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Books & arts

Radio Journalism Toolkit by Franz Kruger

Book review

Tanja E. Bosch

2008-11-13, Issue 406

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Radio is still often described as the most powerful medium in developing countries, particularly as it is often more accessible than television or print. In South Africa for example, an often-quoted statistic tells us that there are more radio sets than mattresses in the country.

Radio is still often described as the most powerful medium in developing countries, particularly as it is often more accessible than television or print. In South Africa for example, an often-quoted statistic tells us that there are more radio sets than mattresses in the country.

There are several books and chapters dealing with the practice of radio production, but these are often based in North America or Europe, drawing on examples from those contexts. Moreover, much of the literature on radio often deals only with very specific aspects of the field e.g. a number of sources deal exclusively with radio interviews.

The Radio Journalism Toolkit fills a gap in existing literature by providing a clearly written and user-friendly guide to radio production, targeting students and new community radio journalists. The book has been structured to cover information needed to acquire the national certificate in journalism in South Africa (as accepted by the SA Qualifications Authority – SAQA), developed for people who work or intend to work as junior journalists.

The toolkit is divided into 12 chapters. They deal with a wide range of subjects including producing news for radio, writing for radio, radio interviews, producing features and current affairs shows, as well as tips on radio presentation. In addition, the book also covers technical aspects such as field recording and studio equipment, particularly useful as a reference guide to novice broadcasters. The “Do It” section at the end of each chapter lists exercises to allow students to practice and consolidate the material covered in each chapter, and serves as a useful resource for radio trainers. In addition, the author provides (in Appendix 3) a template for a 10-day training course, as a rough guide for trainers who wish to use this book as their primary resource.

The author also provides a list of suggested reading materials for each section, which could be prescribed to students, or used by the trainers themselves as a supplement to the toolkit. Besides providing practical information, Chapter 13 also deals with the responsibilities of radio journalists, with important information about ethics and the law. A radio journalism vocabulary glossary at the end of the book provides definitions of some of the most used terms in the radio industry. But the accompanying CD is probably what makes this book most useful, as it allows readers to listen to practical examples of the theories covered in the book. The CD (which works on Mac and PC) gives examples of common audio problems, radio documentaries for students to listen to, internet links to useful websites for radio journalists, as well as audio editing exercises,.

The Radio Journalism Toolkit is targeted at trainee radio broadcasters in South Africa, but may also be useful to community radio journalists in other parts of the continent (and elsewhere); particularly as most chapters include suggestions for handling issues “on a shoestring”, with little money and few resources. However, one limitation is that while the theoretical underpinning of the book is clear (radio for development), it does not provide clear guidelines for producing radio for social change, or on the practice of civic journalism. But it does provide a clear and simple introduction to the medium, covering the most important subjects trainee ournalists are likely to encounter in the field. However, the term ‘toolkit’ is a bit of a misnomer, as not enough information is really provided to allow citizen journalists to be radio broadcasters. In addition, its prohibitive cost would probably make it out of the reach of much of the target audience, and the author and publisher would do well to consider making it available online.

* Radio Journalism Toolkit by Franz Kruger. 2006. IAJ: STE Publishers.

* Tanja E. Bosch is a lecturer at the Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town

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