We, as student journalists were briefed by Port Elizabeth radio station, Algoa FM and SEACC to produce stories related to climate change and sustainability in view of COP 2011.

My first sustainability story:

As issues of sustainability creep into our lives, youngsters around the Eastern Cape strive towards creating healthier food options for their communities. According to Rhodes University student Emelia Ananyas, vegetable gardens are the way forward for healthy and sustainable living.

What is the story about?

This story focuses on an in depth project undertaken by Pharmacy 3 students at Rhodes University who wish to highlight the benefits of the establishment and development of vegetable gardens for school-going learners. Their efforts are already visible as they have begun creating the vegetable garden as well as presenting school-going learners with the benefits of using and maintaining the garden. This has much to do with sustainability and the efforts of this group should be recognized. The group leader, Emelia is available to give us information on the project and the outcomes of the project thus far. Also, an expert voice could possibly be an environmental science lecturer who is able to highlight the benefits of vegetable gardens from a scientific perspective.

Why is it worth telling?

This story not only provides educational knowledge of vegetable gardens but also marks the efforts of university students who aim to make a difference in sustainability. It shows initiative and makes for interesting listening.

How will you tell the story?

The story should begin with narration and ambience of people working in a garden then Emelia telling us what their group’s project is all about as well as why it is so important. The experts voice will vouch for Emelia’s reasons for developing a vegetable garden and maybe a school learner who comments on how the vegetable garden can or has helped him/ her.

My second sustainability story:

Information communication technologies play an important role in todays developing society. But how conscious are these organisations of the recent climate change events taking place and what can they do to reduce their carbon footprint in the world? Green IT is a fairly new concept that needs more exposure in today’s hi-tech society. It involves saving some of the world’s depleting elements like water and electricity that could help in the fight against climate change. Raessa Rehman has more…

What is the story about?

This story is an informative piece about GREEN IT and what this concept entails. What does GREEN IT mean and how does it affect us as members belonging to a particular society. The truth is that in this academic environment, GREEN IT affects us all since we all interact and work through computers and digitized forms of media. GREEN IT refers to environmentally sustainable computing in whatever form that may be.

Why is it worth telling?

This story is worth telling because GREEN IT is something that every person should be aware of since technology and digital appliances dictate our way of life in this day and age. The computer science department here at Rhodes University, supports GREEN IT and professors and lecturers have done great research on the phenomenon. It will be wise to speak to them and gather opinions from the public as to whether they understand the meaning behind green IT and what they could do to help in the cause.

How will you tell the story?

The story should begin with narration and ambience of a computer beeping some sort of alert noise to draw attention to the danger of where the world is heading. This will be explained in the narration. The experts’ voice will be Kevin Rafferty of the Information systems department here at Rhodes. He is the Honours GREEN IT course coordinator and is willing to go on record about the issue. I would like the rest of the story to involve people who live GREEN IT lives. These are friends in the IT department here at Rhodes that I can speak to. GREEN IT will also be linked to an honours environmental science students’ research project on the urban environment: Andrew. He will be a good link to the story which puts in motion the concept of GREEN IT. The rest of the package should be vox pops of people making meaning of GREEN IT. It will be interesting to get an array of responses coming from this.

Reflective Report on Climate Change Packages

The report below will discuss media’s role in climate change and sustainability. It is important to establish that the climate change issue is not an easy space for journalists to convey to the rest of society. This is because the topic requires background knowledge and is scientifically heavy, meaning that the terminology and concepts require further definition and explanation. The first part of this report will discuss how this scientific knowledge was conveyed as well as a detailed account of the production process I used to produce my stories. My stories were the importance of vegetable gardens in today’s society as well as GreenIT and how it affects us as a digitized society. We, as a group of student journalists were given a brief by Algoa FM and SEACC to cover environmental journalism using mainstream media conventions. These conventions include the use of expert voices in our stories and objectivity in our reporting. How this applies to the development of my own stories will be cited below. These mainstream approaches of journalism will be compared and contrasted our agency document as well as to public journalism which we have studied in the journalism democracy and development course. The final part of this report will provide a strong critique of my work where I will highlight my shortcomings and successes throughout the duration of my productions.

To take a closer look into media’s role in conveying climate change and sustainability, with reference to my own journalistic philosophy which emphasizes that news needs to be accessible to all audiences, it is quite difficult a task to juggle the two. Climate change as an issue involves very heavy scientific terminology as well as a good and broad understanding of what climate change is and how does it affect the individual listening to the story. There are ways of conveying such issues of climate change, while at the same time, ensuring that people understand what is meant. According to Carvalho (2007: 224), novelty, controversy, geographical proximity and relevance to the reader are regarded as important determinants in the selection of science news. This means that these aspects are taken into account when a journalist chooses a climate change or even scientific story to report. If a report is related to the audience listening to it, it would make sense to them. It is safe to say that I too, in choosing my stories, looked at the above aspects when developing my story. My main concern was, “will my climate change stories relate to Eastern Cape audiences?” the story telling methods utilized were not anything too complicated as my story topics needed simplification more than anything. I kept to very logical, ordered and structured statements that were easily understandable. I therefore aimed to bring it down to a level that ensured a positive reception from the listener. Another universal problem of reporting on climate change includes an immense amount of myths and predictions that are not always helpful in journalism since information needs to be factual. Personally, this was not as big an issue for me. Statistical information given by experts was a way of steering away from predictions and myths. My stories remained extremely realistic and not much creativity was used in terms of the design of the package, but the stories were extremely informative as the expert voices provided statistical information as mentioned above that added weight and structure to the stories in that the statistics always linked to the controversial issues of climate change we face. A media example of climate change and sustainability that interested me was is an online article by Pearce (2006). This article was a beginners’ guide to tackling climate change. This article interested me because it was broken down to my level. I was able to understand every aspect he spoke about because it was simplified yet insightful at the same time.

Here I will discuss, in great detail, the production process for generating my stories. My first story focused on the importance of vegetable gardens in today’s society inflicted with the mass increase in carbon emissions as well as the benefits of consuming locally produced foods. My expert voice was Sunitha Srinivas, an associate lecturer in health promotion at Rhodes University’s Pharmacy department as well as a member of the World Health Organisation. I went on to feature one of her students’ group projects on the importance of vegetable gardens for school going learners in particular. To further build onto this, I interviewed one of the school teachers who manage the vegetable gardens as well as one of the learners who work on the vegetable gardens. The story therefore flowed in that very order maintaining the logic and structure of the report. It was clear that one interview was a build up to the preceding one and this is exactly how I found my link between the voices that I chose to use. I conducted a number of preliminary interviews to secure my angle and at one point restructured the story, moving it away from becoming a feature of Sunitha’s student group project onto why vegetable gardens are so important and emphasized that anyone can have one. This made more sense when thinking about the audience I was targeting in the Eastern Cape: learners, the elderly, local residents and the middle-aged working class. In my opinion, these are “everyday people”, and something that they could implement into their everyday lives is fitting in this sense.

I was able to interview the school learners and teachers as they were working on the vegetable gardens. This added to the realism of my story and broke away from the silence and seriousness of the rest of the story.

The second story I produced was based on the concept of GreenIT and what it is. This story was primarily aimed at small as well as big businesses which is prevalent in this community. It was also aimed at the community in general and had much to do with how we can add to sustainability by implementing GreenIT in our lives. GreenIT, according to the expert interviewed, Kevin Rafferty of the Rhodes University Information Systems department, is a broad concept that includes saving of elements like water and electricity more especially in the information and communications technology organizations. IT also involves the recycling of hardware equipment so that they are not dumped creating unhealthy, mass landfills. I followed the same pattern of logical flow with this story doing a follow up interview with one of Kevin’s Honours students, Nicholas Bradfield, who did a research assignment on how aware people are of the impact of computing on the environment. The aim of capturing this interview was the surveys and research Nicholas underwent and the results produced thereof. These statistics proved to be extremely insightful where many IT managers themselves did not know the impact of computing on the environment. I decided to lighten up the story with a few different voices. I went around campus asking students what they thought GreenIT is. Many actually knew more or less what the concept entailed. My editorial decisions consisted of making the story a bit fun and breaking away from statistics and creating awareness at the same time.

I tied up the loose ends by bringing it down to what the individual can to implement GreenIT in their lifestyles for example, by purchasing eco friendly appliances like fridges and washing machines that are designed to save energy and water but still function as a normal appliance would. Living in a digitized and globalised society, it is important to be aware of how we can save energy and water in every aspect of our lives. With digitization taking a huge chunk of our lifestyles, it is only fair that we try to do our bit in promoting and practicing efficient use of computer equipment, digital and electric appliances. Since I am well in tune with Information Systems and who I could speak to about it, I undertook this story because of my personal interest in the topic. I knew what it was, but I didn’t know what it entailed. This was a perfect opportunity for me to learn more and at the same time be able to make many others aware.
I had decided to use ambiance in this story as well, particularly the Microsoft start-up and shutdown sounds. This gave the story some character and put it in context as well.

I think the above processes used to produce these climate change stories were completely effective. This is because it allows for an easy follow-through of the story. Heavy chunks of information and statistics provided by experts were broken up by simple, concise narrations. I felt that I could have done better at developing my stories by getting more interviews for example in the GreenIT story. An example of GreenIT in practice could have made for a better addition to the story rather than vox pops. I feel that I could have managed my time better in terms of developing my story. In this sense then, conveying climate change stories to the Eastern Cape audiences has been successful. As journalists, I think that we are able to provide that link between experts and the community at large. Our language and narration can be made easy to understand and gives audiences a chance to relate to what is being set. As student journalists, we were taught to convey stories as though we are speaking to an individual. According to the Agency document (Radio: 2010), we must practice thorough research and accuracy when reporting. This is how we can contribute to the public’s understanding of complex and science stories. To make sense of this Carhalvo (2007:224) states, “As new links are established between citizens, scientists, politicians and media professionals, the embeddedness of science and politics has become increasingly public and science has become more exposed to critism, contestation and deconstruction.”

Algoa FM and SEACC have given us the opportunity to practice approaches of mainstream journalism such as objectivity and the use of expert voices. This puts all the skills we learnt throughout the year into good practice. This differs from the approaches of alternative journalisms we currently in learn in Journalism, democracy and development: public journalism. Here, as Haas (2007) puts it, public journalism involves journalists becoming “active partners” with citizens to find solutions to their issues. This significantly differs from the practical skills we have learnt in radio production.

The above essay has focused on the production process of the two climate change stories that I have developed. It has proved to be a phenomenal learning experience and utilizes all the tools and techniques we have been taught in to radio production course. This essay has also explored what worked and what did not work and where I feel I could have improved on. I have also illustrated Algoa FM and SEACC’s principles with regard to maintaining objectivity in our reporting as well as making use of expert voices in our stories. These two approaches have been used extensively which made development of our stories much easier. I went into great detail about why my story choices were important as well as how I would go about breaking up the technical science jargon into small, digestible portions for the average listener to understand and relate to. The public philosophy of Haas (2007) was also drawn upon and how this differs completely from the approaches we have adopted in mainstream reporting which has been spoken of above. In conclusion, the goals set out at the beginning of these processes undertaken have been successful and effective in demonstrating lessons of story development in reporting for radio and has equipped us as student journalists to continue to explore these practices and hopefully build on them as we go out into the media industry.


Carvalho, A. 2007. Ideological Cultures and Media Discourses on scientific knowledge: re-reading news on climate change. Public understanding of Science. Sage Publications: pus.sagepub.com

Haas, T. 2007.’The emergence of public journalism’ and ‘A public philosophy for public journalism’ in The pursuit of public journalism: theory, practice and critism. Routledge: New York.

JMS3 Radio. 2010. Third Year Radio Agency Mission Statement. Grahamstown: Rhodes University.

Pearce, F. 2006. Introduction: Climate Change. New Scientist Magazine. Reed Business Information Ltd: UK.


Radio Production: Climate Change Stories

Both my climate change stories posed a few limitations in following my own approach to journalism. Since our productions needed to be according to the journalistic style and audience expectations of Algoa FM, I was unable to fully use my journalistic approach to cover my stories. However, I did not move very far away from my own ways of researching strategy when it came to researching my stories.

My first story focused on the importance of vegetable gardens for school going learners that featured a research project undertaken by Pharmacy students of Rhodes University. I did manage to go into the township community of Grahamstown where this research project was based to find out what it takes to establish and maintain a vegetable garden as well as gain an expert’s opinion on sustainable living and the importance of vegetable gardens. I feel that despite the journalistic style of Algoa FM, I was able to research the topic the way I saw fit. I managed to get an array of different opinions from my interviewees, however, these were not particularly representative of the community at large. These interviewees included a teacher responsible for a school’s community vegetables garden, a student who works on the vegetable gardens as well as the group leader of the research project associated with the vegetable garden. It is clear that from the different voices I have to used, I have integrated my journalistic approach into research strategies used to produce this sustainability piece.

My other climate change package was based on Green IT and how it can help in the fight against global warming. This piece was extremely informative required lots of research and interviewing from experts to researchers on the topic. In this piece, I managed to use a few voices of students but here again, far from representing the community at large. This is where my personal journalistic approach of research strategies differs significantly from researching strategies used to produce this piece. I felt that these climate change pieces were more informative pieces and aimed at a specific purpose: to generate awareness about climate change and sustainable development. This was fulfilled and my research methods and techniques had allowed me to find all the information fitting to the relevant topics but, it is important to note that this is a different type of journalism all together, and is perched from an informative point of view where expert voices needed to be present as opposed to the community’s voice. However, it was completely manageable to integrate my journalistic approach into research strategies and techniques to produce these kinds of information-heavy pieces. This is because in both cases, research is required and strategies put in to play to establish that research need to be met regardless of the approach of journalism used. I feel that I have therefore dealt well with research strategies and techniques for this package.

To a large extent, I have been able to apply my journalistic approach to the use of language and scripting in these climate change stories. This is because they needed to follow a similar trend: that is, to be extremely accessible to their audiences such that audiences understand the message being conveyed. This completely forms part of my journalistic approach and I have therefore incorporated a style of simplicity to almost all my scripting whether it is for these climate change packages or news packages. My aim is for people to have that sense of common understanding regardless of their race or culture. This might seem impossible in theory, but it can be done depending on how the journalist articulates himself or herself and by their choice of wording and language style. People should not have to interpret messages that come from stories but rather understand the messages to the best of their abilities. I strongly feel that through language and scripting, journalists can make an impact on the way audiences interpret messages. Since the climate change packages come through as informative packages, and the other stories I have produced follow a more representative approach meaning voices of members of the community, the use of language and scripting change at certain points, for example the tone in particular. For the informative packages such as these climate change ones, I have taken on a more authoritative tone in that I explain myself fully from a researched perspective and for the community and news stories, I use a more neutral tone making sure that the language and overall scripting follows suit. For example, in my Green IT package, I have been able to complement what the expert voices say and link their thoughts since I had done extensive research on the topic myself. Because experts used such high and advanced language, especially in this package with all the technical jargon, my scripting was able to bring that down to a level where the Algoa FM listener will be able to understand what the story is about.

I have not yet produced a package that used any other language but English due to the types of stories I chose to do, which seemed to mainly be for an English-speaking audience. I have therefore been able to maintain this sense of simple, straightforward scripting that is easily understood, as if I were conversing with a friend. This is the key to being understood by a wide audience. I have therefore been able to apply my journalistic approach to the use of language and scripting in these climate change packages quite significantly.