Friday, May 20, 2011
Lessons and reflections this week
This past week has been filled with lesson about communication. I’m beginning to feel a little like a blunt instrument in this service learning project, so I’m having to remind myself of the importance of service learning and why this project is important. I’m feeling this way because, again, we were unable to secure a full house of Upstarters. Granted, four out of six is a better number than the two or three that have been coming in the past few weeks but we’re at such a crucial stage of the project that it would be great if everything was simply falling into place.
But on the positive side, some new decisions have been made and a few more lessons learnt.
I went back to the theory of service learning and was reminded by Andrew Furco (1996) that, through service learning our theory is put into practice as we are faced with challenging situations. I’d like to tell Furco that it has indeed been a challenge. Our one challenge has been ongoing and that is getting all of the Upstarters all together at the same time to work towards generating content and leaving the team with something sustainable.
I do think the overarching challenge has been communication. With so many people involved with this partnership - the six Upstarters, the Upstart management team, Rhodes Music Radio, Tom and myself and our Lecturer Jeanne du Toit - I’m convinced that communication is what can make or break this project. During previous weeks we realised that we need to communicate better with Upstart management in ensuring that the Upstart Radio team know when they should be arriving for our sessions, the days, times and venue. We met last week with Shireen, Upstart’s project manager, to finally resolve this and ensure that we would be having all six Upstarters arrive for our session on Friday and Saturday.
Something went wrong and only three came on Friday and four on Saturday. Shireen came to both sessions and I’m at least happy to say that we managed to get a renewed commitment from the Upstart team members that arrived. Shireen has committed to speaking to teachers and parents about freeing the students time to allow them to come to the sessions and alternative arrangements be made for their extra lessons and such.
We also realised, later in the week, that we had been neglecting the communication with our other partner RMR. From our communication with the station manager Gugulethu during the past week, Xabiso seemed to be the favoured of the two auditions. Tom and I were still under the impression that one of the two Upstarters who auditioned would be co-anchoring on the YUNG Amplified show. We discovered later that week that Gugs had a different impression, that we would be having our own independent 30 minute show that would be given a slot in the YUNG Amplified time slot and that the Upstarter would be anchoring that show. When I saw this email from Gugs about what RMR had thought was the agreement, I made a note to myself: always make sure that everyone is on the same page when working with several partners on a community project.
Nevertheless, we met with Gugs to talk about the way forward and to ‘get on to the same page’. Our agreement was that Xabiso, Reggie and Aphiwe would be given opportunities to interview people and based on their performance, over time they may be given the opportunity to co anchor with the two anchors currently hosting the YUNG Amplified show.
For our Friday session, we had Xabiso, Aphiwe and Reggie arrive with Shireen. We waited for the others to arrive but they were a no show. Our plan for Friday’s session was to brief the team about the way forward, to brainstorm ideas for the potential interviewees as well as to work on editing the content that everyone has been working on since we last met with them. With only the three regulars there, we decided to simply brief them on our agreement with RMR and then commissioned them to go home and think about the people they would like to interview for the YUNG Amplified show. Xabiso didn’t need a day; he quickly suggested he would like to interview Ras, one of the soccer coaches from his area. He says that he’s a good coach and his team does well at matches. Shireen took him home and reports that they went to speak to RAs immediately and that Xabiso is very excited to interview the coach.
We re-convened the following day but this time at the RMR. Xabiso didn’t arrive, but Reggie and Aphiwe were the first there. The show hosts welcomed them and created a space for them to contribute to the show.
Unfortunately, though, it seems that Reggie and Aphiwe are not yet confident behind the mic. The whole idea of being live and the pressure of having to say something on the spot may have gotten to them and they seemed to be rather shy. Bathabile and Simamkhele arrived later after math extra classes and they received the same welcome from the YUNG hosts and the two of them were loving the microphone. They did very well at debating and discussing their thoughts on the topic of the show saying that their parents and grandparents need to wear clothes appropriate to their age and may not wear leggings and skinny jeans. If you were in studio, you wouldn’t have been able to resist chuckling. We’ve obviously neglected to identify these two as possible anchor because they were the addition to our team and Tom and I haven’t had that much interaction with them. Luckily we have identified this in time.
Perhaps we should have brought the Upstarters into the RMR studio a lot sooner in the year. I think the reality of a radio station, unlike the simple studio we have in the Journalism Department helped them realise the nature of radio. I think we also take it for granted that not everyone has seen an actual radio station where shows actually go live. After seeing their individual performances on live radio, we decided that all of the Upstarters would get an opportunity to interview someone. Since this involves making airtime available for six people, we will allow each member to interview someone for 15 minutes, but splitting this into three different mini interviews to focus on different aspects of the person they are interviewing. This will of course take the format of pre-recorded interviews. We’ve decided that we will do two interviews per week. During our Friday session, Tom and I will allow the Upstarter doing the interview on Saturday, to interview one of the two in the form of a mock interview so we can begin to coach them through the process of interviewing.
We had a debrief session about the show and the general feeling was excitement. We then spent time brainstorming ideas for people each of them would like to interview. They’ve all got a week now to make contact with the people they will be interviewing. Tom and I have asked each of them to do preliminary interviews with their potential interviewees and to also prepare questions which they will bring on Friday.
There is still hope for this project and we have three weeks to create something sustainable.
For another perspective on this past week’s event, click here to go to Tom’s blog.