The late former President Nelson Mandela has been named as the National Press Club’s Newsmaker of the Year for 2013.
There was an unprecedented outpouring of emotion when Madiba passed away on 5 December at the age of 95. President Jacob Zuma declared 10 days of mourning.
Press Club chairperson Jos Charle said on Wednesday night that both in terms of impact and media coverage, Nelson Mandela dominated the news in 2013.
The Newsmaker of the Year Award is made on the grounds of impact, news value and media attention in electronic, print, online and social media.
“Nelson Mandela’s death riveted the attention of the world for 10 days. It consumed South Africans – and much of the world – as the country pulled out all stops to bury the father of the South African nation with military precision and ancient Xhosa customs.
“The world’s news media – television, radio and print media – extensively reported on Nelson Mandela’s life and his role in South Africa’s liberation struggle for weeks following his death,” said Charle.
He said one hour after the announcement of his death, two million tweets were generated, with over six million tweets recorded on 5 December.
The hash tags #RIPNelsonMandela, #Madiba and #RIPMandela were the top three topics on Facebook and Twitter that morning. At one stage, there were 95 000 tweets per minute and more than 13 million over a month.
“The Nelson Mandela Facebook page gathered over 2.2 million likes and several posts, including tributes from the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“Within minutes of the announcement, broadcast internationally, crowds of all hues began flocking to the former president’s home where they prayed, sang and laid flowers in front of the world’s media,” said Charle.
Ninety-one heads of state attended Madiba’s funeral, with 4 500 journalists from all over the world covering the funeral. South African broadcast houses ran programmes about Madiba for more than 10 days.
“Add to this the fact that for 86 days last year, the world’s media camped outside the Medi-Clinic Heart hospital in Pretoria where Mandela had been admitted for a recurring lung infection, and it becomes clear that he generated huge media interest – both nationally and internationally,” said Charle.
On 11 February – the date on which he was released from Victor Verster Prison – Mandela will become the first non-Briton to be honoured with a memorial service at Westminster Abbey, the iconic venue that has been the coronation church for every British monarch since 1066 and the burial place of 17 royals.
In 2012, the award went to the South African rhino.
Other previous recipients include President Jacob Zuma, former Presidents FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki, Charlize Theron, Zachie Achmat and the Treatment Action Campaign, the late Hansie Cronjé and various other sporting personalities, DA Leader Helen Zille, ESKOM and Cope, and FIFA’s Sepp Blatter and Danny Jordaan also received the award in recent years.