Thursday, July 12, 2012

My year of perspective

So far, the year 2012 has put my future into perspective. Initially I felt underwhelmed at a bite of reality. I returned to the institution and city which I had bid a fond farewell to last year. But I was later awarded a lucrative scholarship to study a one year course. I had also "left" Rhodes intent on building on the major projects I was involved in during my final year of study. I think I may have been a bit naive, as I realised I may have to climb quite a ladder in the media industry to successfully carry out my goals. I am also slowly realising strategic ways in which I could make a difference in the communities I encounter, and embark on a successful career in the media industry. 

I completed a fantastic journalism and media studies degree in 2011. The Bachelor of Journalism degree remains the most expensive at Rhodes University, and I have grown to accept that it is recognised as one of the top journalism degrees in Africa. This is something I always get reminded of by people I interact with outside the university. Yet when I interact with professionals in the media industry, and when I embarked in my observation period last year, I realise that perhaps I was not enlightened enough on the reality of the journalism and media industry in contemporary South Africa.

I spent the majority of my four year degree carving out an identity for myself as a media practitioner. I became heavily influenced by the principles of development journalism, yet I also realised the importance of playing flexible roles to inspire positive change in communities, particularly those in South Africa. In the business world however, while I may continue to adopt my influences as a media practitioner, I am well aware that media businesses have their own particular ideals which they follow. I am also fully aware of the difficulty of distributing independent journalistic work to citizens on a large scale. 

Recently one of the leading radio producers in South Africa alerted me to the fact that radio documentaries are not of particular interest to South African media and media-aligned businesses because they do not promise much in terms of financial returns for the businesses. Followers of my blogs will know that producing radio documentaries is something I have had a natural affinity towards. Hearing this put my whole year into perspective, where I have struggled to get my documentaries broadcast on national radio. It also alerted me to further long-term considerations I need to make when I produce more documentaries, something I definitely will do. 

I am currently studying a Postgraduate Diploma in Media Management. This course has alerted me to further learnings on how media companies operate. Despite the number of hours I have dedicated to the course this year, I have tried to keep my radio brain awake and fresh. My radio brain was definitely invigorated during my internship period at a leading South African broadcasting company. I saw firsthand how two radio stations (a talk and a music station), a news agency, a human resources component, and a sales, promotions and production wing all work together to sustain a profitable broadcasting company. A profitable broadcasting company is particularly impressive in today's uncertain economic environment. This is  a company I would like to be associated with, particularly because they encourage some of the ideals I have adopted as a media practitioner. The company also has insurmountable sources of knowledge, in terms of experienced broadcasters and media leaders. These are the people which an emerging media practioner needs to glean from when embarking in the industry. 

This time last year I was beginning to celebrate the end of my Rhodes chapter. I ended it emphatically, with very good grades. But this year things are different. I do not see myself being as jovial as I was the last time I thought I was leaving Rhodes. Without taking the workload into consideration, I already have a deeper focus. My experiences this year have put my future into perspective. While last year I thrived on projects which I had initiated, this year I end the Rhodes chapter of my life with a greater understanding of the dynamics of the media business. I am motivated to equip myself with the ability to enter and endure my initial years in this industry. I am not prepared though, to disregard the identity I have conjured for myself as a media practitioner. I also refuse to concede that in the long run, I can never be prolific producer of documentaries, where I provide a platform to those citizens and communities rarely featured in South African media.

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