There are many phenomenal people working in the South African media industry, as the response to our call for nominations will attest. We honed the list down to 40 of the most influential and talented young people.
They range from media owners to strategists, planners and sales people. They include journalists, radio personalities, broadcasters, bloggers and data junkies.
This year’s list reflects a shift in the way media is envisioned, with digital on the rise. Almost everyone on this list has spent much of their working life in the media, emerging as multi-skilled and diverse professionals. For this reason, many straddle a number of sectors and we have done our best to categorise them in the most appropriate way.
To help us select, we turned to the following industry leaders to help in the judging: Omar Essack, deputy group CEO at Kagiso Media; Ray Hartley, editor of RDM.co.za; Jos Kuper, MD Kuper Research; Michelle Meyjes, MEC Global CEO; Clare O’Neil, broadcast media expert; Yolisa Phahle, M-Net CEO; and Gisele Wertheim Aymes, director of Longevity, ELLE and ELLE Decoration.
When Nikki Cockcroft joined Woolworths in 2011, she led a multi-channel retail strategy. In 2013, she relaunched the retailer’s e-commerce store, which uses integrated content to enhance the user’s experience. Cockcroft led the launch of South Africa’s first ever f-commerce platform, which facilitates and executes sales on Facebook. Since the relaunch of its complete online offering in July 2011, Woolworths has continued to grow its sales by 60% year-on-year.
Before joining Woolworths, she was CEO of 365 Digital, which was sold to Primedia. Cockcroft was then appointed Primedia Online CEO before becoming CEO of Prezence Digital.
Former Effective Measure MD Alan Morrissey says Cockcroft has turned Woolworth into “arguably the best online retailer in South Africa”.
UNIQUE: She is a sportswoman, having achieved provincial colours 22 times in six disciplines by the age of 12.
Former Rhodes University and Oxford University scholar, Rebecca Davis joined the Daily Maverick team in 2011 and has since become a recognised name in journalism. She won Vodacom Journalist of the Year 2014 in the online category.
“Her pieces poke the ever-present bear of sexism in the country and, despite vitriol from haters, she has never wavered from her principles and well-argued pieces,” according to Daily Maverick CEO, Styli Charalambous.
Daily Maverick editor Branko Brkic says, “She is a true business leader of tomorrow: someone who never stops learning, questioning and implementing. She never hides from the issues, regardless of how painful or puzzling they might be.”
UNIQUE: In England she worked as a lexicographer (compiling, writing and editing dictionaries) at the Oxford English Dictionary.
Former online editor of DRUM magazine, Refiloe Lepere has been pivotal in transforming the Sunday World’s online presence into an online growth story. Her strongest point is her passion for writing, researching and copy-editing. In six months, she grew the online site from 200 000 to 800 000 unique browsers, Lepere trains journalists on social media strategies, art journalism and radio writing. She is generous with her writing experience by providing workshops to high school pupils.
“She fully understands the trade of communications and is familiar with all tools that govern running a project, a website and a company,” says Zanele Sabela, project manager at Fray Intermedia.
UNIQUE: She has a masters degree in psychology and is a part time lecturer at Wits University.
Jason Norwood-Young is an open data activist, journalist, entrepreneur and developer. Throughout his career, he has straddled communications and technology, working as an editor on tech publications, while building news websites, Daily Maverick and the M&Gonline. Now he is spreading the skills of data journalism. He has created data applications for newspapers and manages the internship programme. His role combines advocacy, management and technology to improve data literacy in news organisation and social justice non-profit organisations.
Stuff magazine editor Toby Shapshak says, “Jason is that rare breed of person that is both a brilliant journalist (and editor), and a gifted computer programmer.”
UNIQUE: He takes the train to work, sometimes dreams in code and absolutely loves reality cooking shows.
Sashni Pather was a senior Sunday Times journalist before joining eNCA.com as deputy editor in May 2013. She displayed an uncanny understanding of what drives audience attention online, according to Tim Spira, eNCA online division general manager.
In July 2013, she was made editor and under her leadership eNCA.com has grown at an unprecedented pace. The site is now firmly within the top 10 South African news websites, with each month bringing it close to the one million unique browser mark. Pillay played a big role in making eNCA.com’s expertise in online video one of its key differentiators globally.
“Sashni’s integrity has always been beyond reproach, and she has earned the respect of her team by taking the time to impart her passion and experience to others,” says Spira.
UNIQUE: Pather has a pitbull named Lex, named after the evil genius in the Superman comics. Like him, she has plans to take over the world.
UNIQUE: Pather has a pitbull named Lex, named after the evil genius in the Superman comics. Like him, she has plans to take over the world.
Within four months of Liesl Pretorius being appointed editor of Netwerk24, the online home of Media24’s Afrikaans news titles, the site’s unique browsers surpassed the one million mark.
Before that, she was digital editor of City Press. She previously worked as a reporter at Media24 titles, during which time she won the Editor’s Choice category in the Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards (Central Region).
She is also a former editor of The Media magazine and TheMediaOnline.
Marenet Jordaan, a journalism lecturer at Stellenbosch University, describes her as a woman of “immense talents” and Adriaan Basson, editor of Beeld, says she is a “complete media junkie” who loves and understands the fast pace of news in a 24/7 environment.
UNIQUE: Liesl has two men in her life: Marmite the pug and a recently acquired husband, Mr (Web)ber!
Julian Rademeyer is an award-winning South African investigative journalist, with close to 20 years of experience. Under Rademeyer’s leadership, the fact-checking website has grown and currently averages 75 000 unique users a month.
Rademeyer won the Marjan-Marsh Award from the department of war studies at King’s College, London for his work on organised crime and wildlife trafficking syndicates that was the subject of his 2012 book, Killing for Profit, Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade.
“Rademeyer is one of the most unspinnable investigative journalists that democracy has produced,” says Michael Schmidt, Institute for the Advancement of Journalism executive director. “His incorruptible ethics and attention to detail have commanded global attention.”
UNIQUE: He is an “obsessive” collector of good books, and loves nothing more than poking around in dusty bookshops and record stores. “The more chaotic they are, the better.”
As one of the few lawyers in South Africa who specialises in digital media, Emma Sadleir has become the country’s expert on social media law.
In 2014, Sadleir co-authored the book, Don’t Film Yourself Having Sex… And Other Legal Advice for the Age of Social Media, which was described by University of the Free State rector and vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen as “the most important textbook” a university student will buy. She also co-authored the social media section of the legal textbook, Communications Law published in January 2015.
Sadleir has also given over 150 talks, workshops and seminars at conferences, schools, universities and companies on various aspects of social media law.
UNIQUE: She was the youngest South African to win a national equestrian championship at seven years old, and still showjumps competitively.
Adriaan Basson is an innovative newsroom leader who navigates comfortably between print and digital. Since he took over as Beeld’s editor in 2013, the newspaper often sets the news agenda. In 2014, Media Tenor named
Beeld South Africa’s most influential daily. Basson oversaw the integration of Beeld, Die Burger, Volksblad and Rapport websites and is now the editor in chief of Netwerk24.
By the end of 2014, this home of Afrikaans news – with its new paywall strategy – had over one million unique browsers.
Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman says Basson has a reputation for being a fearless, vocal and charismatic editor. “(He is) exactly the kind of editor newspapers now need to stay relevant beyond digital reporting.”
UNIQUE: Basson became a dad in May 2014. He hopes that his son will have a business brain and a journalism heart.
Prince Chauke has been with the Sunday Sun since 2007, starting out as a junior reporter. When Deon du Plessis merged the Sunday Sun and Daily Sun, he became senior and then chief reporter. In 2009, he became news editor and he was made editor in 2014.
In 2008 and 2009, Chauke was awarded the Mondi Shanduka Newspaper Award in the Popular Journalism category. In the same year, he won the Media24 Legends award in the tabloid category.
He has been a finalist in the Standard Bank Sikuvile Awards every year from 2009 to 2014.
“He’s the best tabloid man around,” says Daily Sun publisher Jeremy Gordin. “He simply hangs out wherever it is that he hangs out – and somehow ends up by Friday knowing all the best tabloid stories in the land.”
UNIQUE: To stay in shape, he goes to parties and dances off all the junk food he eats.
Waldimar Pelser, Rapport editor since 2013, has given a great deal of attention over the last year to product development in the newspaper. Under his guidance, the newspaper has launched Weekliks, an opinion and analysis tabloid, and
Beleef, a new lifestyle supplement, which has gone from strength to strength.
In October last year, he began hosting Insig, a weekly politics talk show on kykNET. Throughout 2014, he was also a regular contributor to Radio Sonder Grense, eNCA and the Oscar Pistorius channel.
“Waldimar is the embodiment of the modern editor – suave, eloquent, charismatic and versatile,” says Esmaré Weideman, Media24’s CEO. “He has a keen eye for an angle that will keep (Sunday) newspaper journalism relevant.”
UNIQUE: He is a Rhodes scholar, who did his thesis on NEPAD, the African development plan.
Described by City Press editor Ferial Haffajee as a “digital data guru”, Athandiwe Saba is one of the few South African journalists adept at mining data to tell compelling stories. Saba says data journalism is about using various tools to understand numbers, something that has allowed to her to analyse data related to the Census, elections, municipalities and matric pass figures.
She teaches data journalism at Africa’s annual investigative journalism conference.
Saba was part of the Media24 Investigations team that won the online category at the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year Award for their ‘Faces of Marikana’ web package. Saba and five of her fellow journalists went onto published the book, We are going to kill each other today: The Marikana Story.
UNIQUE:Saba was really bad at maths at school and marvels at how she now understand statistics and can create formulae.
With over a decade of journalism experience, Bongani Siqoko has penned his way through every beat from education to politics.
Since he became editor, Daily Dispatch has defied downward circulation trends. Audit Bureau of Circulations figures for the third quarter of
2014 reveal that the newspaper’s circulation increased from 26 501 to 26 684. His Saturday Dispatch title is the only Saturday newspaper in the country to show circulation growth (from 19 561 to 21 241).
His dynamic and responsible style of leadership has led to Daily Dispatch journalists winning numerous investigative journalism awards (including the prestigious Vodacom Journalist of The Year 2014) and the paper has broken several big stories. Most recently this included the investigation into Eastern Cape director-general Loyiso Mbabane’s rape charges and the Mandela funeral scandal.
UNIQUE: Siqoko is addicted to Instagram.
Stepping into the shoes of a legend who has been editing a prestigious newspaper for 13 years isn’t easy. But then Songezo Zibi is known to be fearless and up for a challenge. For two years, then editor Peter Bruce had been cajoling him to join Business Day before he finally accepted.
Although Zibi has spent most of his career in communications and public relations, apart from a senior associate editorship at the Financial Mail (FM) from 2013, the transition has been smooth.
“He brings to financial journalism a refreshing, critical and open-minded approach that is fundamentally pragmatic andforward-looking,” says Tim Cohen, editor of FM.
In 2014, Zibi published Raising the Bar: Hope and Renewal in South Africa.
UNIQUE: He is fascinated with military strategy and consumes books and documentaries on the subject.
As the youngest editor of DRUM magazine, Makhosazana Zwane-Siguqa has been an unwavering leader at a time of tough trading conditions in magazines.
She has held the magazine’s strong circulation position, as the fourth largest weekly title in the country, with well over 100 000 regular copies sold.
She started out as a journalist at Mooivaal Media, was then DRUM news editor and became editor of Move! before taking on this position.
“She is connected, outspoken and sensitive,” says Minette Ferreira, Media24’s general manager of weekly magazines. “These are essential qualities for the news content she provides in a market that is the ultimate holder of our democracy: black readers of all ages.”
UNIQUE: She gets excited by anything labelled ‘difficult’ because she believes there’s always an answer when you ask interesting questions.
As the leader of SOS, Sekoetlane Phamodi has become a broadcast media expert in South Africa and the continent. He led a programme of engagement with two parliamentary portfolio committees whereby his lobbying and advocacy enabled MPs to better exercise their oversight function. Phamodi – who has a BA LLB and an honours degree in journalism – used his legal knowledge to drive a legal battle against the SABC to stop ministerial interference in the appointment of SABC executives.
Kate Skinner, broadcasting policy analyst, says, “Sekoetlane constantly finds innovative ways to breathe life into old yet critical messages about the essential role of public broadcasting. His integrity has meant that MPs from the full political party spectrum seek out his wisdom and advice.
UNIQUE: Phamodi is a complete coffee snob, only drinking freshly ground and brewed coffee.
This post was first published in the March 2015 issue of The Media magazine.
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