Second semester of JMS 3 was set out to be the JDD-CMP course. So we’d first dive into the theories of Public Journalism and Journalism Democracy and Development and then use these theories as the basis of our projects for Critical Media Production. Initially it sounded like a solid plan – learn some theories and then get a real chance to put them into practise. But this was quickly disillusioned when we realised that we were being sent out to specific areas in and around Grahamstown to arrange community meetings from which we could source stories for our projects. When the plan was summarised it was apparent that we’d have to rile people up and get their support at a community meeting, encourage them to discuss their problems and then use these stories for our benefit.
Looking back on the past few months, I can see that I was being judgemental and silly to think that was what our lecturers were sending us out to do. Don’t get me wrong, I still completely disagree with the course, how it’s run and what the overall outcomes are, but all the parts in between were really great and a lot more worthwhile than I could have ever foreseen.
As a Photojournalism student, I worked in partnership with Marcelle (a radio student) and we created a Soundslide combining my photographs with her audio clips. A major issue at our community meeting was the bad health condition of the area, most specifically in Extension 9, Transit Camp. More specifically, we dealt with bad water conditions, severe litter problems and the overall results of this squalor. We created profiles on three women from the area who spoke to us about their personal experiences, how they are trying to help their community themselves, as well as what they would like the government to do for them. We then took this piece to the Makana municipality and spoke to Media and Communications Officer, Thandy Mathibesi in order to hear the government’s side of the story. It was really great actually managing to get comment from a municipal officer, but in the end Mathebesi was doing little more than blaming the citizens for their lack of ‘responsibility’ and doing his best to cover his own tracks. In the end though, I feel like we managed to create a well-balanced story that illustrates the municipality’s lack of contribution, reflecting on the dire consequences this all has on the people of the community.
Overall, the JDD-CMP course was very antagonising. There were many obstacles: government’s unwillingness to participate, having to co-ordinate a group of 20 students with very busy timetables and the language barrier between most of us and the people of Joza. But we were a really great combination of people and our group settled into this project with ease, managing to achieve success at the end of every section. Our community meeting was well attended. We worked on very serious issues and hopefully managed to help give the people of the township a voice in Grahamstown. I don’t really know if we can believe that our little pieces of work are going to make any sort of difference. But maybe they will in smaller ways. And if we don’t manage to make a difference now, perhaps the third year students of years to come will have enough to learn from and make more of a success out of this somewhat dishevelled course.