Grahamstown is a tiny city situated in the Eastern Cape. As it stands, the population of Grahamstown is approximately 91 548 (www.yr.no › Punkt › English). Home to the 1820 settlers to secure their trade, Grahamstown began to grow into a considerable community. By 1904, the establishment of Rhodes University had created a community that we have joined today which serves around 7000 students. Still a small university, in a small-populated city, with a large township community, people heavily rely on consuming news in the most affordable manner i.e. community newspapers as wellas radio. Television and internet do not reach the masses here as this is an extremely rare commodity in the township. Community newspapers require people to be literate which could also not fully reach out to the community at large. As a radio journalist, I feel that it is my duty to provide news that is easily accessible to all. Based on this close-knit community to which we have a diverse listenership, news ought to be simple, easy to digest and objective in that it should not offend a particular culture, race or sect.
My position on objectivity as a radio journalist operating in Grahamstown leans towards being objective. According to Glasser (1992), objective thinking emasculates the intellect by treating it as a disinterested spectator. He means to say that objective thinking does not allow for a journalist to be independent in their thinking, creative or imaginative. I strongly believe these are important aspects of news reporting because it allows journalists to view stories from many different angles and look deeper into their findings when exploring a story which is in fact, the task of a journalist. This promotes variety and creativity in news making it more appealing to audiences. I would also love for my news to be easily accessible to the community. I therefore aim to use my imagination and creativity to better reach the community. This means that both my script and presentation needs to be simple and understandable. Objectivity depends a lot on the way a story is written. I would definitely take this into consideration. Grahamstown is such a socially dense community made up of students, middle and upper class locals, foreigners and tourists. However, the majority of this community resides in the township areas. News needs to relate to each and every individual, as I aim to speak to the individual when presenting my news. Therefore objectivity will play a major role in this case. My news should not offend the individual I am speaking to. I as a news producer needs to be as objective as possible when bringing stories together.
An array of stories could be told in this town. One thing that interests me in particular is that even though we live in such a small town, it seems as though everyone in the community are huddled in their own little worlds. The middle and upper class locals reside in area near town, staff and students at Rhodes University live within the vicinity of the campus and lower class locals reside in the townships such as Fingo and many more. We live in worlds that run completely parallel to each other. These lines never meet or make contact with one another. My role should be to act as a link between the two worlds. It is important to know what’s going on in both parts of Grahamstown as we live in one community. Issues like water shortages and name changes affect the entire community, not just one part of it. These issues therefore need to be addressed by providing views of different people in the community. According to Glasser (1992), objective reporting is biased against the very idea of responsibility. Journalists feel they are now compelled to report stories rather than being something they are responsible for creating. It is also said that because news is “out there” journalists can’t be held responsible for it but the truth is, journalists are there to relay the sequence of events that caused for the story to be “out there”. This is my journalistic philosophy; to produce news in a manner which is easy to understand and will reach every individual in the community, not just a select few. It is after all, my responsibility to do so.
Retrieved 4 March 2010
www.yr.no › Punkt › English
Glasser T. L. 1992. Philosophical Issues in Journalism
Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.
REFLECTION ON MY JOURNALISTIC PHILOSOPHY
With reference to my personal journalistic philosophy, which I compiled early this year, it was clear that my aspiration as a journalist was to produce news that would be extremely accessible to and easily understood by all kinds of audiences. I still believe this very strongly, especially now that I have had the opportunity to interact more closely with a certain kind of audience living in the township areas of Grahamstown through the Journalism, Democracy and Development course. This is because the experience has opened me up to a whole new realm of journalism and how this very journalism can be used for the greater good. It has been a great learning experience going into areas where people in the township accessed news differently to the way we did. With a lack of internet access and electricity in the township, internet and television are not a commonly widespread means of attaining information like radio and newspapers are. This means that being a radio journalist in particular, I need to take into account that a very wide range of audiences would be listening to what I have produced. In order to get my message across, people must be able to understand my stories with ease. This, I still consider as one of my primary priorities. It is important to note that fragmented societies are present on a national scale and not only in Grahamstown. Therefore, wherever I plan to work as a radio journalist, I will face the same issue of diversity where I will need to produce content that surpasses the barriers of language, race, class and ethnicity and culture. In a diverse nation like South Africa, this balance needs to be made and I hope that I will be able to find it so that I am able to reach even the smallest of communities.
My personal journalistic philosophy had also made mention of my position on objectivity with direct reference to Glasser (1992) where he says that objective thinking does not allow for journalists to be creative, imaginative or independent in their thinking. With the Journalism, Democracy and Development course, I was able to harness skills of public, radical and collaborative journalism, very different from what we have been doing in previous years. Before the JDD/CMP course, producing stories seemed to involve a very similar trend where I would go out and set up interviews with people involved in the story I was producing. I would then come back to the lab and listen intently to how my interviewees answered their questions of “what exactly happened?” and “how do you feel about it?” while at the same time trying to figure out the angle I should take and what sounded most captivating and told the story at the same time. I had enjoyed every moment of this, from the time I pitched my story right up until the end of production. To me however, this did not fully give me the opportunity to be creative or bold as a journalist because I needed to stick to the facts of the story and it did not seem completely fulfilling to me. In the JDD/CMP course however, I was able to be more in touch with my story and my sources and felt that I am fulfilling an aim, and in this case, the aim was to help a small community organization gain recognition not only within its community, but by grabbing the attention of potential sponsors who could help the founders gain faster progress in starting up the organization. This allowed me more freedom as a journalist to produce something that would actually derive some sort of benefit for the community I was establishing a relationship with.
I therefore would like to make an addition to my personal journalistic philosophy where public journalism would play a key role in my being a journalist. This would truly allow me that sense of responsibility mentioned in the Agency document (2010) we drafted at the beginning of the radio course where it states that “We are committed to ethical reporting, that is characterized by responsibility (among other things)”. I could safely say that in this case, I was able to feel that sense of responsibility by providing a platform for my source to seek help from the public for his organization.
To practice public journalism within South African radio presents some challenges which I will explore in this space. It is important to mention that public journalism incorporates the voices of the community who share their issues and areas of concern on a platform which I, as a journalist, wish to provide. With reference to the three tiers of the radio landscape, being public service, community and commercial, public journalism can fall strongly between public service and community radio stations simple because both stations represent issues of the public or a particular community in hope to build solidarity and a sense of cultural identity in the deliberation process. With public service stations however this might be a little challenging since public service broadcasters are state-owned and the lines are blurred when it comes to what can be aired or what cannot since public service broadcasters are in a position to protect national and state interests where the public are very critical of the government. For example, SAfm, according to Lang (2008), saw a blacklisting debacle in 2006 where Snuki Zikalala, the managing director of the SABC’s news division would not allow certain commentators to be interviewed on current affairs shows. Lang (2008) also indicated that there was no formal blacklist but producers knew that certain people in the line-up would receive a negative view from Zikalala’s office. This clearly shows that public journalism which has a strong potential to oppose certain views of the government will not be welcomed.
Community radio on the other hand, provides an easier way to access the community, gather opinions and thoughts of particular communities and convey them across the same channels hoping they reach higher authority or people who can help make a difference. According to ICASA, the characteristics of a community radio station should ensure participation from the community, have many talk shows where current affairs affecting the community are addressed and be a non-profit organization. Public journalism can therefore fit perfectly within this tier.
I see myself fitting in well within this radio landscape, at an excellent community radio station like Radio 786 in Cape Town. It is predominantly an Islamic radio station, which fits perfectly with my lifestyle being Muslim, but places much focus on community issues where public journalism is used quite extensively. This is what I have received off their website today (9 November 2010):
“The People’s Parliament team is taking you to New World Foundation Grindal Avenue, Lavender Hill, today @ 5pm. Be there to hear what the people have to say about the issues affecting them.
People’s Parliament is a Radio786 initiative, which gives voice to a particular community in highlighting their concerns” (http://www.radio786.co.za/)
The above is proof enough that Radio 786 does not just strive towards religious aims but also aims to uplift the communities, very similar to the aims of public journalism. Seeing as though these initiatives are already taking place, I see myself fitting in well here and at the same time fulfilling my personal journalistic philosophy. I expect many limitations however that might pose as challenges working within in this environment. On being that I am not familiar with the issues of the community Radio 786 targets because I am not part of the greater Western Cape area and know very little about it. But this knowledge can only be gained when going out and working closely with communities which public journalism does urge. Another limitation could probably be the language barrier. Because many communities speak in Afrikaans and I am not too fluent in the language, understanding one another could potentially be frustrating and difficult. This is where translators would be most useful in order to negotiate around such a limitation. I would like to speak to an audience who are proactive in making a difference to their current situations and who would like to express their concerns. If they are given an opportunity to do so, I think that they would react positively to this style of journalism as they would be actively involved in setting the news agenda and having a say in the development and betterment of their communities.
I n conclusion, I personally feel that public journalism is the way forward for me to gain a sense of pride and fulfillment when helping communities on a large scale. Radio stations like Radio 786 can most definitely give me the opportunity to do so.
Glasser T. L. 1992. Philosophical Issues in Journalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Frequency News. 2010. Third year Radio Agency. Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies. Grahamstown: South Africa.
Retrieved from www.icasa.org.za on 9 November 2010
Lang. S. 2008. The nudge of ‘nation building’: Rhodes Journalism Review. Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies. Grahamstown: South Africa.
Retrieved from www.radio786.co.za on 9 November 2010