Anton Harber is the Caxton Professor of Journalism and Media Studies and director of the Journalism Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Harber has had a long career in journalism, media management and the training of journalists.
After graduating from Wits University in 1980, Harber began his career as a cadet journalist on The Springs Advertiser, before moving to the Sunday Post. He later took part in the launch of The Sowetan as deputy chief sub-editor. He joined the Rand Daily Mail in 1981 and was political reporter of the paper when it closed in 1985. He was then part of the small group of journalists who pooled their retrenchment pay to start The Weekly Mail.
In his capacity as co-editor of The Weekly Mail (now the Mail & Guardian), he was prosecuted numerous times under the State of Emergency. He was co-editor of the paper when it was banned for one month by the government in 1988 and led the legal battle against closure and numerous incidents of police confiscation of the newspaper.
In 1988, Harber was a joint winner of the Pringle Award, the premier South African award for contributions to press freedom. In 1995, The Mail & Guardian was named Newspaper of the Year at the International Press Directory Awards, and Harber was cited in the International Editor of the Year category.
It was at this newspaper that Harber also began his long involvement in journalism training. The Weekly Mail Training Project produced many of the journalists now holding senior positions in the industry.
In 1984, he was vice-president of the South African Society of Journalists. He served as an executive member of the SA Press Council in 1994/5, the Freedom of Expression Institute in 1993/4 and 2009/11 (as chair) and the Anti-Censorship Action Group in 1988-1994. He was chairman of the South African Conference of Editors for 1996 and co-chaired a task group with the Black Editors Forum which in October 1996 brought both bodies into a new umbrella editors’ body, the South African National Editor’s Forum.
Harber co-edited two editions of the The A-Z of South African Politics (Penguin 1994 and 1995), The Troublemakers: South Africa’s Fiesty Investigative Reporters (Jacana, 2010) and What is Left Unsaid: Reporting the South African HIV Epidemic (Jacana, 2010). He authored Diesploot (Jonathan Ball, 2011). He has contributed to a number of other books, newspapers and magazines including Newsweek, the New York Times, The Guardian and Leadership magazine.
When Harber retired as Mail and Guardian editor after 12 years, Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke at his farewell: “I want to pay a very warm tribute to Anton Harber whom I first met when he was reporting on the Eloff Commission for the Rand Daily Mail 1982/3 … It would be common cause to say he has gone on to be an outstanding innovative and courageous journalist producing a newspaper held in very high regard round the world for its independence and fearless speaking of the truth without fear or favour.”
In 1996, Harber helped put together a consortium to bid for privatised radio licences, a group which was the only one to win two licences. In March 1997, Harber was appointed CEO of Kagiso Broadcasting, owners of a number of media interests, and in October 1997 an executive director of Kagiso Media Limited, listed on the JSE. He served as a member of the boards of East Coast Radio (Pty) Ltd, Jacaranda 94.2fm (Pty) Ltd; Ofm (Pty) Ltd, Systems Publishers (Pty) Ltd, Radmark (Pty) Ltd and Kagiso Exhibitions (Pty) Ltd.
He was chairperson of the National Association of Broadcasters for two years (1999/2000), a member of the board of South African Advertising Research Foundation and the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism and a trustee of the Media Industry Trust. He has served as a media adviser to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, as a member of the International Advisory Board of the Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellowship for Journalists programme of the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and on an advisory board for the Aga Khan University’s planned new media school. He is a trustee of the Phil Harber Jazz Education Trust and the Anthony Sampson Foundation and he is a member of the board of directors of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism. He was for five years convenor of judges for the Sanlam Financial Journalist of the Year Awards and now convenes the Taco Kuiper Awards and Grants for Investigative Journalism.
Harber has also been involved in television production, as executive producer of the SABC series Ordinary People, and as co-creator, writer and executive producer of the SABC drama series Hard Copy.
Harber, and his long-time publishing partner, Irwin Manoim, started internet company BIG Media (Pty) Ltd in 2001 and this company is currently running sites for the Johannesburg Metropolitan Council, the International Marketing Council and other major clients.
Harber was appointed Caxton Professor of Journalism and Media Studies in 2001. He writes a regular column in the Business Day. In 2010, he was Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Green Templeton College, Oxford University.
Declaration of interests: I solicit contributions for journalism training at Wits University from Media 24, Independent Newspapers, Avusa, Kagiso Media and Caxton on a regular basis. Other funders of our programme activities include the SA Reserve Bank, the Open Society Foundation, the Konrad Audenauer Foundation, the Valley Trust and the Raith Foundation.
I own 26% of BIG Media (Pty) Ltd, where I chair the board of directors, and too few shares to amount to anything in the Mail & Guardian. I have funds invested with Peregrine’s Oakmont Hedge Fund, Investec, Stenheim (London) as well as SA Government Bonds.
I earn writing fees from a wide range of publications, but regularly from Business Day. I have in recent months been paid for writing by DailyMaverick, Beeld, Sunday Times and City Press.
I earn book royalties from Jonathan Ball Publishers and Jacana. I have also done consultancy work for GCIS (government communications), the International Marketing Council, the Sunday Times and the Aga Khan University. I have earned speaking fees in the last year from the City of Johannesburg and Eskom.
In 2011, I received a research and travel grant from the Oppenheimer Fund and the Anderson Capelli Fund.
My wife, Harriet Gavshon, is a television producer and owner of Curious Pictures, and does work for the SABC, eTV, MNet and Discovery Channel, inter alia. Together, we own our house in Parkview, Johannesburg, and a house near Xai-Xai, Mozambique. I own two flats in central Johannesburg and one in central Durban, all of which are rented out.