Tuesday, November 9, 2010

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.

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