Friday, March 5, 2010

My Journalistic Philosophy

Grahamstown is a town in which the communities are divided by language and socio economic standards. Many people are aware that the roots of this division go as far back as the days of the colonisers and have continued long after the apartheid days. The larger part of this town and the university seem to be separate entities and it is to the detriment of any journalist to allow themselves to remain in the bubble that is Rhodes University. The fear of the unknown may be a deterrent from going to find the stories in the “real” Grahamstown, but this fear is easily an indication of an underlying bias against the town.Journalists are supposed to inform, teach, educate and at times, entertain the audiences for which they report. Without objectivity, the credibility of every news agency would always be questioned. Yet, the question one is faced with is, does objectivity make ones reporting responsible?
I lend this question from Theodore Glasser who believes that objectivity allows journalists to think that they simply translate the news into a format that can be read but have no part in creating it. This of course is something I believe to be false as the very construction of the story, from the people the journalist chooses to interview, the questions they ask and what lead they go with makes the story bias. I’m not saying objectivity does or does not exist; whether one holds to objectivity or not, there is an almost moral standard that the ideals of objectivity bring. That is that no story is ever one sided and that the journalist considers every possible angle before deciding on one. I as the journalist have control of where the story goes. The problem with objectivity though is that it makes the journalist too focused on getting the official voice and in a sense has the story written even before “both parties” have interviewed. Every story has some amount of bias but for me, I must decide with each story how much bias I allow guided by the ideals of objectivity and I ask myself, will the people whom I claim to be informing benefit and feel represented from my efforts to bring them the story?
I make my choice as a radio journalist in this community to tell stories of those who would otherwise never get their stories told. For myself, I choose to value the account of a psychologist as much as the Grahamstown resident who lives the life that we so often report to have been affected by one thing or another. Objectivity is not the force behind how I get the story. For me is about being responsible not to push the agenda of the elite, but to give a greater platform to the ordinary citizens of the town. I endeavour to let them be the masters of their own stories. I think there’s no greater way to teach people of a community than to show them what the person next door is doing or achieving. These may seem like more humanitarian or soft news stories, but these types of stories relate more to the good news of Grahamstown. Everyone is fully aware of the poverty and bad news occurring in the town, there are other journalists who will thrive on this, but I choose to focus in on the good and only report the bad if it would be irresponsible not to do so.

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