By Andries van Zyl FCJ Limpopo member

The FCJ (Forum of Community Journalists) is an independent, non-profit, non-racial and voluntary organisation (registered as a Section 21 company) striving to promote and express the interests of all journalists employed on a permanent or freelance basis at regional community newspapers, magazines and online community publications in South Africa.

Representing hundreds of journalists from among the estimated 500 community newspapers across the country, the FCJ takes great pride in their duty to safeguard press freedom as the corner stone of any healthy democracy. The national management committee (Board of Directors) also comprises a group of volunteers.

Over the last 20 years, the FCJ’s main mandate remained the same: To provide training to its members through initiatives such as their regional seminars.

The other big initiative is the FCJ’s prestigious Annual Local Media Excellence Awards. This event is regarded as the “Oscars” of the South African community press industry and until 2014 it was known as the Sanlam/MDDA Community Media Awards.

The regional seminars include one for Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo (also called No Guts, No Glory), one for Eastern Cape and the Garden Route, one for North West and the Free State and one for the Western Cape.

Training is provided free of charge in the form of editorial talks and workshops by industry leaders and members of the country’s top tertiary institutions. Training seminars are scheduled over a one or two day period to accommodate newspapers who cannot afford to go without their journalists for a longer period of time.

This is especially the case with emerging publications and journalists from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Being free, these seminars provide many a training opportunity which, under normal circumstances, would not have been possible or even affordable. The seminars are therefore extremely popular.