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8 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 Western Cape regional event took place this evening in Cape Town.
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 and it would seem that our new categories have appealed to a wider range of journalists. 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. 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. The judges commended Hazel Friedman of SABC Special Assignment for her sterling work on land reform and how the land already distributed by the state to beneficiaries is being hijacked by agribusiness. Our winning entry in this category deals with a peculiarly Cape problem, abalone poaching. The story reveals that over 4,000 tonnes of abalone is caught illegally every year in the country, whereas the legal limit is about one tenth of that amount. The story shows how this ‘business’ has morphed into gangs with attendant drug abuse, illegal weapons, and money laundering. It also tells the story of the hardship of the local people as many youngsters have turned to an 'easy' way of making money and residents of the small towns stay off the beach as poachers go out in huge numbers in broad daylight with no fear of the law. The winner is Annalise Lubbe of Carte Blanche.
In the opinion category:
In this category, which is new to the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards, we aim to reward good writing but, more importantly, good thinking. We encourage writing that integrates lived experiences with lessons in life, politics and society in general. There were many entries in the category, most of them quality writing by some of the best public influencers in the media industry. The judges decided to commend James de Villiers of Business Insider South Africa for his opinion article on the water crisis in the Western Cape. Our winner produced a series of opinion pieces in Afrikaans, dealing with contentious issues such as the future of Afrikaans, euthanasia and Die Stem. The Winner is Willemien Brummer from Netwerk24.
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. The winning entry showed the writer’s exceptional skills, research, planning and eye for imagery and was judged on a body of work for two stories – Female Gamers the new sports stars and The Disruptors: Generation 2030 – published in depth in Forbes Women Africa. The Winner is Jay Caboz from Media24.
In the photography category:
Many claim that South Africa’s health system is on the brink of collapse. We have witnessed the tragedy of Health Esidimeni, KZN’s oncology crisis, and many more over the recent past. Our winner’s heart-wrenching photo essay shows an ailing mother’s daily struggle to care for her grown paralysed son. Here a mother’s devotion knows no boundaries – not poverty, not pain, not even death can end it. The Winner is Cindy Waxa from Independent Media.
In the sport category:
Sport can unify and inspire the nation – but it can also bring division, disaster, and dissent. This was a fiercely contested category with stories that made the headlines and got the sporting public talking. From boxing, to soccer, cricket and everything in between – sports journalists were hard at work with great passion and dedication. The Western Cape region gave the judges a difficult task in this highly contested category. The focus was exceptional, from soccer to rugby to cricket, and other associated debates making the headlines. Creativity and expert knowledge were evident. One entrant stood out. Her Daily Maverick story about Car Spinning in the Western Cape led to a unanimous decision by the judges. The winner is Leila Dougan from The Daily Maverick.
In the economic/financial category:
In this category, the judges looked for in-depth features and investigations which combine excellent story telling with illuminating insights. The Western Cape region gave the judges a difficult task in this highly contested category. The topics were of an exceptional standard and ranged from Steinhoff and Eskom to Pink Tax. Creativity and expert knowledge were evident. The winner, for his succinct and honed analysis of dodgy maritime refuelling deals in South African harbours, is Bobby Jordan from the Sunday Times for the story ‘Rotten Cargo’.
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 winner in this category is being rewarded for a body of work that includes exposing the abuse of office by two powerful men in two different and important state institutions. The then Secretary of Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, was shown to have splurged huge amounts on international travels, spruced up his house at taxpayer’s expense and to have been abusive to staff in Parliament. In the second series, State Security Agency Director General Arthur Fraser was shown to have been running a rogue unit within the agency and to have used it to siphon cash to a number of close friends and relatives. Our winner doggedly followed both strands resulting in intervention by higher authorities that have seen both men out of their positions. The Winner is Marianne Merten from The Daily Maverick.
In the category CSI/sustainability:
The critical issues of living and working sustainably are particularly 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 looked critically at proposed solutions to Cape Town’s intense water shortages, questioning whether panic had prompted the City of Cape Town to bypass environmental safeguards for the sake of a solution that could endanger the region’s unique environment while offering no immediate relief. The winning entry, which alerted the public to potentially disastrous consequences and caused a municipal rethink, is ‘Steenbras aquifer drilling too risky’. The winner is Aletta Harrison from News24.
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 region is to be congratulated for her unflinching live-reporting in the middle of what started as service delivery protests and ended up as a racial fight between two communities. However, when she door-stopped premier Helen Zille on a surprise visit to the area and got her to talk on camera, this television piece gained even more impact. Even when a man tried to interrupt her live-crossing, she kept her cool and focused on her reporting. The winners are Athi Mtongana, Mario Pedro, and Lungile Tom 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 looked 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. The winning entry combined skilful story-telling, in-depth analysis, deep insight and enterprising journalism to uncover a story with both local and global implications, in the process setting a benchmark for media coverage of allocation of funding of any kind. The entry exhibited exemplary use of multiple platforms, including print, online, TV and radio, and incorporating both mainstream and community media. The most innovative aspect of the project saw the creation of a tool to allow readers to explore the data underlying the stories, in effect allowing them to conduct their own investigations into aspects of the story that were most relevant to them. This gave readers almost unprecedented access to the resources that made the project possible. For providing a signpost to the future of data journalism, the entry ‘Gaming the Lottery’ was a stand-out regional winner for the team of Roxanne Joseph, Adi Eyal, Siphe Macanda, Anton van Zyl, Raymond Joseph, Jeff Lowenstein, Damien Schlechter, Daniela Lepiz and Khadija Sharife.
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 adaptation of content to multiple platforms are integral to their storytelling. This multi-episode Daily Maverick production uses a series of video, graphics and print articles to weave together a well contextualised scenario that water scarce Cape Town faced at the time, comparing it to other countries around the world. It also chronicled key moments in the water journey that Cape Town faced as early as 1999. The historical detail is presented in an easy manner for the reader and viewer. It also highlighted the challenge facing Cape Town’s bread basket, the Philippi Horticulture area and used this case study as a way to illustrate how drought can affect certain sectors. Using multi-platform, this team covered all areas related to water scarcity in the city. Some videos were viewed over 400-thousand times. The winners are Diana Neille, Bernard Kotze, Leila Dougan, Marelise van der Merwe, Sumeya Gasa and Heidi Swart from The Daily Maverick.
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 London 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 Robin-Lee Francke from Independent Media.
Notes to Editors:
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:
Young Journalist of the Year Award
Pic attached - caption (Front row L – R) Jay Caboz from Media24 (Lifestyle/Feature category), Cindy Waxa from Independent Media (Photography category), Leila Dougan from The Daily Maverick (Sport category and joint winner in the Multi-platform category), Marelise van der Merwe from The Daily Maverick (Joint winner in Multi-platform category), Obed Zilwa (VJOY judge), Athi Mtongana from eNCA (Live reporting/Breaking news category), Willemien Brummer from Netwerk24 (Opinion category)
(Back row L – R) Megan Rusi (VJOY judge), Ryland Fisher (VJOY judge), Lungile Tom from eNCA (Live reporting/Breaking news category), Bernard Kotze from The Daily Maverick (Joint winner in the Multi-platform category), Rishaad Tayob (Vodacom CPT Managing Executive), Aletta Harrison from News24 (CSI/Sustainability category), Raymond Joseph (Joint winner in Data journalism category), Marianne Merten from The Daily Maverick (Politics category), Bobby Jordan from the Sunday Times (Economic/Financial category), Ayanda Ndamane accepted obo Robin-Lee Francke (Young Journalist of the Year category)