Welcome to MPONZMAN!A

This is a professional blog of an experimental student journalist. I showcase my work from both the course and vacational work on this blog. I also add a flavour of my own thoughts and observations.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Introduction to News


The importance I set of focusing on the average citizen as a primary source and focal point of a story is revealed in the new stories I produced this year. The first story in the news section, which is on the implications the closure of The Old Gaol Backpackers’ Lodge, would have on its backroom workers, emphasised solely on these workers, and the catalyst of this story was the backroom worker who is the first interviewee in the story. The second story in this section, of the taxi drivers’ dissatisfaction with hitch-hikers who refuse to commute in taxis, is another story which I focused on a concerning issue affecting citizens.

I understood the seriousness of these stories from newspaper publications and the media. The Old Gaol story received much coverage from Grocott’s Mail, and a campaign against the closure of the lodge was started on the social media platform, Facebook. I initially became aware of the frosty relationship taxi drivers and passengers have with each other from my personal account of the situation. I also became aware of violence amongst taxi drivers and of their unhappiness with their loss of passengers, due to the growing preference of people to hitch-hike, rather than catch taxis. I came across this phenomena from various media outlets at home in Queenstown and here in Grahamstown. My motivation for undertaking these two stories aligned with the insistence in my philosophy of not following a notion of objectivity in the stories I produce. I became aware of the lack of coverage the backroom staff of the Old Gaol experienced when news of its impending closure made rounds. Of the newspaper articles I read about the closure of the Old Gaol, there was the constant focus on the reasons for the closure, and whether the lodge was accepted positively in the community. I did not see one article which focused on the consequences the closure of the Old Gaol would have on its workers. I decided to pitch and co-produce a story of the Old Gaol which looked at those who would be most vulnerable at the closure of the lodge; the backroom workers who live in poverty and would struggle to find work elsewhere.

The story of the taxi drivers and hitch-hikers challenged the guidelines I set towards the kind of radio journalism I aspired to, due to the fact that one would consider both the taxi-drivers and hitch-hikers as being the average citizen who are not in a position of power in a society. Whilst conducting the story, the taxi bosses were blamed by the drivers as being the main contributors to the increasing taxi ride prices, which the hitch-hikers were complaining about. Eventually, the hitch-hikers had their dissatisfaction revealed in the story, while the taxi boss outlined circumstances behind the high price fare of taxis. In the end, concerns of two types of citizens in the community were put together and linked to the same story. I managed to adapt my journalistic approach to both these stories, due to the challenge of them taking the form of hard news stories. The time frame of these news stories, being less than two minutes long also made it imperative that the most pivotal points of the interviews conducted in the two stories be selected accordingly, and the approach to narrating these stories to not be too in-depth, which is a tactic I have preferred to use in ensuring that as much context is placed on a story, as possible.

My journalistic philosophy has aided me in my professional standing with the individuals of the Grahamstown community I have come across in the two news stories. In the Old Gaol story, Angelique Thorne (who co-produced the story with me) and I gained similar recognition and respect as journalists who were intent on highlighting a key issue to the Old Gaol closure story which had yet to be covered. The cleaners we encountered at the Old Gaol felt at ease and were willing to give us honest concerns about their uncertain futures. Willem McKink of Makana Tourism also respected us as a journalist, as we were looking at covering a completely different angle of an overdone story, one which had the potential to create a new way of thinking about the closure of the Old Gaol. In the second news story, I managed to gain positive responses from both hitch-hikers and the President of the local taxi association. I communicated easily, on the same level as the hitch-hiker, and was descriptive in the objectives of the story, with the taxi association boss. This boosted the professional standards I set for myself, as I managed to generate an understanding and respect with all the individuals I encountered. Even though the taxi association boss expressed concern that Journalism students who had interviewed him had left him having a resentment towards student journalists, he warmed up to me positively, due to my style of approaching with the individuals I come across, not as subjects, but as people with stories to tell.

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