As It Is News Podcast 1
This podcast was the first of news podcasts that a group of us put together. Putting this podcast taught me a new dimension of news construction. We all pitched two stories and then had to sit down and decide how we would vary our news bulletin with the stories that we would pursue. Based on what we thought had more new worthy, we placed closer to the top of the bulletin.
In our mission statement as the third year radio class, we state our reporting is to be objective and this objectivity to be governed principles of fairness, responsibility and sensitivity to name to name a few. Looking at or whole bulletin, the language we used in the links between the packages as well as the line up did not live up to this criterion. As much as we may have decided to be light-hearted with our links, the end result is for example, that the strikers are portrayed as children throwing their toys and the actual package goes on to speak about the workers as having “attacked” a business man. These words are not neutral are in no way objective. This is therefore something we must be cautious of as journalists, how we portray people with our choice of words.
It was also not wise, for the sake of variety to have two stories that did not include any sound clips and became straight reads. To our credit, we managed to find stories that affected the ordinary citizens of our community as well as getting their side of the story in one of our story. We also have a good news story at the end that adds colour to our bulletin and meets one of our objectives which is to include human interest stories that tell stories about things that make a difference to those in the community. Overall I think we definitely have room for improvement but have done well with our first attempt.
The Toy Library Reflection
Pitching the story on the Toy Library in Extension 6 was fun and important for m. This story I felt touched a social aspect of the community which is what I believe journalism should endeavour to do. The fact that this Toy Library was opening to allow parents in the community to take part in their children's education was what I felt to be an empowering step. My aim was to go to the library in its first week of running and find out more about it.
I was scheduled to speak to the facilitator and the parents. This was going to be a colour piece with for our news podcast. I went on the Wednesday morning to do the story and unfortunately it rained that morning so parents arrived much earlier to return the toys. By the time I arrived at the time I'd arranged, there were no parents and the facilitator had a meeting she was now rushing off to.
The Toy library is in the same grounds as a Thuluwazi preschool and so I decided to go inside and record the children as ambience and get them to comment on what they thoughts about the toys in the library. I walked into the library and for the first time, as I pulled out my recorder and started speaking to the children, I could tell that not only was I a stranger in this setting, there were power relations at play and I was the journalist with the recorder. The children refused to talk to me, shying away from the recorder. The teachers understanfding my situation had the children sing a pray for me.
I interviewed the facilitator the follow day and had a great interview. When I put the package together I tried using the ambience I recorded and it didn't fit in at all with what the toy library really was, it simply sounded like the a creche. The toy library was scheduled to be closed the follow week so again I would not have had the time to interview parents in time to meet my deadline. The sad reality is that this is a colour piece with no colour, yet I do think I did my best with this package under the circumstances.
The children at Thhululwazi Pre school with their teacher.
As It News Podcast 2 Reflection
This news bulletin was much easier to put together after having done the first one two weeks prior.
It is possible that some may think that order of the news stories could have been shuffled. Domestic violence does seem to be a bigger issue than flu vaccinations, yet the domestic violence story was not particularly reporting any new information, but rather given a summary of what is happening in Grahamstown in this regard. This is the reason we decided to place the shortage of flu vaccination at the top of the bulletin as it would affect the Upcoming Arts festival in the town.
The bulletin has a variety of voices, ranging from ordinary people to experts. I think that one or two of the stories could have had more voices of ordinary people as our mission statement does state that we value the opinion of the ordinary person as much as the expert. Concerning the technical quality of the podcast, the levels between the packages and the studio are not the same and needed a little more attention. I think that the range of stories as well as the focus around the National Arts Festival made this bulletin successful due to its relevance.
Finding out that there were no organisations in Grahamstown that focus on drug and substance abuse, I thought that this was yet another important story to tackle and was well in accordance with my personal philosophy. I want to focus on news reporting but look at the good news happening in our community.
Gadra has been given a mandate to the problem of substance abuse in South Africa and they are already making progress. They are not working alone but also getting schools involved. I walked into this story thinking that I would be able to get many comments from schools that have implemented programs to combat substance abuse in their schools, but this was not the case. The private schools that are involved with Gadra's program had many protocols I had to go through, perhaps for the sake of protecting the schools image, but due to deadlines I was unable to pursue comments from these schools. It was still important to balance my story with comment from authorities at a school and the addition of what Mary Waters High School is doing added that balance.
Given more time, I think this story would have been a lot more interesting with student voices from both private and public schools. They could have given their own thoughts on whether they know of drug problems in their school and amongst their peers. This would have added the voice of the ordinary citizens are affected by the programs being introduced in their scools and so their opinion defiantely do matter. This is something I will strive for in my future news stories.
Public Journalism in Practice
by Refilwe Mpshe and Simone Armer
by Refilwe Mpshe and Simone Armer
As a Journalism 3 class we embarked on public journalism in Grahamstown focusing in on different wards. Being part of group 4, we were assigned wards 7 and 8 and our first objective was to get a sense of what these two communities were like. Looking at Tanni Haas’ public philosophy for public journalism, he seems to stress the importance of deciding how one as a journalist views the public. A more communitarian view sees the public as having the same needs and having the same objectives while the more liberal democratic view looks only at the idea that being of the same community is the only thing common between community members. Both views have their limitations. Informed by Habermans notion of the “deliberating audience” which moves away from the communitarian and liberal democratic views, we decided that we would afford the communities of ward 7 and 8 the opportunity to come in to a space where every individual would be allowed to voice their concern,. With this in mind, we decided to go to both wards and get a sense of the community and its surroundings as well as engage with different people in on the streets and in their homes. Having gone to ward 7, I found that people were very willing to speak about their problems with the hope that maybe this time we something would be done for them. This was the primary way in which we got information from people in ward 7. In ward eight, we held a community meeting in Luvuyo Hall where all residents were invited to come and discuss their problems. The meeting was facilitated by Mbuleli, a resident in Joza who we decided was the ideal person for the facilitation for the meeting as he speaks isiXhosa, the language spoken in the community. In this meeting, the floor was open to anyone wanting to raise issues. Community members were given a fair amount of time to voice their concerns and others to respond in agreement, disagreement or with a related topic. This falls in line with Haas’ emphasis on the community setting the agenda. The way this community was set up allowed the community to do just that.
Follow the issues raised at the community meeting, our group wanted to focus in on one particular issue raised at the meeting. As a group we decided to focus on the theme of children and the youth. At the meeting, individuals expressed concern at the lack of recreational facilities for children in both wards, as well as the problem of orphans who were not being looked after. During the civic mapping process, our group noticed that there were no playgrounds or fields for the children in the wards. We also found children playing on rubbish dumps and amongst sewerage. The overwhelming lack of suitable recreational facilities led us to the decision to focus on this very issue.
After much deliberation, it was decided that, as journalists, we could not simply go into our wards and do our respective stories on this issue but that we ought to give back to the community in some way. We decided that our goal of this project would not be to simply produce journalism for the community we were dealing with but to take a solution-based approach to the project. Thus, we decided to host a soccer day for the children in our wards which would address the issue of the lack of recreational facilities and would keep in with our overarching goal of solution-based journalism. We would not simply be Rhodes students giving the children in wards 7 and 8 a fun day, but would be paving the way for such an event to become a regular occurrence in these wards. Our connector in ward 8, Thembalani has been keen to start up his own soccer team for a while and lacked the resources to do so. We believe that this tournament was the start of something that can be ongoing in the community, giving the youth something to do. We also believe Thembelani has been given the boost he needed to start his own soccer team. There is also talk of the youth coming together from the two wards and continuing to play against each other more often. We therefore believe that our objectives were achieved and the soccer tournament was a great success. Both the children and the contacts we worked with the make the tournament happen were both inspired to continue having the tournament every Saturday or once a month. As a group we have since discussed ways to encourage and mentor this process.
We (Simone and Refilwe) produced a soundslide on Home of Joy, an orphanage run by Margaret (Ncgangca in ward 7. In keeping with the theme of our group, we took a solution-based approach to the issues raised about orphans at our community meeting. One of these issues was that people knew of orphans living in ward 8 who had no one to take care of them. During our civic mapping, we discovered that there was an orphanage in ward 7. We thought that taking the story to the community in ward 8 might inspire a community-based solution to the problem, as an alternative to approaching government officials whom the community expressed a great distrust for. The first half of our sound slide focuses solely on Margaret’s story with the aim to bring it to audiences in ward 7 as well as ward 8.
Our journalism, as a group, enhanced the processes of democracy and development in Grahamstown by giving the community a voice, taking that voice and helping them to help themselves. We are not in a position to help solve the issues of housing and water, and unfortunately the relevant authorities are not helping either. Thus, by taking a solution-based approach, we helped the community to see that there are ways in which they can help themselves, such as addressing the problem of the lack of recreational facilities by continuing the soccer tournament we held for them.
Our target audience from the conceptualisation of our soundslide was the community members of ward 7 as well as ward 8. With this in mind, it was essential that our media output be in isiXhosa given the fact that this is the mother-tongue of the most of the community members. We also thought that it would be important to ask Margaret who she believed should see and hear about her work through the soundslide. She stressed the need for her neighbours and entire neighbourhood to know what she is doing. She felt that very few people know and understand what it is she is doing in here household with so many children. She expressed the hope of something similar developing in her community so that she and that person can work hand in hand in taking care of orphans in the community. We also felt that the audience of ward 8 needed and community based solution for the problem of orphans expressed in the public meeting held by our group in this ward. As mentioned, the community felt like the government did not play an active role in helping them with their problems. Christians et al. puts forward the idea of a journalist having the “facilitative role” in the community where the journalist facilitates discourse for solutions between the community and the government or alternatively identifying other community based solutions, which might come from the deliberation within the community. Leaving the community meeting held in Luvuyo hall, we felt like there was no actual solution brought forward about the orphans in ward 8. Hearing Margarets story, we feel that it may be a possible solution to present to the community and community leaders of ward 8. Margaret started the orphanage out of the goodness of her heart, with no prompting from social workers or the government. Our hope is that the community members of ward 8 will be inspired by Margarets story and look to start something similar as members of the community.
Playing our soundslide back to our production team, some (Non isiXhosa speakers) felt that subtitles should be included, but it is our firm belief that our since our media serves the audience to which it was intended, subtitles become unnecessary and it is therefore the job of our images and to some extent the ambience to convey the message that is delivered in the audio of the soundslide. IsiXhosa speakers who watched the soundslide felt that it was well put together and made perfect sense. From the onset of this assignment we have been informed by Haas’ notion of public journalism and we will continue to strive towards a journalism that does not dictate or simply report matters, but rather allows the community to be an integral part of the process and final production of our soundslides.
Broadcasting in South Africa is based on three tiers which are community radio stations, public service as well as commercial radio stations. The purpose of broadcasting in South Africa is to make a contribution to the country culturally, politically and social. Along with this, broadcasting is meant to be open to people from different backgrounds. Each station within the three tiers is mandated to fulfil certain other requirements in certain contexts and boundaries stipulated by the laws governing the tiers. This essay will look begin by briefly looking at these three tiers and then go on to look and will analyse the editorial policies, and the news produced by Bush Radio and SAfm.
Broadcasting in South Africa is regulated by two main bodies and these are the Independent Broadcasting Authority and the second is the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA). The IBA formed just before the 1994 democratic elections due to a fear of the SABC bias towards the Nationalist Party as well as concerns around how credible the SABC would be in terms of news reporting (Fourie, 2007). The IBA after its formation was tasked with writing policies as well as regulating them (Fourie, 2007). The IBA and the South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority merged later to form ICASA and to further regulate broadcasting in South Africa. Broadcasters are thus licensed under the IBA to fulfil certain mandates depending on which tier they fall under. The community radio station tier must under licensing be community specific (Public Service Bill). This means that the types of topics covered, the languages used as well as the cultural identity of the station will be determined by the type of community the station finds itself catering to. “Community radio station” refers to stations that are either geographically based or focused on a common interest such as religion or ethnicity (Olorunnisola, 2002). This also includes categories such as communities found on different campuses and universities (Broadcasting Act, 1999). According to ICASA regulations, each community radio station must adhere to a local news and current affairs quota (Broadcasting Act, 1999). The programming must be community specific as well as educational, informative and entertaining (Broadcasting Act, 1999). The Public Service Bill (2009) stipulates that funding for this type of radio station may come from the Public Service Broadcasting Fund, from grants and donations. Advertising is also a source of funding, yet there are regulations that must be put in place to limit the amount of revenue that can come from this source (Public Service Broadcasting Bill, 2009). Community radio stations are to partner with the local municipality and this is governed by certain terms and agreements. The station must then be governed by a “Governing Council” who are appointed annually by the community. The appointed Governing Council must be permanent residents in the area which the station covers. For the commercial broadcaster, regulations require that they source a great amount of their content from independent sectors (Broadcasting Act, 1999). The commercial radio station provides a diverse range of programmes that appeal to a large population of the country (Broadcasting Act, 1999). It is also required to have content that is reflective of the region covered by the station and provide a large amount of programming that is local (Broadcasting Act, 1999). This type of radio station is permitted to make a profit from broadcasting, unlike the community radio station which is meant to be produced for “non profitable purposes” (Fourie, 2007: 22). Public service radio stations on the other hand, are those that offer programming in all the official languages (Broadcasting Act, 1999). Since this type of radio station is for the public, educational, informative and public affairs programming is to be expected (Broadcasting Act, 1999). These types of stations can obtain money through advertising, sponsors, grant and donations (Broadcasting Act, 1999). Funding in this tier can come from the Public Service Fund, from grants, non- commercial sponsorship and donations as well as advertisingcommercial sponsorship (Public Service Broadcasting Bill, 2009:15). This tier allows for governanance by the Board of the Corporation (Public Service Broadcasting Bill, 2009). This board is made up of non executive but have prior knowledge of the laws, the broadcasting policies and such.
Bush radio is an example of a radio station that falls under the community radio station tier. Bush Radio in its early days sought to inform and educate the public on health and literacy issues. Now with a permanent license, the station focuses primarily on community upliftment programming, which is evident from its 23 projects of this nature. Along with these projects, the station offers scholarships and training programmes (Bushradio, 2010). As a community radio station, Bush Radio is required to focus on community issues. This makes the community in which the station is found the target audience. For Bush Radio, the target audience is more specifically the community living within the Cape Flats. The structure of the station is such that the community plays a big part in producing content and news for the station (Bushradio, 2010). Made up of five permanent staff members, an average of ten trainees and interns as well as more than 100 volunteers, the station’s news content is greatly influenced by the community. This is evident in the fact that volunteers are in charge of the programming from 4pm and weekend shows are run by volunteers (Bushradio, 2010). Olorunnisola (2002) explains that since the community becomes such a force in the content of community radio stations, they are able to look at the issues that greatly affect them. In terms of their resources, this station receives some sponsorship for programmes, yet the station holds that it will not accept sponsorship for the news (Bushradio, 2010). This means that for the station, news cannot be influenced by interested parties, allowing the reporting of news to be accurate and not biased. Yet, I would question how far possible this is considering that much of the news may be geographically specific and so the bias of each reporter may creep in.
Public service radio station, SAfm is by definition mandated to inform, educate and entertain its audience, all the while remaining objective in their reporting and having programming that is all rounded and diverse (Bechan, 1996). Continuing as a public service broadcaster since its name change, this station is now focused specifically on nation-building, which is what the public service tier is prescribed to do (Bechan, 1996; Public Service Bill, 2009). This notion of nation building seems, as Bechan (1996) explains, to be imposed by the administrative and managerial heads at SAfm, while the reporters and producers themselves prefer to contextualise their packages and reflect the true nature of the people and the country; in terms of producing news, this can cause some tensions within the station (Bechan, 1996). The administrators and managers themselves look to deliver packages that reflect the ideal “diverse” audience that is targeted, where as the producers of the content, see the country in a more realistic nature (Bechan, 1996). The station has it that their target audience are those in the population aged between 30 and 49 (SAfm, 2010). The LSM group is between 9 and 10 (SAfm, 2010). The audience is middle aged and we may find that the news stories tackled may be politicised. This audience aimed at is thought to be diverse and rich in culture, yet one may question if the poor who make up a large part of the population are thought of in this target audience, considering even the level and language used on the station. Bechan, (1996), explains that as much as this is part of their policy, this ideal audience does not in exist in the South Africa and the programming may amount to “imposing” a national identity on the audiences that do tune in (Bechan, 1996). The difficulty for SAfm also comes in with being understaffed and therefore limiting how much accurate reporting and local event can be covered (Bechan, 1996). What can be said in the stations favour in terms of reaching its mandate as a public service broadcaster is that according to its own website,. This means that with a diverse staff an understanding of the diverse audience to which they are catering for can be obtained somewhat.
As a community radio station, Bush Radio is run by volunteers mainly, and therefore faces many challenges relating to volunteer work, such as absenteeism and training difficulties. The station is not particularly news oriented and so their style varies from that of SAFM, whose focus is on news and current affairs. When addressing news at both stations, I will examine bulletins in terms of scripting, sources, structure and the news values I will look at how the regulations for each stations according to the tiers they fall under affect how the news each station tackles. Chandler (2002) explains that our world is made up of and is understood in terms of codes. This is most notable in the scripting of news bulletins at this station. The difference in language use and the words depends, in this case, on the radio stations’ understanding of their audience, the world and what the station believes about certain things dealt with (Chandler, 2002). In terms of Bush Radio, which is run by citizens living in the community for which the station is targeted, they potentially perceive that happen in and around the country in a different way from the staff working at SAFM, many of whom have probably studied towards becoming journalists and may see things from an academic perspective. Because of this, and the differences in their audiences, their scripts as well as their stories’ lead sentences in each bulletin are potentially different, even if they report on the same story. Let’s take for example, the two radio stations news bulletins at 6 o clock on the 6 of April. The top story on both stations was the court appearance of the two people suspected of killing the AWB leader Eugene Terre’Blanche. Bush radio is not overtly political about this story, and terms such as “criminal injuria” are explained. This is probably due to an understanding of the target audience and the assumption that this is a term they would not understand. SAFM on the other hand, did not explain this term and the story was contextualised with the issue of Julius Malema’s “Shoot the Boers” song being taken up by Helen Ziller. SAFM’s understanding of this case seems to be more political than Bush Radio. Perhaps this is due to reporters at SAFM having more specialised fields and stories that they pursue, such as being a political journalist, which Bush Radio may be lacking as volunteers go out and produce stories. The audience SAfm targets (the middle aged) is possibly the reason that the stories are made political.
The line up of news bulletins is also different. SAFM covers a larger audience base than that of Bush Radio and so SAFM seems to cover more national stories, while Bush Radio pursues more local stories. The national stories that one hears in Bush Radio’s bulletins over the day are the usually straight reads. Besides the limitations of the region Bush Radio covers, the issue of resources limits what they are able to do with national stories. If we look again at the case of the suspects who appeared in court for the murder of Eugene Terr, Blanche, a volunteer was on the story but due to technical difficulties of some nature, the clip did not play. SAFM in contrast does many national stories and very often has a soundbyte along with a cue or straight-read by the anchor. I think it’s also interesting to note that as much as SAFM may at times politicise some of their stories as mentioned above, their bulletins are also often comprised of more political stories.
Considering all the regulations and licensing agreements given to each radio station according to the tiers they fall under, South African audiences have the potential to hear a diversity of news, current affairs, music and other programmes that can cater to each individual. There are of course challenges that each station faces when trying to fulfil the mandates given to them. We can see from the above observation that community radio stations such as Bush Radio face great challenges due to their shortage in resources in terms of trained staff as well as equipment. Public Service broadcaster SAfm also faces the challenge of being a nation building station while dealing with the reality of a diverse audience that makes pleasing the masses difficult. Radio in South Africa has a rich history and has come a long way. The one thing that possibly affects each station greatly is an understanding of the audiences and negotiating this with what the license of the tier requires as well as what the staff are able to provide with the resources available to them.
Bechan, N., 1996. An Evaluation of SAfm as a Public Service Broadcaster: A technical Report. Centre for Cultural and Media Studies: University of Natal.
Broadcasting Act, 1999, ICASA. retrieved, 23 April 2010, http://www.icasa.org.za/LegislationRegulatory/Acts/BroadcastingAct/tabid/89/ctl/ItemDetails/mid/651/ItemID/5/Default.aspx of Radio
Bush Radio. 2010. Bush Radio Blog: about us. Retrieved 29 April 2010 from www.bushradio.wordpress.com.
Fourie, P. J., (ed) 2007. Media Studies, Media history, media society. Juta: Cape Town.
Olorunnisola, A. A., 2002. Community Radio: Participatory Communication in Postapartheid South Africa. In journal of radio studies. Volume 9 (1).
Public Service Broadcsting Bill (2009). Accessed 13 May 2010 http://www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=110838
SAfm. 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2010 from www.safm.co.za
As a radio class we named our "news room" Frequency News and toghether agreed on our mission statement as aspiring journalists. This is what we decided would govern our journalistic practices:
THIRD YEAR RADIO AGENCY
MISSION STATEMENT 2010
DEBATES ABOUT OBJECTIVITY
The mission statement of the agency is informed firstly by the way we position ourselves within debates about objectivity and how we understand our roles as radio journalists operating in a small town, such as Grahamstown.
Even though we understand that objectivity is compromised by our own identities and social positioning, we intend to maintain principals of factual based informative reporting, but will temper the distanced objective approach with an understanding of our subjective positions.
We are committed to ethical reporting that is characterised by:
• Thorough research
We understand our role to be that of facilitators, educators, entertainers and commentators rather than mere reporters.
o The reporter as social commentator: here the reporter’s role is to identify problems and their source/s while also finding answers from within the community. Through this we hope to engage listeners, rather than merely broadcast to a passive audience, giving them the space to shape the news, rather than simply being dictated to.
o The reporter as facilitator – keep decision-makers accountable; playing an explanatory role - informing ordinary people; giving a voice to those who are not represented; equalising the playing fields – giving more weight to the voices of the disempowered.
o The reporters as entertainer – reporters should engage and interest their audience, building a sense of community pride or hope through colourful use of sound, creativity and, occasionally, humour. It is important to note that creative use of sound (ambience, etc) does not equate to inaccurate reporting in this instance.
o The reporter as educator – this role incorporates aspects of the former two, in which a journalist identifies important information and/or problems within the community that will help inform citizens about how to act or where to find help.
We intend to use the platform of podcasting to promote understanding between residents through examining similarities rather than reinforcing differences. However, we also feel it is important to embrace diversity and celebrate our differences and the unique perspectives and cultures within Grahamstown. 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.
OUR ROLE AS STUDENTS AT RHODES
The agency’s mission statement is informed by our reflections on our own position, as student journalists, within the Grahamstown community.
• Students tend to behave as if they are in a ‘bubble of safety’ on Rhodes campus, and are not in any way affected by, or concerned about, Grahamstown. They do not see themselves as members of the Grahamstown community, but rather as members of a separate, insular little universe. However, this is an illusion: students’ lives do impact upon the town, and they are impacted upon what happens in the town.
• Therefore, the agency is committed to going beyond the Rhodes University campus when sourcing story ideas. The agency seeks to tell stories which resonate beyond the campus and which would speak to Grahamstown and the community beyond.
• Members of the agency should identify themselves not only as students, studying at Rhodes University, but also as journalists who contribute to democratic participation in Grahamstown.
• As student journalists, however, we identify the limitations in which we operate. For this reason, we commit to thinking creatively about the challenges we are faced with and to finding ways to meet our mission statement.
• As student journalists in a small town with a distinguished Journalism Department, we recognise that the ratio of journalists to ordinary citizen is much higher than average. This means that there are more journalists searching for stories among a smaller resource base. While this may be an obstacle, we commit to being more active with regards to news gathering, as the obvious methods and sources are very likely to have been exhausted.
THE COMMUNITY WITHIN WHICH WE OPERATE
Our work as an agency is informed by and grounded in the community in which we operate. Grahamstown is a small, fairly isolated town set in the Eastern Cape, one of South Africa’s poorest provinces. Although the town is prosperous, Grahamstown has a complex and contentious history and the historical divide still produces ramifications for the city today.
• The greatest of these divisions, which has its roots in Apartheid’s racial segregation, is between Grahamstown East or ‘iRhini’ (the ‘township’) and Grahamstown West (the ‘town’). While the town’s population is more than 130 000, more than 80 000 people live in the township, most of them in poverty. Although this division was originally racial, with a growing black middle class, this division is now marked by stronger economic and class distinctions.
o We understand this divide to be characterised by deep inequalities in terms of the allocation of municipal resources. This includes the provision of services (waste management, provision of water and electricity, etc) and infrastructure (housing, the maintenance and tarring of roads, the availability of green spaces, etc)
o We also understand the divide in terms of income. According to recent studies (Statistics South Africa, 2005), over 15000 people are unemployed.
• Language and culture are some of the greater barriers that journalists in this space have to cope with. Although the media in Grahamstown cater for primarily English speakers, the town consists mainly of Xhosa-speaking people, with a few Afrikaans-speakers throughout town and the surrounding farms.
• Beside a diversity of languages, the town is also populated by people who identify with specific ethnicities (which relate to language but also a set of cultural practices / traditions).
• One important example relates to the religious character of Grahamstown. The dominant religious identity of the town is Christian, but even within this, there are a host of distinctions between churches. Other religions – Islam for instance – are much less acknowledged within the dominant public spaces of the town.
• The town offers a range of educational opportunities from former DET schools to highly-regarded private schools as well as an elite public university (Rhodes). The private schools and university attract scholars from all over the country and the globe; however, the majority of Grahamstonians are accommodated in less-resourced government schools.
• These educational institutions play a vital role within the community, as Grahamstown’s largest employers and agents of development. They further shape the identity of the town, through its association as a ‘city of schools’.
• Another essential part of Grahamstown is the National Arts Festival, which has similarly shaped the identity of this small town, and adds greatly to its annual income. However, this festival comes with its own problems. Residents have long felt that local artists are marginalised in the festival programme.
• Several other important institutions in this city include the South African National Library for the Blind and the International Library for African Music (ILAM).
• Grahamstonians do share some common interests that can unite and interest all – these include arts, music and sports.
OUR PERCEPTIONS OF GRAHAMSTOWN
The agency’s mission statement is informed by our reflections on our own understanding of the community in which we will be operating as radio journalists. This understanding is based on the following perceptions about the historical, socio-economic and geographical characteristics of Grahamstown:
• That it is characterised by divides between “town” and “township”. We understand this as a geographical characteristic of the town which has its historical roots in the segregationist policies of Apartheid South Africa, and our general perception is that these distinctions still apply.
o We understand this divide is also illustrated in the education sector in town, with Rhodes University and the town’s private schools are indicative of the small ‘elite’ while the less privileged organisations account for a far bigger section of the town.
• That there are also important divides that exist within the communities of “town” and “township”.
• That Rhodes University occupies a uniquely powerful space within Grahamstown, and impacts on the town.
o It is one of the main employers.
o It has an influence on the local property market.
• That these divides and power relations are characteristic of many social spaces within South Africa – it is possible to see Grahamstown as a microcosm of what is happening more broadly. In particular, it is a good example of what happens in poorer provinces.
• The size of Grahamstown:
o One experiences the divides in a more intense way. This relates for example to the unavoidable visibility of inequality and injustice, given that the neighbourhoods of the “haves” and “have-nots” are so close to each other.
o It is easy to feel that one has access to people, but it is important to recognise that many of the town’s ‘authorities’ have been interviewed several times before and thus there is a need to use ‘normal’ citizens are credible sources and references.
o One may more easily be compromised by vested interests and prior knowledge.
OUR APPROACH TO REPORTING
Commentate rather than report
• Find issues within community
• Identify problems but also come up with solutions from ‘ordinary’ people (agents of their own social change)
• Look at context instead of phenomena or oddities
• Stretch boundaries – represent equally and fairly across the board
• Have a ‘so what’ element
• Commitment to social change, accountability and explaining (especially regarding political, economic and health issues)
Challenge the status quo:
• Find diverse sources to interpret information
• Normalise abnormalities – being mindful of how minority groups are portrayed
• Use ordinary persons as credible sources
• Understand that there is no one identity
Human interest approach:
• People orientated: human interest stories
• Tell stories that matter and can make a difference in people’s lives
• Devise stories that bring people into contact with one another
• Make visible the social experiences of ordinary people, and capture ordinary people’s responses to planning processes.
• Positive stories that acknowledge community involvement and achievement; ‘normal’ people’s good news; acknowledging when the authorities get it right and meet the needs of the community.
• Finding stories that galvanise the community and promote pride within the city. These can include local sports stories.
• Highlighting stories about local citizens, who have done exemplary things, taking responsibility for their own lives – rather than only focusing on “top down” stories about the projects and activities of government and other institutions of authority.
• Always reflect: who has not spoken?
• With an emphasis on research that will enable us as journalists to understand the structure of this town and related processes, we intend explore the accountability of the following sectors:
• Of government
• Of business
• NGOs – viewing what they do and whether they consult with the community.
• Rhodes and other schools
We acknowledge that this list is not is merely indicative of the problem areas we have identified in Grahamstown. As an agency, it will be our responsibility to find the stories which would illuminate on these issues – finding alternative ways to understand, and report on, these issues.
• Methods of reporting \ treatment:
o Be wary of extremes
o Avoid sweeping generalisations: for example, identifying the sources of problems
o Make sure that stories have a diversity of sources
o Agenda setting – choosing stories is one way in which journalists contribute to the equalising of power in society
o Given what was said before about the dangers of operating in a small town, we need to be wary of interviewing the usual suspects and opting for the tried and tested stories.