1 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 first regional event for Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Limpopo took place this evening in Bloemfontein.
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, with 114 entries from the Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Limpopo region. 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. If it were not for investigative journalists, South Africans would never have known about the Information Scandal of the apartheid era, the existence of the Vlakplaas killer unit within the police, the Gupta state capture, Steinhoff or the KPMG auditing fiasco. The judges commended Junior Bonase of Dumelang News for his excellent entry on the production and selling of expired goods by replacing labels. The government’s policy of providing basic services and amenities for citizens opens the space for unscrupulous officials and service providers to abuse resources meant for the poor. Our winner investigated a R74-million housing project in Eiffel Village in the Joe Morolong Municipality of the Northern Cape, where the contractor put up foundations and incomplete structures, and then disappeared in 2015. This investigation saw an agitated and frustrated community, and prompted government officials - including the provincial department - to try to salvage the project. The winner is Puleng Modupe from SABC News.
In the opinion category:
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 to 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 story that stood out was the adventure of real-life teenage heroes Evert du Preez and Mokoni Chaka who risked their lives to save babies from a burning train. The two friends are making history with talk of a possible film about their heroic actions. The winner is Charles Smith from Media24, Volksblad.
In the photography category:
Whether it is portraying the bond between two boys from opposing backgrounds or capturing the beautiful spirit of horses, this lens man shows his range of photographic skills superbly. The spirit of ubuntu was shown to the world when two young boys risked their lives to save others. A photographer took the initiative to follow-up and show the true friendship of two heroic boys after a news story had broken and died down. The photographer returned to depict the daily lives of two 12-year-old heroes who helped save the lives of victims in a horrific train crash in Kroonstad. The boys have a bond of friendship that crosses their different backgrounds and represents what South Africans can achieve together through friendship. The winner is Mlungisi Louw from Volksblad.
In the sport category:
Sport can unify and inspire the nation – but it can also bring division, disaster, and dissent. The many moods of our people are reflected in sports journalism as it celebrates the glory and elegance of great sporting achievements and as it analyses, questions, or even mourns great sporting heroes. The judges looked for eloquent, lucid, in-depth sports journalism, beyond reporting on results and numbers. The contestants in this category entered work of a very high standard. Entrants showed exceptional commitment and dedication to getting to the heart of the story. For his entries on the sport, Boccia (for disabled people), and his beautifully written story about elderly people still competing in sport, the winner is Andre Damons from Media24, Netwerk24.
In the economic/financial category:
As our nation struggles to deal with the spectre of corruption and regular buffeting from national, regional and international financial pressures, financial and economic journalists can help ensure that both businesses and citizens are well informed, enabling them to make better choices to enhance their present and their future. In this category, the judges looked for in-depth features and investigations which combined excellent story telling with illuminating insights. Entries showed commitment to proper research and dedication to getting to the heart of the story. One entry in particular caught the eye of the judges. For his outstanding story on the impact of a mine closure in Namaqualand, conveying both the emotional and economic consequences, the winner is Ulrich Hendriks and Jabu Oa Afrika from SABC.
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 fight against corruption depends to a large extent on women and men who work in various 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. This is the case for our winner in this region, 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, got into mortal danger. Our winner chronicles two cases showing how a police investigation that started with a flurry had all but fizzled out, raising the question whether this lack of enthusiasm by the police was linked to the state capture that the project in question is a part of. The Winner is Tabelo Timse from Amabhungane.
In the CSI category:
The critical issues of living and working sustainably are 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 reports 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 winners offered an insightful analysis of one of the solutions to land issues in our country. The winners are Mlungisi Louw and Charles Smith from Volksblad.
In the live reporting/breaking news category:
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. Two entries caught the judges’ attention. The news of the derailed Shosholoza Meyl between Henneman and Kroonstad showing reporter Josca Human of OFM rushing to the scene, arriving almost simultaneously with the emergency services, and the authorities. A scene of utter devastation greeted her: Some were fleeing the flames, others were still trapped inside. In her live reports she illustrated the powerful effect of breaking news on radio. The second story was that of a journalist on holiday in the Western Cape when protests in George erupted. With no cameraperson to assist, Reginald Witbooi from the SABC took to the streets, borrowed a cell phone and reported live from a chaotic scene. He showed tenacity and ingenuity. The co-winners in this category are Josca Human from OFM, and Reginald Witbooi from SABC Morning Live - who has also credited Sphiwe Hobasi.
In the data journalism category:
In the multi-platform category:
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 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 for this region is Olebogeng Motse from Central Media Group.