Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Exam Question Two: News and Development

During the first semester I compiled two news stories relating to the water crisis taking place in and around Grahamstown. The first focuses on the Makana Municipality calling on various departments to ensure that all residents receive safe drinking water during the crisis. The second dealt with the potential threat facing the business of local restaurant owners owing to potential water cuts until the local dam levels rose again.

I believe that I was somewhat successful in putting my journalistic philosophy approach into practice with these news stories. I brought awareness and knowledge to people about the water crisis at that time. I stuck to the facts, interviewed the key people involved and did my research with regard to the topic. I had an objective approach as I do not believe that the story required me to take a stance. Thus I fulfilled my journalistic approach.

However my journalistic approach didn’t impacted on my professional standards; as during the first news story I investigated, I received two conflicting descriptions, but I couldn’t broadcast the one as it was given to me ‘off the record’. Thus I maintained my professional standards and did not broadcast the ‘off the record’ description. However, looking back, if I had had more time I would have tried to find a way around this in order to convey both sides of the story. Especially as this is what I strive to do in my journalistic approach. Thus, the investigation into these two conflicting ideas would have been a great follow up story which I would have proposed to my editor.

The development package I compiled focused on Youth 4 Youth (Y4Y), a weekly radio show broadcast on Radio Grahamstown (102.1fm). The programme gives High School learners the chance to produce and take part in a live show while learning new skills in the radio broadcasting industry. Y4Y allows the youth to look at common issues, discusses them, discover each other and share experiences on a radio platform. In covering this story I put my journalistic approach into practice by starting at the grassroots. I interviewed the youth who take part in the show and who are immediately affected by the programme. And in so doing fulfilling the concept of development journalism, which promotes the bottom-up approaches to information gathering and storytelling as well as focusing on ordinary people, as opposed to officials and experts. As my journalistic approach contains these concepts of development journalism, I believe I was successful in putting my approach into practice. The story also has great potential for a follow up story. I would be able to create a series of stories relating to the progress of the youth and the different topics covered on the show. It would be interesting to see how the show is impacting the everyday lives of the youth within each school. Thus I would go to the different schools to interview the youth on their response to the shows and investigate to what extent the Y4Y shows are impacting the youth. Therefore I would also be fulfilling my journalistic philosophy as an active observer and a catalyst for conversation instead of just providing information, and thus the youth would become active participants in the news making process. And ultimately promote public problem solving.

Exam Question Two: Climate Change Feature

I was given the opportunity to cover an environmental radio package during the start of the third term. We were given a brief by Algoa FM and the South East African Climate Consortium (SEACC) to cover environmental journalism using ‘mainstream’ media conventions, such as a reliance on experts, objectivity, etc. Thus our aim was to work with Algoa FM to produce current affairs packages on sustainability and climate change to mark the approach of the international climate change conference, COP 17, which will be hosted in South Africa in 2011.


I believe that that I was successful in putting my journalistic approach into practice within the context of environmental journalism. Especially I was able to apply my journalistic approach to the use of language and scripting within my climate change package. This is seen through the experience I had in compiling the story, especially as I discovered through the process just how difficult it was to make an environmental story interesting and appealing to an audience. As all my sources were experts in their respective fields, I began by asking them to go back to the basics and explain their knowledge as much as possible in layman terms, giving examples where they could. Thus allowing me to bring knowledge and awareness to people by using simple language and examples in my scripting to help convey the importance of the message and make the overall package more appealing. I also achieved this by scripting the package in a certain way and style. I started the package off with international headlines emphasising how climate change is depicted as a problem happening in other countries, and then contrasted this with the rest of the package dealing with how the problem is actually also affecting us in the Eastern Cape. I then ended the package off on a positive note, by putting the focus on glimmerings of hope. I scripted the package in this way so as to make it more interesting and appealing to the audience, while using layman terms to convey the message in and easy to understand manner. Thus, my final package would not be all about doom and gloom, but rather offering glimmers of hope. Thus through the use of language and scripting I was able to put my journalistic approach into practice by making the package interesting, providing information and hope, and most importantly promoting positive change.

I also fulfilled my journalistic approach of being slightly subjective as I took a stance on the topic. This is because I believe that there is some place for subjectivity within an environmental beat, especially as this creates less confusion while dealing with a very confusing topic.

This package also has potential for a follow up story. I would propose to delve deeper into the lives of the rural communities. For example, I would focus a lot more on how the rural communities are being affected by climate change. However, I would also investigate the economic effects and consequences the rural communities would face if they were to change their current way of life in order to help prevent climate change.

Exam Question 1: An Introduction to My Radio Studies

At the start of term one, I compiled a ‘philosophy’, which described my approach to radio journalism. It is now somewhat strange to look back at it, as I believe that I, without realising it, held true to my personal journalistic philosophy. However, out of all the things that I thought would not have changed, there is one that has, and that is my now more subjective stance as a journalist. There are also certain things that I would now add to it as well. The changes which I will now discuss have all come from the influences I have gained from the experience, knowledge and skills of the past three years of my journalism course and most of all over the last six months of the JDD/CMP course.

I find it strange to look back on my own words, as before I had not known much about public journalism, and yet looking back at my philosophy I now see how much it emphasises the essence of what public journalism is all about. As I state in my philosophy, “For me the purpose of journalism is to bring knowledge and most importantly awareness to people. To tell stories which need to be told and to be the voice of those who are not heard. To question and make what is invisible, visible. I do not see journalism as belonging or being managed by those of the elite and those who have power. It is instead, in an ideal world, for and part of everyone.” Thus now I see my journalistic philosophy to relate somewhat to that of public journalism.

I have previously stated in my philosophy, “My position on objectivity as a radio journalist operating in Grahamstown is that of striving for objectivity and avoiding being subjective.” Even though I have never thought that objectivity is something that can always be achieved, I did think that it was worth striving for as a base line for all journalists. This idea of mine still remains, however I now believe that if a journalist actually takes a stance, less confusion is created and the public can be given options. Therefore a slightly more subjective approach could be a more successful way to convey stories, especially those of development, environmental and public journalism. As long as the principles of factual based informative reporting is maintained.

Throughout the JDD/CMP course I have learnt and practiced the methods of public journalism, of which I would add to my philosophy. Public journalism gathers sources and stories by means of the ‘bottom-up’ approach to news gathering, by starting at the ‘grassroots’. It focuses on bridging the gap between the state and citizens, and between news organisations and their audiences. The public journalist becomes an active observer and a catalyst for conversation instead of just providing information, and thus citizens become active participants in the news making process through the concept of the 'deliberating public'. Therefore the goal of Public Journalism is to promote public problem solving.
After all that I have learnt over the past three years and especially the past six months of the JDD/CMP course, I now believe that it is possible to practice the values I hold in my journalistic philosophy, which is continuously being changed and added to.

I believe that the journalistic philosophy, which I have described above, can be practiced and has many opportunities within South African radio. Especially as the South African radio landscape has developed greatly over the years.

There are three classes of broadcasting licence, known as the three tier system. The first tier is commercial radio, which can be defined as a service operated for profit and the need to provide a diverse range of programming in all official languages. Their core aim is to sell audiences to advertisers. They are owned privately by shareholders and are profit driven. The second tier is public radio which emphasises quality programming and serves the various cultural and language groups that make up the country. Its core aim is to serve the public interest and build democracy. It is run by a statutory body for the general public (SABC). The last tier is community radio, which has a core aim to serve the public and build democracy, but in the context of building strong, unique relationships with particular communities. It is based on participatory production.

Within this South African radio landscape, it is within commercial radio that I would like to pursue a career in radio journalism. For example, within the media company of Primedia, such as Talk Radio 702. This is because I value the relationship this media group creates with their audience. This is shown by the code of conduct carried out by 702 talk shows, which revolves around the views of the host, guests and listeners and is not totally impartial. Thus, this allows me to have a slightly more subjective stance as a journalist as stated in my philosophy. Therefore 702’s idea is to create a conversation between the host and listeners, so therefore all viewpoints are welcomed. To ensure the conversation does not result in a homogenous viewpoint, the line-up includes men and women of different ages, races and background, so the views expressed on the shows are varied. Thus, this allows me to practice my journalistic philosophy of being a catalyst for conversation instead of just providing information, and hence also allowing citizens to become active participants in the news making process. I also value the fact that even though Eyewitness news is editorially independent of 702 its principles of news are impartial, and takes pride in being unbiased and reflecting all sides of the story.

As a commercial station, 702 depend on advertising but it is not driven by it. However this could create certain limitations for me as a journalist. This is because the job of the programming team is clearly defined: to attract listeners. To do this, programming needs to create compelling content that grows the station’s audience, which in turn will attract advertisers. Firstly I believe that it is good for a journalist to be driven to provide compelling content however as the core aim is to sell audiences to advertisers; this content could be determined by external factors such as advertisers and the news agenda of the investors. Especially as Talk radio 702 is privately owned by shareholders and is profit driven. Therefore if the content does not suit the advertiser the journalist might not be able to pursue that particular story, even if they thought it to be prominent. If such limitations were to arise, I would negotiate around them in order to pursue my approach to journalism. I would do this by appealing to the principles of the media organisation, that of being impartial and taking pride in being unbiased and reflecting all sides of the story.

I would specifically like to speak to the young adults, both men and women of different races and backgrounds. As I believe that they would react well to my style of journalism; to create new, innovative solutions through public interaction and deliberation, and ultimately bring about a positive change in society.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Time to say goodbye...

The semester long course of JDD/CMP has come to an end. Looking back I can honestly say that it has been a great course, one that I as a journalist could truly connect with. Even though the semester was filled with many late nights, exhaustion and communication difficulties, it was inspiring to be motivated not solely by marks or deadlines, but rather in providing quality media coverage for those who need their stories to be told, and in so doing benefiting and bringing hope to a community as a whole.

Riebeeck East does not receive much media coverage, if any at all. This is why it has been so rewarding as a 3rd year journalist student to be able to help the community of Riebeeck East by providing them with media coverage and ultimately trying to give back and help the community in whatever way we could.

We did this by creating and distributing wall newspapers, sound slides and video clips all showcasing the happenings and ways of life in Riebeeck East. The community responded with great enthusiasm to our work and were extremely helpful in providing us with information and eagerness to be part of the whole project. In so doing I believe the community gave back to us in so many ways by letting us into their lives. I know that I have become a better journalist for it and hope that this is the first of many public journalism experiences that I will have in my career as a journalist.

As the course came to an end we decided to help the community a little further by: creating colouring in books for the local Crèche; distributed how to guides to help the community help themselves; started a campaign to collect stationary and toys for the Crèche; and distributed DVD’s with the video and sound slides we as a group had worked on.

It is truly amazing how such a small and unknown town and community can impacted on our lives. I’m therefore grateful and thankful to have been part of the JDD/CMP course this year.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

About this Blog...

Throughout the year I have and continue to create work for my radio journalism course, vocational and voluntary experience.

I have loved the thrill of live shows, interviewing fascinating people, producing and anchoring, the friendships I have made and the valuable skills I have gained.

I showcase the work I have created on this blog. Feel free to browse through, read, listen and comment on any of my work.

Most of all enjoy :)