at Stellenbosch University (SU) and deputy editor of Die Burger, is the first recipient of SU's Media Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Read the full "commendatio" here
Claassen (70) received the award at an event at the Wallenberg Research Centre at STIAS in Stellenbosch on Thursday (5 December 2019). The event saw Excellence Awards made to teaching, research and to those who have excelled at communicating their research and expertise through the media
Reading a “commendatio" at the event, Mr Martin Viljoen, Manager Media, said that Claassen can rightly be called the father of science communication in Africa. “He had a profound impact on both journalism as a profession and as a field of study."
Viljoen added that Claassen excelled in science journalism and the ombud system as important spheres of contemporary journalism. He was the first journalism academic in South Africa to develop a course in science and technology journalism with peers at American universities specialising in science and technology journalism considering his work to be the best in this field.
“It is safe to say that Claassen shaped the thinking of a whole generation of journalists operating in South Africa and beyond, imparting his knowledge on science communication and implanting in journalists a keen sense of detecting fake news and pseudo-science. He has an ability to see into the media future and has been preparing journalists accordingly, including for the explosion of social media, fake news and propaganda appearing on our screens. In many regards, Claassen led the charge in countering the impact of this onslaught on, in and from the media and it came as no surprise that he was the organiser of the first international conference on quackery and pseudoscience."
Claassen also dovetailed science journalism with establishing the first comprehensive course in cultural and scientific literacy in SU's journalism programmes, while paying close attention to advancing environmental journalism and reporting on climate change.
Claassen is synonymous with the media ombud system on the continent, Viljoen said. He established the media ombud system in Media24 and is currently, after his retirement from the company, still ombud for the company's community newspapers and public editor of News24.
He has served as a board member of the International Organisation of News Ombudsmen and Readers' Editors, he is a columnist on the subject and organiser and speaker of various conferences and symposia on an international scale.
At age 70, Claassen seems to show no signs of slowing down. Apart from his work as ombud, he is a science correspondent for the SABC and still teaches at SU's Department of Journalism.
- Apart from the Media Lifetime Achievement Award, SU staff were also honoured in the categories Media Thought Leader, Newsmaker and Co-worker