"The information floats away ..." Paul McNally, a 2016 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow, is working to bring community radio in South Africa to a wider audience.
A LAPTOP WAS CRACKED ACROSS THE reception desk. A hole was put through the wall. And a 2015 award for best radio documentary, hanging high, was pulled down and the glass shattered. This was the scene in September at Thetha FM, a community radio station 50 kilometers outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, after the station was attacked by members of the ruling party because it granted an interview to a member of the opposition.
I have worked with Thetha since 2013 and my nonprofit, Citizen Justice Network (CJN), helped the station win the award that was vandalized. Based in Johannesburg, CJN trains social justice activists to be radio journalists and connects them with local stations. Our 16 members have access to people whose stories are seldom told in a country where radio is the dominant media.
As a print and radio journalist, I have dealt with government control of community media. The violence at Thetha is a worrisome development, one that I hope my Knight Visiting Nieman Fellowship will help me address. The connections I made and the discussions I had while at Harvard provide me with a toolbox of ideas and alliances.
A major CJN initiative fueled by my fellowship is bringing community broadcasts to a wider audience. Currently, when the broadcast is over, the information floats away as if yelled on a street corner. Digitizing community radio programs will make them accessible to more listeners. This is a step I'm discussing with the MIT Center for Civic Media. Transcribing and translating community content will allow us to bring coverage of issues, such as human trafficking and illegal evictions, to new audiences. We have been in talks with translation services and members of Google to help us gain access to quality tools for African languages.
We will work with PRX in Boston to syndicate programs on African community radio stations; currently each station operates independently to fill broadcast hours with minimal resources. We want the stations to proudly share their best stories. We plan to work with Sourcefabric to build streaming radio stations for people living beyond transmission range. And finally, we are going to disseminate more local stories to national and international media so these voices become relevant and vital for all of us.
Caption: McNally (back row, second from right) and the Citizen Justice Network team
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|Title Annotation:||Niemans@Work; Thetha FM|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2017|
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