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

Radio studies


A.)The journalistic philosophy I produced at the beginning of the Radio Studies course was motivated by the societal differences, and the manner in which these differences have been represented through the media. Focusing my philosophy on how I planned to approach radio journalism in Grahamstown, I became aware of the existence of such differences in the city, which proved to be the focal point of my philosophy. I made it a point that through the journalism I produce for radio, I would “aim to engage with the diverse citizens who reside in Grahamstown”, to ensure that the community as whole got to know stories from the various groups which reside in the city, making a contribution, a small one somewhat, in breaking the barrier between the various class and cultural differences that are predominant in the city.

I was also concerned at the scarcity of good news being reported in the media. One regularly hears of heinous crimes, deaths and catastrophes which happen in the community. Adding to these instances, news about society, whether it be a poor society or problems in wealthier communities, are reported upon through representations of bad news. I became concerned about this aspect of the journalism I had come across in the past and present, and set myself the aim on focusing on adding a more positive spin to the stories I produce, indicating possible solutions and elements of hope to the stories I come across. I made it clear in the philosophy I produced that I would not ignore breaking bad news in the city, but would also put an added effort in highlighting good news to come from the city. Looking at the work I have done this year, I have had a balance of such stories, some of which I wish I had the platform to follow up on. The argument of objectivity is also one which I echoed in my philosophy, where I made a claim that “objectivity is a term which I do not necessarily aspire to follow in my journalism… which I do not think aptly applies to conducting journalism in Grahamstown”. I linked my views on objectivity to Glasser’s (1992: 183) view on the shortcomings of journalistic objectivity, which despite the journalist’s efforts to remain impartial to the stories they produced, they stutter in this process due to the “journalist’s naively empirical view of the world” (Glasser, 1992: 183). In my philosophy, I stated that objectivity is a term which I would not aspire to follow in my journalist, but I would be aware of the importance that I remain fair in the stories I produce.

In the Radio Studies course during the year, and the Journalism, Democracy, Development and Critical Media Production (JDD/CMP) course, I came across more approaches to journalism, and learnt of various kinds of journalisms which are similar to the manner in which I wanted to conduct my radio journalism. In the Radio Studies section, I came across an article by Banda (2007) who mentioned the existence of emancipatory journalism, which he described as representing a “theoretical link between citizens’ access to mass media and mass media” (Banda, 2007: 158). This kind of development journalism influenced me in strengthening my philosophy, as it bore resemblance in the points I made in my philosophy, of focusing on the average citizen of Grahamstown, who is not in a position of power, as a primary source of my stories. This kind of development journalism also reaffirmed my belief on focusing my stories on the average citizen, having a “bottom-up” approach in my reporting, and focusing on local government or authorities of significant influence and power not necessarily being the primary sources of my stories.

Upon reflection, I may have perhaps emphasised the need to reflect on reporting on good news in such a way that it may have detracted in the aim I had of identifying powerful stories which deserved to be elevated to the public sphere. In my journalistic philosophy, I only emphasised the need to also focus heavily on stories which are delaying the progress of Grahamstown, in the last paragraph of my philosophy. A focus on surfacing producing stories which attempt to deal with issues inhibiting progress is one of the most important aspects of my philosophy, which I would make more vivid than it currently is in my philosophy. To be able to reveal more positive stories, issues inhibiting such positivity need to be examined first. I have also learnt on the importance of obtaining stories from groups of people who live in the communities in which I am practicing my journalism. Accounts of public journalism, and Haas’s (2009) public philosophy on public journalism have encouraged me to put myself on the same level as the community, and not act simply as a journalist, but interact with them as partners who express their concerns and issues or occurrences they wish to be covered in their communities. I then would be the platform which enhances these stories to a wider public. Before, and in the instance where I compiled my journalistic philosophy, I saw my role as being someone who is fully aware of what to cover in a story, before immersing myself within the story. Now I plan to use both the citizens’ and my input in generating story ideas and producing stories, to raise awareness or influence change within a particular society.

B.) There is a great need in South African radio to have an approach to their radio which would focus on development journalism associated connotations, which include the citizens who are not in positions of power as being the primary sources for sources. Unfortunately, one does not see many opportunities of producing such stories as effectively as they should be in the current state of South African radio, where they will be reachable to as wide an audience as possible. In the South African radio landscape, community radio stations emphasise on forging close relationships with their listeners, where they continuously interact and engage with citizens of particular communities in their shows. What would be a limiting factor in producing the approach I have outlined in my journalistic philosophy and in a), is the reality that community radio stations do not reach those who do not live within the specific community in which the station broadcasts. Perhaps a larger radio station may pick up on a key story addressed in a particular community radio station, but this would not be a frequent occurrence, as the larger radio stations would be very selective with the kinds of stories they select.

In public radio stations, which have a reach to greater proportions of South African citizens, the approach to radio I have outlined in A) has the potential to be explored, due to the reach public radio stations have. The likes of Umhlobo Wenene FM, Ligwalagwala FM and SA FM, examples of the semi-public radio stations in South Africa, target various citizens in the country, in large numbers. Should the emphasis on their stories offer the influences I have mentioned in my philosophy and in a), even more relevant stories in society would be produced in radio. The present situation on the state of public radio in South Africa, whose stations are mostly under the control of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) follows a premise more of developmental journalism, which would raise an arguable point in that the stations act as “an extension of government policies of social, economic and cultural development” (Amner, 2010: 5), in their collaboration with the state.

The radio landscape in which I would like to find work should I pursue a career in radio journalism, and the landscape which I believe would be key in exercising the philosophy I deliberated in a) would be commercial radio stations. These kinds of radio stations in South Africa are mostly independent from the state, unlike their counterparts which fall under the flagship of the SABC. In commercial radio stations such as Talk Radio 702, which already cover more varied stories than their main competitors, SA FM, as was elaborated in my Media Landscape essay, there is a platform for commercial radio stations where they can focus on forging even closer relations with citizens and collaborate with them in the process of establishing stories which have relevance and are closely linked to citizens of the various radio stations and citizens as a whole. In the instance of Talk Radio 702, there is a separate component in the radio station which produces news (Eyewitness News), hence commercial obligations would not play that significant a role in the process of generating stories.

The philosophy I have deliberated in a) does have a danger of being inconclusive or failing in a commercial radio station. An example I could use is the reality of Eyewitness News merely acting as a body which reports news in commercial radio stations, meaning that following up on these stories may have to fall into the general programming of a commercial radio station such as Talk Radio 702. Because of commercial obligations, where the primary aim of commercial radio stations is to sell its audience to advertisers, there may be an emphasis from the advertisers for the commercial radio stations to cover various agendas which are of benefit to them the most, and not necessarily to the listeners. This is a loophole which can be countered in commercial radio stations, which can also push calls to adopt the agenda I have raised in a). Commercial radio stations can use the premise of promoting “innovative and diverse programming” (Barnett, 1997: 660) which the commercial radio stations already aspire to, as a means of generating support from advertisers to back undertakings which tackle stories in the manner identified in a). If commercial radio stations encourage advertisers to back such an undertaking, there would be an unlimited account of stories which have genuine relevance to the diverse population of South Africa, and a wider pool of people would be an audience to such stories.

I would like to speak to an audience presenting the older youth and adults of South Africa, an age group of citizens from the age of 16 and older. I feel that this is the audience which covers the target audience of the various kinds of commercial radio stations in South Africa, and can each play a role in generating and participating in the output of the kinds of stories I propose in my philosophy and in a). The older youth are associated more with commercial radio stations such as 5FM and TruFM, while an older audience is associated with the likes of Talk Radio 702, 567 Cape Talk and Radio 2000. I have a particular interest in the commercial radio stations that fall under the PriMedia banner, which include Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. These commercial radio stations represent a more varied audience than the ones identified as more youth-orientated youth stations. The staff in the radio stations of PriMedia is also mixed, hence they also attract a more diverse audience in cultural group and age. The reality of these stations attracting the middle and upper class of South Africa would be suitable in that these groups of citizens would be aware of the kinds of stories affecting class groups which are not their own. The reality of stories per say being of working to poorer classes in the country, and the interest of advertisers which make use of these respective radio stations, could possibly widen the audience of commercial radio, to include citizens who are not middle class or upper class. Radio Ciskei, from which TruFM developed from, was a commercial radio station in the Eastern Cape which attracted a diverse audience in terms of economic standing within the isiXhosa community. The change resulted in TruFM deserting the older audience hence the station now focuses exclusively on the youth and young adults. I would like to reinforce a similar audience Radio Ciskei enjoyed before its move towards a more youthful audience in commercial radio, as I believe this kind of radio is the best in the country, in terms of having the ability of addressing key stories, without the continuous influence of government and its ability to reach citizens who could be agents of change in the society.

Amner, R. 2010. Finding common ground: student learning and identity formation on a praxis-based ‘alternative journalism’ course, Paper for presentation to WEJC, 5-7 July 2010.

Banda, F. 2007. “An appraisal of the applicability of development journalism in the context of public service broadcasting (PSB)”, In Communicatio: South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research, Retrieved 9 November 2010 from http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t777285706

Barnett, C. 1997. “The limits of media democratization in South Africa: politics, privatization and regulation”, In Media Culture & Society, Vol. 21(5).

Glasser, T. 1992. “Objectivity and News Bias”, In Cohen, E.D. (ed), Philosophical issues in journalism, Oxford University Press: Oxford.

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