The community in which I am based as a Radio journalist for 2010 is one which is demographically considered a rural area. There is evidence that this small town in the Eastern Cape is still one which is suffering the aftermath of a history rich in struggle and suppression. An estimated 80% of the population of the Grahamstown Community live in impoverished conditions in local townships, they have no source of income, job opportunities are scarce and service delivery by the local municipality is poor. The area lacks quality education, healthcare facilities, food and fresh water, housing and several other needs which these people need in order to survive. There is a clear division in Grahamstown between the rich and poor. In comparison to the rest of the community, Rhodes University (a small minority) appears as an elitist playground for students from all regions of South Africa and further abroad while a few kilometres away thousands of local inhabitants are homeless and starving. Due to the location of the town, being several kilometres away from any city, there lacks opportunity for members of this community to establish themselves in hope of a better future. This also affects the kind and nature of news reporting in Grahamstown as it is not as simple as it seems. The news-worthy stories are those that lie within the heart of the community – its people. There are those national stories which affect the town but most of the news comes from the town and even more so within the townships which house majority of the population. On a national scale, it seems Grahamstown is somewhat isolated from the rest of the province and even the country, as news is generated from within the realms of its boarders.
As an aspiring journalist with certain demographical factors which count against the kind of reporting I conduct (race, gender, class and so forth), I aim to break out of these boundaries, disregard my comfort zone and approach news reporting in a manner which is not only ethnographic but also objective.
In saying that I do believe that it is merely impossible to report without some degree of subjectivity. From the moment you receive a lead as a journalist, the interpretation you make from the given information immediately becomes subjective based on certain processes of socialisation (culture, race, nationality, education, knowledge, morals etc) the journalist has been exposed to during their lifetime. This subjectivity is then further enhanced when considering certain sources to validate and substantiate the information you have been given (by databases, news associations or even media houses which in their own right present aspects of subjectivity), thus inevitably presenting a certain angle to the story. From this 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. In so doing, I feel objectivity can often act as a barrier to uncovering the deeper story, the kind of story which requires journalists (by profession and duty) to dig deeper than what is presented at face value. I feel it is essential that the process of debunking is initiated when researching stories in order to gain the complete story from all sides of the spectrum. There is no doubt that within Grahamstown there are stories to be uncovered which would answer the questions and concerns of many of its inhabitants. Often times we find in reporting that objectivity tends to favour those in power and this is where the power lays within the hands of a journalist – to break free from those conventions and serve as a link between the citizens and institutions/organisations. I feel that this is possible as a Radio Journalist operating in Grahamstown.
Grahamstown is a small representation of many more towns in South Africa that still carry the scars of their historical struggles. Why is this? Surely in a nation where it has been proven that improvements within various sectors are possible, why then are these towns swept under the rug? Investigating reasons for poor service delivery (housing, water, and ablution), lack of health care and education are some of the main focal points for journalistic investigation in a town where approximately 80% of the inhabitants have their basic human rights suppressed. Grahamstown is a town rich in culture and serves as the popular host to the Annual Arts Festival, however during the course of the year this culture and talent falls short of the limelight. Why is this? I feel that the needs of the people need to be reported on and then investigations as to why these are not being provided for need to be pursued.
As a journalist, I think it is important to serve the people to whom you are reporting by keeping their interests in mind while reporting. 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.
A BLOG WITH A PURPOSE
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.