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2 November 2018. This year’s Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards introduced new categories more in keeping with the 21st Century media landscape, drawing close to 1 000 entries from all over the country. The theme for the 2018 awards is ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’ and the first regional event for KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga took place this evening in Durban.
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group said: “We are pleased with the response to the updated categories that were introduced this year. It’s vital that the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards remain relevant and a true reflection of the changing media landscape. Special thanks go to our judges Ryland Fisher, Mary Papayya, Arthur Goldstuck, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Collin Nxumalo, Mathatha Tshedu, Albe Grobbelaar, Megan Rusi and Obed Zilwa; who continue to lend their time and expertise in the adjudication of these awards.”
Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher said: “There was an excellent array of entries across the 12 new categories this year, with 131 entries from the KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga region. The winners can be proud of the work they have done and we hope to see even more entries from this region next year.”
The regional winners in the categories are as follows:
In the investigative category:
Investigative journalism is a key driver in democracies. If it were not for investigative journalists, South Africans would never have known about the Information Scandal of the apartheid era, the existence of the Vlakplaas killer unit within the police, the Gupta state capture, Steinhoff or the KPMG auditing fiasco. The KwaZulu-Natal province, with its rolling green hills and sandy beaches, is a prime holiday destination. It is also the site of many horrific political killings. The fights vary from inter party to intra party, and the recently concluded Moerane Commission helped many people understand slightly better the dynamics at play in what has now come to be known as the ‘Killing Fields of KZN”. But it took the shooting of Sindiso Magaqa to gain everyone’s attention. One person who got her microphone and tape out and set out to try and understand what happened is our winner. In a three-part series she takes the listener to the heart of the killing fields and brings back new voices and theories that move our collective understanding of what may have transpired. The series does not give us a smoking gun of who shot Sindiso, but it gives enough information and voices, including his mother, that is both shocking and revealing. The winners are Ziyanda Ngcobo and Pieter Theron from EWN.
In the opinion category:
In this category, which is new to the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards, we aim to reward good writing and, more importantly, good thinking. We encourage writing that integrates personal experiences with lessons in life, politics and society in general. There were many entries in this category, most of them quality writing by some of the best public influencers in the media industry. The judges decided to commend Edward West of The Witness for a collection of business-related columns. Our winner exemplified the best in opinion writing, reflecting on his formative years and watching soccer for the first time and linking this to the violence at Moses Mabhida stadium involving Kaizer Chiefs fans. The winner is Matthew Savides from Tiso Blackstar.
In the lifestyle/feature category:
The lifestyle/feature category is a broad one that includes news features, profiles and lifestyle articles that go beyond reporting, but introduce elements of innovative writing, without impacting on the story’s veracity. The judges seek to reward eloquent turns of phrase, descriptive writing and the ability to bring subjects to life. In a category that was highly contested in all regions, the judges had their work cut out. Two entries in the region stood out: Glynis Horning for her compelling a body of work published in True Love magazine; and Dasen Thathia for his exceptional series on Poverty broadcast on eNCA. The co-winners are Glynis Horning (freelance), and Dasen Thathia from eNCA. Thathia also credited video editor Susanna Holmes and camera operator Nkanyiso Mdlalose.
In the photography category:
A controversial statesman is known to be surrounded by lively supporters, his political colleagues and throngs of cheerleaders while he laughs and dances. Here in the winning photo he is captured unusually sitting alone, head bowed in a wooden dock to face justice. The glow from a window creates a moment of isolation. The winner is Jackie Clausen from Tiso Blackstar.
In the sport category:
Sport can unify and inspire the nation – but it can also bring division, disaster, and dissent. The many moods of our people are reflected in sports journalism as it celebrates the glory and elegance of great sporting achievements; analyses, questions or even mourns great sporting heroes. The judges looked for eloquent, lucid, in-depth sports journalism, beyond reporting on results and numbers. The contestants in this category entered work of a very high standard. Entrants showed exceptional commitment and dedication to getting to the heart of the story. The winner in this category stood head and shoulders above the rest. For a body of work including entries on The Roof of Africa, Touch and Go Sport, and a story called Empowering Journey Fit for a Champion, the winner is Quintin van Jaarsveld from eHowzit.
In the economic/financial category:
As our nation struggles to deal with the spectre of corruption and regular buffeting from national, regional, and international financial pressures, financial and economic journalists can help ensure that both businesses and citizens are well informed, enabling them to make better choices to enhance their present and their future. In this category, the judges looked for in-depth features and investigations which combined excellent story telling with illuminating insights. Entries showed commitment to proper research and dedication to getting to the heart of the story. In this category, the judges looked for in-depth features and investigations which combine excellent story telling with illuminating insights. The winning regional entry investigated a series of questionable deals by a state institution tasked to protect the country’s government pension fund. The winners in this category are Sam Sole, Susan Comrie and Craig McKune from AmaBhungane. The judges wish to commend the dedication of Radio Khwezi’s Saziso Dlamini and Nothile Zwane in unpacking economic factors in isiZulu for their rural community radio station.
In the politics category:
In this new category in the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards the judges looked at rewarding political stories that were well-reported and made a difference to society. The fight against corruption depends to a large extent on women and men who work in various institutions who are prepared to stand up and be counted in exposing the rot that they see. The judges wish to commend Jeff Wicks for his entry which broke the news that former President Jacob Zuma was in a relationship with a woman 59 years his junior and that a baby boy had been born out of that relationship. Our winner dealt with shenanigans around the ANC’s membership ahead of the National Conference at Nasrec in December 2017. It was a divisive time for the organisation. And KZN was an important piece in the jigsaw that was to determine the person to replace Jacob Zuma. Until then the biggest province, it needed to ensure it had enough delegates who would vote accordingly. In Richmond in the Midlands, Speaker of the local municipality, Samora Ndlovu, hit on a bright idea to sway things his way. Hundreds of fake members were created using a fake FNB stamped deposit slip – needed to show one had paid their dues. This seemed to be working until the scam unravelled when our winner investigated the scandal, leading to FNB announcing that the stamp used was fake, and Ndlovu being disciplined. In a province ravaged by killings of political activists in intra party fights, this story is an important contribution to our understanding of the dynamics and extent to which people will go to ensure power and through it access to resources. The winner is Sabelo Nsele from The Witness.
In the category CSI/sustainability:
The critical issues of living and working sustainably are a matter of concern in South Africa where many social, economic and political challenges remain unresolved. Many companies are realising that they cannot operate in a vacuum, but need to find ways of empowering communities to help solve the problems in society. In this category, the judges were looking for in-depth stories on any South African media platform that report evocatively and with insight on sustainable solutions for South Africa’s future. CSI/Sustainability reporting often requires journalists to revisit perennial issues with fresh eyes to elicit fresh understandings and solutions. Fracking has been a major debate in South Africa as energy demands conflict with environmental protection ideals and ecotourism. Now this push for new energy sources has expanded into the ocean. Offshore exploration rights have been quietly handed to big energy interests with little attention to legal environmental safeguards. The winning entry was well researched, clear and direct, using good statistics, examples, interviews, and great visuals. For an investigation with implications for government, big business, and the environment the winner is Julie Laurenz from Nguni TV.
In the category live reporting/breaking news:
This category not only recognises how the media landscape has changed in the era of social media and 24-hour news platforms, but also awards journalists who have to think on their feet, often reporting in danger or at disaster scenes without technical support or a carefully crafted script. It was a highly contested category and the judges had their work cut out for them, but the winning entry was exceptional. On the morning that a young girl was shot in a hijacking, this TV reporter was doing a live studio crossing. When the news came in the journalist decided to leave the studio and rushed to the crime scene. With only a cell phone and an App that wasn’t working, the journalist – realising the importance of the story – started to tweet, later managed to do a live crossing with the cell phone and broke the story on national television. In the body of work the same journalist went beyond the call of duty to report on the massacre at the Verulam mosque and bringing Durban’s monster storm into the homes of television viewers. The winners are Dasen Thathiah, Nkanyiso Mdlalose, Susanna Holmes, Terence Stone, and Francois Grobler from eNCA.
In the data category:
In the multi-platform category:
In the multi-platform category journalists must combine reporting flair with the ability to provide material that allows for best, creative use of the multiple platforms and elastic space of digital media, combined with traditional print or broadcast media. This means ensuring elements such as great visuals, interactive opportunities, and skilful adaptations of content to multiple platforms are integral to their storytelling. This entry produced a variety of media dealing with the devastating flood In Durban in October 2017. Compelling video and sound were part of the package which included detailed print stories, photographs as well as a series of tweets. They told the story of heroes and ordinary people who showed compassion to others. This entry included the human tragedy of a toddler being swept away while her mother clung to hope that she would be found. This entry shows clearly how multi-platform journalism can be used effectively to tell an entire story. The winners are Jeff Wicks, Suthentira Govender and Lwandile Bhengu from TimesLive.
In the Young Journalist of the Year Award:
The Young Journalist Award emphasises VJOY’s commitment to furthering the career of a dynamic young South African journalist. At stake is the chance of a lifetime for the national winner to accelerate his or her professional and personal development through an all-expenses paid trip to follow cutting-edge training overseas, both at the renowned Thomson Foundation and in a newsroom context. Entrants must have worked in journalism for three years or less and already be demonstrating great future potential. Entrants must submit a body of outstanding work together with a strong motivation showing commitment to the vocation of news well above the norm – this motivation is a critical component of the judging process. All shortlisted entrants will be entered in a further round where they will outline their achievements and their aspirations to the judging panel. Regional nominees will automatically become finalists for the national Young Journalist of the Year Award and the career-enhancing prize. The nominee for this region is Vuyelwa Mtolo from Media24.
Regional category winners will receive R5 000 each, national category winners take home R10 000 each, with the coveted national accolade of Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award winner receiving R100 000. The winner of the young journalist award will win an all-expenses paid overseas trip that includes a visit to the Thomson Foundation, as well as the opportunity to work in a newsroom.
The 12 new categories are: