This course is called Critical Media Production: Journalism, Democracy and Develepment, this course was completed by us third year students over the second semester. This course required us to consider Developement and Democracy in South Africa and how journalism relates to this. We began by studying development and public journalism, and then by producing media within these two domains that are closely linked, we we able to engage in the larger community of Grahamstown. Working with a Photojournalism student Simone Armer, we produced a soundslide focusing on Margaret Ngcangca's Home of Joy. This page includes the soundslide, a three minute version of the audio that was specially packaged to be broadcast on Radio Grahamstown, a local community radio station as well as reflexive essays based on this project.
Home of Joy Audio
Margaret Ngcangca has a big heart for children and for helping her community in Joza Township in Grahamstown. She runs Home of Joy where all the children she has taken in call her "Makhulu", a Xhosa word that means "granny". She believes that mothers in the community should be concerned about what's happening with children in the neighbourhood and that they should all play their part in helping orphaned children. Ngcangca spoke to me about Home of Joy.
Public Journalism in Practice
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.