Anton Harber is currently on leave-of-absence as the Caxton Professor of Journalism and Media Studies in the Journalism Department at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, having worked until recently as Editor-in-Chief of television news channel eNCA. 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. Former Chief Justice, Ismail Mahomed, who represented the newspaper many times in its clashes with the apartheid government, said this of the paper on its 20th birthday: “The Weekly Mail, now the Mail & Guardian, has recorded this great decade for us with vigour and courage. But it has been more than just a faithful recorder of this history. It has influenced its course and direction, often by challenging the orthodox, by articulating the heretical, by confronting the smug, by defying the mighty, by inspiring the despairing, by outwitting the tyrannical, by dignifying the brutalised, by tempering the angry, by universalising the parochial, by exposing the untruthful, by mocking the pompous and by taunting the hypocritical.”
In 1988, Harber was a joint winner of the Pringle Award, for contributions to journalism. 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 2009/14 (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) and The Gorilla in the Room (MampoerShorts, 2013). 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, 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. 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. He is also a judge in the CNN African Journalism Awards. He currently serves on the board of the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) and is convenor of the 2017 Global Investigative Journalism Conference (GIJC2017) to be held in Africa for the first time.
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 such as www.southafrica.org.
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. He is a member of the Board of Global Investigative Journalism Network and chair of the Freedom of Expression Institute.
In 2016, Harber was appointed Editor-in-Chief of eNCA, the country’s leading television news channel and served in this role until June 2017.
Declaration of interests: I solicit contributions for journalism training at Wits University from Media 24, Independent Newspapers, Avusa, Kagiso Media, Primedia and Caxton on a regular basis. Other funders of our programme activities have included the SA Reserve Bank, Standard Bank, the Open Society Foundation, OSISA, the Konrad Audenauer Foundation, the Valley Trust, the Raith Foundation and the Canon Collins Trust.
I own a handful of shares in the Mail & Guardian, too few to amount to anything.
I have funds invested with Peregrine, Investec, Liberty and Stenhem..
I have in recent months been paid for writing by Business Day, Beeld, Sunday Times, City Press, the Guardian, EyeWitness News, BizCommunity, and Mampoer Shorts (for my e-book on Naspers CEO Koos Bekker).
I get a trickle of 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, the Aga Khan University, Discovery Health, SA Institute of International Affairs and the Committee for the Protection of Journalists. I have earned speaking fees from the City of Johannesburg and Eskom, inter alia.
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 shareholder of Quizzical Pictures (Pty) Ltd, 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.