South Africa’s The Big Issue magazine has won two prestigious awards at the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) 2016 Awards, which honour street paper innovators and excellence in publishing in the sector. The Big Issue South Africa, published by Tip Africa Publishing in Cape Town, was honoured with awards for Best Cover (TB: Why can’t we clear the air) and Best Photograph (Don Pinnock’s The Happiness Shop).
“We really are so honoured to have won this category (Best Cover), especially given that the International Network of Street Papers consists of more than 110 street papers from around the world. This cover focused on a serious issue for South Africans – according to the World Health Organisation, there were approximately 450 000 cases of active tuberculosis (TB) in South Africa in 2013,” said editor, Janna Joseph.
“This makes us one of the countries with the highest burden of TB in the world. The cover story asks a simple question: if TB is treatable, then why aren’t we winning the fight against it? Our designer, Dirk Meerkotter, came up with the cover concept – using the African continent to represent a patient’s lungs, thereby further emphasising the relevance of this topic in our county and on our continent as a whole. Visually, we always strive to make our covers simple and impactful, as our vendors only have a few seconds to grab our readers’ attention at the robots.”
Pinnock was ‘wowed’ by the news that he’d won Best Photo, thanking The Big Issue for entering him into the Awards.
“For me it was such a great achievement; we really pride ourselves on producing a world-class magazine, so winning an international award was the ultimate confirmation of the fact that we’re succeeding,” Joseph said.
The INSP, Joseph explained, consists of 112 street paper members from 35 countries, which are published in 24 languages. “The Big Issue South Africa belongs to this network, and while each magazine has its own model and method, we all share content and come together once a year for the Global Street Paper Summit. This is where the INSP Awards are announced, highlighting the achievements of independent street paper journalism and street papers’ contribution to social justice,” she said.
The awards, which took place in Athens, were hosted by INSP’s honorary president, Serge Lareault, and Maree Aldam, CEO of INSP. Now working as an advocate for the Montreal’s homeless population, Lareault is the former executive director of the city’s street paper, L’Itinéraire.
“We should be proud about us, proud about all the vendors, the workers, the volunteers and the partners who make possible, year after year, the mission of the street paper movement. Yes – it could be difficult sometimes, but the results are so important in the life of hundreds and hundreds of vendors around the world,” he said.
Among the winners was Straatnieuws’ collaboration with INSP to secure an interview with the Pope – this received the Special News Service Award for the most-published story from INSP’s News Service.
The Big Issue is a socially responsible non-profit organisation that enables willing unemployed and marginalised adults to take responsibility for their own lives through a developmental employment programme. Vendors, who Richard Branson calls ‘micro entrepreneurs’, sell the magazine on the streets and in some malls, and pocket half the cover price of each magazine they sell.
Disclaimer: The writer is a former editor of The Big Issue SA and former member of its board of directors.