Through my blog I aim to compile a portfolio of work which speaks true to who I am as an aspiring Radio Journalist/Producer. My work displays my personal philosophies about the way in which I feel journalism should be approached and conducted. I also aim to step out of my comfort zone and reach out into the greater community in order to produce cutting edge journalism which provides a voice to marginalised groups and serves as a link between institutions and organisations and members within that community.

Intro to Radio Studies

QUESTION ONE: Radio Studies Introduction
(ie. Philosophy, Reflection, Media Landscape)

a). Critical Reflection of Personal Philosophy
The personal philosophy that I had initially outlined as a prospective guideline within which I would strive to produce content as a journalist, was based on a somewhat naïve assumption of what I perceived as journalisms role within society. My ideas about journalism were based on the conventional views of mainstream media, as this was in essence one of the main kinds of journalisms I had been exposed to and furthermore fascinated with.

One of the essential points I had made in my personal philosophy, I feel could now in hindsight be revisited and altered in light of my experiences within the Development Journalism and Critical Media production Courses.
…I feel that as a credible journalist, it is my duty to represent a story from an angle which is appealing and relates directly to my audience in a manner which is not offensive to any party involved, but also as far as possible enforces the main principles of objectivity. On that note, I do not dismiss objectivity, but as an idealist functioning in a world of practicalities I feel it is a mere concept to which journalists can strive but will not necessarily always achieve. It is my duty to represent the story at hand, protect my sources and ensure that I can be a voice to the marginalised groups of Grahamstown. (Thorne, A. 2010)
One of the most valuable lessons I have learnt throughout the duration of my third year of Journalism is that objectivity does not necessarily serve as ‘thee’ fundamental principle in the practice of journalism. Rather than facilitating the ‘watchdog’ role in society, journalism and can, and should in fact, engage with the people at ground level, creating content based on citizens experiences within systems of social injustice and inequalities, and in so doing hold authoritative figures accountable for their shortcomings, and furthermore project this content back into the communities so as to initiate community engagement through empowerment and pro-activity. I feel that this ‘bottom-up’ approach to journalism is more effective and focuses more on the role that journalism should play within a democratic society in providing a voice to the marginalised, in not necessarily abandoning the notion of objectivity but instead engaging in a subjective approach which still remains fully inclusive of all aspects of the story and remains free of any bias.

The notion of objectivity then illustrates,
… a very basic tension between objectivity and responsibility. Objective reporting virtually precludes responsible reporting, if by responsible reporting we mean a willingness on the part of the reporter to be accountable for how they report, not what they report. (Glasser, T. 1992:180)

Glasser (1992) highlights an interesting point about the notion of objectivity, one which I would now add as the essence of my journalistic philosophy. The exposure to various other forms of alternative journalisms was very insightful, particularly within their particular roles in society (ie. Christians et al (2009) identifies monotorial, facilitative, radical and collaborative roles). I feel now that as an aspiring journalist, I would focus methods of reporting and research for means of obtaining stories through the engagement with my audience and the exploration of the kinds of stories and issues they would like to have reported. Through this relationship with my audience, I am able to break away from the scepticism which is a prevalent stereotype of journalists in society and focus on stories which deal with citizens living within a young, developing democracy.

Another important aspect I would add to my philosophy is the medium on which I wish to broadcast my work. Working for any news room or media house is ideal in that as a journalist, I would be able to use this as a platform to hold officials accountable for the matters on which I am reporting, but I also feel it is necessary to establish ways of reflecting this work back into the respective communities in order to encourage these citizens to become proactive within their democratic society. in so doing they will be able to create a community which is proactive and has the ability to find solutions to many of their own problems instead of grappling with officials who pay little or no attention to their problems.

Thus, due to the exposure of varying forms of journalism, my perception on the role it should play within society has been significantly altered.
As a journalist, I think it is important to serve the people to whom you are reporting by keeping their interests in mind.  At the same time while forming the link between two very contrasting segments of society a journalist should never leave their credibility to question. Professionalism and objectivity should be the main principles when compiling any news story. (Thorne, A. 2010).
Although I still agree that journalism should serve those whom you are reporting on, I feel that the approach that I would take in the method of reporting has been transformed from the conventional ‘top-down’ approach to a more modernised approach of ‘bottom-up’ reporting.

b). Opportunities within South African Radio
The South African media landscape is one which is filled with endless possibilities in pursuit of a career in journalism. It is a landscape which is functioning within the realms of young, developing democracy and is successfully accommodating not only the function of mainstream media, but also the role played by alternative forms of Journalism. As an aspiring journalist, I would (through previous internship experience) like to work within the public service broadcasting tier of South African Media. SAfm reaches an audience listenership of approximately 95% across South Africa – a significant platform for the introduction to notions of alternative journalisms.

In March 1994, the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act of 1993 was passed and came into effect (http://www.icasa.org.za/). The purpose of this was to ensure a sense of national unity by providing access to all citizens, encouraging freedom of speech and democratising the airwaves. In doing so, broadcasting in South Africa can be focused on building a better nation that strives for unity in every sense of the word – although this may prove to be very difficult to achieve. (Thorne, A. 2010)
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is slowly beginning to implement these alternative forms of broadcasting due to their popularity and the responses received by those media institutions which have implemented these (ie Daily Dispatch). There are endless opportunities for the SABC, specifically SAfm with regards to implementing the policies of alternative and development journalism. As the Public Service Broadcaster (PSB), the SABC should aim to focus on the needs of the citizens it serves, rather than acting as a mouth piece for government.
The SABC falls under the regulation of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and the standards it upholds, and in doing so, caters to the needs of the majority living in South Africa. The SABC is only accountable to the National Government in terms of financial matters however a new amendment has been passed to the Public Service Broadcasting Bill for the establishment of a Public Service Broadcasting Fund which “covers funding for the public broadcaster, community broadcasting, content development, signal distribution for community broadcasting. (Thorne, A. 2010)

Through introducing a ‘bottom-up’ approach to journalism, SAfm will create a platform which will allow citizens to engage with not only the journalists but also the officials which, should and must be held accountable for the inefficiencies experienced by citizens. Through the daily current affairs shows, the news anchor can provide an ‘interactive space’ whereby citizens and officials are put in contact with each other during the live broadcast, in discussing problems as well as brainstorming solutions to these problems. This at first may be difficult to facilitate as the objective of this ‘interactive space’ is not to attack government or its officials but merely to present problems, identified those who are accountable for the lack of service delivery and then lastly to find solutions to the problems which have been presented (either through expert advice, or the contributions given (via sms, e-mail or phone-calls) by those people who may be affected by the discussion).

Mainstream journalism is often thought to be subjected under the rule of the patriarchal segments in society and the intentions it has to generate the kind of content which is broadcast for instance by the SABC. This kind of journalism focuses primarily on the news of the nation rather than the stories of the marginalised. Due to the deep structural limitations that are embedded within the South African society, as a result of the apartheid regime,
“media audiences are highly fragmented, both in terms of unequal access to material resources, and in terms of the different cultural tastes, interests and competencies which distinguish  social groups” (Barnett, C. 1999:1).
Such fragmentations, are as a result of the scars of the past, maintaining an impact on social development. Mainstream journalism focuses on the voices of power within society and subordinates the stories of individual community members.

One of the biggest limitations would be the target market of a station such as SAfm, with a core listenership falling within the age groups of 30 – 49 years of age. At this age people become set in their ways are particularly despondent to new ideas of creating a harmonious and satisfactory society. The introduction of alternative media forms maybe be rejected by the audience market at first, but if proven that this kind of journalism allows for the empowerment of citizens within communities and initiates a policy of engagement and pro-activity within society, it will ultimately serve a platform/’interactive space’ wherein the marginalised can voice their problems and the elite and government as well as its officials may respond in an open debate.
As a public service broadcaster, it is then the duty of the SABC to  ensure that the content that is produced caters and aids in the building of a democracy, that which unifies the nation as a whole and constructs news and current affairs coverage which is fair and objective. (Thorne, A. 2010)

The philosophy of the SABC aims to service the greater good of society especially in building a unified democracy. If new alternative forms of journalism are identified and accepted by citizens as fair reporting, then not only will faith be restored within journalists but the act of journalism will be freed of all its scepticism as reporting will then transcend beyond what may have previously been seen as ‘exploitation’ of subjects in order for the journalist to broadcast a story. I feel that it would be most beneficial for my work to speak particularly to the younger generation within our country as they are the ‘generation of change’. This audience would be accepting of this developmental approach to journalism and would be more willing to engage and participate within their societies to implement the solutions generated for their problems.

I feel that there are tremendous opportunities within the South African Media landscape and it is essential for the SABC to follow suit in implementing some of these changes to the conventions of journalism in order to hold its audience loyalty as well as accommodate the changes taking place within the practice and approach to journalism.

Reference List:

Barnett, C. 1999. “The limits of media democratisation in South Africa: politics,
privatisation and regulation” in Media, Culture & Society. SAGE Publications: London.
Christians, C. et. al. 2009. “Roles of news media in democracy’ in Normative theories
of the media: journalism in democratic societies. University of Illinois Press: Urbana. Pg 12-36.
Glasser, T.L. (1992) ‘Objectivity and News Bias’ in Cohen, E.D. (ed). Philosophical Issues in Journalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pg 176-185
Thorne, A. 2010. Media Landscape Essay. Rhodes University: Grahamstown.
Thorne, A. 2010. Personal Philosophy. Rhodes University: Grahamstown.
Thorne, A. 2010. Reflective Report. Rhodes University: Grahamstown.

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