Climate Change Feature

Working in association with Algoa FM and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), I produced the following climate change feature package. This package is to play on Algoa FM in preparation for the COP 17. This is the United Nations convention on climate change, which is taking place in South Africa from 28 November to 9 December 2011.

Cue: Climate change… the lingo on the lips of scientists, environmentalists and other really important people but what does this word mean to you? How serious is this whole climate change business? Scientists have made alarming predictions but overwhelming amounts of information on the subject often leave the average person more confused than informed. Jane van Doorene tries to clear up some confusion…

During the take home radio production specialisation, I was required to critically reflect on the degree to which I was successful in practically achieving the journalistic philosophy I produced at the beginning of the year. Below is my response in terms of the climate change feature I produced in the third term

In producing my climate change feature, I not only had to bear in mind the philosophy and agency document which my peers and I had produced at the start of the year, but I was also required to produce work which would be suitable for the Algoa FM journalistic style and the expectations of the audience. In identifying and discussing the research strategies and techniques employed as well as the language and scripting of the package against the principles of public journalism I will assess the degree to which I have successfully put my approach to journalism into practice as well as the limitations I have faced.

From the start of the assignment, Algoa FM emphasised that we needed to include at least one exert voice within the climate change feature. Because Algoa FM is a commercial radio station which employs a mainstream approach to the production and framing of news, a ‘top-down’, expert viewpoint is in accordance with their journalistic style (Barnett, 1999). Furthermore, the research strategies and techniques I employed did not involve information gathering and listening to the views and opinions of the community. Instead, I relied on facts and evidence-based research from experts because the topic being explored was complex and complicated.

The strategies and techniques I employed go against the ‘bottom-up’ public journalism approach which emphasises the principle of giving the ordinary citizen a voice, however, I was limited in the extent to which I could practice public journalism because of the journalistic style of the radio station for which I was completing my feature. As a result, I did not go to ‘third places’ as suggested by Harwood (2000). Furthermore, I did not delve into the different civic layers to get different perspectives on the topic which is in accordance with the public journalism approach (Rosen, 1999). In order to try and accommodate these opposing approaches, I include views from two different experts in the field of climate change as well as a vox pop in which the opinions and view of a variety of citizens was used.

The language and scripting of the climate change feature was also largely based on my understanding of the primary audience of Algoa FM. Algoa FM, like other commercial radio stations, is profit-orientated and, as a result, the target audience comprises of the upper income, middle class white population of South Africa, most of whom fall into the age bracket of between roughly 30 and 50 years old (Barnett, 1999). I structured the climate change feature in order to appeal to this audience. Therefore, I hooked the listener by incorporating the voices of children and made use of a backing track in the beginning and end of the feature.

Additionally, I avoided jargon and expert terminology in order to make the feature easy to follow and understand yet, one could argue, that the scripting of this package was slightly more sophisticated or complicated because of the assumptions I had made regarding the expectations I had of the primary audience. I argue that although these limitations dictated the way in which I complied and presented my climate change feature, I did attempt to fulfil one of the principles of public journalism. I presented the information in an easy, accessible way and provided ‘mobilising information’ regarding what each individual could do in order to slow down the rate at which climate change is occurring (Rosen, 1999).

Although I was not completely successful in putting public journalism into practice, I have acknowledged certain limitations which influenced the ways in which I produced my climate change feature. In doing so, I have justified the reason for the scripting and languages choices as well as the research strategies and techniques I employed.


Barnett, C. 1999. The limits of media democratization in South Africa: politics, privatization and regulation. Media Culture and Society. Sage Publications: 21: 649–671.

Harwood, R. 2000. Tapping civic life (2nd Ed) Washington, D.C.: Pew Center for Civic Journalism.

Rosen, J. (1999). What are journalists for? New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.