Tuesday, July 17, 2018


All the latest journalism from the Rhodes TV3 class

Grahamstown CJ Jennifer Linklater

Posted by Fayo On May - 16 - 2010

Fayo, showing CJ Jenny how to set and take a video using a cellphone 

Fayo, showing CJ Jenny how to set and take a video using a cellphone

 Our experience with a Grahamstown citizen journalist – Jennifer Linklater

At our first meeting with Jennifer, we discovered that apart from being a citizen journalist of Grahamstown, she is also a social worker. She nurses Tuberculosis patients and helps in raising funds for Hospice. She has an undeniable urge to create a difference and she told us that journalism is a form of activism and, through the medium of print, radio and television- one can change that change.

We discussed different story ideas revolving in and around Grahamstown and we must admit that Jennifer is not only informed and knowledgeable but also very inquisitive. These qualities signify a blossoming journalism career for Jennifer. She felt strongly about issues relating to animal abuse, bad sanitation, housing problems, the water crisis and she also wanted to cover some positive and light-hearted stories like the Grahamstown flower show, the addition of pizzas to the Dulce’s menu, the opening of Scooter’s Pizza etc.

Even though she had bright story ideas, she experienced a difficulty in drawing a distinction between stories that are suitable for phone-television medium and print medium. This is understandable since she is a citizen journalist who, before this project, had only experienced print. We explained to her the criteria for selection of stories for different mediums. It was crucial for her to know that for a television story, going to be filmed on a phone, there are certain factors that one has to keep in mind such as visually appealing shots, lighting, audio clarity, interesting ambience, target audience, accessibility and reliability of information.

We also trained her on how to use her phone (BlackBerry) and in terms of filming; we enlightened her with some of the basic rules like the six second hold, five shot rule, line rule, zooming and panning rules, etc. This training will enhance the quality of her work. Having said that, we realize that she is a citizen journalist and such journalists are not expected to be the most professional especially towards objectivity of news. Their news pieces are often highly opinionated and emotion driven. While this goes against the fundamental principle of news values, without it- citizen journalism would lose its spirit.

For the ten-second piece, Jennifer was inclined towards covering the water crisis in Grahamstown. However, upon realizing the time constraints and lack of visual appeals, she decided to do a story on the addition of pizzas in Dulce’s menus. Also since it was her first time filming, she was not confident enough to cover a controversial negative piece. Hence, we encouraged her to start off with a light-hearted Dulce’s story. While filming, Jennifer was threatened by technology. This caused her to pan the phone camera a lot. However, she eventually got used to it and obeyed the six second hold rule. Her other signs of weaknesses were impatience, restlessness, nervousness and distraction by ambience. Having mentioned that, we would also like to point out Jennifer’s strong characteristics while filming which are- curiosity to learn, her energetic and extrovert personality.

After the filming, we asked Jennifer to write a blurb. At first she didn’t have confidence in her writing but with the help of our positive guidance, she felt a lot more secure. When we gave her feedback on her filming, she took that constructive criticism and progressed in a much better way for her next project which was a minute long documentary on the sanitation issues in Hlalani.

She got the story idea from her maid, Elsie. She was able to convince us that this was a newsworthy piece which needed to be documented. It is about the lack of flush toilets in townships like Hlalani. While this may sound like the same old sanitation saga, it has a different angle. Jennifer suggested that while millions are being spent on the infrastructure in the main cities for the World Cup, most townships still have sanitation problems. Like revealed before, Jennifer is a very informed person. This has helped her a lot in finding interesting angles to stories that have been told before.

For the filming of this documentary, we went to Hlalani where Elsie lives. Jennifer suggested that Elsie would be a strong character as she has been struggling with the long drops toilets for almost ten years and she would be able to give us a good insight into the story. We were impressed with Jennifer’s journalistic ability of identifying relevant sources. We were also impressed with her filming this time. We guided her in terms of story and scene structure but with regards to the actual filming, it was her technical responsibility. Even though she exhibited anxiety at first and shook her phone every now and then, she was definitely doing better than the last time.

She filmed in different angles, explored cut-aways and interviewed Elsie using one of us as translators. Most importantly,she got so involved in the story that she has scheduled to meet up with the Media officer of the Makana Municipality, Thandi Matebese,in order to discuss the sanitation problem. She also plans to contact Habitat for Humanity for help in building a stable toilet for Elsie and others suffering from the same problem.

With regards to editing of this documentary, Jennifer was excited about the narration but not so eager to learn editing on Movie Maker. We helped her draft the narration and the blurb. Then we got a recorder and taught her how to use it. She recorded her narration and was rather pleased with this process. As far as editing is concerned, she watched and tried to learn but found it hard to cope with technology. We have encouraged her to practise, in her space and time, so that she finds herself comfortable with computers and phones. One has to take into consideration that Jennifer is 55 years old and, at this age it is natural to be intimidated by technology but with our guidance and her determination to practise and learn, she will reach that comfort level.

We would like to conclude by saying that this project has not only helped Jennifer but it has also benefited us in a lot of ways. It is always good to brush up on your knowledge, therefore,it was a mutual learning experience.

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