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National winners announced for 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards

Thursday, 29 November 2018

The entries to the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards were extraordinarily varied and of an excellent standard, with new categories introduced which are based on content as opposed to platforms. This year, the judges decided that two entries were equally worthy of the coveted Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.

The first winning entry, in the new Data Journalism category, is a set of stories by Alastair Otter and Laura Grant of Media Hack which showed how Data Journalism is shaping the future. The second winner is Bongani Fuzile of the Daily Dispatch for his articles in the investigative category on how migrant workers were being ripped off by pension deductions (full citations below).

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “This year we modernised the 12 categories that journalists could enter their work in and the change was embraced by entrants. In a turbulent time for media, the 2018 entries once again proved that there are excellent South African journalists delivering praiseworthy work, and we commend them for finding new and innovative ways to cover the news.”

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “Vodacom is proud of its 17-year association with these prestigious awards, which make an important contribution to our society through the recognition of journalistic excellence. I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners and, as always, I’d like to pay tribute to our hardworking judges. Ryland Fisher, Mathatha Tsedu, Arthur Goldstuck, Collin Nxumalo, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Megan Rusi, Mary Papayya, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa: thank you for making these awards a continued success.”

Veteran journalist and media stalwart Ms Amina Frense is the winner of the 2018 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever Award. She has spent decades in mainstream media both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, has written two books and is also a founding member of SANEF where she still serves as a council member (full citation below).

The national winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:

SPORT

The entries in this category were of an exceptionally high standard. One entrant stood out and became the unanimous winner. This 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 of Gift Kganyago, Nceba Ntlanganiso and Charles Lombard from eSAT TV.

DATA JOURNALISM

The winning team 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 of Media Hack.  

CSI/SUSTAINABILITY

Fracking has been a major debate across South Africa in recent years as energy demands conflict with environmental protection ideals and ecotourism. Now this push for new energy sources has expanded to the ocean. Offshore exploration rights have been quietly and almost clandestinely 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. The winner is Julie Laurenz from Nguni TV.

PHOTOGRAPHY

This photographer captures the shocking moments when a father stripped of his dignity and hope flings his baby daughter from the roof of his illegal shack in the hope of stalling a forced eviction. Almost doll like the one-year-old baby lands safely in the arms of an anxious policeman cushioning her fall. The winner is Theodore Jephta from Die Son.

POLITICS

The fight against corruption depends to a large extent on women and men who work in institutions who are prepared to stand up and be counted in exposing the rot that they see. In doing so, these whistle blowers take risks that can be fatal in some cases. This is the case for our winner, where two whistle blowers on the Esdina dairy project in Vrede in the Free State which was financed from state coffers but with the bulk of the money allegedly siphoned off by the Gupta family, found themselves in mortal danger. Our winner chronicles the two cases, showing how a police investigation that started with a flurry have all but fizzled out, raising the question whether this lack of enthusiasm by the police is linked to the state capture of which the project in question is a part. The winner is Tabelo Timse from Amabhungane.

FEATURE/LIFESTYLE

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.

LIVE REPORTING/BREAKING NEWS

The winning entry was exceptional. On the morning that a young girl was shot in a hijacking, a television 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 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 call of duty to report on the massacre on the Verulam mosque, and brought Durban’s monster storm into the homes of television viewers. The winners are Dasen Thathiah, supported by Nkanyiso Mdlalose, Susanna Holmes, Terence Stone and Francois Grobler from eNCA.

MULTI-PLATFORM

The winning series of print stories, photographs and video focuses on the wellbeing of students or lack thereof in university residences across the Eastern Cape. It showed the sheer desperation of students living in appalling squalid conditions. Our winner looks at more than one institution and uses print and video effectively to report on the lives of these students. He uses multi-platform to highlight different parts of the story with little repetition. He takes us along so that we experience the students’ fight for better living conditions – protesting in the rain and even clashing with heavily armed police. The winner is Sino Majangaza from Tiso Blackstar.

OPINION

Our nominees brought forward quality writing and are some of the best public influencers in the media industry. Our winner exemplified the best in opinion writing, reflecting on his growing-up 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.

FINANCIAL/ECONOMICS

In this category, the judges looked for in-depth features and investigations which combined excellent story telling with illuminating insights. The winner succeeded in putting a human face on economic events, interwoven with incisive economic analysis and context. The winner is Lisa Steyn from Mail & Guardian.

INVESTIGATIVE

Mining in SA grew and still relies on the prowess of the less educated labourers who leave their rural homes to work in this industry. Many a time, they either go back home broken or in coffins, leaving their families destitute. This is despite the fact that pension deductions would have been made to which they or their families would be entitled. The companies however outsource this to Teba which claims it cannot trace the workers or their families. Our winner set out to test whether indeed the beneficiaries of the over R4 billion that was lying in the Teba bank account could not be traced. And he found thousands of them, leading to Teba using his information to trace and pay beneficiaries. The individual amounts paid out may not be millions, but investigative journalism has made it possible for the poorest of the poor to access what is rightfully theirs, and in the process removed the screen behind which Teba had been hiding. The impact of the stories went beyond the Eastern Cape. The winner is Bongani Fuzile from Daily Dispatch.

YOUNG JOURNALIST

This award provides an opportunity to fast track a young journalist’s professional and personal development through an all-expenses paid overseas trip that includes a visit to the renowned Thomson Foundation, as well as the opportunity to work in a newsroom. This year’s winner is Robin-Lee Francke from the Daily Voice (Independent Media).

LIFETIME ACHIEVER AWARD

When this year’s recipient, Ms Amina Frense heard that she was the Vodacom Lifetime Achiever for 2018, there was shock, silence and a “I think I need to sit down … is this for real” from her.

Our recipient has a long career of several decades in the mainstream media industry both locally and internationally. She is a former Managing Editor: News and Current Affairs at the SA Broadcasting Corporation. She has worked in many countries abroad as a producer and a foreign correspondent, including for German Television ZF, WDR, and many others – telling the story of all the victims of apartheid and the struggle against the apartheid regime.

Frense served in several senior positions at the SABC following 1994, holding many senior editorial positions in its news division after covering SA’s first democratic elections. She was also Director of Special News Services at the SABC and served as Editor Training and Development and Political Editor. When she retired from the SABC three years ago she was Managing Editor of TV news and Current Affairs.

This die-hard journalist worked tirelessly over many years behind the scenes in all areas of journalism: reporting, production, and leadership.

She was born in Cape Town and her efforts as a struggle journalist pre-1994 for international television helped expose the heinous narrative of South Africa’s apartheid state abroad.

She was the first journalist who contacted former President Nelson Mandela when he was still imprisoned on Robben Island. Having heard about his incarceration as a young girl she often wondered how all the families of those on the island were coping.

When she began her work as a journalist it was with this in mind that she began telling the stories of those families whose loved ones were in prison. After visiting his home in Soweto, she flew to the Transkei with her then German Television news crew. She wrote to Madiba and sent him pictures of his Qunu home and the gravesite of his first wife. The letter was sent via his then wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela. She attached a few feathers to the letter – feathers from his home village and the chickens on the farm in the Transkei.

When Madiba was released he asked that she accompany him to his first visit to his home village – a promise he had made to her after receiving her letter. She was his guest of honour and the only woman among the group of senior chiefs and other guests.

She had the honour of having Madiba feed her with his “own fork”. “Such was his humility and gratitude. He said my letter in prison lifted his spirits and when he was released he would take me back home. So, two days after his release he met me and a few days later we visited his family home” – she was quoted in many sources the day Madiba died.

Frense is an author and has written two books under the pseudonym Acropolr Belfond, one named Mandela: Le portrait autorisé and the other Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation. She was the Associate Producer of Oscar-nominated Mandela Son of Africa film in 1997 and also the co-author of the book Mandela Authorised Interviews.

She is a founding and Council member of the South African National Editors Forum – and was elected the first Gauteng Regional Convener. She is a Press Councillor on the SA Press Council, a regulatory body for print and online media, and she served on the regional executive of the Media Institute of Southern Africa Executive Council

In her retirement, she spends time travelling abroad with her husband Ronnie Kassrils. She also dedicates her time to the IAJ, SA Press Council, and serves as a board member of the South African Centre for Mission and Exploited Children (SACMEC). She is respected among her peers and has over the years has contributed significantly in key platforms on news, media freedom and journalism.



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