As a student audio journalist currently based in Grahamstown I feel I should outline a broad framework within which I plan to operate over the next year at least. Firstly I will consider the nature of this town as it defines and restricts the way in which I am able to function as a journalist.
Grahamstown has a complex and contentious history. The city was founded in 1812 as a consequence of the bloody war between the British and amaXhosa for a rich piece of land called the Zuurveld. ( The historical divide between these nations still produces ramifications for the city today. Grahamstown proper still has an overwhelmingly white majority with a number of townships on its border comprising of a black and coloured majority. The economic inequalities are blatant and disturbing. There is change occurring in many sectors. However, this change is slow. The incongruous nature of the affluent predominantly white minority in town and the poor black majority in the townships creates a number of obstacles for Grahamstown residents generally and journalists specifically. Also, Rhodes University is situated in this small town it plays a crucial (although often overrated) role in the town’s economics, politics and social activities. As a student of this university it is easy to remain rapt in Rhodes life. It is easy to ignore the surrounding community in relative totality as the campus and surrounding area provide all a student needs except, in my opinion, an opportunity to satisfy one’s moral conscience. Many students are apathetic and do ignore the surrounding populace which creates further obstacles for a journalist. What is lacking is a cohesive sense of community which is difficult to develop among students who are, on the most part, only spending a short period of their lives in the town.
Another opportunity of journalistic endeavour is the arts. Grahamstown is home to the National Arts Festival which attracts many people to the Eastern Cape from the rest of the country and abroad. There is a lot of drama and art orientated projects and happenings around which a journalist can explore.
As Rhodes university has a respected and highly active journalism department the ratio of journalist to ordinary citizen is a lot higher than average. This means there are more journalists searching for stories among a smaller resource base. There are, of course, many stories which have not been told but many of the high profile avenues have been done and subsequently redone. This I believe is not a problem as it encourages a journalist to be more active with regards to the story gathering process as the obvious way has very likely been exhausted. Also the fact that the town is small and relatively isolated (Port Elizabeth is over an hour’s drive away) means that a journalist is not subjected to the rapid flow of information that one is exposed to in for example Johannesburg. Instead a journalist often has to search and search thoroughly to get a story.

The OEC defines ‘objective’ as “not influenced by personal feelings or opinions”. Even though it is impossible to achieve true objective reporting, this is the ideal for which journalists are expected to strive in this country at present. Although it is false, it is an entrenched ideal that few are willing to dispute. Therefore I will need to find a way of working within this paradigm even though there are many aspects which i have found to be troubling. Theodore Glasser, in his article “Objectivity and News Bias” (1992), questions the validity of objectivity as an ideal and I find myself agreeing with many of his contentions. Glasser suggests that the ‘objective’ ideology that surrounds journalism today allows journalists to function as “disinterested spectators” (176). This means that they do not feel involved enough in what they are reporting, through striving for a detached objective stance, to feel responsible for its effects on the broader population. This allows journalists a certain freedom to disseminate information that could be potentially harmful (to those who do not comprise the elite of society) and inaccurate. Although I realise I will be required to work objectively especially with regards to news reporting I will aim to remain consciously aware of what I disseminate for public consumption and will aim to detach myself from my work as little as possible. Also, Glasser contends that values such as creativity are lost in the ‘objective ideology’ as independent thinking is no longer required from individual journalists as they simply take facts from sources and disseminate this to the public without active intellectual involvement on individual issues. I feel that this is definitely true in the case of news reporting. To combat this I will strive to cultivate creative thought and work as far as I possibly can so that it will not be entirely lost within news routines.

Because journalists in this town, for the most part, are operating within the wealthy structures, they face many challenges. To remain ‘objective’ we should have many more stories regarding the poor population of the town because they constitute the majority. However, as we operate and disseminate our information in the town proper it is difficult to assess how much information about broader Grahamstown will interest our audience. Although ideally as journalists we are not supposed to pander to what the audience wants, to run a successful newspaper this is precisely what we need to do. Therefore, we need to strike a balance and still report for change in the poorer sectors of the town and hopefully make a difference to their lives in this way. Therefore community outreach projects should be an important focus of reporting in this town. Also, of course, one needs to report on general town matters such as public finance, health, safety, water especially, and, of course, entertainment. Because of the focus on art in the town, I believe it is the journalist’s responsibility to promote local art through their reporting. In this way we could help many people make a living and a name for themselves.