Community Strengthening Project – that was our group’s aim. We donned our cameras, our notepads and recorders. We filmed, reported and documented the lives of many. At face value, it’s what we have been doing for the last two years. However, under the student-journalists- working-for-their-degree mask, our responsibility for society grew. We acted as a middleman between the blue-collared man on the street and the government official in the suit. While there were many instances where decision-makers left us with more questions than answers, our pursuit for service delivery challenged government to take shorter lunch breaks and do their jobs. We’re still waiting.
In Ward 5 and 6 in Joza, Grahamstown, the families still face crime. They still have unbuilt houses and unemployment is rife. Many have felt disillusioned at the outcome as we evaded and took stories without fundamental change. We have to understand that we are journalists; professionals who can give the people a voice. We have set out to find stories where they matter.
Obscene alcoholism in the streets and brutal crime stories. Rain rushing in people’s homes. These were but some of the adversities in Joza. I wrote a story on Ward 6’s Indoor Sports Centre, a haven for children after school. The story was hopeful of change and brought about a glimmer or aspiration for the youth in the area. We all expected the bad. No one expected the good. By giving people a chance to talk, we gave them a chance to be heard. The course provided us with a chance to understand issues people are facing. We learnt their names and came into their homes. We used journalism for good during this JDD CMP Course. Instead, of restricting ourselves to campus, we ventured to the outskirts, many for the first time. It was a new world for us and economic disparity was shoved into our faces at every turn. This is what mattered. This is where life was. We gave the community a platform to air their thoughts at a general public meeting. Each resident who lended their voice to the microphone were given the amount of power that they have never got before: a public ear to their emotions. As journalists, we proved that our job is crucial in community strengthening. We were on the side of the unheard. However, while the government get their shoes polished, there are children playing with litter in the street. A relationship between municipality and journalists needs to be smoothed over so that those in power can pursue development.
On Tuesday, 19 October, a public meeting was held so that residents could watch various media outputs on their wards. Issues raised were presented in individual experiences. This meeting made me realise how public journalism’s outlook is necessary for the strengthening of any community. When there is a close collaboration with journalists and sources, the media begins to challenge and rouse. When there is a sphere of deliberation in place, the media is pivotal in raising eyebrows in government circles. Whether or not they’re listening now, our effort is getting people talking. Isn’t that change in itself?