“It was a satisfied group of assessors who completed two days of intensive judging. We had worked our way through a very large sample of South African newspaper journalism, and it was easily possible to conclude that the top entries were of superb standard.” Professor Guy Berger, after judging of entries took place earlier this year.
Here is what the judges said about the winners and the categories in which they entered.
The top stories of 2010 could all be summarised with single words which would ignite readers’ memories: Cele, Agliotti, Panjo, Malema, Dewani. Choosing the best of the best hard news reports was difficult. While rewarding a report made the judges feel good, having to discard superbly written, carefully crafted and skilled reports – of which there were scores – made them feel awful. Congratulations to everyone who entered. All deserved a prize. It was a pity there could only be one winner, but that winner deserved it all the more because of the great competition.
As regards the winning entries from the Sunday Times, the judges were cognisant of an accuracy issue regarding how businessman Roux Shabangu had scored through a questionable rental deal with the police services. The article concerned reported that the paper had seen a lease agreement co-signed by police chief Bheki Cele. However, Ms Thuli Madonsela, the Public Protector, subsequently found that Cele had signed a memorandum authorising funding for the lease. The judges expressed reservations that, after this had come to light, the Sunday Times did not then explicitly state that there had been an error in its initial report. However, the judges also took cognisance of an editorial in the newspaper that Cele’s signature had been on a “critical foundation document, which spelt out how much the police would pay for the lease – before Shabangu had even bought the building”.
Madonsela’s report also affirmed that it was the Sunday Times’ coverage that had given rise to the complaints, which led to her investigation. She further found that Cele’s conduct had been “improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration.” In the end then, the gist of the Sunday Times’ news story was vindicated. This was an important and dramatic story, which needed to see the light of day. Apart from the mistake around the actual document which Cele signed, the coverage represented dramatic news that was also well told and of high public interest.
Analysis, commentary and enterprise news
In this category it is nowadays hard to find well-researched and well-written articles that make a real difference in our understanding of a complicated and multi-faceted issue. But every now and then a story appears in the newspaper that clearly stands head and shoulders above the rest. With a generous grant from the Open Society Foundation the winning entry in this category is one of those outstanding pieces of journalism on a difficult subject, and exactly what South Africa needs more of. The journalists clearly grasped the issue in all its facets and succeeded in delivering the information in such a way that the average reader would get a better understanding of the enormity and complexity of the subject and the potential disaster in their midst.
With their series in the Mail & Guardian on the subject of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), Reinders and Kordas-Nelson give their readers a thorough insight into their subject matter. The pair set out to explore AMD in depth over a three-month period totally focused on all relevant aspects of the subject. They waded through masses of scientific data, mining history, and legal red tape and interviewed numerous sources and paid many site visits. That is what puts this series apart from all the other entries. Thanks to a generous grant through Open Society Foundation for South Africa’s Media Fellowship Programme they had the resources and time to do an excellent job.
Their coverage opens our eyes not just to the extent of the problem and its future impact on a city like Johannesburg, but also to the devastation already caused in communities bordering on these mining properties. The research portrays an ugly picture of the environmental and human impact caused by this disaster. The team covered all the important angles; and gave us an understanding of the origin and extent of the problem, while at the same time succeeding in giving it a human face.
Sadly, many talented and skilled journalists do not get similar opportunities due to lack of resources and budget constraints in newsrooms. The judges felt, therefore, it was especially important to congratulate the other finalist in this category for doing excellent work on a related subject with only three weeks in which to do the research and with minimal budget. With her focus on the Umgeni River, Salgado did sterling work to highlight the devastating impact of pollution on the environment. Given more resources and time, she certainly has the talent, skill and commitment to walk away with the honours in future.
There were 105 entries here, making up for the biggest single category, and representing an enormous range: from backgrounders on the news, to interviews with artists and writers, to travel pieces, to pieces that dealt with critical issues affecting the South African public. Most of them show that there is a depth of talent among our print journalists. Most of the entries were informative and well written, and making the final choice was extremely taxing for the judges. The narrative form of journalism is one of the most challenging, however. Features cannot simply be longer forms of news stories. They perform a different function and require different reporting skills and writing styles from hard news stories.
In particular, we looked for good choice of subject for a feature story, a strong introduction that was both apposite and grabbed readers, a strong focal point, and a variety of voices in the story. This we found in outstanding form in Dana Snyman’s entry, which went way beyond catchy Malema headlines by doing the legwork to meet the community that raised him, and to present their experiences with dignity, respect and writing flair.
The finalists for this award would have been in line to win in the absence of the winner Snyman’s piece.
Charl Blignaut’s Yum yum, bubblegum is a serious yet lighthearted look at that great South African institution, Chappies. His reporting and research shows a rare depth and his words simply sparkled (or popped) off the page.
Niren Tolsi’s Fear and loathing in Obamaland was a panoramic look at aspects on inner-city America today, including Chicago, the formative political stamping ground of President Barack Obama. His story focused on the hopes and frustrations of poor city dwellers, in the wake of the Democrats’ loss in the USA’s midterm elections. The reporting is finely detailed and the writer’s observations of the environment were telling and empathetic.
Three writers are commended for their entries:
Murray la Vita for Kuns=lewe=kuns for his fascinating and insightful piece about the artist Barend de Wet. His article showed a depth of background research, an affinity for the voice of his subject, and an engaging style.
Beauregard Tromp for 10 today. ‘Miracle’ Rosita is still a ray of hope for a captivating re-visit to Rosita Mabuiango who was born in a tree during the devastating floods that hit Mozambique ten years earlier. Tromp showed an acute ability to explain the impact of major historical events on ordinary human beings in an empathetic and compassionate way. He brought South African readers a story from the rural areas in southern Africa, a rarity for the newspaper-reading public who live in the cities, and he did so with a narrative style that is both seamless and solid.
Shaun Smillie for A story of two boys, a clear and insightful reconstruction of the most important paleontological find in recent times, Australopithecus sediba. Reporting this story involved establishing a relationship of trust with Professor Lee Berger to gain access to the site before the story was made public, and it took the form of a careful narrative demonstrating the scientific significance of the discovery.
The number of entries increased to 52 and so did the number of shortlisted entries. The judges were impressed by the high number of potential shortlisted entries. There was an overall high standard of investigations with a good spread between consumer probes, local government inquiries, and political investigations. The judges noted a number of well-researched articles reflecting greater depth in reporting. However, the research sometimes needs to be balanced with a link to investigating direct impact on citizens.
The judges also commended the number of stories that reflected sustained follow-up – some of which resulted resulting in even more scoops. The finallists were powerful stories with real impact, and ranged from an investigation into human trafficking, a consumer investigation into chickens being repacked for sale, and the ANC’s investment arm’s direct interests in owning mines. The articles about Gaston Savoi’s allegedly fraudulent dealings with the public health sector in two provinces showed what could be done even when a story has become tied up in legal process. The judges’ concerns about the Bheki Cele story have been noted under the hard news category.
The winning entry demonstrated that even outside of an investigative team, an individual journalist can win honours by diligent persistence and high ethics.
The category of Creative Journalism failed to ignite much excitement among the judges. But in this generally disappointing offering, Willem Kempen and Louis Kruger provided some relief with their creative contribution. This was a hilarious piece, an adaptation of a Facebook Page. The piece, titled As Mev Ples op FB was, features historical characters like Dingane, Piet Retief and Dimitri Tsafendas, among others, and answers the question: What would they have written if they were on Facebook? We had asked for innovation and creativity – and Kempen and Kruger provided it. This was a fine example of how humour can be used in creative writing.
But in this generally disappointing offering, Willem Kempen scored as a finalist for a contribution from his column Lood Se Praatjies, headlined Sewe Dae By Die Kunenes, a witty speculation describing – inter alia – how three imminent “human plates” took off to shower ahead of the seafood being served.
Nikiwe Bikitsha’s columns High Heels, and particularly the one headlined Hanging Up My Wig, on the debate about whether black women should proudly sport their afro hair or wear wigs if they so desire, also featured as a finalist. This is a thought-provoking but light piece on a subject that stirs up much debate among black women in particular. While the piece leant more towards feminist interest, there is no doubt that black men join this debate with gusto whenever it comes up. It is the manner of her writing that made Bikitsha stand out – her creative turn of phrase, the flourish of her story at just the right moment. The writer also took a dig at the BEE crowd in a subtle manner in her piece about the high collar shirt that was so fashionable among the black elite, which she calls the “strangulator” for the tight manner it fits around a bulging neck. This is typical of her approach, in which she does not spare anybody.
Commendations went to Katy Chance and Phumla Matjila for their columns Chance Comments and The 411 – Word on the Street respectively.
We found the quality of entries on the whole excellent with a good variety of style. The country was also well represented geographically, with all sectors represented. The major themes of the year and the broad spectrum of topics came through: 2010, the Zuma Presidency, media restrictions and corruption were all covered. The winner’s entries were clean, clear in their imagery, and original in their thought. They were funny and topical but above all, introduced new ways of rendering a subject that many others had also treated. In the Zuma babies, for example, Mgobhozi’s take was on the four million test tube babies “fathered” by the doctor who discovered the procedure. Zuma’s “refrain” on the matter is original, while other entrants’ submissions on the general topic of the President’s offspring were pedestrian in comparison. Mgobhozi’s other entry on Cosatu saying it will bring economy to standstill is equally original, while the campaign for “one man one wife” by the ANCYL is also handled in a way that is classic for Zuma. Overall, we felt that Mgobhozi had done enough to warrant a win.
As usual Zapiro’s entries were of high quality and originality. However we felt that as opposed to other years, none of the entries were of such a quality as to make them superior to the other entries. In Zapiro standards, they were good but then just. None stood out as memorable in the way other cartoons of his have been in previous years. The Zuma babies were treated as a baby shower which did not surpass the test tube babies cartoon done by the winner. The media restrictions lady booking a space near Lady Justice plays on Zapiro’s previous more notable cartoon of the rape of justice. Zuma’s promiscuity is treated in a funny way at the Union Buildings, with one of the domes turned into a penis. It is all high quality stuff, but does not eclipse the winner.
Mangena is a rising star who deserves to be a finalist and a winner under other circumstances. Zuma sowing children like seeds in the veld was a good look at the issue of Zuma’s baby stories. However, the classic for the judges was the open toilets in the Western Cape which was really hilarious and effective.
In 2010, graphics were separated from cartoons to highlight their character as a distinctive and increasingly important component of journalism. With many newspapers investing in training programs to improve their offering of information graphics in their print and online editions, this category should see more interesting entries in the future. The 36 entries showed a wide array of graphical journalism from artistic interpretive illustrations through to detailed information graphics.
Unfortunately many still fell in the illustrative category rather than adding additional information and value to the reader that was not already covered in the text.
The winning portfolio of Rudi Louw showed variety in presentation, but all added value to the text, was easily understood and proved attractive to the reader. His review of 2010 gave the reader an overview of an event-filled year in an attractive and well thought-through format that clearly displayed the advantage of graphical journalism in distilling a lot of data into easy-to-understand bites of information.
Unfortunately there were not a lot of entries to choose from, but the judges had fun reading through some of the most entertaining stories coming out of the fairly young tabloid stable. Looking at the offering, it is no surprise that these publications are so popular amongst the general public.
Generally consisting of very small editorial teams, journalists working at these publications have to work under lots of pressure and do it with flair. In the case of the winner who works for a weekly publication, she presumably had more time for research and digging up the proverbial dirt than her counterparts on daily tabloids.
Yolanda Barnard pulled it off with her expose on Charlize Theron, the Hollywood glamour girl, and her shady background. Liefdeskind published in Sondag Son contained all the elements of a good tabloid story – extramarital affairs, secret heated sex in a caravan, the contrast between the Hollywood glamour and the depressing forgotten life of an alleged biological father, and the ever-present question hanging in the air about the identity of the real father. Barnard writes with typical tabloid flair and pushes all the popular Afrikaans language buttons to draw her readers into this on-going family intrigue.
The digital age has created a different dynamic for photography and photographers covering events in the local and world media. Citizen journalism and social networking is on the increase and it is no longer only professional photographers who are bringing photographs to the world. The Chilean miner Edison Pena recently received a special mention for his photographs entered into the professional competition World Press Photo 2011.
In the light of this, the judges were especially looking for photographs that communicated beyond what the viewer could see, such as complex layers of meanings. These were pictures which not only recorded a specific event , but which allowed for more thought and discussion behind the photograph.
The judging process was not an easy one as there were many strong photographic stories and single images. Unfortunately there can only be one winner. News photography has many constraints, is often incredibly difficult and on many occasions also involves dangerous situations where photographers put themselves at risk in order to get their photographs. The winning photograph by Judy de Vega not only captures the news event itself and reflects the incredible closeness and courage of the photographer, but also shows that in situations that might feel life-threatening, we all feel the same fear and vulnerability and are stripped of prejudice around age, race and religion. The same can be said for finalist Felix Dlangamandla’s photograph of the father and children walking across a road in the midst of a service delivery strike. It is a quieter moment, but what the photographer chose to capture, creates the intensity – once again adding an extra dimension to a breaking news story.
Overall, features was a strong category with great photography. However the judges made their selection by looking beyond the surface of the photograph.
The winning picture by Cornel van Heerden of the bedroom of murdered rightwinger Eugene Terre’blanche was selected as even though there are no people in this photograph, it is incredibly descriptive in its detail – thereby leaving space for the viewer’s imagination….the stain on the bed…the walking stick…the broken material of the chair.
Herman Verwey’s depiction of policemen Piet Byleveld has strong emotive qualities and draws the viewer into his character. The judges regarded Alon Skuy’s nudist colony photograph of the swimming pool as intriguing, offering the viewer some lighter relief. Phil Magakoe’s photograph is a powerful photograph in relation to crime and the dynamics beyond.
In this category, we were not only looking for the significant action moment or the traditionally photographed sports events, we were also looking for the most powerful or somewhat quieter moments. The winning photograph by Alon Skuy is an incredible image capturing a moment that had such significance to the World Cup 2010. Finalist Deaan Vivier’s photo captures the deep emotion felt at the time, with the disappointment, defeat, and conflicting statement in the background and then showing in the distance groups of disappointed fans leaving the stadium. It conveys a significant and thought-provoking moment. Herman Verwey’s photograph of the canoeist is a softer image, but the photographer incorporated the element of man in his environment which adds an extra touch. Football was on all our minds in 2010 and the picture by Antoine de Ras was purely a wonderful photograph.
Presentation (layout and design)
The layout artist takes the collective hard work of the reporters, photographer and sub-editors and puts it together in a way which should elevate the work to new levels. 2010 promised bold presentations in a year of dramatic news but at 22, the number of entries was lower than expected. Although the general quality of presentation entries was good, few took advantage of all the layout and design elements – particularly the photographs – at at their disposal to present compelling pages. Where these elements were used to their advantage, the presentations stood out. The judges would like to encourage greater submission of presentation entries in recognition of the critical role that layout artists play in print media.
The winning portfolio entry by Andries Gouws combined compelling headlines with the use of strong pictures which were well-chosen and defining moments of the story, to develop a narrative in support of the text.
There were 26 entries here but some ranged from single entry and single focus items like finance, without showing diversity that would reflect the immense magnitude of what 2010 as a year represented. The winner and the finalist, however, covered the widest range of subjects in the context of the World Cup.
Sameer Naik won for dealing with the soccer spectacle in the way that covered the breadth of “Twenty-Ten”. He not only went out and spoke to people, but also did analysis and backgrounders on different areas of the Cup. His stories reflect the different emotions of that entire period from the 2006 memorables of Zadine’s head-butt and the 2009 construction workers and stadiums. He further checked how African the Cup was, the effect of Bafana’s early exit on shirt street vendors, the exhorbitantly-priced hotels threatening SA’s image as a destination, the phenomenon that was Soccer City, the new Scooter dance, training facilities and the excitement of the schools that were lucky enough to host Italy and other teams. It is a body of work that truly speaks of the spectacle that 2010 was, and accordingly deserves to win.
There was a broad spectrum of writing on the 2010 World Cup in Niren Tolsi’s work, but his approach essentially one-dimensional. His command of the language is excellent and writing brilliant, but mainly opinion and commentary with little fresh reporting in evidence. While he covers a variety of subjects and even travelled to the Netherlands to do a comparison, he was unable to find excitement for his stories. It is difficult to see any good as he tries hard to find fault with virtually every area he treats. This was evident in the story about shattered dreams with the Mbombela community being fleeced by the 2010 stadium builders; Lebo M being paid millions for doing nothing; the Dutch preparing their 2018 bid but not wanting to come here because of crime; the euphoria of Bloem as an insanity that keeps us going; and Skinstad’s dancing in a pub after the Bafana victory. With the Cup having represented a special moment in history, the inability to reflect – within the wider spread of articles – some of the goodwill and excitement without a “but”, relegated Tolsi’s contribution to second place.