The Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards 2013 has returned to the centre stage to great excitement, after a year’s break.
The news that ‘the Vodacoms’ were back was warmly welcomed by the media, and this was reflected in the entries and the celebratory spirit experienced at the regional finals.
Mary Papayya, co-convenor of the judging panel stressed that the excellence found in many of the entries once again underscored the value and vital need for the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards.
Maya Makanjee, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at Vodacom said, “The judges tell us that the judging process was a rigorous and demanding one, along with some robust debate. I would like to thank them for the time they have committed and the sometimes tough calls they had to make. What the entries also underscored is that while there were some regions where entries were low, the ones we received were excellent. We’d really like to encourage as many journalists as possible to enter next year, and for editors to encourage them to do so. This is their chance to shine.”
“The Journalist of the Year Award goes this year to an impressive body of work. For their coverage of the Dina Pule story, which spoke truth to power at several levels, the award goes to the Sunday Times team of Rob Rose, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter. This team’s probe into the conduct of the then Minister of Communications was unrelenting and truly showed the Fourth Estate doing its job without fear or favour,” said Papayya.
The overall winners of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award for 2013 will share R100 000 from Vodacom.
Vodacom also seeks to identify a journalist who has contributed to the field of journalism in an exemplary manner with the Lifetime Achiever Award. “This year several names were put forward for consideration, but the judging panel had to face the conundrum of getting one of the judges out of the room to make the decision,” said Papayya.
“We had to ask ourselves why it was that one name was not on the list, that of co-convenor of the panel Joseph Nong Joe Thloloe. After rigorous discussion – and ensuring that our decision could be kept from Joe – the decision was unanimous to award it to him.
“Joe, who has been part of the world of journalism for more than 50 years, started as a young activist who was detained for the first time at the age of 17. He suffered banning orders from the state, detentions and torture at the hands of the police because he was prepared to live for his belief that journalists should not only report on the oppression and violence of apartheid, but actively oppose it too,” said Papayya.
“We can’t think of anyone who deserves this accolade more than Joe, and we thank him for his life-long work in journalism,” said Makanjee.
The Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards also seeks to identify a young journalist, nominated by their editor for outstanding work, and showing great promise. This year Viasen Soobramoney of The Post is the recipient of the Editor’s Choice Award. He was nominated by his editor Aakash Bramdeo for his work on a complex story in which The Post ran a sustained campaign against drug dealers.
Soobramoney followed up over 2 000 tips, and worked both undercover and with the SAPS in a courageous manner. The judges were convinced that Soobramoney showed the characteristics of a great journalist-in-the-making and that he would be an excellent ambassador for South Africa during the fully paid-for study break he will take.
This year, 832 entries were received in the 12 categories: CSI/Sustainability, Editor’s Choice, Financial/Economic, Online, Photography, Print Feature, Print News, Radio Feature, Radio News, Sport, Television Feature, and Television News.
The Print News category received the most entries nationally with 161 submissions.
“The judging panel this year had to make hard choices and we thank Elna Rossouw, Mary Papayya, Collin Nxumalo, Arthur Goldstuck, Johann de Wet, Joe Thloloe, Ryland Fisher and Patricia McCracken, who made their time and expertise available to us,” said Makanjee. Mary Papayya and Joe Thloloe served as co-convenors for this year’s awards.
The national winners in the various categories are as follows, and each winner takes home R10 000.
The winners of the 2013 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards nationally are:
2013 CSI/Sustainability winner
Sipho Kings of the Mail & Guardian for his critical look at how a biofuel project was not worth the costs in terms of agriculture and issues affecting people. Kings’ exposition showed that CSI/Sustainability reporting requires journalists to dig deep, to move away from desks and press releases and to apply critical thinking and investigation into stories. Kings, who was the regional winner in the category for the Northern Region, wins for his exposition of a biofuel plant entitled Biofuel Plant Backfires on Community.
2013 Financial/Economic winner
Jacques Pauw takes the national prize in this category, after winning the award in the Northern Region, for his coverage of alleged tender irregularities surrounding the construction of stadiums for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. His coverage in Rapport/City Press Nes van Bedrog, shows how journalism can act as a watchdog when the journalist is prepared to look beyond the hype and excitement of an event such as the World Cup and take a long, hard look at the facts.
2013 Online winner
Greg Marinovich of the Daily Maverick takes this award. His coverage of the Marikana Massacre, The Murder Fields of Marikana, stood out for the manner in which he combined traditional media values of meticulous professionalism while working within the flexible publication advantages of the relatively new field of online journalism. His coverage broke not only new angles on the story, but also contributed to the establishment of the Marikana Commission. Marinovich took the regional award for the Northern Region with a painstaking photographic and analytical investigation which stood head and shoulders above other submissions.
2013 Photography winner
Brenton Geach of Independent Newspapers Cape takes the photographic award. His coverage in a body of work on the farmworkers’ strike, service delivery protests and the sheer horror of the revival of necklace murders in the Western Cape told a grim story, combined with a lyrical quality, combining split-second artistry with high-level techniques capturing the most telling moments of news action. Geach was the recipient of the regional awards in the Western Region. His work proved that having the latest technology doesn’t make a great photograph; it requires the skills of a photo-journalist.
2013 Print Feature winner
Msindisi Fengu of the Daily Dispatch won in this category in the Eastern Region for his story Hostels of Shame. In tracking and researching this story, which revealed an extensive pattern of institutionalised abuse, Fengu showed how hearing a chance remark by a government official led to a two-month journey to tell the story of the disintegration of school hostels. He wins the award for exposing a shameful story, and for his tenacity in following through on a single tip-off. His story proves that journalism is best done away from a desk.
2013 Print News winner
Rob Rose, Mzilikazi wa Afrika, and Stephan Hofstatter took the Northern regional award for their coverage of the Dina Pule story for the Sunday Times. The team, which takes the National Award in this category, also won the overall Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award, followed this story while remaining undeterred by attempts to thwart their efforts to uncover the truth. This was a story that exposed conduct unbecoming of a government official and contributed to her removal from office.
2013 Radio Feature winner
Tashreeq Truebody of Radio 786 takes the national award in this category for his coverage of the farm workers’ strike in the Western Cape. This was a hotly contested category across all regions and Truebody won the award in the Western Region. Tashreeq ticked the boxes in terms of coverage that was focused, had impact, and appeal to listeners beyond the region. His coverage displayed all the criteria for a great radio feature: high-quality scripting, use of sound, in-depth research and remarkable presentation.
2013 Radio News winner
Gia Nicolaides of Talk Radio 702 impressed the judges with her coverage of the Marikana Massacre. Gia took the regional award for the Northern Region. Nicolaides’ coverage showed great courage and determination. She delivered content that was rivetting, balanced, and newsworthy. The story, often a dangerous one to cover, saw the reporter making Marikana her second home as she delivered news to the nation of the highest quality and integrity.
2013 Sport winner
Sameer Naik of the Saturday Star took the national award in this category for excellent research, quality of scripting and presentation, as well as showing originality and creativity in the telling of the story of Team South Africa’s golden road to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. Naik won the Regional Sport Award for the Northern Region. His passion for his topic and the way in which he sought to tell the whole story over all sporting codes made for compelling coverage.
2013 Television Feature winners
Mpho Lakaje, Dzivhuluwani Ramabulana, and Dirk Fourie of e-TV share the national prize in this category for their feature Against All Odds. This crime feature chronicles the story of the Ncholos family whose son and brother was killed in a hijacking. The coverage goes beyond the obvious and tells the story from every possible angle. We are used to crime stories, but this one chronicled the family’s story and sensitively covers their act of forgiveness and generosity to the convicted killer. The Ncholos family has undertaken to pay for the killer to study in jail and for his medical expenses. By showing the final twist in the story, through showing the victim’s family’s response this team took what could just have been another crime story, and followed it through to the very end.
2013 Television News winner
Janine Lee of SABC news takes the national award in this category for her coverage of the killing of Reeva Steenkamp. She receives the award for her powerful, innovative profiling and general news coverage around a tragic breaking story. Lee managed to keep the public informed while balancing her coverage against sketchy facts. Being able to package information on her own, without the benefit of a producer – she won the Regional Award for the Eastern Region – and dealing with people who were close to Steenkamp and closing ranks, she showed sensitivity and commitment to doing the story justice without resorting to sensationalism.
Makanjee said, “We have been very impressed with the scope and standard of entries. This has been a year packed full of big stories, and journalists from around South Africa have shown that they are doing excellent work. We hope next year that even more journalists will enter the awards. Communication is Vodacom’s core business, and our support for these awards rewards excellence, courage, and determination of the journalists across a wide range of media platforms.”