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.



Reflection

RADIO PRODUCTION REFLECTIVE REPORT

In this report I plan to critically reflect on my own production work throughout the duration of the third term as well as highlight and analyse the difference between mainstream and development journalism. I also plan to critique my production work bearing in mind the principles of development journalism and how these impacted the construction of my story. As a student journalist it is essential to critically examine work which I have produced in keeping with certain genres, and in doing so identify where I was successful in implementing principles of the genre of development journalism and what my short-comings were so as to improve on these. Using the terms and tools we have been taught through the duration of the Radio course I will firstly, discuss the differences between mainstream and development journalism and the impacts these had on construction of my package. Secondly I will describe the production process in terms of my production work, bearing in my mind the fundamental principles of development Journalism in the South African media landscape. In the next section I will discuss the aforementioned theory in terms of its practical application within my story and lastly, conclude with an analysis of whether or not my developmental journalism package was a success.


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.


Development journalism may be thought of as a theorised approach to journalism which critiques a top-down approach to information gathering and story-telling, and that promotes the centring of stories on the concerns of ‘the people’ (those which often go unheard, which may not necessarily posses any kind of expertise and may be marginalised within their particular communities or within the greater society). Development journalism can be represented by,


emancipatory journalism, which offers a more complete and complex perspective on the relationship between mass media and society in the context of the Third World” (Banda, F. 2006:5).


This view is said to be more complete because it provides a direct link between access by citizens to mass media and social change and in do doing has an in built mechanism which allows journalists to participate in social change.

Development journalism is prominently found specifically within the rise of community radio stations however public service broadcasters as well as commercial radio stations are providing spaces for it within their programming in the mobility towards social change. The prominence with community radio stations comes as a result of the stations being maintained by members within the communities in which they are located and therefore they broadcast news which directly involves or affects the people.


The purpose of development journalism and community radio stations is to focus on nation-building within a democratic society, however at a more ‘community’ orientated level, as opposed to the approach taken by mainstream journalism at a national level. These community radio stations are based locally within specific communities and therefore the broadcasting content lies within the needs and interests of the community. These stations function solely on the support of the community members both in terms of content and production as well as finance. The public journalism broadcast on these stations is a form of ‘participatory communication, community radio acts in a ‘kaleidoscopic’ nature, allowing content to be changed and shaped according to whom ever is creating and producing it (Olorunnisola, A.A. 2002:132), further enhancing the approach of journalists to report of the stories of individuals and there issues are being dealt with by the necessary powers and then to provide comment on what the community can do and whether or not the authoritative figures involved can do more. This then forms the very essence of this tier of broadcasting in that it deals directly, via a ‘hands-on’ and ‘bottom-up’ approach to generating stories which deal with social issues that are real and actively exist within local communities in South Africa.

The story idea I pitched for the development journalism piece focuses on the faming and agricultural sectors in the Eastern Cape in light of the persisting drought. It raised questions of whether or not there are available water sources in the province which could be used to alleviate the impact of the drought; it questioned municipal and governmental action during this time; it investigated two farmers who were struggling as a result of water shortages to their parts of the province and the kind or response and aid that they had received from government. Development journalism, because of its bottom-up approach, really allowed me to find an angle that highlighted the stories of individual farmers who are suffering and what options they have at their disposal to try and alleviate the impacts of the drought.

 
I found two farmers who had been severely impacted by the drought and conducted short telephonic interviews within them. Because the farms that these two individuals owned took a lot from them personally (years of work which they had put in to maintaining the profitability of the farm and family inheritances), both interviewees were extremely passionate and emotional about answering the questions I posed. The angle I wanted to take did not intend to slate government, but instead highlight the fact that they may not be doing enough and that the action that they say they are taking is simply not reaching the people who need it the most. Another source that I spoke to was an expert of Climate change and sustainability with the University of Cape Town. The intention here was to allow an ‘outside’ voice to confirm that droughts are prevalent features in the Eastern Capes weather patterns, and therefore farmers, although struggling at the moment, will survive. It also took, what could have been the creation of pity for these two farmers away from the package in that farmers are accustomed to dealing with these kinds of weather conditions, regardless of how easy of difficult the circumstance might be. This interview also highlighted that because droughts are reoccurring in the province, the local government should have a plans of action in place which can alleviate the pressures of the water shortages by its inhabitants.

In conducting my interviews, I needed to make sure that I structured the package in the bottom-up format in keeping with the principles of development journalism, this made it essential for me to ask questions which allowed the farmers to tell of their situation and of their stories. This was challenging as this was the first package that I had constructed in such a way. It required a lot of editing as well as revisiting the approaches of development journalism and what the aims of this kind of journalism was and how it differed from the conventional style of reporting that as a class we were familiar with. I feel that the story, in the end was relevant to the current weather situation in the province and furthermore was centred around the stories of individual people who felt strongly about making their story heard.

The second chapter of Tanni Haas’ book The pursuit of public journalism: theory, practice and criticism, entitled A public philosophy for public journalism, aims to provide some sort of theoretical account of

how journalists should conceive of the public, what forms of public deliberation and problem-solving journalists should help promote, and how journalists, as a matter of practice, should facilitate public discourse” (Haas, T. 2007:25).


This notion of a ‘public philosophy’ is an interesting account that challenges the traditional ideals of what journalists role and purpose is within a society to which they essentially answer to. As an aspiring journalist, with a set of preconceived ideals about the kind of identity I wish to portray as a journalist practising within a newly established democracy, such theoretical accounts force me to reconsider my roles and purposes and have forced me to go beyond the ideals which is simply ‘expected’ of journalists. It has opened up a debate within myself that pushes the realms of the traditionalised mainstream journalism, which had in essence formed the basis of my preconceived ideas of what journalism is and does within my own mind, and thus further explicated new dimensions of the profession.

In analysing my package I would like to take four key areas of constructing stories into account, namely: the cue, narration, audio clips or soundbites and ambient sound. The cue for this package provided a brief summary of what the package was about, however due to the audience being the listeners of the SABC, I could have made the content of the story one which is a national phenomenon (ie the drought) and then narrowed this angle down to using the Eastern Cape as an example of this. The narration I felt tied together the pieces of the story well, at times I find myself loosing the ability to write narration to ear so that it is understandable to the listener, but in essence I manage to structure the package in such a way that brings across the individualistic nature and bottom-up approach as taught by the conventions of development journalism. My soundbites I feel most represent the crux of development journalism within my package. The voices of the farmers telling their story captures their emotion and frustration with the situation. I do feel however that these interviews would have added to the ambiance of the package if they were conducted personally, however due to location and time constraints this was not possible. The quality of the telephonic interviews is however audible and broadcastable. Lastly, the ambient sound within the package is lacking severely. I am never sure when to use ambience and in this case what kind of sound would be most fitting. This is definitely a technique which needs to be worked on to give my package a bit more character. I do feel that overall the package embraces the bottom-up approach to journalism and is more individualistic in nature without loosing its objectivity as it brings in both sides of the story. 
 In creating a personal philosophy and furthermore an Agency document at the beginning of the year, I feel that I may have been extremely na├»ve in my perceptions of what journalism is and what kind of purpose it has within society. It becomes so easy to outline what it is that you may want to accomplish as a journalist, but putting this philosophy into practise is most challenging.

We intend to use the platform of pod-casting to promote understanding between residents through examining similarities rather than reinforcing differences… Our news reports intend to stimulate dialogue amongst all parts of Grahamstown instead of merely providing opposing ‘truths’. We are committed to social change, accountability and challenging the status quo” (Agency doc, 2010:2)

As I have reflect on the piece I have produced, I critiqued how at times my work did not sufficiently meet the outlined requirements of our Agency document or my personal philosophy as a journalist in light of the philosophies of public journalism. I often found myself questioning how society expects a journalist to remain ‘human’ whilst still practising the basic principles of the craft. Development journalism created within my mind, an entirely new perception of journalism – the reporting of individual’s stories at the heart of society – which may have contradicted within personal beliefs as I feel as if by doing so, I am exploiting people. I do however feel that through my work I have managed to grasp the essence of what development journalism aims to do within a young democratic society, and although personally I may not enjoy this particular kind of journalism, it is important to give a voice to the marginalised. I feel that I have comprehensively outlined strengths and weaknesses that were prevalent within my work as a student journalist and analysed how these were structured to meet the requirements of the Agency document and particularly the genre of development journalism.



The advent of community radio is South Africa is one of the less publicized but direct outcomes of the country’s transition to multi-racial democracy in 1994” (Olorunnisola, A.A. 2002:126).

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