By Pulane Choane

Born in Gqeberha (former Port Elizabeth), veteran journalist and media specialist Ray Hartle, is a child of the Eastern Cape. Even as an adult, he says he has chosen to remain in the province as it homes not only his family but also his earliest foundations and most memorable career moments.

He recalls how his childhood home in Gelvandale always had two newspapers daily, including the weekends. His love for news and journalism began, which also saw him as an activist for social change.

During his late teens, he was also exposed to the writings of another prolific Eastern Cape journalist, Mono Badela, who used her articles to fight against South Africa’s Apartheid regime at the time. Through Mono’s workshops at the Sihlobo Youth Centre, Ray took the fateful decision to pursue a career in Journalism. Little did his high school teacher know that through Journalism, Ray would go on to embrace his argumentative and critical thinking abilities, proving one article at a time that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”

In 1981, he started his academic career at Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies. That decision led him to pursue his other qualifications, including his Honours and Masters degrees at the institution.

Although he went on to complete his qualifications, the journey wasn’t one without upheavals. He dropped out of school at the end of the second year of his undergraduate degree because he had failed every module except Journalism. Determined to complete his degree, he returned to Rhodes in 1985, as he had received a scholarship for his studies from the Swiss Council of Churches.

Throughout his career, he’s worked as a journalist for the Daily Despatch group of companies and was appointed as the editor of the Makhanda newspaper, Grocott’s Mail, in 1987. Then later, he was appointed as the Bureau Chief for Times Media Limited, where he had many beats, often using journalism as his medium for activism on social issues he was passionate about.

In 1994, he switched from journalism to corporate communications and was appointed as leading car retailer Volkswagen SA’s spokesperson. He developed the company’s communications and marketing strategy for the Coega Industrial Development Zone. He’s also worked as a Media Relations manager for the University of Cape Town.

In 2016, he also faced a personal challenge, as he had to have a heart transplant, which dramatically shortened his journalism career but not his impact in the field.  

Although he retired in 2021, the 60-year-old continues to freelance as a writer for both media outlets and the corporate world. 

He is also registered for his PhD at Rhodes University. His thesis will focus on patient-centered policy and practice in organ transplantation treatment in South Africa, inspired by his own transplant experience.

The proud husband and father of four will be among the eight alumni from Rhodes University’s School of Media and Studies to receive the JMS 50 Alumni Award at a ceremony in Cape Town on Thursday, 29 September 2022. These awards form part of the school’s 50th Anniversary, which will, over the course of this year, laud 50 of its outstanding alumni who have contributed to South African Media with this award.