by Stephane Meintjes
As the Critical Media Production in association with Journalism, Democracy and Development course draw to a close I have had the opportunity to realise that there is only so much one can do.
The purpose of this course for our group was to create a platform to strengthen the communities we were given, getting them involved and giving them a voice to air their issues, opinions and concerns. We wanted to create awareness and supply them with the means to help their own cause and highlighting those in the areas already doing so. To a large extent I think that we succeeded in this project.
Our interactions with these individuals over the last three months have showed them that their issues, concerns and opinions do matter and that they do have a voice. We made the community aware of organisations and people who are in a position to help them or advise them on how to deal with issues.
Personally I found this course a rewarding one as I was shown a different way of creating media outputs by really taking the time to become acquainted with an area and people that I am covering for a story. By using the citizens' agenda to determine our media product for the term, I feel that we have succeeded in creating an output which is relevant to the people living in the area.
On Tuesday evening our group managed to have our second and final public meeting in the Ext 9 Community Hall. We were able to host a viewing evening for the residents of the area showcasing our finished products. The turnout on the evening was not as well attended as our last meeting. However, I think that we had a substantial turnout. The audience was primarily made up of the youth from the area, but there were some familiar faces from our previous meeting who also attended.
During the course of the showing I could not help but notice that some people did not stay for the entire viewing and it started to become clear to me, as the hall filled out after the conclusion of our productions, about what we really had achieved.
With no concrete feedback from the residents themselves on what we had showcased, I felt that our task had only made a difference to those we had showcased in our pieces. While I may be wrong in my assertion, I felt that they, themselves, did not really care about the issues at hand.
We have spent the last three months working to establish connections within these communities and have tried our best to make whatever difference we could. Even though our efforts with the Municipality to a large extent came to nothing, we, or at least I, really did care about my issue as well as the issues of my fellow student journalists.
I do, however, realise that the reason for this assertion might have been due to a variety of factors. Perhaps if we were able to get the same residents who attended our first meeting to see/view the media outputs we would have been able to get better feedback as they helped us to create our citizens' agenda. Furthermore, if we had more adults rather than youths at the meeting they might have been able to give us some feedback. However, those that were there did not make any comments about our work. The final factor which could be a reason as to why I felt that the residents did not really care, is the fact that they may be so de-sensitized to their own issues that whilst we realise the severity of the issues dealt with, the situation has become part and parcel of their existence.
In conclusion, whilst in the particular public meeting not much feedback was given, at our focus groups held in smaller groups I do feel that we did make some progress by getting the people to imobilize themselves.
However, on a more positive note, Mr Nase, one of the Ward Councillors who attended the public meeting said at the end that what we had done did make some difference, even if it was just to highlight and provide proof of what is really going on in the Wards. I think that if we had been able to show these pieces to a co-operative local government, perhaps we could have sparked debate amongst themselves as well as, hopefully, prompted them to want to do more.