6 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 Gauteng regional event took place this evening in Johannesburg.
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 categories this year, with 375 entries from the Gauteng region – the most entries from any of the regions. 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:
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 ongoing Zondo Commission, as well as the Nugent Commission into issues at SARS, are institutional manifestations of State Capture. One of the key institutions involved in the looting of state coffers was Eskom, which paid McKinsey huge sums of money for no work at all. The company has since repaid about R1bn and became the subject of asset seizure by the Asset Forfeiture Unit. The bulk of uncovering this was done by Amabhungane and Scorpio, the investigative arm of the Daily Maverick. In that work they showed that McKinsey and Trillian were planning to get at least R9 billion out of Eskom. And at the centre of that investigation, which resulted in a series of articles that were first denied, but later proved to be correct, were our two worthy winners from Amabhungane and Scorpio, respectively. The winners are Susan Comrie and Pauli van Wyk.
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 Sikonathi Mantshantsha for a body of work which includes an open letter to McKinsey, his take on the absence of legal consequences for criminals in South Africa and his frustration with commissions without legal prosecutions. Our winner in this category wrote a series of political columns, one of which looks at the political implications of Jacob Zuma’s free education announcement ahead of the ANC electoral conference, the importance of discussing land expropriation without compensation, and a cynical look at the CEO Sleepout. The winner is Sipho Hlongwane from the Daily Vox.
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. Our winning entry explored the struggle for identity and human dignity and the rejection, violence and discrimination experienced by transgender people in South Africa. A compelling and beautifully positioned feature that told the personal stories of ordinary people whose voices are often silenced. The winner is Nicola de Chaud from Tin Can Communications, for her story on Carte Blanche.
In the photography category:
The judges commended Etienne van Rensburg of MooiVaal Media for his beautiful picture of a swimmer. Sport lends itself to photography. But it takes patience and a good eye to capture a great action moment. The camera speed used to capture this image creates a perfect moment that crisply details the action, movement and emotion as a swimmer emerges from under the water to get air. Our winner tackled a different and more difficult subject. As the keepers of our past and future, women are the cornerstones of our communities. Instead of being protected and nurtured these photographs show women in different stages of vulnerability. One depicts the abuse of an elderly woman and another portrays the last surviving Njuu female chief. The abuse of woman is a daily occurrence in the streets and homes in our country. A woman being used by a political party and being physically abused by another political party captured by this photographer underscored the status of poor women in South Africa. In this photograph, the face of a woman shows her pain and shame while she is violently assaulted by men while other men, including policemen, stand watching. If the essence of a nation lies in its language, then one of the First Nations of South Africa is four lives away from disappearing forever. The Njuu language is believed to be more than 25 000 years old and only four people can speak it fluently. These photo story images capturers an 85-year-old Njuu chief and her family enjoying each other’s company in a language that only they share. The winner is Alon Skuy 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. The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard and the judges had their work cut out for them. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous number one choice. The journalist showed an exceptional skill for story-telling and for finding unexpected angles and unknown facts. For his stories about Musangwe's fight for recognition, Age cheating in SA football and Hansie Cronje revisited: The winner is Ronald Masinda and the team, Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso, Charle Lombard from eSAT TV.
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 high level of competition regionally in this category is clear from the fact that the judges have chosen to commend the work of two entrants: Warren Thompson’s body of work for Business Day and Fifi Peter’s body of work for CNBC Africa. The regional winner succeeded in putting a human face on economic events, interwoven with incisive economic analysis and context. For a body of work covering several distinctly different topics, the winner is Lisa Steyn from The Mail & Guardian.
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 Sophia Phirippides for her entry on the very topical issue of land invasions. But our winner deals with another contentious issue: the mismanagement of our water resources. The winning story investigates The Mhlathuzi Water Board Dudu Myeni, who headed both the SAA board as well as the Jacob Zuma Foundation. The investigation found serious abuse of power by Myeni, whose conduct was castigated in a court ruling. Senior executives who did not agree to the plunder were either sidelined or suspended. And when Myeni’s term ended, Minister Nomvula Mokonyane extended the life of the board indefinitely, a move that was declared illegal by a high court. The winner is Sasha Schwendenwein from Combined Artists for her piece on Carte Blanche.
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. This year’s regional winner offered an insightful analysis of the ongoing issue of air pollution on the Highveld that endangers the environment and the health of residents and workers. The winner is Sheree Bega from Independent Media (Saturday Star).
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. The winner in this category had to cover the hearings of one of the most painful tragedies in the history of South Africa’s health care. She had to separate her own feelings from what was unfolding in front of her and reported daily on the hearings of Life Esidimeni. She gave new meaning to live and powerful on the spot reporting. The winner is Zikhona Tshona from eNCA.
In the data category:
In a world driven by information, often misinformation, the role of data journalism becomes immense. It can provide the context and proper information needed to make sense of often confusing stories by presenting evidence that cannot be disputed. The judges look to reward journalists who approach data journalism with innovation and energy, but also those who use this form of journalism to help shed light on serious and complicated issues in society. It does not always take large teams collaborating across a variety of platforms to make vast stories digestible. The winning regional entry also illustrates the extent to which non-traditional capabilities like programming and data visualisation are powerful tools in the hands of skilled journalists. Most significantly, it shows how data that has been available for a long time can be revisited to extract new meaning, understanding, and insights in order to bring new perspective to a burning issue. Thanks to this investigation of data, through using data tools, and striking visual treatment, education activists found themselves with a powerful new resource. In the fast-emerging field of data journalism, this set of stories set a new benchmark in both the exploration and representation of buried information. The winners are Alastair Otter and Laura Grant from Media Hack.
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. Rape is a scourge that is relentless and journalists are always challenged as to how best cover it. A Doctors without Borders report on how rape survivors don’t speak about their rape, spurred Health eNews to rethink rape reportage by launching a number of stories and a campaign Izwi Lami or My Voice. It is a free messaging service for rape survivors as well as providing an interactive map that locates shelters, clinics, and hospitals. The series of stories used real-life testimonies, graphic writing and illustration in their reporting. Built-in animation invited survivors to use the free messaging service. The stories were used in various publications around the country. Out of the box thinking provided rape survivors physical and psychological assistance and the stories, presented in various ways, made them aware that they were not alone. The winners are Kim Harrisberg, Warren Raysdorf and Mohale Mashigo from Health E-News.
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 is Mashadi Kekana from The Mail & Guardian.
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 in London.
The 12 new categories are: