Thursday, September 9, 2010

Agency Document


Frequency News


The mission statement of the agency is informed firstly by the way we position ourselves within debates about objectivity and how we understand our roles as radio journalists operating in a small town, such as Grahamstown.

Even though we understand that objectivity is compromised by our own identities and social positioning, we intend to maintain principals of factual based informative reporting, but will temper the distanced objective approach with an understanding of our subjective positions.

We are committed to ethical reporting that is characterised by:
• Responsibility
• Professionalism
• Accuracy
• Fairness
• Thorough research
• Sensitivity

We understand our role to be that of facilitators, educators, entertainers and commentators rather than mere reporters.

o The reporter as social commentator: here the reporter’s role is to identify problems and their source/s while also finding answers from within the community. Through this we hope to engage listeners, rather than merely broadcast to a passive audience, giving them the space to shape the news, rather than simply being dictated to.
o The reporter as facilitator – keep decision-makers accountable; playing an explanatory role - informing ordinary people; giving a voice to those who are not represented; equalising the playing fields – giving more weight to the voices of the disempowered.
o The reporters as entertainer – reporters should engage and interest their audience, building a sense of community pride or hope through colourful use of sound, creativity and, occasionally, humour. It is important to note that creative use of sound (ambience, etc) does not equate to inaccurate reporting in this instance.
o The reporter as educator – this role incorporates aspects of the former two, in which a journalist identifies important information and/or problems within the community that will help inform citizens about how to act or where to find help.

We intend to use the platform of podcasting to promote understanding between residents through examining similarities rather than reinforcing differences. However, we also feel it is important to embrace diversity and celebrate our differences and the unique perspectives and cultures within Grahamstown. Our news reports intend to stimulate dialogue amongst all parts of Grahamstown instead of merely providing opposing ‘truths’. We are committed to social change, accountability and challenging the status quo.


The agency’s mission statement is informed by our reflections on our own position, as student journalists, within the Grahamstown community.

• Students tend to behave as if they are in a ‘bubble of safety’ on Rhodes campus, and are not in any way affected by, or concerned about, Grahamstown. They do not see themselves as members of the Grahamstown community, but rather as members of a separate, insular little universe. However, this is an illusion: students’ lives do impact upon the town, and they are impacted upon what happens in the town.

• Therefore, the agency is committed to going beyond the Rhodes University campus when sourcing story ideas. The agency seeks to tell stories which resonate beyond the campus and which would speak to Grahamstown and the community beyond.

• Members of the agency should identify themselves not only as students, studying at Rhodes University, but also as journalists who contribute to democratic participation in Grahamstown.

• As student journalists, however, we identify the limitations in which we operate. For this reason, we commit to thinking creatively about the challenges we are faced with and to finding ways to meet our mission statement.

• As student journalists in a small town with a distinguished Journalism Department, we recognise that the ratio of journalists to ordinary citizen is much higher than average. This means that there are more journalists searching for stories among a smaller resource base. While this may be an obstacle, we commit to being more active with regards to news gathering, as the obvious methods and sources are very likely to have been exhausted.


Our work as an agency is informed by and grounded in the community in which we operate. Grahamstown is a small, fairly isolated town set in the Eastern Cape, one of South Africa’s poorest provinces. Although the town is prosperous, Grahamstown has a complex and contentious history and the historical divide still produces ramifications for the city today.

• The greatest of these divisions, which has its roots in Apartheid’s racial segregation, is between Grahamstown East or ‘iRhini’ (the ‘township’) and Grahamstown West (the ‘town’). While the town’s population is more than 130 000, more than 80 000 people live in the township, most of them in poverty. Although this division was originally racial, with a growing black middle class, this division is now marked by stronger economic and class distinctions.

o We understand this divide to be characterised by deep inequalities in terms of the allocation of municipal resources. This includes the provision of services (waste management, provision of water and electricity, etc) and infrastructure (housing, the maintenance and tarring of roads, the availability of green spaces, etc)
o We also understand the divide in terms of income. According to recent studies (Statistics South Africa, 2005), over 15000 people are unemployed.

• Language and culture are some of the greater barriers that journalists in this space have to cope with. Although the media in Grahamstown cater for primarily English speakers, the town consists mainly of Xhosa-speaking people, with a few Afrikaans-speakers throughout town and the surrounding farms.

• Beside a diversity of languages, the town is also populated by people who identify with specific ethnicities (which relate to language but also a set of cultural practices / traditions).

• One important example relates to the religious character of Grahamstown. The dominant religious identity of the town is Christian, but even within this, there are a host of distinctions between churches. Other religions – Islam for instance – are much less acknowledged within the dominant public spaces of the town.

• The town offers a range of educational opportunities from former DET schools to highly-regarded private schools as well as an elite public university (Rhodes). The private schools and university attract scholars from all over the country and the globe; however, the majority of Grahamstonians are accommodated in less-resourced government schools.

• These educational institutions play a vital role within the community, as Grahamstown’s largest employers and agents of development. They further shape the identity of the town, through its association as a ‘city of schools’.

• Another essential part of Grahamstown is the National Arts Festival, which has similarly shaped the identity of this small town, and adds greatly to its annual income. However, this festival comes with its own problems. Residents have long felt that local artists are marginalised in the festival programme.

• Several other important institutions in this city include the South African National Library for the Blind and the International Library for African Music (ILAM).

• Grahamstonians do share some common interests that can unite and interest all – these include arts, music and sports.


The agency’s mission statement is informed by our reflections on our own understanding of the community in which we will be operating as radio journalists. This understanding is based on the following perceptions about the historical, socio-economic and geographical characteristics of Grahamstown:

• That it is characterised by divides between “town” and “township”. We understand this as a geographical characteristic of the town which has its historical roots in the segregationist policies of Apartheid South Africa, and our general perception is that these distinctions still apply.

o We understand this divide is also illustrated in the education sector in town, with Rhodes University and the town’s private schools are indicative of the small ‘elite’ while the less privileged organisations account for a far bigger section of the town.

• That there are also important divides that exist within the communities of “town” and “township”.
• That Rhodes University occupies a uniquely powerful space within Grahamstown, and impacts on the town.
o It is one of the main employers.
o It has an influence on the local property market.

• That these divides and power relations are characteristic of many social spaces within South Africa – it is possible to see Grahamstown as a microcosm of what is happening more broadly. In particular, it is a good example of what happens in poorer provinces.

• The size of Grahamstown:
o One experiences the divides in a more intense way. This relates for example to the unavoidable visibility of inequality and injustice, given that the neighbourhoods of the “haves” and “have-nots” are so close to each other.
o It is easy to feel that one has access to people, but it is important to recognise that many of the town’s ‘authorities’ have been interviewed several times before and thus there is a need to use ‘normal’ citizens are credible sources and references.
o One may more easily be compromised by vested interests and prior knowledge.


Commentate rather than report
• Find issues within community
• Identify problems but also come up with solutions from ‘ordinary’ people (agents of their own social change)
• Look at context instead of phenomena or oddities
• Stretch boundaries – represent equally and fairly across the board
• Have a ‘so what’ element
• Commitment to social change, accountability and explaining (especially regarding political, economic and health issues)

Challenge the status quo:
• Find diverse sources to interpret information
• Normalise abnormalities – being mindful of how minority groups are portrayed
• Use ordinary persons as credible sources
• Understand that there is no one identity

Human interest approach:
• People orientated: human interest stories
• Tell stories that matter and can make a difference in people’s lives
• Devise stories that bring people into contact with one another
• Make visible the social experiences of ordinary people, and capture ordinary people’s responses to planning processes.
• Positive stories that acknowledge community involvement and achievement; ‘normal’ people’s good news; acknowledging when the authorities get it right and meet the needs of the community.
• Finding stories that galvanise the community and promote pride within the city. These can include local sports stories.
• Highlighting stories about local citizens, who have done exemplary things, taking responsibility for their own lives – rather than only focusing on “top down” stories about the projects and activities of government and other institutions of authority.
• Always reflect: who has not spoken?

• With an emphasis on research that will enable us as journalists to understand the structure of this town and related processes, we intend explore the accountability of the following sectors:
• Of government
• Of business
• NGOs – viewing what they do and whether they consult with the community.
• Rhodes and other schools

We acknowledge that this list is not is merely indicative of the problem areas we have identified in Grahamstown. As an agency, it will be our responsibility to find the stories which would illuminate on these issues – finding alternative ways to understand, and report on, these issues.

• Methods of reporting \ treatment:

o Be wary of extremes
o Avoid sweeping generalisations: for example, identifying the sources of problems
o Make sure that stories have a diversity of sources
o Agenda setting – choosing stories is one way in which journalists contribute to the equalising of power in society
o Given what was said before about the dangers of operating in a small town, we need to be wary of interviewing the usual suspects and opting for the tried and tested stories.

Personal Philosophy

The community I will be operating in as a journalist is based predominately in the local Grahamstown region. The audience within this area range across gender, race and age and include people with disabilities as well as those who are uneducated and illiterate. The community I will serve is one which has a tainted past filled with hardship and a segregated identity as a result of a war which occurred over a century ago. This separation is visible by the simple town structure Grahamstown follows: those who reside in the informal settlement outside of the town are generally less privileged while those with the most money have homes closer to the centre of town. With regard to the disadvantaged community, namely the blind, this specific audience knows no boundaries and includes men, women and children as well as males and females while race is not an important facet in the lives of this blind community. The majority of my audience is isiXhosa while English and Afrikaans do feature.
As a radio journalist working in Grahamstown I will definitely need to follow some sort of objectivity code to avoid further conflict in the community. I feel that every person needs to be held accountable for their words and as a journalist, I will definitely not be exempt from this accountability. Grahamstown is segregated and many of the pieces I produce may offend someone within the community whether intentionally or not and I feel that while I may not create the news, I will produce the stories and therefore I have control over the angle as well as the tone, both of which are able to change the meaning to either support or rebel against the topic at hand. Because of the blind community audience I will also need to ensure that the language I use is not derogatory at all and that the pieces I send out are understandable. My work needs to be fair so that this community can be brought together and I feel that any circumstances, both positive and negative, brought about by the pieces I produce will solely be my responsibility.
This is a diverse town and therefore I would need to produce stories which cater for the diverse audience that resides here. Political stories would need to be handled with care as they can easily become inflamed within a community which is always fighting about name changes etc. Community stories would need to be given more prominence so as to encourage individuals to get involved and to bring hope to those in need. Sport is a large community builder and by focusing on matches and events in a community-like tone, I would be able to instil pride amongst the Grahamstown inhabitants. News stories need to be concise and non-bias as this small community talks and if any information is missing from a current affairs story, it will soon be blown out of context.


A collection of news articles and podcasts which I have created.

Grocott's News Stories
Our class was required to edit stories published in the local newspaper, Grocott's Mail, in order for them to be fit for a radio news bulletin.
Story 1
The legitimacy of the local National African Federal Chamber of Commerce and Industry elections are being disputed by the organisation.

The meeting was held in December and chose former Nafcoc district chariperson, Mxolisi Dyibishe, to lead the new committee which is responsible for the development of business in South Africa.

Nafcoc distrcict secretary Otto Ntshebe said that the meeting had been unprocedural and that Nafcoc officials should ignore the results as they weren’t all aware of the meeting.

The original task team’s additional member, Eric Dondashe has challenged the new leader to provide the attendance register taken at the December 22 election.

Story 2
Infighting amongst ANC Youth League members delayed the League’s convenor from visiting Grahamstown yesterday.

Youth League members were demanding that their branches be audited ahead of the election of new leaders in March.

The Youth League’s provincial chairperson, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, diffused an altercation between police and members in King William’s Town which caused the delay of a lecture celebrating the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

Qoboshiyane has said that he will step down peacefully as he has exceeded the Youth League’s age limit of 35.

Story 3
ANC Youth League provincial leader, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, has urged the party’s leaders to address the issue of the nationalisation of South African mines.

Qoboshiyane addressed the Youth League president at Noluthando Hall on the 20th anniversary celebration of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

The leader also questioned how Britain, a country he says doesn’t have gold, was able to acquire its wealth.

Qoboshiyane explained that the only way for the ANC to achieve success is by making the nationalisation debate part of the agenda for their 2012 conference.

Story 4
Members of the Congress of the People held a celebration on Saturday evening in a bid to thank the leaders for campaigning in last year’s general elections.

The singing and dancing outside of the Cope offices in Chapel street was aimed at reviving the party’s sructures in the Makana Municpality.

Cope regional secretary in the Cacadu District said that they were reviving their branches as they felt weak at last year’s polls due to the lack of permanent leadership.

Cope will hold a Local Government Summit in July as Njibane feels that the party need not wait until 2011’s local elections before they start serving the community.

Story 5
The alleged appointment of a strategic advisor to Makana Mayour, Vumile Lwana, has been infuriated the official opposition within the council.

The minutes of the meeting show that the mayoral committee approved the post last month, however the approval was not presented to the council.

Democratic Alliance chief whip, Michael Whisson says that he was led to believe that the post that was filled by Mr Lesoro was not introduced at the council meeting as would normally be the case with a new senior appointment.

Lwana has been quoted as saying that there had been no appointment as the creation of the post had been put on hold.

A group of Radio 3 students put together Podcasts with content from the local Grahamstown newspaper, Grocott's Mail.

Within the first podcast, this was the package I created:
The Old Gaol Backpackers is a historic monument, which has been host to many local and international visitors who praise its existence. After running for 13 years, it faces closure due to unresolved negotiations. The owner of the backpackers, Brian Peltason, explains where the process stands at present…

G-Cast news took to the streets of Grahamstown to find out how students, locals, and old gaol employees feel about the situation.

This is the full podcast which was created:

G-Cast News Podcast 1

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Within the second podcast, this was the package I created:
The Eastern Cape Eisteddfod has arrived in Grahamstown for the second year running. The event is being held at the 1820 Setters National Monument and sees over 6 000 children participating in areas of music, dance, drama and creative writing. Eastern Cape Eisteddfod officer, Carol Gourley, says that the festival provides children with the opportunity to improve their talent and increase their confidence levels…

G-Cast News attended the Eisteddfod and asked the participating children what they enjoyed most about the two week event…

The event invited schools for children with special needs from across the Eastern Cape to participate. This teacher explains what the Eisteddfod has done for the mentally handicapped students at the school where she works…

This is the full podcast which was created:

G-Cast News Podcast 2

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Reflection on Podcast

I feel that the story on the possible closure of the Old Gaol I produced is objective and thus meets the first standard set out by the Agency document which encourages us to commit to ethical reporting characterised by responsibility, professionalism, accuracy, fairness, thorough research and sensitivity. I sourced my information directly from Brian Peltason, the owner of the Old Gaol, and was very careful to interview an array of individuals from across Grahamstown. I included students, barmen, cleaners, competition, white women, black women, white men and black men, just to name a few.

I provided social commentary on the issue of the Old Gaol closure and identified with the problems while seeking answers from within the community. I feel that the story was engaging for listeners and by allowing community members a chance to express their feelings I allowed them to shape the news. I also acted as a facilitator by informing the ordinary citizens and equalising the playing field by making the voices of the disempowered voices (the staff at the Old Gaol) heard. I feel that the broad spectrum of interviewees blurred the divide between the township and the town and placed every resident, whether for or against the closure, on the same platform from which opinions could be aired.

I commentated on an issue which I found in the community and proceeded to seek out solutions for the ‘ordinary’ individuals and hopefully bring about a social change by airing their plight. Through this story I hoped to find those whose voices would not be heard at any higher board meetings and through their inclusion, ensure that all the parties involved realise the implications, whether positive or negative, of the closure of this historic building.

The podcast produced by G-Cast News was a well-rounded and diverse show. The stories we included adhered to the news agency document and the methods of reporting we used ensured that we were neither extreme nor made any sweeping statements. We used a diversity of sources although our story covering the strike was incomplete as we were unable to achieve audible sound from any strikers. As this story is a recurring one, our angle should have been something different from what was previously reported to keep the story fresh and the listeners interested.

Climate Change

Algoa FM contacted our department and asked us to create an environmental package in line with the South East African Climate Consortium (SEACC).

Algoa Country has the potential to be environmentally aware and play a role in sustainable development. Grahamstown’s Local Economic Department has begun a program which aims to establish the town as a Green City. This initiative is currently driven by the Department of Social and Community Services. For this system to be successful, other cities and towns throughout the world will need to become economically and socially ‘green’. Marcelle Liron spoke to the Environmental Manager of the Makana Municiplaity, Ndumiso Nongwe, who explains the concept of a Green City…


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The South African Broadcasting Corporation contacted our department and asked us to create a development package.

Throughout South Africa poverty is a reality which has led people to embark on activities and jobs that are often unhygenic. The Masihlule Project, in Grahamstown, was born out of concern for those who scavenge through rubbish bags and gives the unemployed the opportunity to create a consistent income through recycling waste. Marcelle Liron reports…


Movers and Shakers

Vibrant. The perfect word to describe Mrs Daphne Timm, a woman who has devoted her life to uplifitng the Grahamstown community. Marcelle Liron and Angelique Thorne examined how and why this is the lifestyle she has chosen...


Media Landscape Essay
Write an essay of 1200 words (approximately), in which you contextualise the contemporary South African radio landscape, and analyse and contrast the news content produced by two of the following radio stations – SAfm (public service), 702 (commercial) and Bush Radio (community).

The South African radio landscape refers to three tiers of distinctive radio stations: the public tier, the commercial tier and finally the community tier. I will examine a radio branch of the SABC, SAfm, which falls under the public station tier, with the aim to serve the public interest and build a democracy. This station consists of both a commercial broadcasting and a public broadcasting sector with the public broadcaster’s core business being to deliver a “variety of high quality programmes and services through television and radio that informs, educates, entertains and supports the public at large” ( The next examinable station is 702, a commercial station, whose main aim is to sell audiences to advertisers thus categorizing it as part of the profit driven arena. Most commercial stations’ content is musically dense, however, some are talk stations such as 702 and Cape Talk. This tier also includes stations which were sold off by the SABC, such as Algoa FM and Highveld Stereo. All content on these stations is commercially driven. The final tier includes stations such as Bush Radio, which fall under the community radio station umbrella. This tier aims to serve the public within specific communities such as geographical communities, communities of interest and cultural communities. The main foci include grassroots issues such as development and transformation. The communities in question are directly involved in the production process and the station is accountable to the community regarding all aspects. Shortly after the first democratic elections in 1994 the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) was formed to regulate the country’s broadcasting industry. This sector was previously controlled by the government’s Department of Home Affairs but with the introduction of the regulator, independence was constitutionally guaranteed ( The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) was established in 2000 to monitor compliance with license terms and conditions, develop regulations the three sectors, plan and manage the radio frequency spectrum as well as protect consumers of the provided products and services (

Each and every radio station follows a different institutional context and these differences are particularly evident when considering a community station in comparison to a commercial station. The two stations in particular that I will be examining are Bush Radio, a Cape Town based community station, which has been running since the late 1980s, and Talk Radio 702, a commercial station produced in and broadcast to the greater Gauteng province. The license agreements implemented by the IBA and ICASA affect the ways in which the stations produce news, the type of news they produce as well as the audiences the stations provide content for.

The production of news at these two stations is affected by numerous influences including editorial policies, newsroom operations and resources as well as the target and actual audiences. Bush Radio broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week and programmes in three languages: Xhosa, Afrikaans and English. This station covers both social and political developments and issues pertaining to the poorer community, which is their target audience. It runs upliftment projects and offers scholarships and training programmes to poor students living in and around the Cape Flats. By offering a day care centre for employees’ children, the station is able to maintain its staff quota of half female reporters, newsreaders, journalists etc.

Bush Radio receives 50% of its income from advertising, however, it declines proposals from alcohol and gambling companies as a way of helping the community overcome these problems. The advertising is not racist, sexist or discriminatory in any way, lending to its policy of free and fair broadcasting (Olorunnisola 2002, 133). The station does not accept sponsorship for the news bulletins, which add to fair content production as external influences are limited. The station is made up mostly of community members who form the core of Bush Radio, influencing what is produced and broadcast. This encourages news to be community based and comply with the audience members’ preferences which are distributed amongst different linguistic groups as well as LSMs and age groups (

Talk Radio 702 is Johannesburg’s number-one current affairs and information station and offers an array of programming and phone-in debates. The station is owned by PRIMEDIA, a private company that was once listed on the JSE. The company is owned by Mineworks Investment Company and Krish Consortium, amongst others. The commercial station has a list of businesses, which cover advertising and content costs incurred by 702, including radio broadcasts and outdoor advertising located primarily in South Africa. The financial stronghold these companies have over the station potentially affects the content of the 5 minute news bulletins broadcast every hour, as news affecting these companies needs to be carefully censored to avoid conflicting ideologies. EyeWitness News is responsible for the production of news at 702, while desk reporters as well as those in the field on any given day have diary meetings to ensure that news gathering is efficient and economical while guaranteeing that stations belonging to the same news group do not produce duplicate information.

As a result of Bush Radio and Talk Radio 702’s categorical differences in compliance with the regulations of the South African radio landscape, one is able to analyse and compare the types of news bulletins each station produces with regard to their foci, technical capabilities and story treatment. The bulletins I will compare are the 5pm bulletins which were aired on 8 April 2010 from the community radio station as well as the commercial radio station.

As a result of the different target audiences each station has, the lead stories differ according to the news values which are prominent to most of the stations’ listeners. 702’s target audience falls in the higher LSM group and span across two provinces, namely Gauteng and the Western Cape (567 Cape Talk is Talk Radio 702’s sister-station). As a result of this, the lead story follows a non-province-specific beat and considers local news which affects both listener groups equally so as not to lose interest from either province. Bush Radio caters mainly to the poorer areas of Cape Town and provides entertainment and information for those living in the lower LSMs ( Bush Radio did not run the story covering Julius Malema’s statement regarding courts residing over political issues in their 5pm read because of monetary issues regarding the purchase of new recording equipment as well as a proximity issue e.g.: Malema may have been in Pretoria thus establishing an interview with him or even a live read would have been improbable. 702 uses the longest slot for the same story as their news bulletin is sponsored and time isn’t much of a constraint for the establishment. Bush Radio uses volunteers from the community whose training may also be limited with regard to interviews and sources. Bush Radio leads its bulletin with a provincial story about a major tourist attraction in Cape Town. The Robben Island Ferry has been a part of the City’s heritage for many years and this ‘feel good’ story will encourage the target audience, who live difficult lives in the Cape Flats, to enjoy the beauty of the city they live in and take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities their home holds. This story did not feature in the 702 news bulletin even though it catered for the station’s Western Cape based audience. The reason for this is the fact that the percentage of Western Cape listeners is so small in comparison to the number of Gauteng-based audience members.

When considering the scripting of each station’s news bulletins, one notices small differences in that 702 uses more aggressive language to describe stories and people that the private-owned station finds trivial – especially those relating to Julius Malema who has stood on the toes of many of the station’s reporters including Stephen Grotes. The on-scene reporter uses words such as “ploy” and “fight” when describing the ANC Youth League leader as well as the stance taken up by the ruling political party. Bush Radio’s scripting is slightly more neutral and the anchor’s vocabulary is very basic in keeping with the target audience’s general level of education.

The above essay allows for the comparison and understanding of the ways in which radio stations within each of the three tiers produce and broadcast news bulletins as well as the different influences which affect what is produced, when and for whom. The presence of the IBA as well as ICASA ensures that the three stations’ policies and production methods comply with the Constitution as well as the Bill of Rights.

The two radio stations outlined above have numerous fields which they are expected to adhere to in order to qualify as either a community radio station, like that of Bush Radio, or a commercial radio station, such as Talk Radio 702. The commercial tier aims to sell audiences to advertisers and is usually owned by private shareholders thus being a profit driven company such as 702. Bush Radio is a community radio station as it serves the local community surrounding it as well as building a strong, unique relationship with the Cape community. Its focus is development, transformation and reconciliation and is based on participatory production. These stations aid in the development of South Africa and its citizens and encourages respect and adherence to our Constitution; “an article of faith in the democracies of the kind we are venturing to create” (


• Accessed on 29/04/10.
• Accessed on 14/04/10.

• Accessed on 14/05/10.

• Olorunnisola, A. (2002). Commutinity Radio: Participatory Communication in Postapartheid South Africa. Journal of Radio Studies, Volume 9, No 1. 126-145.

• Accessed on 13/05/10.

Reflective Report

Write a report of no more than 2000 words in which you critically reflect on your own production work in the third term, using the terms and tools you have been engaged in, in your radio and media studies course work.

Development journalism is an attempt to document conditions within a community in an effort to provide a larger audience with an understanding of the society at hand. This type of journalism encourages reporters to travel to remote areas and interact with the citizens and examines proposed projects to improve the conditions of locals. This essay aims to critique and explain the course involving development journalism with regard to the third term radio packages which have been created. I will examine the reflective tools which were used incorporating the Agency document that was drawn up by our class at the beginning of the year. This document as well as the concept of development journalism aspires to offer a practice that is more people-engaged. I will explain the tools I used to reflect on the packages I produced thus offering a critical reflection on my own production work. I will also describe the production process and outline the radio production methods and techniques I used. The essay will give a brief overview of my story as well as the final production including the editing method. The last section of the essay will discuss the ways in which this journalistic approach informed or fell short of informing the work I did.

Within the South African media landscape, radio journalism fulfils the media quota in the numerous rural areas, as a result of the fact that it is free and relatively easy to access. Those living below the poverty line are not financially equipped to enjoy television news, newspapers and internet-based news agencies. Without radio as a medium, there would be a void in our country thus separating those who do not have the means to access information from those who are more fortunate and better situated. This could pose a problem for the creation of a democratic South Africa where every citizen has a right to participate in public discussion and debate. Radio allows for South Africans to have an understanding of current affairs and provides a platform from which all citizens can voice their opinions and create change within their country. Due to its unbiased nature, radio offers a grass-roots approach to media production meaning that journalists create packages about those who live in less mainstream society, allowing theses citizens a chance to share their stories.

Our class drew up an Agency document that is informed by our position within the debates regarding objectivity, even though objectivity is often compromised by each of our identities and positions within society. We will produce reports which are factually based and informative, while maintaining our positions as facilitators, social commentators and educators. We will facilitate the empowerment of the voices often silenced and offer a grass-roots approach to the world of journalism. These roles adhere to the concept of development journalism and will promote the centring of stories on the concerns of ordinary citizens. We will engage our listeners thus freeing them from the position of passive audience and allowing them to shape news rather than only consume news. We will highlight stories about commendable citizens who have taken responsibility for their own lives rather than focusing on top-down stories about government and other authoritative institutions’ projects.

Development journalism as examined by Professor Fackson Banda, is “an intellectual enterprise in which the journalist should form a kind of free intelligence and should critically examine the aims of national development and the applicable instruments in a rational discourse and solve them by reasonable criteria free of social constraints” (Banda, 2006: 5). This means that instead of hearing about local developments from an authoritative point of view as mainstream journalism encourages, journalists link development to human beings and examine it from an anthropological standpoint. People should be reported on as subjects and agents of development rather than being viewed as objects or victims, deviating from previous development journalisms from a postcolonial past. This does not however force journalism to highlight only success stories as sometimes constructive criticism is also necessary (Gunaratne, 1996: 7-8).

The development journalism package I created this term examined the Masihlule Recycling Project situated at the landfill site on the outskirts of Grahamstown. I chose to focus on this project as it complimented the notion of development journalism, following an idea which has resulted in the improvement of citizens’ way of life which was before considered somewhat destructive. This project is not a government initiative and thus my package did not need to focus on official sources who would offer top-down opinions. My angle focuses on the opportunities this project has created out of something which was before considered an insignificant job by the community in general. This project is run by Angie Tompson, a local woman who saw an opportunity to create a sustainable recycling project and provide employment for local ‘scavengers’ (people who sorted through other citizens’ rubbish bags in order to sell recyclable waste). However, to adhere to the grass-roots beat, I focused on an employee and the change this project has brought to his quality of life. Eric Charles provided the majority of actuality while Tompson’s voice was only brought in to offer an understanding of project’s aims. I also interviewed Nosipho Manona, the development officer, who outlined the opportunities the project offers its employees. I first heard about the Masihlule Recycling Project through a Google search when researching an environmental piece which required ambience from the landfill site. This project interested me and when the opportunity to create a development piece arose, it was the first story I pitched. After my pitch was approved, I realised that it had the potential to overlap with the environmental beat and thus I decided that I would focus my story on the people rather than the project. After gaining an understanding of the ins and outs of the project from its official website, I conducted a telephonic preliminary interview with Tompson who indicated who I should speak to and provided me with telephone numbers. I went to the landfill site after organising an interview with Manona and asked her questions regarding the opportunities the project had provided the employees. I met many of the sorters and felt that Charles, a young man who worked as a mechanic at the project, would be able to offer my audience a greater understanding of the dreams the employees had and how the project had assisted in their achievement. I returned to the Journalism Department with a mass of content and began the editing process. This posed a problem as we only had three to four minutes to cover the story and I felt that by including three voices I would have trouble keeping the package development based. However, I edited the piece to offer Charles’ voice as the main interest and then returned to the landfill site to capture actual wild track (background noise used to create a scene) to create a realistic ‘picture’ in the minds of my audience. I then attended one of the young man’s rugby practices for ambience to highlight the influence the sport has on his life and work ethic.

The Masihlule Project Recycling Centre seemed like a perfect option for a development journalism package but once I had sent in my story pitch, I realised that it had the potential to become an environmental piece rather than development-based due to its foundation in recycling. To avoid this, I decided to focus on a specific person within the project who would be able to illustrate the developmental possibilities the project offered its employees. This aspect of my story helped me achieve a grass-roots approach as I went into Charles’ environment and through my open-ended questions was able to gain an understanding of the story he wanted to tell and not the story I wanted to report. I prepared very few, basic questions regarding what he does at the recycling centre and how long he’d been working there for instance, but waited for him to explain how the project had changed his way of living and how he felt closer to achieving his dreams now that he had proper employment. I experienced some difficulty with finding someone who was proud of what they had achieved. One of the ladies at the recycling centre said that she didn’t want people to know she sorted other people’s waste to support her family. While I was shocked by her comment, it made me realise that development journalism still had a long way to go in creating a platform for people to feel safe enough to tell their story. I understood her story and thought it was something to be extremely proud of but I knew I couldn’t instil pride in her. I was worried that using Tompson would create the postcolonial journalistic approach of ‘foreigners saving the natives’ but I knew that including her voice would offer a compassionate angle as she did not speak from an authoritative stand-point. By simply explaining the project’s aims, I feel that she outlined what would, one day, become a sustainable development and assist many more people’s standard of living. Nosipho Manona’s voice offered another grass-roots approach but from someone who has achieved a qualification and managerial position through the training she received from the Masihlule Project. This package adhered to the development journalism requirements and through offering the audience an understanding of what grass-roots life entails, fulfils journalism’s role of providing ordinary citizens the chance to share their stories whether they are successful or not.

  • Banda, F. 2006. “An Appraisal of the Applicability of Development Journalism in the
  • Context of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB)”. Grahamstown, Rhodes University. Retrieved from accessed on 25 August 2010.
  • Gunaratne, S. 1996. “Old wine in a new bottle: public journalism movement in the United States and the erstwhile NWICO debate”. Paper presented at the International Division of the IAMCR Conference, Sidney, Australia.
  • JMS3 Radio. 2010. “Agency Document”. Grahamstown, Rhodes University. Retrieved from on 23 August 2010.