Vodacom has cancelled this year’s Journalist of the Year awards. The awards, that honoured journalists with big money prizes (R125 000 for the main winner), took place over the period of a decade.
Suraya Hamdulay, executive head of corporate citizenship for Vodacom, told TheMediaOnline that the “world of journalism has been turned upside down in this new social hyper-connected era, our Journalist of the Year Awards hasn’t moved with the times”.
Humdulay said the awards had not been killed off forever, but that the company was rethinking the way in which they’re presented. “We’ve decided that the right thing to do is to take a break to take stock, re-energise, and regroup,” she said.
Sandra Gordon, publisher of TheMediaOnline, The Media magazine and founder of the Women in Media awards, said she believed there were too many journalism awards events in South Africa. “Less is more and awards that are respected and have a core purpose other than getting up and personal with the media, will and do stand the test of time,” she said.
Gordon said The Media magazine had asked retired newspaper man, Peter Sullivan, three years ago to conduct desk research on the number of journalism awards held in South Africa. “His findings astonished our readers; there were over 70. He questioned what made some awards stand out from the rest; and the key success factors to achieving sponsor objectives and sustaining credibility amongst potential award winners. As clear cut as this may seem, there is a wide gap between what sponsors really want and what journalism really needs,” Gordon said.
“To be successful journalism awards need to be consistent, transparent, independent and meaningful. It is no coincidence the favoured are those where sponsors are far removed from the process, judges of impeccable standing are involved and true excellence celebrated. Throwing flashy events and cash at winners is crass and unnecessary. So is a judge walking away with an award.”
Vodacom says it believes “it is important to recognise the achievements of these reporters, who strive tirelessly across a multitude of disciplines to ensure that our society remains informed and progressive. By acknowledging the critical role the media plays in our fledgling democracy, Vodacom, through the Journalist of the Year Awards, hopes to reward those reporters who have genuinely made a difference”.
While this year’s awards are cancelled, Humdulay said the organisers won’t be “sitting back” during the time off.
“We’ll be working hard to come back with a fresh perspective and a more relevant approach to celebrating excellence in journalism. In the meantime, we’ll take great pleasure reading, listening and watching your stories unfold during the year,” she said.
Humdulay couldn’t say when the awards would be revived.
Richard Boorman, head of corporate affairs at Vodacom, told Business Day Vodacom would like to incorporate new forms of media, such as social media and journalists who used such channels most effectively.