To be quite honest, after our second community meeting on the 19th of October, I felt like a pretentious powerless twat. There we were, in the Extension 9 community hall, showing heartbreaking videos, radio clips and soundslides to the heartbroken people we had produced them for. Being confronted by their circumstances, and having them broadcast and magnified on a big screen, could only have made those people feel worse about their life situations.
After the lights turned on, people shuffled out of the hall – in silence. I think people were expecting answers, which we did not give them.
This is one of my fundamental problems with this course. We raise people’s expectations, people’s hope, only to disappoint them in the end. Building “real” connections with people who don’t know that after 3 or 4 visits we will more than likely return to our safe little bubbles and not spare them another thought. Unfortunately, I fear, that will be the outcome for most.
Excuse my negativity. I know that in the idealistic sense this course is supposed to get you to really connect and make a difference in real people’s lives – to pop out of your bubble and into the real world. It did, and I am thankful to be given this opportunity. I just feel like it should be chosen, and not made mandatory, because public journalism is not for everyone, and it is superficial to force people to try and make a difference – rather 3 people with their hearts really in the right place, then 10 grudgingly trekking through the township, that’s how I feel anyway.
Onto the positives!
On the whole, I feel like the foundations for real change to potentially occur in Wards 5 and 6 were laid. If we did one good thing, it was to create connections and awareness between people. For example, the Community Policing Forum was a largely unknown entity, and the Ward Councillors phone numbers were probably not revealed to many . When we were gathering feedback from our wall newspapers, the spaza shops we went to said that people had been taking down phone numbers. I thought that was a great success. In the end, I really hope some accountability comes out of our journalism. Accountability and agency. I hope people feel like they really can do something positive for themselves, without having to rely on the municipality, who have proven to be by and large ineffectual.
I think this course is extremely important, I just wish that there was a way to ensure positive social change - to make the municipality act immediately!
I think the foundations for this course should be laid from the beginning of first year. The gap between theory and practice is far too large in this department – we don’t get out and do enough journalism. What I found most beneficial was the transformation of our views toward working in the township. Once thought of as totally different worlds, this course made me realise that people are people, wherever they are. Everyone wants the same thing: to be respected and live a decent life. We got people to talk. Let’s hope the right people listen.