The Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies is celebrating its half-centenary in 2022, and, without doubt, these first fifty years have seen extraordinary shifts in the South African political landscape. Alum Kerry Swift has been there for all of it. Swift was among the first group of Rhodes journalism graduates in 1972. He joined the Sunday Times and was the last journalist to travel through the Mozambican war zones before the coup in Portugal. These experiences led to his book Mozambique and the Future.
Swift joined Drum magazine in the 1970s and, twenty-five years later, in the introduction to a booklet commemorating the Drum archive from 1976 to 1980, he noted that the years had been “an important chapter in the annals of South African journalism for it was a time when the apartheid government was intent on perverting the independent Press. Our battles with John Vorster’s Department of Information and its sinister machinations need to be recorded.”
Awarded a Rotary Journalism fellowship, Swift obtained his MA from the University of York. A foray into corporate publishing saw him jointly running Freelance Editors in Johannesburg. In 1990, nearly twenty years after graduating, he returned to Rhodes as a senior lecturer in the School of Journalism and Media Studies, where he launched and edited the Rhodes Journalism Review, contributing to the education of a new wave of journalism students graduating into the dawn of democracy in the new South Africa.
Swift moved on from Rhodes University to join Churchill-Murray Publishing, first in Cape Town and then in London, as publishing director, producing a range of corporate publications including Leadership magazine. Later he ran the Times Media Journalism School. For a decade, Swift was commissioning judge for the Siemens All-Africa Technology Journalism Awards, and chairman of the Orchestra Company in Johannesburg. With two colleagues he launched Fox Publishing in Johannesburg and Cape Town before selling his shares and joining Core Holdings as publishing director of PC Magazine and Interactive Week.
Swift has now retired, having spent time at Rhodes University overseeing its Centenary Campaign, and at the University of Johannesburg. On retirement he acted as a consultant to universities and penned a private memoir, Another Country. As part of the JMS50 celebrations, the JMS School has awarded Swift a JMS50 Alumni Award, for his contribution to journalism, both in its practice and in advancing its presence in the academy.