During the second term of the Radio 3 course we were expected to operate as a news agency (guided by an agency document which was compiled from our individual philosophies). We had to compile two short packages based on newsworthy events in Grahamstown, while remaining conscious of both our own philosophy and the agency’s values. In addition, we had to produce packages that were written for radio and that would fit into the news genre. Ansell articulates a number of traditional news values that have appeared and continue to appear in news institutions globally, namely: novelty, importance, interest, timing, size, proximity, familiarity, surprise, results, relevance, personalities, power, bad news, conflict, availability, and marketability (2005: 2-3). This created a number of conflicts as, for example, some of our philosophies contradicted the institutionalised conventions of ‘personalities’ and ‘power’. Also, the highly regarded notion of ‘objectivity’ became a challenging concept to navigate. However, we were given a certain amount of freedom in terms of format and content if we could provide justifications for these potential deviations from journalistic traditions.

Gpod news bulletin

This is our first news bulletin from our hypothetical news agency: Gpod. Topical and newsworthy issues in Grahamstown are discussed.

Reflection on Gpod bulletin

Our podcast presented a number of problems both technically and content-wise. Firstly I will deal with content. According to my personal journalistic philosophy and our agency document we, as student journalists, should be more proactive with regards to voicing the views of ‘the people’: in other words, the non-white and largely poor community who reside in the townships outside of the city of Grahamstown. Many of our stories voiced comment from students (who are especially ‘safe’ sources) and people who reside in the more affluent areas. This was especially evident with our top story concerning the recent municipal strike. All comment was garnered from students and the actual strikers were not voiced. The water story was similarly lacking as only sources in positions of power were quoted. This approach was also evident in my story about the Old Goal. I did not voice comment from the poorer employees (such as cleaners). This was because the angle of my story was centered on the negative article written about the establishment in a local newspaper. I could have, however found a way to include these minority voices.
Another factor that provides a contradiction between the podcast we produced and my individual journalistic philosophy is my intention to promote local art through my reporting. I contended that because of the artistic importance accredited to Grahamstown (especially since this town hosts the National Arts Festival). Our podcast did not mention anything of an artistic nature let alone promoting art done by the poorer community in the town.
Technically our podcast was lacking. Our levels were out of sync. Also, some of the individual packages provided problems. The strike story, especially, had differing levels in the same sound byte.
For our next podcast I think we need to include more marginalised voices. Also we should include a jingle to introduce our bulletin. According to our agency document we are striving to be professional and I believe that this would set a professional tone for the podcast. Also it provides an interesting ambience which I feel we lacked with this first attempt. Accuracy is also something which we, as an agency aspire towards. Therefore we need to be consistent with regards to our levels and the way the bulletin is run on the whole (our anchor introduced the reporter of every story except the first one).

Old Goal protests against negative media coverage

The Old Goal backpackers on Somerset Street has launched a Facebook discussion in protest against an article that appeared in Grocott’s Mail last week. The backpackers contend that many of the remarks in the article were biased and that the newspaper produced a bad piece of journalism. A number of anonymous sources were quoted as saying the Old Goal was a rough and filthy establishment home to high noise levels and drunken behaviour. Amy Green reports.

High Court out of Grahamstown means citiznes out of work?

Hundreds of people may be left jobless if the Grahamstown High Court is moved to Bisho as the institution currently employs 408 people. Our reporter, Amy Green, talks to Municipal spokesperson Thandy Matebese about this troubling news.

How successful have you been in applying your journalistic approach to the way you have made use of radio journalism formats?

How might this story develop after you have broadcast it and what follow-up story might you propose to your editor?

My first news story was centred on the Old Goal backpackers, a popular social venue for students as well as a diverse grouping of national and international tourists. The institution had been asked to close down as the South African Resource and Heritage Agency (SAHRA), who owned the premises, wanted to turn it into an education centre. There was a lot of public support for the Old Goal’s plight (including petitions and facebook groups). However an article appeared in the local media featuring some anonymous comments which slated the institution (in terms of noise and filth). I used this dissenting situation as a starting point for the package as I felt it was of interest to uncover the validity and ultimately the overall importance of these claims. As comment from SAHRA had not featured much in the media I decided to speak to them first. They were, however, continuously unavailable and unresponsive. I therefore went to the Old Goal itself. After some research and interacting with the sources, and no response from SAHRA, I developed a personal sense of support for the Old Goal and decided to frame the story around what they are doing to stay in business and essentially why they are an important institution in Grahamstown. I did not, however, let this bias become overt and I remained aware of the vested interests of my sources.

In terms of format, I began the story with a piece of narration which helped to contextualise the information and which provided a link between the cue and the three soundbytes. I decided that my narration should begin and end with this contextualisation so as to let the voices I had included speak for themselves and create a kind of un-mediated atmosphere of the feelings of those involved in, or affected by, this battle. I explained that SAHRA was unresponsive and therefore exposed the reason for the biased nature of the news story.

The first voice I included was that of Mhleli Ngubo, the manager, who explained what attempts the institution was making to avoid eviction. Although he occupied a relatively high position in the institution he remains a member of the marginalised community in Grahamstown (as he lives in the township and does not earn an exorbitant salary). I included a female Dutch exchange student next as she represented the Old Goal’s importance to those outside of Grahamstown. She contrasted nicely to Ngubo in terms of race and sex and explained, from a personal viewpoint, why the negative attention in the media was invalid. Finally I included Brian Peltason, the owner of the backpackers. As he is a white male I felt that his voice should come last so as to give initial prominence to traditionally marginalised voices. It was also effective to end with his passionate statement creating a powerful and distinct ending to the piece. What I could have done, to enhance my affiliation to my philosophy, would have been to speak to the lowest earning employees at the institution, namely the cleaners. I did try interview one but the soundbyte was compromised by her inability to articulate herself clearly in English. In hindsight I could have asked her to speak in her mother tongue, isiXhosa, and made use of a translator and subsequently used this translation in the package.

In terms of my second story with regards to the High Court, I decided to focus on the effect the proposed move would have on the lower earning employees. As such I inserted the voice of the municipal manager (which deviates slightly from my mandate) but subsequently included a worker from the institution (to provide a subjective account of what the municipal manager was saying) even though the sound quality was slightly compromised.

There was no hope for the Old Goal’s survival as SAHRA managed to evict them and Peltason has subsequently set up a tour company (Smiley Face Tours). I could pitch a follow up story on how relatively difficult it was for him to adapt to this new business and if it is or is projected to be a profitable one. I could also focus on whether he has been able to re-employ his old staff and perhaps contact those who he has not to see whether they have been able to find employment. This would also speak to including ‘normal’ voices and could include a subjective account of the marginalised.


Ansell, G. 2005. Introduction to Journalism. Jacana Media: Johannesburg.