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Citizen Journalism comes Alive

Date Released: Thu, 12 December 2013 08:40 +0200

Upstart is a youth development project aimed at empowering young people in Grahamstown. The organisation works in close partnership with several Rhodes University academic departments and student run organisations.

Studying Journalism at university is a thrilling experience. One of the things I especially enjoyed was being given the freedom to take control of my own learning. Through my involvement with Upstart I was able to take what I had learnt from the lecture theatre and apply it to ‘real-life’ situations. The Upstart radio project was one of those real-life situations that had me applying everything I had learnt and more.

When my lecturer called me at the beginning of the year asking me if I would like to interview for the position as the Upstart radio producer, I said yes instantly. I didn’t really know too much about what I was getting myself into, or how it would affect my last year at varsity, but I knew this was a programme I wanted to be involved in.

When I first began as producer of the Upstart show, I was thoroughly excited at the prospect of working with a group of youngsters who could learn about radio. I was also excited to see how they would take this medium and possibly use it to address daily issues in their lives. For me, this was a chance to transfer my radio knowledge into something tangible. I remember prepping the six Upstarters before our very first Saturday morning show, just as we were about to go live, and scribbling down some last minute notes. During the week Anesipho, Thobani, Anelisa, Sinovuyo, Ziphozihle and Roche’ had the task of interviewing people about their hitchhiking experiences. If all went according to plan, we would have two interviews completed, edited and ready to play on the hour-long show. We would also have the regular components of the show – a joke, an interview with a guest and a profile of an Upstarter invited into studio.

I remember looking at the six young people in studio and thinking how calm they looked, even though I was running in circles around them. Next thing I knew, the Upstart radio jingle boomed from the speakers and we were live! Time flew by and it seemed almost as if it was over as quickly as it had begun. We were high-fiving each other after a hugely successful week. I remember being amazed

by the quality of content we had just produced. The small group of teenagers had gone from being members of a youth show to citizen journalists. And I was their proud producer.For the first half of the year, I worked with three of my classmates. With the help of Rhodes Music Radio (RMR), Upstart and the radio section in the Journalism School we drew up a plan and hit the ground running. We, along with the six Upstarters chosen for the radio programme were all new to this and learnt as we went along. Each week we had to plan a workshop for Wednesday afternoon.

We would use this time to teach Anesipho, Thobani, Anelisa, Sinovuyo, Ziphozihle and Roche’ about the equipment needed for radio, interviewing skills, editing equipment and studio skills. This would also give us a chance to brainstorm and plan with the Upstarters for that week’s show and also consider content for the following week. Through these sessions, we also built friendships and trust. It became a space to share ideas and have fun at the same time.

On Saturdays, we would have an hour-long show and this gave the Upstarters a chance to apply what they had learnt in the studio. Along with my fellow classmates, Steve, Beketele and Mike, we would oversee that the show ran smoothly and assist when needed.

It was great watching the Upstarters gain confidence in front of the microphones and seeing them take control of producing, or just having fun on air. After each show we would sit down and talk about that show. We tried to ensure that the team constantly analysed what we had produced, focusing on what worked, what didn’t and how we could make the next show even better. We always ended our sessions with a hug and a high-five. There was a bond that formed between us each week and that made all the hard work worthwhile.

I learnt so much during this time with the Upstarters. There were times where we had to decide if we should keep interviewees anonymous because it was the ethical thing to do, or make a crucial decision on what content to use for the show, as quality content is key for a show structure of this type.

The experience exposed me to situations that tested my judgement, creativity, planning and leadership skills. I have found that out of university, these traits are tested on a daily basis as a journalist in the working world. I have just come to the end of a six month news internship at a commercial radio station and working in a fast- paced newsroom means I have to constantly make judgement calls. I firmly believe my ability to do this comes from my year with Upstart and the six amazing teenagers I worked with each week.

I hope to work with more South African youngsters again at a later stage. Our young people have experiences that shape society on a daily basis and whether good or bad, sometimes all they need is a platform to share their stories. We need to acknowledge our South African youngsters as vital contributors to the fabric of South Africa and that is why I enjoyed working as part of the Rhodes, Upstart and RMR collaboration. It has changed my views of ‘traditional’ journalism from being a space of only recording events that have occurred, to one where I now work as a journalist that gets involved in  change.

By Nadia Moore, journalist.

Visit www.upstartyouth.com