Wednesday, November 10, 2010



The radio 3 course comprises of both a practical and a theoretical component. During radio studies this year, we produced an individual journalism philosophy designed to stimulate reflexive consideration of our position and attitudes as journalists in South Africa, and more specifically, in Grahamstown. These individual philosophies were later combined into an agency document to guide us through our news production assignments in the second term. Amner identifies the purpose of individual reflection and critique as useful to “discover a sense of the possibilities and purposes of journalism” (2010: 12). It was therefore useful to think about the work we had produced during our tertiary journalistic education and critically engage with academic material to articulate, within this document, our identities and attitudes with regards to the practice of journalism. In so doing we formed a guide for ourselves which would ensure that we had a clear conceptual framework from which to produce work in the future. It also served as a useful precursor to the JDD-CMP (Journalism, Democracy and Development-Critical Media Production) course in the last term.

In the first component of my own philosophy I explored the social milieu of Grahamstown as it “defines and restricts the way in which I am able to function as a journalist”. In order to effectively understand this milieu I researched the history of Grahamstown. This helped to contextualise the socio-economic divide and contributed to the realisation that little has changed since the nineteenth century. This, in effect, helped me internalise a sense of concern and even duty, as a journalist, to report for social change.

As I internalised the ideals expressed in this philosophy we came into contact with the ideas articulated by Haas in his public philosophy of public journalism (2007). As a result this approach to journalism did not seem as surprising as suggested by other students. Engaging with Glasser’s ideas surrounding objectivity (1992) I had articulated my sceptical stance with regards to balanced and objective reporting. I positioned myself against practicing journalism as a “disinterested spectator” (176) and agree with the suggestion articulated in our agency document: we should “temper distanced approach with understanding of subjective positions” of ‘ordinary’ people. In effect, this meant I rejected the institutionalised idea of objective reporting, which was echoed by Haas, who argued that: under the benchmark of reducing social inequality, journalists should be more active and partisan (2007: 46). I committed myself to finding creative ways around news routines to avoid becoming removed from my journalism.

After producing a number of packages on issues of climate change, and subsequently reflecting on them, I feel it would be necessary to add this specific area of interest into my personal philosophy. In addition to the ideals articulated about social change, I would like to focus on, in my journalism, cultivating change with regards to people’s attitudes towards climate change. Through my research I found that “there is a general consensus that immediate and mandatory actions are necessary” (Boykoff & Boykoff, 2004: 131) for human civilisation to continue existing in its current manifestation. As many individuals are not aware of, or choose to ignore, the effects climate change is having and will continue to have on us, it has become an important self-mandate to creatively articulate how we, especially as individuals, can change the way they think and act.

Also, I mention the abnormally high concentration and potential of the dramatic arts in the Grahamstown context. With a personal interest in drama and the transformative power of this type of art I would like to commit to exploring this in my journalism. Promoting local art is should be essential to my reporting as it is through artistic avenues that language, social and economic barriers can be transcended. Through the imagination, only, can solutions be conceptualised and, in effect, social change realised. Enhancing the power and significance of art and drama in Grahamstown should be ranked highly in the agenda of local media. Therefore, I went to the Egazini Outreach Project for my second story during the CMP course. Speaking to Bongani Diko about his efforts to rehabilitate the criminal youth served to reinforce my belief of the power art holds to change society. It would, alternatively, be ideal to produce radio dramas myself.

Although I have committed myself to trying to reduce the socio-economic divide experienced in this town through responsible reporting I would also like to articulate the difficulties inherent in such an undertaking. I would not like to ostracise the affluent population through only focussing on marginalised voices but would, instead, like to produce diverse content that would help to examine similarities instead of promoting differences (as articulated in our agency document). Just as my perception of Grahamstown has changed I would like to contribute to the changing perceptions of individuals so that the more affluent community does not see Grahamstown ‘east’ as a homogenous mass of poor people and vice versa. I aim to normalise abnormalities and focus on areas of mutual interest namely art (especially as Grahamstown is the host city of the National Arts Festival) and the environment (as everyone is physically affected by environmental changes). All this considered, I would also like to commit to creating high quality journalism with an emphasis on cultivating an open-minded attitude with regards to creative approaches in terms of sound and scripting.


As public service providing is concerned with issues of nation building and furthering the processes of democracy (Barnett: 10) I feel it would be the best type of institution in which to work (considering the social responsibility approach as articulated in my personal philosophy). It may be argued that community radio through its aims of providing “[m]arginalized communities … [with ways to] highlight… their fundamental rights.” (Olorunnisola: 2), provides a better platform for me to practice my philosophy.

However, the public service broadcaster SAfm has its own drama department which, considering my interest in the dramatic arts specifically, holds an obvious attraction. When the station began operating under the name of SAfm in 1995, their resources were reduced and the diversity of their programming narrowed and, as a result, they received criticism for their nation building approach: Bechan, in her 1996 article, argues that the lack of regional attention in SAfm’s programming ironically alienated the nation instead of creating a sense of commonality. However, the station changed its programming back to a fuller spectrum after 2006 and has reintroduced their drama department. Although, as a parastatal, it is arguably a mouth piece for the government: the programming is, I believe, diverse, well researched and highly informative. If it lacks in controversy, it has still taken a step forward from its nation building and relatively weak programming at its outset.
The nation building agenda does provide problems with regards to working on drama for radio. If specific issues cannot be articulated for the fear of exposing national problems and dysfunctions, these problems will not come any nearer to solutions. However, as SAfm seems to be in continual processes of change [seen in their 2006 reformat], I believe the station may be open to my ideas regarding radio drama which are as follows: If a journalist were to actively situate themselves in communities and identify pertinent experiences and stories, and artfully reproduce them on air it may provide a viable and entertaining conduit for social transformation. As SAfm largely caters for the higher LSMs (7-10) (Bechan, 1996) it may be difficult to create programming about people with a lower socio-economic status that will have an appeal. However, much of the audience are part of the relatively new black middle class who would have only experienced social mobility in relatively recent years and might be able to identify with those still overcome by poverty. The stories of how people ‘made it’ might appeal to those who have achieved success and those who still aim to do so. Also, subject matter could centred around exposing relevant issues in the higher classes (like those of disinterest and apathy, especially in terms of an underdeveloped social conscience). If high quality radio dramas with these ideas in mind could be produced, there is the potential for positive change to be affected: hence I will remain in-line with the social change mandate as articulated in my philosophy.

Also, a dramatic focus on environmental issues provides a very interesting and effective way to relate issues of climate change. For example, The Age of Stupid, a documentary drama by Fanny Armstrong cited as “the more emotional sibling to the more rational brother of Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’” (, provided a dramatised and subjective approach to issues of climate change. It is entertaining as well as highly informative. This approach would popularise as well as inform. It also has the potential to broaden SAfm’s audience (if one considers the higher entertainment value of semi-fiction). However, these productions would need to be of a very high standard and avoid trivialising issues surrounding climate change.
Although I see this as a highly valid way to approach many issues I will not be able to guarantee that the station will agree. However, it is important to keep in mind the commercial imperatives of the SAfm (as Bechan (1996) indicates, it is only partly funded by the government) and content of this nature is commercially viable. Also, the station seems to be experiencing more freedom in terms of their content. For example on Morning Talk programme features the Siki’s Corner insert which deviates from the serious register often attributed to SAfm. As these productions would be socially aware they would serve the station’s public service mandate.

Amner, R. 2010. Finding common ground: student learning and identity formation on a praxis-based ‘alternative journalism’ course. School of Journalism and Media Studies: Rhodes University.

Barnett, Clive. 1999 forthcoming. The Limits of Media Democratization in South Africa: Politics, Privatisation, and Regulation. Media, Culture and Society 21, 5.

Bechan, N. 1996. An Evaluation of SAfm as a Public Service Broadcaster: A Technical Report. Centre for Cultural and Media Studies, University of Natal.

Boykoff, T. & Boykoff, J. 2004. “Balance as bias: global warming and the US prestige press” in Global Environmental Change. 14: 125-136.

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

Hass, T. 2007. The pursuit of public journalism: theory practice and criticism. Routledge: New York.

Olorunnisola, A. 2002. Community Radio: Participatory Communication in Postapartheid South Africa. Journal of Radio Studies 9, 1. 2009. The Age of Stupid movie review. Retrieved on 25 August 2010 from