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  • Preparatory Activities
  • Course Instruction
  • Field Experience
  • Outcomes
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  • Preparatory Activities

    Preliminary teleconference meetings were held with the media managers including editors and news directors of the Swazi Observer (national print), The Times of Swaziland (independently owned print), Swaziland Television Broadcasting Corporation (national television), and Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (national radio). In two one-hour sessions, the course instructors (Gillis and Moore) along with the public affairs officer of the American Cultural Center in Mbabane, Swaziland, set course goals and discussed the operations of the classes to be held with participants of each of the media houses. The media houses included one independently owned newspaper and the three state-owned media.

    The parties who participated in the preliminary meetings agreed on two criteria for selection of participants for the course: first, the journalists were to become change agents in the development of civic initiatives and, second, the participants should be able to identify key initiatives for each of the media to undertake in a program of civic/public journalism for their particular employer/media house. Fundamental to these goals was a common definition of civic or public journalism. It was agreed that public/civic/com/munity journalism was a reform movement with the media acting as a functioning member of society. The media would be community-based, raise issues, talk about problems, and seek to empower people to develop solutions to civic problems.

    The instructors and the media managers agreed that participants in the course should not be entry-level journalists, but instead those with 3 to 5 years of experience so that the course content could depart from the discussion of basic media principles and seek to develop techniques for the journalists to connect with communities and the citizens. Further, it was agreed that participants would represent a variety of beats and each media (state-owned and independently held print and broadcast).

    The media managers agreed to provide logistical support for the release of these journalists from regular work duties to attend the course on a weekly basis and for the two-week field experience. The media managers also agreed to provide assistance with special course work assignments and to support and encourage efforts that were outgrowths of the program.

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    Course Instruction

    The first meeting of the course convened to introduce the faculty to the participants as well as to discuss of the goals and operation of the Swaziland Distance Learning Project in Community Journalism. Specifically, the expectations regarding readings, assignments, the weekly teleconferences and the field exercises were addressed. A schedule for the course was reviewed, the course text, Doing Public Journalism (Charity, 1998) was introduced, several preliminary articles were reviewed and the course website, news group and email procedures were discussed. See the website for syllabus, bibliographies, and website information.

    The content covered in this first meeting included the definition of civic/public journalism, potential applications to the work of the participants and the various media of the country, a discussion of public journalism as it relates to national development and developmental communication, and a review of the New World Information and Communications Order.

    In ths second session, it was expected that the text and many of the articles assigned had been read and the participants were familiar with terminology and content in order to hold a discussion of key elements of public journalism. Using the Charity text (1998) as a catalyst, the class discussion addressed American based examples and possible interpretations for similar applications in Swaziland. Additional topics of public listening, methods for connecting the media to the community were the current topics of greatest concern to the Swazi participants.

    The goal of this second class meeting was to develop a common base of terminology, concepts, and applications of a largely American movement to indigenous situations. With this accomplished, assignments were made on a weekly basis in which participants were required to read from assigned texts and practice literature, to interpret concepts in familiar contexts from current issues in Swaziland, and to place comments and questions in email to the faculty or to post such on the news group for all members of the course to share.

    For the remainder of the class sessions, participants explored text materials, guides and supplementary material provided by The Pew Foundation for Civic Journalism, The Kettering Foundation, The Freedom Forum, RTNDF and other organizations. Three course meetings were devoted to viewing videos of successful civic journalism projects or panel discussions about the issues driving this journalism movement. In all instances, teleconferences (facilitated by Internet video meeting software) focused on the understanding of the concepts, application of information to the Swazi context, and analysis of how the journalists might develop similar projects for their media establishment.

    Midway through the course, the class was divided into two smaller groups with hypothetical project topics. Discussions and assignments designed to apply the concepts and the practical model of public journalism were completed by the participants in the smaller groups. The intent of the small group projects was to make the content more relevant to the participants, to give the participants an experience in making actual judgements about ideas and stories within the framework of public journalism, and to begin to show the participants that members of different media establishments could work cooperatively on a journalism project. These exercises were then shared and discussed with the instructors and other participants in subsequent teleconferences, via email or the news group. This experience was seen as very important since it simulated the group work that would culminate in the field experience to come at the conclusion of the course. These simulation projects allowed participants to apply their knowledge and understanding of public journalism and make decisions that otherwise might seem alien to them.

    In preparation for the field experience, the class was divided into two groups; each group represented a balance of the media, gender, experience, and education levels. The two groups were instructed to meet regularly between the last teleconference meetings and to begin planning their group project. A group leader and recorder were appointed and expected to present the information to all participants and the instructors at each remaining teleconference.

    Each group was directed to: establish a mission statement; generate ideas for media coverage to include partnerships and cross promotions among all of the media; create a plan for assessing the community's needs at all layers of society; plan for testing their idea; and create an outline for the framing of the various coverage of the topic.

    In subsequent meetings, the groups were instructed to: create a plan for generating dialog with the community; establish public listening opportunities; establish leads for stories; create devices for citizen participation in the debate; and work to develop several possible ideas for action. The two groups identified the following as issues for the field experience projects: rural health care and rape/incest issues.

    The participants proceeded on these assignments within the groups from the time the teleconferences ended until the arrival of the instructors (Gillis and Moore) for the field experience. The instructors conducted field experiences in which each group was expected to present their final planning documents for comment, revision, and mobilization.

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    Field Experience

    During the field experience, the American Cultural Center provided meeting facilities, meals and transportation for all participants of the course. Sessions ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, Monday through Friday. In the first few days of the field experience, the two groups revised work plans, determined story assignments, and finalized the logistics necessary to carry out the projects. Public listening and interviewing trips were conducted to rural and urban areas throughout the country. Framing decisions and development of news leads led group members to residents and civic leaders as part of story development.

    During the story writing and production phases, additional travels were scheduled as necessary to secure needed meetings and follow up interviews with various contacts representing the five layers of civic life (Pew Center for Civic Journalism, 1996).

    Once travel was concluded, participants returned to the American Cultural Center where final analysis and development of stories was completed.

    On the final day of the field experience, all members of the course presented a summary of the group projects and planning materials. Then they proceeded to present full broadcast productions and print stories which were produced from the field exercise. In attendance at this public session, were managers of the various media establishments, representatives of the Ministry of Public Service and Information including the Honorable Minister, representatives of the Swaziland National Association of Journalists, the Media Institute of Southern Africa, the University of Swaziland, the United States Embassy, the British High Commission, journalism colleagues and other interested parties.

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    At the close the two-week field experience, each participant from the two groups within the class came away from this project with a completed news story or news program suitable for publication in each of the media represented -- radio, television, and newspapers. Along with the news packages, the groups created planning documents for inter-media promotions of the news stories which coordinated and complimented the three media and the issues at hand -- rural health care and rape/incest issues. All news reporters were produced in English unless otherwise indicated.

    Rural Health Care: The Human Side of Crime on Health Care
    "The Human Side of Crime on Health Care" was the promotional catch phrase developed for this group project that dealt with criminal activities that were preventing the routine operations of rural health clinics.

    Over the previous four years, out of 60 clinics in the country, at least half had been attacked numerous times. This crime (looting, break-ins and thefts of money and medical supplies, and personal assaults) led to closure of some of the health centers in the rural areas. Nurses were victims of these attacks and as a result had abandoned the clinics causing a reduction in health services to the community. In some communities, there was fear that their clinics may also be potential targets. Few of the criminals were arrested and none had been brought before a court of law. During the two-week field experience, nurses of the country staged a march to the Prime Minister's office to deliver a petition challenging government to address the security problem at the clinics. Because of the weak infrastructure in the remote areas of the country, closings of rural health clinics posed major risks to regions of the country that rely on the basic health maintenance services these facilities provide. Criminal activities that led to many clinic closing could be measured in mortality rates and epidemic conditions in these rural areas of both the northern and southern regions of the country.

    "The Human Side of Crime on Health Care" public journalism project plan included the following news stories and cross promotional items:

    • The promotional plan included cross promotional messages designed for use by each medium which highlighted the topic, news stories, dates, and the medium on which the stories would appear.
    • Each medium planned to follow their individual story with another story directly related to listener/reader feedback received after the original piece appeared. The follow up story was designed to serve as an additional opportunity to promote the next regular installment of the series and build on this media/citizen partnership concept.
    • The first story in this group project introduced the public journalism project and the series by providing an overview of the project topic of health care. The television story for the Swaziland Television Broadcasting Corporation provided an overview of the crime issue and an advance look at the topics that would comprise the inter-media project titled "The Human Side of Crime on Health Care."
    • The second story in this series titled "Jericho: An Area with No Health Care" was written for the Times of Swaziland, the independently owned newspaper. This story focused on the crimes associated with the health clinics and the small rural community of Jericho. The central issue of the story is the impact that crime has had on the lives of the people in a community now without a health clinic. Interviews with local residents, local officials and ministry officials help tell this story.
    • The third in this series was a call in radio show produced for the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information System (national radio). This program included mini news features interspersed with commentary from the listening audience. The host discussed the two previous news stories in the series and specifically asked for input from listeners concerning their views regarding the issue of crime and health clinics. Solutions were sought and personal experiences were requested. The program opens with a feature at the beginning of the hour and another at :30. Every 10 minutes the host briefly introduced a new aspect to the subject asking callers to communicate on that point.
    • The fourth and fifth news stories in this series were written for The Swazi Observer, the state-owned newspaper, and were titled "Nkwene Community Takes Steps to Bring Back Good Health Care" and "Nkwene Residents Mobilise Against Crime on Health Care." These stories focused on the solutions that are possible to stop crimes associated with health clinics. Highlighted in these features are grass roots efforts of local communities determined to create a safe and healthy environment for their citizens. One community provided guards and security to ensure the safety of the health care workers and the facility from vandals.

    Residents patiently wait to be seen at one of the private rural health centers.

    Few of Swaziland's public health centers are as well stocked as is this pharmacy.

    Generally, private health centers are expensive but able to afford security, supplies and staff.

    Government clinics, when a target for crime, close, stranding citizens without proper health care.

    Rural mothers are left with little aid for sick children.

    Families who have little are miles by foot from clinics that remain open.
    Rape/Incest Issues: Far from the Headlines, Closer to the Heart
    "Far from the Headlines, Closer to the Heart" was the promotional catch phase developed by this group for presenting an investigation of rape and incest issues. The participants identified this topic as a critical issue across the country through public listening activities earlier in the year.

    This project included a variety of interrelated subtopics. While rape/incest was used as a starting issue, topics of family violence, child abuse, sexually transmitted disease, and unwanted pregnancies were also addressed within this project. In this male-dominated culture, where promiscuity is often overlooked, awareness and education on issues of rape, incest, and the legal and health consequences of these traumas were investigated through a team approach.

    The "Far from the Headlines, Closer to the Heart" public journalism project plan included the following news stories and cross promotional items:

    • Each news story (television, radio, and print) included the following cross promotional message:
      Rape and incest are on the increase. Families of the victims should be understanding and give support to the victims, but often are not. To know more about this issue, [read/listen/watch] [insert next medium and date here].
      "Far from the Headlines, Closer to the Heart" is part of a series of news projects created in collaboration with the Times of Swaziland, the Swazi Observer, STBC, and SBIS.
    • A 30 minute television news package for Swaziland Television Broadcasting Corporation titled "Far from the Headlines, Closer to the Heart" kicked off the group's coverage of this issue. This news story focused on social services and coincided with a high profile Save the Children Fund project in the country. The cross promotional messages at the conclusion of this news story led viewers to the next two news stories: one in The Swazi Observer newspaper and another on the Swaziland Broadcasting System (radio).
    • The second news story in this project was written by a reporter at the Swazi Observer, a state owned newspaper. The story titled "What the Children Have to Say -- Effects of Rape and Incest on Children" focused on the perspective of children -- both those who have been abused through the traumas of rape and incest and those who are fearful that it might happen to them. The reporter cited statistics of reported cases of rape and incest from across the country. Through interviews with local citizens and officials (local, regional and federal), she highlighted the even greater issue of absence of reporting. The cross promotional message at the conclusion of this news story led readers to the next news story on the Swaziland Broadcasting and Information System (national radio) and a second feature in The Swazi Observer.
    • The third news package in this project was a radio news and call in program and focused on women's issues concerning this topic. The radio reporter constructed a number of news segments concerning rape, incest, and local agencies across the country in place to assist women and families who have been abused. Between these reports, the news reporter entertained comments from callers on the subject. Because radio is the most widely used medium across the country (especially in the rural areas) this program was produced in the national language, Siswati. The cross promotional message at the conclusion of this news story led listeners to the news feature in The Swazi Observer.
    • The fourth news story ("Family Attitudes Toward Rape and Incest Victims"), which also was written for the Swazi Observer, focused on family issues. This included the trauma of incest as a family issue as well as the ways that family members can help a rape or incest victim get the help they need. A highlight of this feature was interviews and information researched through the incidental layer (Pew Center for Civic Journalism, 1996). These included interviews with victims and listen projects with women in family clinic settings. The reporter also included citations from the law and the consequences of prosecution in this feature. The cross promotional message at the conclusion of this news story led readers to the final news story on the Times of Swaziland, the independently owned newspaper in the country.
    • The final news story for this group project, titled "Public Speaks out on Sexual Abuse -- Incest and Rape," was written for the Times of Swaziland and focused on the attitudes of the citizens of Swaziland on the issues of rape and incest. Focusing on a small rural community in the northern part of the country, balanced with commentary from the five layers of public life (Pew Center for Civic Journalism, 1996), the reporter illustrated both the traditional and the new conservative attitudes concerning rape and incest. From men claiming that sexual promiscuity is their right as men in the culture to others citing rights of privacy and personal independence, to physicians and law officers, many voices were juxtaposed as a rape case was in the process of prosecution in the town of Pigg's Peak.

    School children are particularly vulnerable to crime while walking long distances through the bush.

    Women and children are at risk daily from rape and incest crimes.

    Mother's lives are torn apart by the brutality of forced sex.

    Rural health center director comments on rape crimes and possible solutions to the rape and incest problems.
    The group projects described above, illustrate the desired course outcomes. However, the course also affected the daily operations of the Swazi media. In a weekly report from the public affairs officer of the American Cultural Center in Mbabane to the African Area Office of United States Information Service, Smith (1998) wrote:
    USIS Mbabane notes how its Community Journalism Program, launched on January 27, already has changed the way news is being reported in Swaziland. The objective of the program is to get journalists to think about how the media can make it easier for citizens to have a voice in community affairs. Two Swazi program participants during the last week's interactive teleconference session with Professors Bob Moore and Tamara Gillis, of Elizabethtown College, testified to the impact of the program series. Swazi Broadcasting's Ronny Mamba stated that, at his suggestion, the station now has a weekly regular feature on rural communities. A journalist with the government-owned newspaper, "The Observer" said that the paper has just started a weekly community page on Mondays to "discuss community problems."

    Robin Smith, PAO Mbabane, addresses attendees at the course public presentations.

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