Data journalism shone in the online category of the the Northern regional awards for the 2017 edition of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year, announced this week.
Journalists were recognised in 12 categories for outstanding work, with this year’s theme, “Your Word”, promoting the integrity of journalism across all media. This year’s competition drew over 1 000 entries from all over the country, including 397 entries from the Northern region.
Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “The entries across the 12 categories were excellent this year. Our criteria for judging is to look for entries that could possibly make the cut for the national finals, and the overall prize of R100 000 for the journalist of the year award. We were overwhelmed by the number and the quality of entries from the Northern Region, particularly for the Print News and Online categories, where the judges made several commendations for outstanding work over and above the regional category winners.”
Winners in the Regional categories each took home R5 000, with the exception of the Young Journalist of the Year regional finalist, who received a certificate. All the regional winners go through to the national awards in Johannesburg on 16 November 2017.
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, said: “We are delighted to announce the Northern regional winners in Johannesburg for the 2017 Awards, which honour journalists from around the country by recognising their best work from the past year. We look forward to welcoming them at the national finals. I would also like to pay tribute to the judges, who year after year provide their expertise and knowledge in the adjudication of these prestigious awards, thereby ensuring the integrity of the process. Thanks go to Ryland Fisher, Mary Papayya, Arthur Goldstuck, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Nikiwe Bikitsha, Megan Rusi, Mathatha Tshedu, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa.”
The judges gave the following citations for the winners of the 2017 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Regional Awards in the Northern region:
Among a rich field of Online entries, the judges want to commend both the mobile journalism by Thomas Holder on the Knysna fires for Eyewitness News and the infusion of human interest by the Health-e News team into their online feature, “Matriarchs of Mthatha” for Al Jazeera. The winning Online entry in the Northern region made the most of the data journalism possibilities offered by investigative analytics in the online medium. Excellent use of graphics, maps and hyperlinks helped to make this an exemplary piece of digital journalism that exposed a widespread threat generally overlooked by the media. Our regional winners are: Laura Grant and Alastair Otter freelancing for Passmark and Times Live for “Hidden danger: asbestos in Gauteng’s schools”.
2017 Radio News
Hundreds of Radio News stories are broadcast every day in South Africa. Many are run-of-the-mill reports that simply convey information. But sometimes a radio news reporter succeeds in really producing a news story that grabs the listener’s attention in a unique way. For a report on the dangers of WhatsApp voice notes in life-threatening situations, the regional winner is: Hanri Wondergem and Hendrik Martin of SABC RSG for “WhatsApp-paniek”.
2017 Radio Feature
The Northern Region, which includes Gauteng, always has the largest number of entries and this year the quality of entries for the Radio Feature category was also very high. Ultimately, the regional award went to a brilliant piece of radio work on which the winner had worked for a very long time. For telling the story of an innocent man who spent 17 years in jail, the regional winner is: Paul McNally with John Bartmann, Kutlwano Serame and Freddy Mabitsela of Citizen Justice Network for SAfm for the eight-part series, “Alibi”.
The Sport category was highly contested in this region with a great deal of creativity and expert knowledge evident. But one entrant stood out. For determination and the creative and very innovative approach to expanding the audience base, the worthy regional winners are: Simon Stephens and Khumo Pulumo of eNCA for his Mixed Martial Arts column, The Clinch.
In a country wracked by drought and a province driven by industrialisation, there were several strong contenders in the CSI/Sustainability category who examined the viability and availability of our natural resources. The top entry combined facts, figures and an intensity of investigation that provoked harassment, attempted bribes and death threats. For revealing allegations of how even water supplies in this region and beyond were vulnerable to corruption and capture, our regional winner is: Sipho Masondo of City Press for “Watergate”.
2017 Print News
The Print News entries in this region were so strong this year that the judges want to commend: Suzanne Venter’s series of articles on mentally ill patients; Thomas Nkosi’s expose on the Speaker of the Mpumalanga legislature; Abram Mashego’s articles on Pravin Gordhan being threatened with arrest; Charl Blignaut’s articles on Hlaudi Motsoeneng; Susan Comrie’s articles on the ANC War Room; Sabelo Skiti’s expose on SAA’s money woes; and Genevieve Quintal’s articles about Bathabile Dlamini and Sassa. However, the winners were indisputably: for the “State capture” series, the Tiso Blackstar team of Graeme Hosken, Thanduxolo Jika, Kyle Cowan, Sikonathi Mantshantsha, Qaanitah Hunter, Sabelo Skiti, Hanna Ziady and Genevieve Quintal.
2017 Print Feature
The Print Feature category was heavily contested by entries displaying all the techniques of superb feature writing and reflecting issues gripping the Northern region. The judges want to commend Charl Blignaut of City Press for his artistic analysis of the melee around making the film Kalushi, about the life of Solomon Mahlangu. The winning entry took on the daunting task of opening to readers the doors of Gauteng’s mortuaries in a two-year-long attempt to unravel the escalating crisis of unidentified corpses. The regional winners are: Sarah Wild and Kristen van Schie of the Mail & Guardian for “Gauteng’s unidentified dead”.
The specialist Financial and Economic category attracted a trove of entries in this region and it was good to see several new faces among the frontrunners this year. In this highly contested category, the judges want to commend the challenging expose of Discovery by Rob Rose and Katharine Child of the Financial Mail. The regional winner exposed broken corporate promises to those who, as a result, face becoming the poorest of the poor. The winner is: Lesetja Malope of City Press for “Broken promises from Anglo Gold signal darker days ahead.”
Photographers use their cameras as a tool of expression to tell stories that demand our attention and can change how we see our world. We want to commend a moving photographic essay depicting the strength of will driving a 37kg bodybuilder with sickle-cell anaemia to compete onstage. Just edging past this to win the regional award was a photographic report that took us to the forefront of violent action and student protest yet retained full technical control in the midst of the anger and frustrations. The same photographer captured both these very different emotional journeys. The regional winner is: Alon Skuy of The Times for “Fees must fall”.
2017 Television News
Protests that unfolded across South Africa during 2016 reminded many of scenes during apartheid. This time, though, the protestors were the Born Frees who pursued their dream of free education in what became running battles with police and authorities. The best TV news coverage gave the audience a sense of the immediacy, scope and intensity of what was happening on the ground. The regional winners are: Malungelo Booi, Lirandzu Themba, Mlingane Dude and Thuthuka Zondi of eNCA for “South Africa’s fees crisis”.
2017 Television Feature
Journalism can influence awareness of what is happening in our country and drive public discourse. Months of investigation resulted in a series of reports that were thoroughly researched, poignantly told, well shot and edited – and exposed conditions contributing to the death of one of the subjects. This impactful reporting was subsequently even used during the official investigation. The regional winners are: Kyla Hermannsen, Shamiel Albertyn, Ashley Market, Tshepo Dhlamini and Tshidi Lechuba of eNCA’s Checkpoint for “Life Esidimeni”.
Young Journalist Award
The winner in the region gets a certificate and goes through to the national round to compete for the overall prize. The overall 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. To enter this category, the journalist should have worked in the media for up to, but not more than three years, and be able to demonstrate their potential through their entries. The winner is Sebe Buthelezi from Etv/ENCA.