By Tarryn Liddell
As our Journalism, Development and Democracy course comes to a close today I begin to think back to the start of this course. Confusion and trepidation over the mammoth task of implementing civic journalism in wards 5 and 6 lay ahead of us. The biggest concern that our group, Masithetheni, had was that if we were going to do this project we wanted to do it right and make sure that we were not going to exploit the people living in wards 5 and 6 for our own gain (that being marks). We decided from the outset that ours would be a community strengthening project that had an ultimate goal of acting as facilitators in an attempt to bridge the gap between actual communities and the people in positions of power. We hoped to establish sustainable ways for the communities to get their voices heard in public spaces that allowed for deliberation over ‘real’ issues.
The soundslide project that I worked on with my radio partner, Grant Bisset, was a story concerning the Joza Indoor Sports Centre in ward 6. We tried to do a more positive piece that showed the great potential that sports centres like the Joza one have in keeping children safe and off the streets. We visited the sports centre on numerous occasions in order to experience and record the activities that occur there. We witnessed first hand how good the sports centre can be and the not so good condition that it currently finds itself in.
After almost three months of investigating, photographing and recording all our work culminated in a public meeting held in the extension 9 community hall on Tuesday 19 October. This was attended by mostly youth in the area, but was a way for us to show the community the work we had produced in an effort to raise awareness around their concerns. The feedback that we received from this meeting was that the residents of wards 5 and 6 liked the work that we had done and believe that we are on the right track to try and help them help themselves, but that they were frustrated at the lack of response from official institutions like the Makana Municipality and the Police force.
Although I do not personally feel that we have made a huge difference in the lives of the people living in wards 5 and 6 I do feel that we have generated awareness over the fact that communication between communities and government needs to be improved and that civic journalism just might be a solution. I believe that civic journalism is a positive progression of journalistic traditions as one of my team members has said ‘things do not change, we change’ and civic journalism has definitely opened my eyes and changed the way that I will do journalism in the future.
Did we in fact ‘close the circle’ as our lecturer, Rod Amner, likes to put it? Well if by closing the circle he is referring to achieving what we set out to do I would say that despite our best efforts the work that we did in wards 5 and 6 is but a mere drop in the ocean. Only one of our production pieces actually managed to achieve something. The soundslide on the ward 6 old age home got the Rotaract involved and arranged sponsorship for them. Other productions were good and have the potential to cause an impact and perhaps even some change if we had the time and the authority to get them seen by the right people. As the situation stands our work is at present just creating small ripples that all we can do is hope that one day they turn into waves.