The importance of visiting radio stations for a trainee journalist

Each year hundreds of students enroll in journalism institutions dotted around the country. They get to the University of Zimbabwe, National University of Science and Technology(NUST), Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT),Harare polytechnic, Christian College Of Southern Africa (CCOSA)and Midlands State University with high hopes of eventually securing lucrative jobs in news rooms, broadcasting stations and starting their own ventures after graduation. However, many of them take up entirely different professions after graduating while others languish at home with no prospect of securing employment. Why are the students facing such a fate and what could be done to make things right for them?

During my first year as a film, radio and television student at the University of Zimbabwe I was keen to find answers to this nagging question. My “eyes opened” during one of my radio production lectures when i heard that we should strengthen our student profiles instead of waiting to be spoon fed by our trainers. The lecturer stressed that as part of competence based training in higher and tertiary education journalism students were required to go for attachment in media organisations to get exposure. We would be competing with many like us for attachment places and hence the need to position ourselves so that we would be in an advantageous position vis-à-vis our peers.
I wasted no time and immediately took up the challenge to be a cut above the rest through venturing into the media territory. I set out to discover for myself what was happening at the broadcast stations.

My first visit was to “Harare’s Heartbeat” Capitalk FM. I dug into my pocket and made a couple of phone calls to the executive producer as part of planning for the trip. The trip was rescheduled a number of times since people at the broadcast station are always busy. When the day arrived I hooked up with my classmates Shannel Kadyamurandu and Reginald Takudzwa Ndlovu and boarded a combi to Chisipite where the station is located. My first observation was that radio stations are guarded by army and police personnel since they are sensitive institutions which can be hijacked by unscrupulous people to undermine the government. We received a pleasant reception from Nyaradzo Makombe the station manager, who ushered us into the boardroom where we sat briefly before we were led into the newsroom by Alma Kamungere, an intern from the University of Zimbabwe.
Nyaradzo took us through the intriguing journey of how reporters gather news from sources in their community, breaking stories from international stations, social media etc. She told us that it was important for a story to be written in a way that listeners can understand. We had lots of burning questions like ” how does a news reader handle a breaking story while she is on air when there is no time to first read and make sense of the story?” The station managers told us that newsreaders are versatile individuals who have the ability to “scan information in advance” while reading another story.

From there we were taken to the control room by Donald Gwasira another intern from University of Zimbabwe. The control room, which is the nerve center of any radio station, and the temperatures in this room are very low since the machines are never shut down and they do not stop running. This room is loaded with some bizarre equipment that keep the station running and it must never go off. Then finally we went in the production room which is a must place to be at a radio station where we find the area for podcasts, the producer`s area, radio presenter and the console board in front of them. In here we found Skatta (Kudzanai Gona) a radio presenter for “College nights” who told us everything we wanted to know about being a radio presenter. I am afraid I should say it’s actually the coolest and fun role being live on radio, having to air, live stream and play tracks. We wrapped up with the question and answer session.

My second visit was to Star FM “sounding good all the time”. I dug out some information to make arrangements on visiting the station and it was a success. This time there were no delays since I made the arrangements in advance and we had enough time to prepare. This time it was only Shannel and myself. We boarded a combi to Beatrice road where the station is located and we couldn’t stop talking about the whole trip until we were at the gate, with the beauty that was right there in front of us. We got a warm welcome from Tapiwa our tour guide who gave us a brief history of the radio station before we began the tour around the station.

First things first, the news room has always been the first room to visit. We had the chance to be told about the news people and how they gather up news, edit the important information, censoring and the ones at their palms. We then moved on to the control room, the room with the lowest temperatures with machines and equipment then lastly the production room. To my surprise there was KVG and Phatisani my favorite radio presenters and not forgetting to mention Boom baby the producer. The room is breath taking I have to admit. The console board obviously, the microphones and the machines all set up just right. I got the chance to have a one on one conversation with KVG and Phatisani and they had a guest Trevor Dongo a musician whom we got to meet as well and took some selfies. I was not surprised at all since I had to encounter being at a radio station from Capitalk as well as from my personal research.

The birth of radio has always brought about change in society and this change has brought people together from different cultures and races to become one. It has always been there and changing with time to become even better. Radio has brought people together. It has survived for as long as i can remember. Long ago families would gather and listen to the news or talk-shows. For example the famous Nguva yevanhukadzi or Tilda. In Zimbabwe, the ZBC has four radio stations: Power FM, National FM, Spot FM, and Radio Zimbabwe. These stations target different audiences. Of the four channels, Radio Zimbabwe is the most popular, commanding the highest percentage of radio listener-ship in Zimbabwe (ZBC, 2008). This is because this station broadcasts in the two main languages chiShona and siNdebele spoken by the majority of Zimbabweans.

Radio can reach information all around the country without fail which is quite advantage. It provides its audiences with an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on their lived experiences, given that the audience are constantly negotiating the infusion of their traditional values with the contemporary lifestyle and modernity in urban high-density suburbs, low density or even rural areas. Even for educational purposes. It is important for pupils to learn and trace the roots of radio at a tender age so they grow with it.


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