Question 1: Radio Studies
A) The study of journalism no matter what specialisation requires the student to take on a particular stance to journalism as a profession and the role of journalists in society.Within the context of Grahamstown, where, like many other cities and towns around the country, social divisions are evident, journalists need to provide a full and reliable account of daily events ensuring that all layers of society are equally and fairly represented. I highlighted the importance of objectivity as a journalistic principle, helping journalists to remain neutral, show all sides of the story and in this way mark their professionalism as opposed to amateur bloggers who do not separate fact from comment or criticism. Reflecting on my journalistic philosophy now I would make a few amendments to the document concerning the role of journalists in a liberal democratic capitalist society. Although I do believe in the principles of objectivity in the sense that journalism should be truthful and inclusive of the majority, objectivity is not a principle that journalists should strive to achieve. As noted by Glasser, there is a negative side of being objective. Glasser notes that objectivity takes away the journalist’s creativity and independent thinking, also that objectivity is in favour of the status quo, meaning it promotes the ideas of the elite and prominent. Journalists need to observe as well as inform the public but even more important is that they should participate in public life and create a platform for public deliberation, allowing for citizens to engage.
As an addition to the document that different kinds of journalism need to be considered so as to better understand mainstream media as well as be able to critique its central ideas. I believe that an incorporation of the principles of public journalism can be applied to mainstream journalism. Public journalism criticises mainstream journalism on several levels. Mainstream media excludes the majority focussing on the opinions of experts or government officials who constitute the official or quasi-official layers of society. Mainstream media follows a top-down structure ignoring the voices of the ordinary people which are generally marginalised if not demonized. These institutions are run on a commercial basis seeking to increase profit as a result of increased readership, listenership and audience viewership. Public journalism incorporates the various kinds of journalism such as development journalism, tabloid, alternative and radical journalism. Although all are very different from each other, they share an opposition to the mainstream or dominant media. Integrating public journalism principles into mainstream media would mean a more inclusive media, a media that represents the whole of society and allows for the citizens from all classes to construct a discursive space in which they can articulate their shared concerns and publicize these concerns to wider publics. The one problem is that the two would clash when it came to the notion of objectivity. “Claims of objectivity run counter to the principles of public journalism insofar as the former encourage journalists to position themselves outside or beyond the communities they seek to serve”.
It is the study and practice of the Journalism Development and Democracy and Critical Media Production course (JDD-CMP) that has altered my thoughts on the role of journalists in a democratic society. Moving from an authoritarian state under oligarchic white minority rule to a democracy requires a collaborative role from the media worker and institution in order to better the relationship between the government and citizens. Journalists then need to serve a facilitative role, which sees the press as the fourth estate in a democratic society ensuring that the state does not abuse its power. Journalism should be practiced as a means of improving the quality of public life and contributing to deliberative forms of democracy. In the facilitative role of journalism, the media workers promote conditions conducive to democratic life.
B) Radio is a medium that offers numerous opportunities to practice any kind of journalism as there are different platforms catering to different audiences and their needs. The existence of the various platforms are there to create diversity, offer freedom of expression as well as promote education and entertainment via news, music and talk shows. The current South African radio landscape allows any student the opportunity to enter a field which is either orientated to mainstream, public, alternative, radical, tabloid, investigative or development journalism. Three broad tiers within radio were established. Commercial radio can be defined as “a service operated for profit but providing a diverse range of programming in all official languages” (Wigston, 2001: 22). Public radio differs in that its aim is to serve the majority and aid in nation building, programming should reflect the different racial, cultural, ethnic and linguistic groups in the country (Wigston, 2001: 21). This service can be provided by the SABC or any other statutory body or person. The SABC, a public service broadcaster owning various radio stations is “wholly” owned by the state but the corporation is financially independent of taxpayer’s money, its income comes from advertising the licensing fees. Community radio is aimed at serving a particular community, it may serve geographical areas, meaning those communities that were disadvantaged by the Apartheid era, it may be a campus-based station, serving students, and it may be a religious station or a cultural or ethnic station. Community radio is not based on profit; instead it relies on donations or sponsorships to survive (Wigston, 2001: 22). It encourages participation and promotes development as well as transformation.
I would like to see myself working at SAfm which would fall into the category of public radio. A public broadcaster serves the task of informing, educating and entertaining the public in an objective, holistic and impartial manner. The station offers a variety of talk, current affairs and music shows which are mainly targeted at citizens between the ages of 30 and 49. The fact the SAfm have a defined target audience is an indication that their content will be able to suit the needs and interests of those people. I have no problems with the fact that SAfm target a particular age group as there are other stations that cater to different age groups. SAfm reaches all those interested in news, culture, drama, music and debate. I feel that the shows on SAfm and content is in line with my revised journalistic philosophy in that it firstly, relies on the opinions of not only experts but also of ordinary citizens. Secondly, they are objective in reporting the facts and showing all sides of a story but at the same time they offer more in-depth analysis and coverage and are also able to criticise the government. Various shows on SAfm represent the kind of journalism I believe in, such as “Afternoon Talk” with Karabo Kgoleng, the “After 8 Debate” hosted by Caesar Molebatsi, “Morning Talk” presented by Siki Mgabadeli and “Otherwise” with Nancy Richards. All four shows have a focus on social responsibility, including the public in debate, getting ordinary citizens interest and wanting to participate in social affairs. The shows are provoking, educational and entertaining. They create a platform for citizens to call in, including them in a kind of agenda setting space. They are inclusive of all genders, cultures, nationalities and can be serious as well as light-hearted.
I understand however that there are both external and internal constraints placed upon a news organisation like SAfm. These constraints may be that SAfm has to cater to the needs of the advertisers, which limit their choice in content, leading to the public (whom they are meant to serve) being sidelined. Another constraint may be the notion of credibility in terms of journalists who, under the SABC, strive to cater to the needs of the public. Whilst striving for this ideal they also want to remain impartial and avoid acting as a mere mouthpiece for the government as this raises question of credibility and objectivity. A distinction needs to be made between the managers of the station who are responsible for the day to day running of the station, and the board of directors, who are responsible for policy-making. It is important for the two to be separated in terms of power as this will lead to a clash of ideas and conflict, which will in turn result in disagreement over what management sees as newsworthy versus what the editor views as newsworthy. This would be one solution to getting around the external constraints placed upon a media organisation like SAfm. On the issue of objectivity, credibility and professionalism, journalists would need to ensure that they represent all layers of society in the stories and allow for comment that is fair and does not discriminate, in this way, avoid being blamed for favouring any one side.
1. Wigston, D. 2001. A History of the South African Media. In Fourie, P.J. (ed) 2001. Media Studies: Media History, Media and Society. Juta & Co. Cape Town. South Africa. Pg 21 -22.
Question 2: Radio Production
· News and Development (a) and (e)
Development journalism should strive to give the ordinary people a voice, to communicate with the marginalised and those organisations or groups at a grass-roots level moving away from the notion that development journalism is simply a tool used by the government to further their goals (Banda, 2006: 4). In the third term, we, as a class, put the theories of development journalism in practice. The development piece I produced in the third term was on a local olive farmer, Craig Rippon. Owner of the Springvale Olive Estate situated near Alicedale in the Eastern Cape, Rippon not only contributes to the development of South Africa but provides employment to both men and women on his farm. In this developmental approach a different method was required in the story idea, sources used and angle taken. In collecting information and generating an idea the journalist needs to keep in line with the principles of development journalism in other words, speak to ordinary people, seek local heroes or members of the community who are doing something positive. My story idea was influenced by an article I found in Grocotts Online which classifies as new media, a medium not accessible to everyone. In that sense my approach to finding a story idea was not in line with the principles of development journalism. My sources were all locals and the story as a whole, highlighted Rippon as a local hero. I conducted three individual interviews, one with farm owner, Craig Rippon, one with a female worker on the farm, Violet Jack and the other with owner of Grahamstown store that sells Rippon’s brand of olive oil, Tracy Mills. Through the individual interviews I was able to get honest feelings from each interviewee. In terms of applying my journalistic approach to the way I conceptualise stories, I now view stories in terms of the overall meaning or message that the listeners will get from it. With the development package I hoped not only to highlight a local hero but to inspire people to better themselves, to create something that is needed in the community. I believe through this package I was able to do this.
The professional standards that I set myself have definitely changed from the beginning of the year when I wrote my journalistic philosophy. With development journalism the journalist can become more immersed in the story and in the lives of his or her subject. Interviews can be conducted on a more casual level. Gathering story ideas relies heavily on speaking to the people, discovering that which they want to hear. The story itself needs to have a message, whether it be informational, educational, inspirational or entertaining, it should however promote and encourage change for the better. The difficulty with this development approach is that it is time-consuming, making it problematic as journalism is a competitive industry, development journalism faces, the faster, cheaper and more popular mode of mainstream media.
1. Banda, F. 2006. An Appraisal of the Applicability of Development Journalism in the Context of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB). Rhodes University.
· Climate Change (c) and (f)
Working with Algoa FM to promote climate change we were required to produce packages that dealt with as many aspects of the global phenomenon in order to educate listeners. My package focused on sustainability in two universities in the Eastern Cape, these being Rhodes University and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). This story required the opinions and knowledge of experts in the field. This package would be in line with my original journalistsic philosophy which stated the journalist’s role being to provide factual and reliable information, show all sides of the story and be objective. The language and scripting of this package was given much deliberation as the narration and actuality used need to be comprehensive to the listener. Climate change is not a new topic and has been in debate and discussion for years. Therefore, this package was produced to provide the same if not new information but in a clearer and less complicated way. A package like this serves to educate the public, it acts as a request for citizens, specifically students and staff to change minor bad habits in their daily lives in order to help save the environment. A follow up story would then be monitoring the implementation of better internal policy regarding the environment and the progress made by universities, perhaps even the possibility of collaboration between universities around the Eastern Cape to reach a wider audience.