As the judges ploughed through the 104 entries in the Hard News category, some “oohs” and “ahs” were heard, tears pricked some eyeballs and there was some laughter too.
A great story told often is how a cadet reporter wrote of a train smash: “God sat on a hillside and wept …” which prompted his news editor to respond, “Forget smash, interview God.” Well there were a few entries of similar ilk, one starting “A dove sat on the windowsill watching proceedings closely …” It didn’t win.
As always, there was great reporting. We are lucky we live in a country with so much hard news, and so many brilliant reporters with the right words to convey the moment. As judges we were struck by the intensity of feelings about politicians squandering tax on luxury homes, on security, on a village, on diverting roads, on expensive cars – while subjecting their subjects to ever greater tax burdens. These stories brought different tears to our eyes.
Few reports were ‘hard news’, almost as if entrants did not understand the definition. Of course it is our fault: times have changed, newspapers no longer report hard news, that is done by television, Twitter, Facebook. This category must be changed to ‘News’ as TV has even appropriated ‘Breaking News’.
Among the finalists was a dreadful report of four lost children walking until they died of hunger and dehydration. Another tearful story was of a South African woman executed in China, her visitors banned from telling her she was going to die the next day. And of course there were stories about Winnie, Selebi, Malema, Terre’Blanche, and yet another person killed by a blue light convoy.
The winning story, written in a succession of front-page leads, told the sorry story of the tolls, from government arrogance, to the final backing down. The reports had consequences; it was a real hard news story affecting everyone, well told. Congratulations to Angelique Serrao of The Star.
Analysis, Commentary & Background
Many of the submissions were distinguished by their ability to present complex or unfamiliar issues in such a way that it appeals to the reader and makes fairly dense information accessible and even pleasurable reading.
The winning entrant, Mia Malan, dealt with the traditional practice of ukutwala, in which young girls are forced into marriage. She transformed what could have been an uninviting issue-based story into an engaging human interest story by sensitively foregrounding the experience of a teenager who was abducted.
Finalist John Yeld previewed the climate change conference in Durban last November in a five-part series, while finalist Sam Sole explored the political implications of Radovan Krejcir’s presence in South Africa. Like the winning entry, their articles were based on meticulous research and offered thought-provoking insights outlined in carefully structured writing.
In general, the entrants displayed a commendable willingness to tackle complicated topics and present the results in uncluttered writing – not only immeasurably enriching journalism, but also South Africa as a whole.
This category awards journalists who identify important, original stories that would perhaps otherwise remain under the radar were it not for the reporter’s enterprise. These are newsroom-generated stories that haven’t simply fallen into the lap of the news editor or the journalist, and are well-researched articles of a high journalistic standard that set the agenda. Many of the articles entered in this category were examples of journalistic enterprise and originality, but the quality of writing needs much improvement.
Winner: Death over the Counter, Weekend Post, Yolande Stander
The journalist stumbled upon a problem, in this instance the sale, by some pharmacies in the Eastern Cape, of potentially dangerous scheduled medication to minors without an accompanying prescription. She conducted a thorough investigation and follow-up that included the voice of several experts who provided context for the story. As a result of her work, the South African Pharmacy Council subsequently announced that it would launch an investigation that could potentially lead to pharmacies loosing their licenses.
In a category of 125 entries, which included some of the country’s finest narrative journalism and feature writing, reaching consensus on a winner was expectedly difficult.
The entries included profiles, travel pieces, historical re-memory, health, wealth, or the lack thereof, curative rape, homophobia, xenophobia, social class. The finalists who triumphed did so after doing battle with worthy contenders that matched them in narrative skill, descriptive power, and the capacity to keep a reader transfixed to the final full stop. But in the end, the 6 finalists triumphed because they simply held onto the judge’s collective imagination more tenaciously.
Hanlie Retief’s ‘My man, die Sondag verkragter’ marked a real departure for reportage on sexual violence and murder. Retief offers a very rare incite into the Sunday Rapist through the eyes of his wife. Retief takes an unfolding news story and approaches it from a unique angle, she allows the rapist’s spouse to speak, to sketch the normal backdrop to his heinous double life. She fills in big gaps in the public imagining of a man whose crimes captured a country. She does so without sensationalism or sentimentality. She hones her story with narrative skill and a command of her language.
At a time when newsrooms are confronted by all sorts of economic and political challenges and threats investigating journalists continue to produce journalism of the highest standards and can hold their own anywhere in the world.
This year a total of 44 entries were received – of which by far the majority were of a high standard and deserving of some merit. The judges had a tough time deciding which of the entries were to go through as finalists and which ones were to be, sadly, left out.
It was particularly rewarding to note the high quality of work being done in the main urban centre of Johannesburg but the judges were equally impressed with entries from Port Elizabeth and East London.
It is an indictment of our society that so many of the entries dealt with corruption at all levels in the political and governmental spheres. A recurring theme was poor delivery of services at the cost of great human suffering amongst ordinary citizens.
The winning entry, ‘Shoot to kill: Inside a South African police death squad’ is a fine example of investigative journalism at its best. The exposé of the alleged murderous activities of an elite unit of the SAPS in KwaZulu-Natal is now the subject of a major court case involving a large number of policemen. Apart from well-researched details of the unit’s activities – under difficult circumstances – the journalists obtained damning and macabre pictorial evidence of the alleged perpetrators celebrating after a kill. The story has had repercussions both inside and outside court, which reverberated at high levels of authority in the ranks of the police and government.
Columnists dominated the creative journalism section, which had 63 entries, many of high calibre. Judges wanted the writing to be clear, engaging, and persuasive with readability and relevance to readers taken into consideration.
Reading good columns is a delight, and indeed your judges found this a delight-filled task. We chuckled through much of the writing, enjoying for instance one reporter’s self-confessed transformation to becoming a Capetonian, partly because she no longer thinks squirrels are cute.
Of all the entries, only five made it into the final cut with two commendations – one for the Capetonian – and two finalists, both excellent. The slight difference between the two was the accessibility, with one of them perhaps being a little too cerebral for all readers yet brilliant for those who do get it. We voted for accessibility; another panel may have thought differently, but we certainly did discuss it at length.
This year’s winner is Tanya Pampalone, writing in the Mail & Guardian about her confession too, this time to being a Wal-Mart shopper. Had to go in disguise as she was abandoning her principles. Shame. But great writing, well done.
The standard of editorial cartooning in this country improves every year. Most newspapers can count on having at least one sophisticated editorial cartoon in each edition. The major improvement has been to the quality of the draughtsmanship. The more difficult trick, making a sharp point while avoiding the obvious, is more elusive.
For that reason, we have awarded first prize, yet again, to Jonathan Shapiro, for his still-unmatched ability to make barbed comment seem effortless. The winning cartoon manages to incorporate Mac Maharaj’s name into the MacDonald’s sign, make a pun on fries and lies, and get across Mac’s blithe insouciance about the whole affair.
Themba Siwela manages to put the corruption scandals in place: what they actually mean to the man at the bottom of the pile. Although the draughtsmanship is basic, there is strength in the heavy, uncluttered line.
Cuan Miles provided an interesting portfolio of well-executed drawings, of which we have chosen one, which plays on the Durban surfer image, with a polar bear surfing in for the COP summit.
Media24’s graphic design department overshadows this category with world-class work. The various Media24 newspapers provide generous space to infographics, often entire pages. The three winners all submitted examples of sophisticated and hugely ambitious work, making for a difficult choice. In the end the verdict went to one of Jaco Grobbelaar’s less complex graphics, which offered an instant understanding of where in the world South Africa sells its arms. Grobbelaar also submitted an astonishing wall poster guide to the Rugby World Cup containing hundreds of items, ranging from the fauna of New Zealand to the stadiums to the top players.
Runner-up Rudi Louw provided a beautiful full-page graphic around the U2 tour, which showed a mastery not only of graphics, but also of spacing and typography.
Morne Schaap’s portfolio provided an information-packed graphic about aspirin, which managed to avoid feeling crowded. He also submitted an intriguing review of The Captain America movie, done as a deadpan imitation of a Marvel comic.
John McCann has been commended for his work in a quite different medium, editorial illustration. His stark work, in a bold and simple woodcut style with touches of flat colour, make powerful accompaniments to the Mail & Guardian’s text-heavy comment pages.
The Times, Speaking in Tongues, Halden Krog.
The most eccentric entry in the graphics section was an hilarious spread of six photographs showing Julius Malema speaking at Orlando Stadium, accompanied by the SABC sign-language interpreter. The presentation was completely deadpan, accompanied only by a caption noting that the stadium was almost empty. The judges debated for some time whether a spread of photographs were a legitimate entry in the graphics section (answer: no), but felt that the entry was so eye-catching that it deserved its own special mention.
There were entries for this category by broadsheet titles, which the judges eliminated, because the criteria clearly talk of tabloid journalism. It might be useful to refine the definition of the category in a way that can encourage better quality tabloid journalism.
There seems to be a grey area in that what might be regarded as tabloid journalism also appears in many broadsheets.
As this is a relatively new category of journalism in South Africa the number of entries were disappointing despite the increasingly dominant presence of tabloid publications. It might be necessary to market the awards amongst tabloid journalists and editors to ensure greater participation from the sector.
In considering these entries the judges were aware of the fact that tabloid journalism is generating significant new readership and therefor has a responsibility to adhere to the basic tenets of the craft including fulfilling the vital public interest role.
The winning entry ‘Little hands do devils’ work’ by Warda Salvester in Daily Voice (October 18, 2011) about children being recruited for a life in gangsterism, is a fine example of public interest tabloid journalism. In addition to the main article it carries important social tips and available resources for parents and community workers to deal with the problem. The piece was presented in an accessible manner and easy reading style.
Always a tough category which this year had overwhelming entries on one of the biggest stories – service delivery protests. Most images failed to rise to the top as the judges felt they had seen many of them before: people lobbing rocks, jumping over burning tyres, gesturing at the camera. But one image stood out, that by Simphiwe Nkwali – who captured a great news moment that tells the story of ordinary people driven to extreme measures after a decade and half of poor service delivery. The heavily armed policeman, seemingly unmoved by the man’s pain, reflects resident’s view of a government that has lost touch with its people. This entry was described by one judge as “world class, of a standard that any international newspaper would be happy to use on page one’.
Nkwali was in the right place at the right time to capture a single moment from a local story that made headlines throughout the year. The wounded, unarmed man’s pain and the callous disregard of the over-protected policeman are a microcosm of the country’s woes – a government that has turned its back on the true people in need. But above all, it’s a fine news moment, well framed and caught at the height of the man’s grimace, the dust kicking up as he tries to crawl from the person who may well have been the one to injure him.
The hands-down winner in a strong category this year, Antoine de Ras’s highly evocative series of portraits of Bangladeshi refugees on a bus awaiting deportation to Tunisia was the first choice of all judges. The stained and scarred windows through which we view the men speak both of their inner scars and sadness; in one image the stains on the window become tear stains on the man’s face. In another we see fear and uncertainty as a man in a surgical mask holds up a hand as if asking for help; while yet another with a window scar running down his face reveals a restrained anger at his predicament through splattered glass reminiscent of concrete pockmarked by gunfire.
The most beautiful work submitted this year. De Ras’s portraits of refugees leaving Libya are not only visually exquisite, but are powerful on several levels. In one we see the reflection of the sky and a quintessentially African tree in the window, the haunted sadness of the Bangladeshi man, who ironically looks Arabic, the white highlight on the left is almost a map of Libya, overlayed with a windowpane stained and scratched to look like driving rain beneath the blue of the sky. Altogether a series that stood out for every judge.
A category sadly notable for its lack of entries from the country’s top sports photographers. That said, Matthew Jordaan’s perfect moment of Dale Steyn’s catch to dismiss Murali Vijay was a deserved winner.
As expected, there were rugby tackles aplenty, but Deaan Vivier caught a spectacular tumble by Butch James.
Theana Breugem and Adrian de Kock submitted refreshingly different sports entries which are worthy of comment. Breugem’s quiet, studied pictures show she has tackled a delicate subject with sensitivity and an artistic eye.
The fact that De Kock’s pigeons were sharp while the polo players were not elicited debate as to whether that had been intentional or whether autofocus had played a hand, but the overall sentiment was that the picture worked.
Although we see similar images throughout the year, Jordaan has managed to add an extra element in making Steyn’s catch appear effortless. The disbelief of the batsman is apparent as the umpire cranes for a better view of this great moment.
Presentation (Layout and Design)
The current fashion for template-driven newspaper design does ensure certain minimum standards, and a consistent professional feel. The downside is that the ability to respond to news boldly and spontaneously is constrained. This may explain why dramatic news display was largely absent from entries this year, which were dominated by magazine-style layout from graphic designers, the only staff given freedom from the tyranny of the template.
Still, the winning design, a double page spread from Rudi Louw, was an excellent example of how to marry together large numbers of elements in an elegantly composed page that mastered complex typography and space, without feeling cramped or intimidating.
SA Story of the year
‘Shoot to kill: Inside a South African police death squad’ – Sunday Times, Stephan Hofstatter, Mzilikazi Wa Afrika and Rob Rose.
In a year of major stories – the e-toll saga, COP 17, political intrigue – the media challenge was not finding a story but telling that story well. The South African story remains varied and our challenge remains how to reflect the nuances of our society.
In the story of the year, we sought quality journalism that reflected the South African “story” that represents our successes and challenges as a nation.
Not only is ‘Shoot to kill: Inside a South African police death squad’ a fine example of investigative journalism achieved under difficult circumstances but also reveals societies underlying challenges and its silent heroes.
This year was the first year we had an online category. We were heartened by the amount of entries we received and the effort that newspapers are putting into their online and interactive arms. The online medium can enhance journalism and take the printed story further. It offers opportunities beyond the printed word.
Online reportage is more than just repurposing print content. It’s a category that honours reporters who present content for the online medium that recognises the medium’s characteristics (interactivity, social, multimedia). We were looking for a multi-disciplinary approach here, looking for stories that extended the story on the online platform, interactivity
The winner: ‘Matrieks in Margate’ (Nadine Theron, Le Roux Schoeman, Werner Erasmus) – Touchlab/Beeld/Die Burger – Media24 is a fly-on-the-wall documentary examining the “rite of passage” by the country’s matric students as they celebrate their new-found freedom. It was an interesting and often eye-opening account on the “class of 2011’s” prevailing views on key issues like alcohol, sex, money and morals.
This story spanned video, text and social media. It was a cross-platform story that was of an exceptional quality. The results also speak for themselves, the three videos produced achieved more than 200 000 views (that’s the monthly circulation of some newspapers) and the social media interactions achieved around 800 comments.
Online Multimedia with either audio and/or video still needs to have the highest quality even if produced by print publications seeking to extend a story.
Winner: ‘Marching for Malema: Mail & Guardian Online’ (Demelza Bush, Nickolaus Bauer). This is a video report by Mail & Guardian’s online reporters on the unfolding chaos and riots in inner city Johannesburg during the disciplinary hearing of controversial former ANCYL president Julius Malema. The Internet presents a convergence opportunity for newspapers, allowing them to present not only in text, but in audio and video too. Reporters can be multimedia storytellers, encompassing both text and video to take advantage of the Internet as an interactive medium.
If a newspaper is to play in this space however, it should produce video and audio that is broadcast quality, applying the same high standards it apples to that of the written word. We felt the production quality, the content and the editing of this piece was broadcast quality and a model for other newspaper companies to follow. This entry won due to the high quality of the reportage. It was a gripping watch and added value to the mainly text-based coverage of the online edition and the newspaper.
SA Journalist of The Year
Stephan Hofstatter, Mzilikazi Wa Afrika and Rob Rose, Sunday Times
Our reporters of the year set the standard for well-researched, well-written and tenacious journalism with a winning entry described by the judges as an “example of investigative journalism at its best”.
Their entries to the Sikuvile Awards reflect a consistent body of work of a high standard that is sustained despite working in difficult and dangerous conditions
Allan Kirkland Soga Award
Professor Guy Berger was nominated for his immeasurable contribution to the craft of journalism in this country and internationally. Professor Berger is currently the director of the Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO in Paris.
Professor Berger has helped grow journalism in this country through his work as a reporter, an editor, a journalism teacher, an academic, a respected columnist and analyst and as a relentless media freedom activist.
Berger was a young junior lecturer at Rhodes University in 1980 when he was first thrust into the headlines when he was arrested by the security police, and placed in solitary confinement before he was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for furthering the aims of the banned ANC and for possession of banned literature. The sentence was reduced to two years after he appealed.
This was his initiation into a life of fighting for freedom of expression and access to information.
After his release from prison he went into exile and on his return joined the alternative newspaper South as editor. He returned to academia to head the Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies from 1994 to 2010. His academic work was always in parallel to his extra-curricula work, helping found the South African National Editors’ Forum, the Southern African Editors’ Forum and The African Editors’ Forum and participating fully in the committees of these organisations.
Because Berger cared, South Africa is that much richer.
PHOTO: Marching for Malema: Mail & Guardian Online’, Demelza Bush and Nickolaus Bauer, for the Online Multimedia category.