By: Bradley Janssen
I am not going to lie to you it has been a long haul. When the department suggested undertaking such a project most of the class looked around in disgust because we knew the few hours we had to take time off, like going to the beach, would now go up in smoke. However, we all went in with the idea of the the glass being half full and tried to make the most of what we were expected to do. That's when we entered our first community meeting. It was held on the last Wednesday of third term and I think everyone got a sudden wake up call when over 120 people arrived to deliberate and talk about their problems. The fact that all these people took time out of their day to come to this meeting told me one thing. We needed to stop dreaming of the beach and start realising the responsibility we have on our shoulders. These people were desperate and needed help.
That started the weeks of investigation and the realisation soon hit home that all we were was a pin drop in a sea of issues. the investigations and stories went on with mine been about crime in the area. I think the most shocking issue was that the people who the community was supposed to be looking for help were not interested and made up the most interesting excuses. However, we pushed on and tried to structure our stories in light of the public journalism theory that we have been learning and trying to implement. One of these issues had to do was get the community to formulate solutions to the problems they had.
That then became our next assignment brief and we went back into the areas with our stories to hear what they had to say. The amount of suggestions that came out of those meetings was incredible. We felt that we were doing the work the people in power were supposed to be doing. We were laying the issues on a golden platter. All the authorities had to do was pick up the phone and make a couple phone calls. It did not even mean that had to leave their second lunch of fried chicken. But again they refused to listen and again they confirmed the issue all along. They just do not seem to be interested!!
So with this in mind the group decided to go back into ward 5 in Grahamstown and show the community what we had done. As in the first meeting we managed to arrange equipment at the last minute and as in the last public meeting had problems setting it up. However, on both occasions, and with a full team of people who think they know what is going on, managed to get something up.
The meeting was not as well attended as the first one but we still had in excess of 60 people. The difference here as well is that we had more children attending the meeting. A police official and high status members of the community were also in attendance. The other issue at hand here was that there was not as much deliberation and debate as we would have hoped. Our final concluding project is that we are going to hand out a copy of all the material to strategic places over the community so it can viewed over and over.
As a last thought, I think we entered this project with high ambitions and big ideas. However, with the time and resources we had, I think some of those ideas became a bit too ambitious. I still felt I had a job to perform, tough, and had a serious responsibility on my hands. I needed to put in the time and I think we did. The journalistic pieces we produced really got to the crux of the issue. I think we as journalism students have had a fantastic opportunity to discover ground breaking journalism ideas and have laid the platform for the next set of students to take it to the next level.