Feb 19, 2013

Know your space

Greetings :)

So its been a while since I have posted but I thought I should kick off with a little look at the developments and aspects of my career of choice, that being television journalism.
In an ever changing and dynamic socio-political climate within South Africa, the role of the budding journalist or media practitioner is often never one dimensional. Quite recently it dawned on me fully that addressing the complexities of our space whether it be the political, economic or socially based will be the thing that keeps the journalism industry alive. Within an era where secrecy bills loom and the limitation of press freedom is on the cards many comments on the role of journalists have come to attention. One particular criticism that circulates the public sphere is the lack in knowledge that journo’s have in how institutional structures that make up our cities/towns work. Rather than just reporting and parroting the press releases that will soon flood our inboxes perhaps a little further knowledge in how the municipality works for instance would be ideal.
Municipal reporting is an area of expertise I genuinely underestimated more so in the small valley of Grahamstown. However on Friday, Grocotts municipal reporter, Avuyile Mngxitama-Diko revealed the intricacies of the very source oriented practice of municipal reporting. It would it appear that the traditional skill of getting contacts and networking with the right people would serve one greatly when dealing with the Makana Municipality.

This municipality finds itself located in South Africa's poorest province of the Eastern Cape where
economic disparities are wildly evident. The geography that Grahamstown presents,only accentuates "the other" as one half enjoys a rather efficient and co-operative service from the municipality while "the other" continues to struggle and also operate quite independently from the streuctures  protected by Rhodes University.

The vision of the municipality reads:

"We shall strive to ensure sustainable, affordable, equitable and quality services in a just, friendly, secure and healthy environment, which promotes social and economic growth for all."
This vision already presents the toughest task for the municipality in an environment that has so many complexities. However it is only knowledge of the systems that can allow for adequate commentary on the operation of such an institution. Which leads us to the return of citizen and more so journalistic inquiry.

When approaching the municipality in line with any issues related to the varying wards that make up Grahamstown it is important to understand the issues that actually fall under the mandate of the municipality. With various issues being a provincial issue such as crime and education for instance, a journalist would do well to read up on the varying departments that the municipality has and come informed.
The municipality has long been this distant figure that cant appear to get anything right within this little valley as we witness a number of the basic services such as adequate sanitation being a luxury to the bulk of the residents of the town. Which then made the Integrated Development Plan(IDP) that Mngitama-Diko highlighted as an on-going project within Makana, far more intresting as a starting point for finding out the developments that have been made in line with the aspirations of the IDP. A community member to municipality  consultation process is one that is often encouraged and advertised as a working organism. However the biggest problems that one may find is the lack within that fundamental communication.
The ability to engage with documentation on the website is a basic right that we are as journalists need to take hold of and become the active citizens in using the channels placed by the institution and from understanding the process then allow for the struggles and experiences of the people to then be shared. None of this though has any bearing without understanding the way in which
things work.

Mngitama-Diko used a particular word which resonates with the intention behind the kind of socio-politically orientated news I aim to produce at some stage. The word was,"witness". The desire to investigate and see rather than allowing for the press release to be the foundation of a particular story. Which then brings the return back to inter-personal contact within this particular industry as the practice of telephonic interviews and churnalism (merely churning the information that is provided in press releases and the like) has taken the value away from first hand witnessing of news.The ability to engage with the people who make the decisions within the space you reside in is fundamental in building a working relationship with those you will need in providing commentary.

Often, the portrayal of news from the heights of the clock tower and Journalism department can often provide information that is heavily plagued with middle class concerns and dissemination of news is often problematic. It is then also within that space that the inter-personal relationships with community members be adjusted drastically. Municipal issues are generally those that affect personal living conditions and in order to report adequately I feel its only necessary to understand and "witness" the space that one investigates.

With the presentation of numerous names and contact details that Mngitama-Diko shared it is evident that the interest in learning and approaching the right people will get the work done for the information and stories lie at every street corner. However it is the incentive of the budding journo to get up and inquire and more so to cross over the safety net and interact with the space and people who govern.
from the creaks of the cottage.xx

from the creaks of the cottage.xx

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