a) My original Personal Philosophy was written in March of this year, before I had a chance to really engage with the community that makes up Grahamstown. When I compiled those ideas, I was basing my statements on assumptions of an area I had never really visited or even begun to understand. I stated in my Philosophy that I wanted to follow an ‘objectivity code’ which, according to our class’ mission statement, comprises of “factual based informative reporting” (Agency Document, 2010). After having spent the last semester working within Wards 5 and 6 for our Journalism, Democracy and Development – Critical Media Productions (JDD-CMP) course, I realised that my Personal Philosophy was simply a regurgitation of what my social positioning as a middle class, white, female attending an elite university, had encouraged me to assume of a world outside of my own. I was also very naïve in believing that if my stories were not of a first-class standard, I would create ‘further conflict in the community’. While some of the residents were respectful towards me and my assignments, many simply didn’t care about a student journalist and what she had to say. I believed that my work would have the capacity to bring about change, whether for better or worse, while in retrospect, I achieved nothing which would really alter the lives of the residents. I now realise that perhaps, as a working journalists, with real credibility and a large media house behind my name, I will be able to influence those in power while as a Rhodes University student, they understand that my audience does not include anyone who could directly or indirectly affect them or their credibility within their industry.
I made a statement which reflected upon the intelligence of my audience by saying that many of them were ‘uneducated and illiterate’: after having interacted with the locals, I now realise how derogatory this statement is and that while some may not have achieved a matric certificate, they have many other skills which are more desirable within this community than a university degree. One of our participants was a self-taught electrician who now fixes television sets within his area and is trying to set up a workshop where he will be able to teach his skills to young people in the community, assisting them in finding work. I am still confident with my statements about the language predominantly spoken in Joza. My Photojournalism partner and I created a Soundslide which we were to show to the Ward 5 and 6 community as well as to the Makana Municipality in the hope that they would act upon our story focusing on health issues within the area. We decided to allow our interviewees to answer our questions in their home language of isiXhosa in order to put them at ease as well as create an authenticity which might have assisted us in tugging at the heartstrings of the municipality.
When I said that I would give community stories more prominence ‘so as to encourage individuals to get into involved and to bring hope to those in need’, I was using my knowledge of a community as a group of people with a common goal – to improve the lives of those residing in their area. Our group tried to focus on the individuals or organisations which were actually bringing about change through forums, workshops and sporting activities. As I said in my Personal Philosophy, I aimed to instil pride amongst the community members and through this, encourage them to assist in creating a living space which they can be proud of.
b) The South African radio landscape is divided into three distinctive tiers: the public tier, the commercial tier as well as the community tier. Examples of each of these tiers are SAfm (public station), Bush Radio (community station) and 702 Talk Radio (commercial station). My job interest would be most fulfilled by 702 which is owned by PRIMEDIA, a private company once listed on the JSE, whose main aim is to sell audiences to advertisers, thus categorizing it as part of the profit driven arena. 702 is a commercial station produced in and broadcast to the greater Gauteng province and while it is relatively free from state influence, the IBA and ICASA have signed license agreements which after the ways in which the station produces news as well as the type of news it produces. Other influences include editorial policies, newsroom operations and resources as well as the target as well as actual audiences.
I want to create journalism which is inclusive of the public, a public journalism of sorts. However, within an area as large as Gauteng, the chances of achieving a public agenda which does not favour a status quo. This is achieved through an array of programmes and phone-in debates, where audience members from all over the province are invited to participate in a discussion surrounding an on-going or current affair. Within 702 Talk Radio. Eyewitness News produces a different news bulletin every hour on the hour., with desk reporters as well as field reporters being responsible for compiling the reports. This means that I would need to be accountable for my stories and their authenticity and factuality because each journalist has the freedom to compile the story from whichever angle they see fit for audience consumption. I feel that I would be able to utilise the many sources this station has due to its many years in the business and highly respected name. The fact that there are so many reporters as well as the daily diary meetings means that everyone acts efficiently and in an economical fashion, guaranteeing that the same news groups do not produce duplicate information.
The fact that advertisers have a strong-hold over the station and the content of the five minute news bulletins broadcast every hour means that any mention or inclination towards these companies needs to be censored to avoid a conflict of interests between the station and the advertisers. This would not fulfil my search for a completely objective practice but very few stations would. A problem I would find working at PRIMEDIA’s 702 Talk Radio lies in the fact that the majority of their news bulletins and content are targeted at a higher LSM group, resulting in many political stories and very few community engagement stories. While I may wish to bring communities together, 702’s aim does not include establishing a common good amongst their audience members, as this very discrepancy often leads to thrilling phone-in debates and a never-ending supply of broadcast material. These are problems I do not feel that I would be able to get around due to the success of the company. If the way things have been done over the last decade has meant profits beyond the company’s expected target, why would they consider changing this pattern?
The audience I hope to target consists of those with the power to change the lives of those less fortunate than them. While my stories will hopefully develop a focus within the public journalism segment, and therefore those sources and interviewees will be included in my target audience, the pieces will need to be interesting and arresting for the individuals and companies higher up on the social rankings. As unfair and biased as these assumptions may be, while empowering people is theoretically the best solution to any social issue, the ultimate empowerment tool in the modern world is money and therefore journalists, especially those in the public journalism sphere, need to ensure that their pieces are broadcast to the individuals who would be able to offer solutions to the problems at hand. Fortunately, 702’s target audience includes these very people, thus it would offer the best opportunity for my work to become a catalyst for change. This station aids 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” (journalism.co.za).
• http://www.journalism.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=204&Itemid=183. Accessed on 09/10/10.
• JMS3 Radio. 2010. Third Year Radio Agency Mission Statement. Grahamstown:
In Term 2, our class was split into two sub-groups of Frequency News. I was placed in the G-Cast News podcast group where we were required to produce two 8-10 minute podcasts using Grocott’s stories as well as our own pieces in order to fill the broadcast time allocation. I created two stories for these podcasts, the first on the closure of the Old Gaol backpackers on Somerset Street and the second framing the Eastern Cape Eisteddfod. With these stories, I remained in line with my Personal Philosophy while our whole group followed the Agency document we had drawn up at the beginning of the year.
For both of these stories, I followed a community-agenda: the first took the form of a Vox-Pop where I went out onto the street to interview ordinary residents regarding their position on the closing of the historical structure, while the second instilled a sense of pride on the audience members as the story outlined the achievements of many local children participating. With the Old Goal story, I also interviewed the employees and enquired as to how the closure of their place of work would affect the livelihood of their families thus giving the story an angle which would include the majority of the audience members who also support their families with the earnings from a job which they may have had for years. I understood that I was accountable for the information I imparted through my pieces and therefore I approached each story from an objective stand-point, excluding my own opinion on each of the topics at hand. I executed my interviews from a point of view which neither supported nor went against the issues and events at hand. While my interviewees were not experts in the fields I was researching, I made sure that I included the relevant information regarding background and the relevant facts and statistics in my narration and within the cues I prepared.
After I broadcast the Old Gaol closure story on the G-Cast News podcast, if we had the chance to follow-up the story I would have investigated the ways in which the closure of the Old Gaol had affected the ex-employees. I would also have enquired as to the new jobs the Sahra development had created, thus examining the story from both angles and favouring neither party and maintaining an unbiased stand-point. The story had definite potential to develop into an ongoing story which could also have looked at what the owner, Brian Peltason, did after his business closed down. This story has many different parties involved, resulting in a journalistic piece that could have affected many individuals and organisations. The deadline on the story as well as the limited time assigned to the podcast meant that I needed to pull back from the story before I allowed it the chance to develop into something which could actually have created a stir and perhaps a difference. By this I mean, that with more time and the right audience, I may have been able to create a piece encouraging individuals to get involved in the community and perhaps start a petition opposing the closure of the Old Gaol or a clothing-drive where locals could have donated clothing to the families who’s breadwinners were to lose their jobs. A space for these employees to advertise their skills and perhaps find a new job before they lost out on a month’s income could also have been created.
My Personal Philosophy outlines an approach to journalism which was people-orientated and appealed to a wide audience. Development journalism documents conditions within a community in an effort to provide this wide audience with an understanding of the society at hand as well as encouraging people-orientated journalism. With my story about the Masihlule Project Recycling Centre, I hoped to further develop my journalistic outcomes to include community building from a grass-roots perspective. I aspired to improve the lives of these citizens of the Grahamstown community, which before the job at the Recycling Centre was considered somewhat destructive. I utilised an interview I had previously done with Angie Tompson, the project’s director, avoiding the introduction of a government official or expert and the ‘expert’ voice which often overshadows the voices of the people. I decided to focus my story on the people rather than on the project itself in order to avoid my piece becoming a climate change piece. I interviewed Eric Charles and Nosipho Manona, both employees of the project and both of whom had positive stories to share with me. I entered into Charles’ environment in order to place him at ease and soon I was able to extract stories and experiences that he wanted to share with me, not necessarily the story I wanted to extract from him to fulfil the expectations of an editor. I prepared a few basic questions regarding what his job outline entails but waited for him to explain how the project had changed his way of life and what it had helped him to achieve.
If I had the chance to develop my piece further, I would have definitely created one of two follow-up stories. I could have integrated the skills I developed in the first term regarding profiles and examined Eric Charles’ life further. This young man has many talents and is very positive about the turn his life will take due to help the Masihlule Project Recycling Centre has offered him. He supports his whole family with the income he earns at the project and through his work has developed skills which he may be able to take into a more professional and sustainable workplace. He is an inspiration to other young people and could perhaps have encouraged other young people in the Grahamstown community to empower themselves and find work and perhaps a hobby such as rugby. Through doing this, crime levels may have dropped in the area as many young people have resorted to illegal activities to support themselves and their families.
The other direction I could have gone had I been given the chance to develop the story further involves the project as a whole. I could have set up more interviews with the developer, Angie Tompson, in order to offer my audience a more comprehensive outline of what the project aims to achieve. I would perhaps have gotten the opinions of other local developers and through this, encouraged NGOs and other private organisations to get involved in creating more sustainable empowerment projects. This type of story could have been opened up on air and callers could have been allowed the opportunity to share their stories and suggestions with the rest of their community.