Whilst some people try, whenever possible, to involve themselves in socially conscious, development-type journalism, I actively try and stay as far away from it as possible. Earlier this year, as my course dictated it, I was required to do a developmental piece of journalism - so when the JDD CMP course was announced, to say that I was less than happy would be understating my emotions.
I like soft-journalism ok. Sue me. However, that was not the reason for my concern at the commencement of this course. Having gone into the township in the past to document people’s lives I knew how emotionally taxing it was for me. Some people are cut out to do that type of work and burden themselves with other people’s issues. I, on the other hand, can barely deal with my own.
So, it was with apprehension that I approached this course.
Pinpointed at the community meeting held in 3rd term was the issue of insufficient recreational activities for children staying in our area (wards 5 & 6). Along with my partner, this issue was chosen as the one we would try an address. Allow me first to explicate the sense in which I use “address” as we did little more than highlight the issue at hand, although some, not me, would have thought they could do more before undertaking the project. My pessimism here is obvious, and my scepticism at the course’s commencement more so. I am glad that upon starting this project I knew the limitations as I get the sense that a number of people felt let down with how little they were able to do.
My soundslide detailed the plight of the indoor sports centre in Ward 6. Apart from drawing attention to the shortcomings of the centre it also celebrated it as one of the beacons of hope within the area and an example of a place that is having a positive impact on the lives of the youth. During this production process I did encounter a number of problems. In the past I have encountered instances where my title of student-journalist or even just ‘journalist’ has been a hindrance. However, this was not a concern whilst putting together this particular project. Rather, the problem involved the overwhelming sense of helplessness which accompanied my realisation that regardless of how good the piece was, it, ultimately, would have no impact on whether a new sports centre was built as those in a position to initiate change were unmotivated to do so.
To reiterate what I brought up in the prac, I began to realise that when I left the township it carried on existing. The township was not games of basketball. The township was not kickarounds in the parking lot. The township was not boxing practices. These things are what the township was to me. Why I became most disenchanted with the course is because we were the ones who initiated this interaction. We went to the township. We promised change. And ultimately it was us who created, in most instances, a degree of false hope.
At the end of the day we got our marks, and the people whose stories we told got apologies that “the municipality didn’t want to listen to us”. That’s a pretty poor exchange. I got something extra though- the sense that I let a lot of people down.
At the second community meeting we held the turnout was great, but the response did not match the turnout. People who attended seemed to not care and to be honest I don’t blame them.