At the beginning of the year, we were asked to write a journalistic philosophy that we were going to use as a guideline in the radio productions that we were to cover during the course of the year. After having produced different genres of radio productions, some of the points I mentioned in my public philosophy have been altered and some have been enhanced as different situations have required different approaches that would ensure that the production is completed to the best of my abilities and also to get the message across.
In the philosophy, I had mentioned that Grahamstown is a small city geographically, which has dimensions of different classes of people within the same space. My aim was to give the marginalised, ‘powerless’ people the opportunity to be heard as I felt that journalism could serve to be instrumental in helping people. In the forth term, our JDD-CMP group was assigned to cover stories in Ward 4 which covers the Manley Flats area which is a rural area on the outskirts of Grahamstown. Using the idea of public deliberation by Haas (2007), we set out to get the community to talk about the issues that they go through on a daily basis. The idea was not for us to find the stories and report them in a mainstream-monitiorial form, but rather, to allow the public to tell their stories and for us to provide the platform for discussion. We took a facilitative role approach, which Christians (2009: 126) highlights that it ‘promotes inclusiveness, pluralism and collective purpose... help to develop a shared moral framework for community and society’. Therefore, taking up the idea of public journalism helped enhance my purpose of helping the marginalised and allowing them to fit into the idea of democracy.
Glasser (1992: 176) thinks of objectivity as an ideology that is enforced on journalist to orient them into the running of the newsroom. The experience during the JDD-CMP course also enhanced the idea of objectivity that I had said: ‘I view objectivity as a euphemistic term that is used in our journalistic field so that we follow certain criteria. A journalist is bound to produce subjective content as there comes a time where your own knowledge is the only thing that you can rely on’. After listening to the problems that the people had in Ward 4, the initial role of facilitating shifted a bit to a more radical role because of the intensity of the conditions that the people were living in. The project became a subjective matter in that I felt as though I could do something to help the people solve their problems as I had a powerful instrument of change to my advantage which was the media. The radical role as described by Christians (2009: 126) aims at exposing power abuse so that there could be change in society. The people in ward 4 had mentioned that the ward councillor had been made aware of their water crisis and has promised them that he would help change their situations but has failed to do so after years of being informed with the problem. As a journalist, I took up a partisan approach to the story as the matter at hand needed to be advocated so that change could take place.
Given my experience through the stories that I covered during the year, being exposed to different forms of journalisms, my approach has been altered slightly from what I initially wrote in my philosophy. Dealing with people from different backgrounds who have diverse needs has made me realize that as a journalist, one has to acquire every kind of skill and have a basic understanding of all forms of journalisms that exists. Situations require certain reactions from the journalism profession.
Opportunities in South African Radio
Radio in South Africa is still one of the most popular forms of media and people are still loyal to. It reaches and appeals to different people based on class and race. The media landscape in South African broadcasting is divided into three-tiers namely: commercial, public and community radio tiers.
Commercial radio is aimed at attracting advertising to audiences, e.g. MetroFM and 702. Public radio is aimed at building democracy and serving the interests of the nation, e.g. SAFM which is under the SABC. Community radio is also aimed at building democracy but its emphasis is more on building strong relationships in particular communities. Community radio also emphasises the participation of the community in the production of the content.
Within the radio landscape, I see myself working in public radio such as SAFM which is a station that predominately cover current affairs news, issues that people are faced up with on a daily basis. The reason behind this is because I believe that our country is in need for democratic deepening where people could be able to share their stories on a national stage so that change and development could be forced to take place. Civil society has been marginalised by the concentration and power dominance of the political society. The state-society relationship no longer exists thus proving to be unfavourable to the concept of democracy. As it is now, democracy is just a concept that looks good on the constitution but has failed to live up to its name in practice.
At the moment, the issues and stories that are covered at SAFM appeal to the middle class and upper class as they understand the language and the issues are realistic to them. What the station has failed to produce is content that appeals to the lower class which is largely illiterate thus their vocabulary is limited. Therefore, packages should vary and alternate within the 11 official languages in the country. By so doing, more and more people are able to relate and join in the discussions that affect their lives. People do not participate in certain issues that affect society because they feel isolated and marginalised because of the class and social stratifications that exist in our country. If anything, public radio should embrace diversity by getting people to deliberate on these issues for development to be practical and for the state-society relationship to exist.
In recent times, the SABC has been forced to depend on the government for financial support as they have not been able to sustain themselves in that regard. This financial dependence has meant that politics have dominated the content produced and thus have shifted the focus of nation building and has become a ‘government building’ media house. Pushing development journalism which aims at telling stories from the grassroots up and thus establishing collaboration with the state has failed in recent times because of the dominance of the state on content. The SABC has been accused of pushing the political agendas of the dominant party and thus content being bias. The mutual trust and partnership that public radio was initially meant to be built on has failed to live up to its purpose.
By producing stories that would ensure a larger listenership would be beneficial to the public in that, it would make them feel part of the greater purpose of democracy. Current affairs issues covering stories from all dynamics of class stratification would thus help people understand the kind of challenges and difficulties that others in society are faced up with. If more people listen to SAFM, civil society would get involved in issues that affect them and thus the power that the political society has can to be renegotiated and regulated. The audience have the power to change their relationship with the state. By assuming a facilitative role of producing content that deals with their issues, journalism can empower the public to take responsibility in our democracy.
The masses in South Africa are the poor but they are not empowered to challenge the state. If my approach is aimed at including the lower class in reviving democracy through participation, journalism could serve to be a catalyst that connects the people to the state. By establishing that relationship will then allow democracy to be instrumental not only in status but in practice and development will be viable.
1. Christians, C. et al. 2009. ‘Roles of news media in democracy’ in Normative theories of the media: journalism in democratic societies. University of Illinois Press: Urban
2. Hass, T. 2007. ‘The emergence of public journalism’ and ‘A public philosophy for public journalism’ in The pursuit of public journalism: theory, practice and criticism. Routledge: New York.
Broadcasting in South Africa has evolved over the past 20 years and has taken up policies and regulatory committees that aim at using the media to be the driving force behind democracy. In this essay, what will be discussed in length is the way in which South Africa’s broadcasting has changed over the years in radio broadcasting. The three tiers are going to be of importance and thus will be discussed densely.
The Three tiers of South African Broadcasting
Before 1994, there were three tiers of radio that existed, namely: commercial which was external to South African boarders, public which did not really exist as the SABC was and is still a state owned broadcaster. Community radio which had some stations that were broadcasting illegally and others were awarded licenses by Home Affairs (South African Broadcasting Landscape lecture slides). The IBA is a product of ‘civil society-led campaigns’ in the early 1990s which were concerned with the independence of broadcast. In 1992 at the Conference for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) the independent regulatory of broadcast media and telecommunication was agreed upon (Barnett; 1999: 650).
This meant change in the function of the three tier radios that existed. Commercial radio was aimed at attracting advertising to audiences, e.g. Metro Fm, 5FM etc. The challenge for the IBA was a matter of how they were going to use commercial radio broadcasting to incorporate black empowerment. How much privatisation were they willing to give to foreign investors at the expense of local citizens (Barnett; 1999: 657)?
Public radio was aimed at building democracy and serving the interests of the nation, e.g. SAFM which is under the SABC. This means that the SABC has to provide programming that will deal with all issues that affect the nation at large. Current Affairs shows that will celebrate the democracy that the country was trying to implement. This means that all the 11 official languages and all the different cultures that exist in the country should be catered for in programming.
Community radio was also aimed at building democracy but its emphasis on building strong relationships in particular communities Community radio also emphasises the participation of the community in the production of the content. Community radio licenses are given to radio stations that are: in geographical areas, campus based, religious groups and those targeting cultural & ethnic communities. (Olorunnisola; 2002: 131-132). By the end of 1999, there were about 65 licensed community radio stations in South Africa. Now the country has one of the most vibrant community radio stations in the whole continent (Olorunnisola; 2002: 126).
The Institutional context and frameworks of Production
In the three tiers that exist in radio broadcasting, the production of news is primarily what governs the way in which news and the institutional context is carried out. This means that the production of news in all three tiers differs based on the purpose they serve and as a matter of carrying out its objective.
When the IBA started issuing licences for radio broadcasting in 1994, community radio was a top priority. In issuing community radio licences, the IBA had four distinctive types of licenses they were issuing. Namely: stations that were serving in geographical areas, campus-based stations that would cater to student, different religious groups and radio stations that targeted cultural and ethnic communities (Olorunnisola; 2002: 131-132).
Bush Radio was issued with a geographical license as it aimed at catering for the community in the Cape Flats in Cape Town. Prerequisites of community radio stations are that they have to get the community involves in all their broadcasting. The community should be able to participate and get involved in issues that are addressed in the shows. In other words, the shows have to be participatory communication (Olorunnisola; 2002: 132). Thus programming at Bush Radio has been divided areas which deal with upliftment projects in the community for all members of the community. From infants to adults, they have scholarships and training programmes for the youth where they educate them. They also deal with human potential development where they teach the community how to evaluate and critic issues in and around them. Bush Radio also embrace shows that aim at enhancing local musicians in the area and also drama projects that exist in and around the area. Shows look at the challenges of all the people in the area, and create a discussion with the community through participation communication (www.bushradio.co.za).
The SABC in 1996 took an economic decision to sell its radio stations which led to the first privatisation of radio broadcast in the country. High bidders such as Primedia and Newshelf 71 were amongst the many broadcasting companies that bought SABC radio stations. In so doing, radio became an entertainment and money making business. Thus the content of commercial radio stations being driven by advertising (Barnett; 2001: 657).
Privatization meant that the stations were to take on new policies that were to govern their broadcasting. The identity of 702 is based on the idea of having talk shows where listeners are expected to call in and develop a conversation with the presenters. They aim at challenging educated people in their mid 20s to early 40s. They include men and women from all races and look into a variety of shows that will cater for their target audience. The reason behind the ages of the target audiences could also be linked to advertising and who advertisers are targeting. Therefore, if 60 year olds were the target audience, this would do the advertisers no good as their products would not serve its purpose as it would be listened to by the wrong age group. Their content is primarily driven by advertisers because of the dependence of the advertising revenues for the existence of the station. Therefore, programming aims at attracting listeners who will appeal to advertisers which will mean more people knowing more about that which is advertised (www.702.co.za).
1. Barnett, C.1999. The limits of media democratization in South
Africa: politics, privatization and regulation. Media, Culture & Society. SAGE Publications. London. Vol. 21: 649-671
2. Olorunnisola, A. 2002. Community Radio: Participatory Communication in
Postapartheid South Africa. Journal of Radio Studies. Vol. 9, No. 1.
Reflexive Piece on Development Journalism
The radio course in term three has been designed in such a way that it deals with current affairs packages for different types of audiences. We were required to create packages for a regional audience for Algoa Fm on climate change and a package for a national audience for the SABC which was a development piece on any topic of our choice. In this essay, I am going to reflect on the development package that I did for an SABC audience. The process of gathering information and compiling the story differed from the way the climate change package was done. This was because the approach for this story was a form of development journalism. I am going to discuss the tools that I used in telling the story in the package; I will then describe the production process of the piece. I will then theorize the practical work that I did on the piece and then give my overall thoughts and draw on important points from the process of development journalism.
Defining the Reflective Tools
When doing the development package, the first thing that I had to consider was the kind of journalism that I was aiming to use in getting my message across. The first thing that I had to understand was what is meant by development journalism. What does it do and how will it benefit my story. Development journalism is the kind of journalism that tells the story from the grass-roots up, meaning that it encourages the audience to get involved in the matter at hand. Development also aims at protecting and serving the interests of the community and those that the story is about. Its prime objective is to change and develop the state of the environment and provide solutions for the problems- if there are any- that the people might have (Banda; 2006: 5). Thus development journalism encourages the notion of democratic conduct as it encourages the society to speak of their environment and all that seems to be of concern to them.
The story that I did was on the Mayfield Clinic in extension 9 in Grahamstown. The clinic was designed to cater for TB and HIV patients in that area of the township. The problem with the clinic was that it did not have nurses and people were only helped on days when the nurses from town came in to dispense the TB treatment and then they would go back to the town clinic. Even though the clinic was close by, the residents of the area felt that the clinic failed to serve its primary purpose. Some community members felt that the clinic should have been a clinic for everyone and anyone who needs medical care and not only the people with TB and HIV. The community in extension 9 felt that they needed their own general clinic like other sections in the township. Amongst those concerns, the people also believed that the government could offer better service delivery and should have nurses assigned to the clinic on a regular basis so that they get the necessary healthcare.
The reason why I chose to do this story is linked to the agency document that we drew up in the first term. In the agency document, we stated that we were going to give the marginalised voices the chance to speak out and thus expressing their concerns and problems. The agency document also states that we were going to form part of the community and thus talk to people, get involved so that they look at us as being part of the community. The story on the clinic thus forced me to take that kind of approach whereby I had to get involved with the community. I went into that community as a concerned member of the community who was interested at listening to their problems. I had to establish a relationship whereby I could sit down and have conversations with the people and not interrogate them. As a result, I went into the field without a set list of questions, but I was prepared to let the people set the agenda and not frame them to answer in a specific way because of the questions I had. The idea was to bring in an objective approach into the situation and try to eliminate the idea of subjectivity and monetorial(mainstream journalism) interviewing.
Describing the Production Process
For this assignment, my interest was based on the township and the developments that have taken place since the country became a democratic country. I then browsed through the archives on politics and community on Grocotts Mail and I came across the article on the Mayfield Clinic. The article was based on the state of the clinic and how the government did not have the funds to keep it open every day of the week. After reading the story, I was interested in knowing how the people in the community reacted towards the conditions and what alternative plan do they make to ensure that they get their medication. I also wanted to know from the people who work there why the clinic was in the state that it was in.
Due to the absence of any volunteers, patients, and nurses I had to go into people’s homes, those who lived around the area to acquire about the state of the clinic. When I started engaging in conversations with the people living around the clinic, my focused changed slightly from how the clinic looked like and more into the concerns that people had on the clinic and what they wish it would provide for them. The story also touched on some political issues of ward councillors and where the community could actually go lay complains so that the situation could improve. The people also started talking about how the lack of efficiency by the councillors led to such a high crime rate in the area. I was then informed about the recent murders in the area and how people are constantly under threat because the police are not doing their job in the area.
By the end of the end of my interviews, I left extension 9 with rich material on the situation of the area as a whole and I got more information that the one I initially was hoping to get. I then decided to stick to the story related to the clinic to narrow my story and to provide a single focus to it. I had to omit the information on police forums and murders in the area because I felt that it was not something new. I felt that crime was one of those stories that people expect from the township thus not providing enough room for creativity and originality. But I found the TB clinic to be interesting given the stigma that is still attached to people with HIV and thus the healthcare not having the proper services for this pandemic proved to be interesting to me. In focusing on this, I got to hear people’s concerns about the limited services at the clinic.
My story consisted of four voices that all were from the area and who used the clinic in one way or another. The one voice was a woman who collects her treatment at the clinic and how the clinic had helped her. By using this voice, I was aiming at getting a positive impact of the availability of the clinic. The second voice was a man who didn’t take his medication at the clinic but had wished that the clinic could have catered for other basic healthcare needs and thus showing how not everyone gets help from the clinic. The third voice was a man who needs the treatment but does not get it at the Mayfield clinic because he says the people there are rude and thus commenting on the service delivery of the people who work there. The last voice was based on the idea of trying to come up with a solution and a way in which the issue could be solved. By having four different voices and people discussing different things based on the same topic, the package would represent the issues from different dimensions thus allowing the democracy part of development journalism to surface.
Theory into Practice
This package on the Mayfield Clinic was extremely challenging in terms of development journalism as I felt that at times, it was difficult to maintain the key points and guidelines of development journalism. In reporting the story, there was a point whereby I had the variety of voices which made a good development piece but my narration tended to lean more towards the mainstream journalism side. Often, I treated my ‘sources’ as victims and thus objects in my story and I forgot that they are subjects and that they play an important role in delivering the news. Thus I should let them be the ones who tell the story and try not to push my own agenda. In terms of approach, I think I managed to be conversational rather than being an investigator which would have defeated the purpose of development journalism. I was able to allow the public to tell their story and not interfere with them generating the necessary issues within their community. The story made me realize that as a development journalist, you are a catalyst for change and not someone who gathers information and reports on in it. Instead, development journalism requires one to be an observant participant whereby you have to maintain your professional ethics; also, for you to get to the story, you have to be ‘one of them’ to establish that level of trust.
In Africa, development journalism should serve to be a ‘mobilising agent’ whereby the media is used towards nation building. In South Africa where the country has a deep history of segregation and inequality, development journalism can be used as a way in which the country tries to re-establish equality and thus give previously disadvantaged societies the opportunity to redeem themselves and be equal to those who were once superior to them. By looking at how the government has provided healthcare in areas that were previously disadvantaged is in the direction of serving towards nation building. My story thus takes that into consideration and reaffirms the idea of being a mobilizing agent for development.
Therefore, development journalism plays the collaborative role in the media. The collaborative role is primarily based on the idea of meeting the needs of both parties. In this instance, the media aims at collaborating with the state and other organizations to bring forth the necessary needs of the community. The collaborative role of the media usually comes to effect in cases of emergency where society might be in danger and otherwise threatened (Christians, C et al; 2009: 127). Although my story did not bring forth the thoughts of the ward councillors and other representatives of the state concerning the situation at Mayfield clinic, for it to develop, it should include that angle which will enhance the story. The inclusion of this part could have developed the story more and thus bring the collaboration that is necessary to bring about change.
In this essay, I have looked at ways in which the idea development journalism aims at serving the community and thus having the need to bring about change and development within the community. I have also explained the tools that I took into the field when interviewing my sources for the Mayfield clinic and highlighted the importance of giving the marginalised voices an opportunity to be heard. I touched on the agency document that we drew up at the beginning of the year to support my motivation of running with the Mayfield Clinic story. The essay also provides a description of the editorial process of the package and evaluates the short-comings of the piece which aims at improving on the parts that need work. I have also acknowledged the importance of development journalism in South Africa and how journalism is not just a profession of company ethics, but through development journalism it serves to be a ‘mobilising agent’ towards nation building.
1. Christians, C. et al. 2009. ‘Roles of news media in democracy’ in Normative theories of the media: journalism in democratic societies. University of Illinois Press: Urbana
2. Banda, F. 2006. "An Appraisal of the Applicability of Development Journalism in the Context of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB). Boksburg: SABC.