I didn’t drop the camera first

2013 brought along a number of changes. Of course, one might assume I’m referring to the oh so popular New Years resolution train which a number of people (myself included) jump on until a destination or disillusionment is reached.

For now however, I’m simply referring to my change in perspective of what television journalism actually entails.

A week or so ago, I found myself both excited and anxious about the Television Bootcamp that numerous hours of vacation work and portfolios had finally brought to life.
The super quick immersion into the world of broadcast was in no way unfulfilling, but rather an unexpected realisation of the amount of work and power this medium has. As I am just over a meter and a half tall, I began to wonder why tripods and cameras are as large as they are, and how to use these instruments in a way that best serves what they capture.

A lecture on municipal reporting brought about questions of how one may go about telling another individuals story.
It requires a number of sources. A lot of sources. In fact, it raised the questions that most journos grapple with. What makes a reliable or objective source? In this profession, it seems to be common sense to gravitate towards individuals that are in ‘official’ type positions… So your ministers, councilors, officials, etcetera. The big voices that we’re so used to hearing. But what about the other voices? The recent Marikana incident and the reporting on this made clear that the ‘official’ sources produced a more biased than objective take on the story. What about the little people? The actual individuals most affected by this tragedy?  I began to realise that the issues one may try to highlight in these instances must be approached carefully, so not to upset the institutions/individuals that are doing something right, but also to upset just enough of them, or us, to make a change. One in particular to voice the issues of those left unquoted.

The nature of municipal reporting is a complex one. One that I think may not yet be fully mastered… Steven Friedman ( a media critic) points out that South African journalists tend to confine their choice of sources to middle class experts and politicians, creating what he calls “a view from the suburbs”. The pretense of everything – from the idea that you’re helping, to not actually seeing the impact of your help – makes one question their role, and expectation. It’s a daunting task. The idea of which I find hard to wrap my head around. Something useful may be to consider who to speak to and about what. Most often, the finger of blame is immediately pointed towards those in the highest tier of power – the government or municipality. But in essence, (and as hard as it is to believe), they are not always to blame. In the Marikana Municipality (in lil ‘ol Grahamstown), the municipality is responsible, but so are the numerous ward councillors and departments set up here. I think the dissonance comes from people approaching the wrong members to try and solve a problem that may not be theirs to deal with. For example, housing: This is implemented by provisional government, pushed by municipal government and must be followed through by ward councillors responsible for particular areas. When this does not happen, or when people lay blame on the wrong individuals/institutions, no problem can be solved. It’s kind of like going to Gucci and expecting an exchange on your Mr Price lookalike.

A useful sight to examine what local government are expected to be responsible for is the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). Perhaps knowing this can help with future sourcing and finger pointing.

But knowledge and camera in tow, I hope the experience will bring forward a less bourgie way of experiencing journalism.  I hope that I am continually challenged to go into areas where comfort zones are crossed to reveal the level of discomfort others are living in.

I didn’t drop the camera first, which may very well be every TV students fear, but if I should happen to, I hope it’s because I have stumbled onto something that challenges my perspective and yours.

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