Drum readers then and now : a linguistic investigation of some of the ways in which readers' identities are contructed in two copies of Drum magazine in 1951 and 2001.
This dissertation explores how written discourses of Drum editors' and readers' letters linguistically construct social identities of the Drum audience, and how this identity construction is intimately linked with socio-historical, socio-cultural and socio-political contexts in which Drum appears in 1951 and 2001. Basically, this study is a contrastive analysis of the audience construction at two significant dates in the life of a South African publication, Drum magazine: March 1951, when the magazine was first published, and 7 June 2001, fifty years later when the magazine is read in a vastly changed socio-politico-cultural context. Data collection was based on the "Readers' Page" in two copies of Drum, one published in March 1951 and the other in 7 June 2001. In each copy of the magazine, the focus is on the editor's letter which asks for the readers' contributions and gives recommendations on the types of letters he is hoping to attract, and one reader's letter from each of the same chosen copies of Drum which the editor publishes. The cover pages of both copies of Drum are used to investigate whether they foreground or reinforce the images of Drum readers. Another set of data comes from an unstructured interview of the current Drum magazine editor. Findings in this study indicate that the ideal Drum audience in 1951 is the African middle class scholar who is a good writer, whereas in 2001, good quality writing is compromised for an advertising community of consumers. In addition, the black educated, urban Drum audience in 1951 see themselves as having power to resist the education system which is characterised by racial segregation. In 2001, the young people regard the attainment of higher education in institutions of higher learning as valuable for black economic empowerment. Educators/therefore, need to teach learners the skills of reading a text critically, so that the learners are able to identify ways in which language choices channel their interpretation, and also the ways in which texts are linked to their socio-historical contexts.