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Still room for risk in data journalism era

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The Western region winner of the online category in the Vodacom Journalist of the Year showed that risky, hard-nosed reporting can still stand out in the era of data journalism.

While data journalism has been highly commended among the Western regional winners of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards, the winner of the online category exhibited traditional, hard-nosed, enterprising journalism, combining text, photos and video. The work of the online winner, Caryn Dolley of News24, was often obtained at great risk to personal safety.

The Western regional awards for the 2017 edition of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year recognised journalists in 12 categories for outstanding work. The theme for the awards this year is ‘Your Word’ and promotes the integrity of journalism across all media. This year’s competition drew over 1 000 entries from all over the country, including 205 entries from the Western region.

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher said: “The entries across the 12 categories were excellent this year. Our criteria for judging is to look for entries that could possibly make the cut for the national finals, and the overall prize of R100 000 for the journalist of the year award. We were extremely impressed with the standard of entries which we received in the Western Region, with some commendations for excellent work given over and above the regional winners.”

Winners in the Regional categories each took home R5 000, with the exception of the Young Journalist of the Year regional finalist, who received a certificate. All the regional winners go through to the national awards in Johannesburg on 16 November 2017.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, said: “We are delighted to announce the Western regional winners in Cape Town for the 2017 Awards, which honour journalists from around the country by recognising their best work from the past year. We look forward to welcoming them at the national finals.

“I would also like to pay tribute to the judges, who year after year provide their expertise and knowledge in the adjudication of these prestigious awards, thereby ensuring the integrity of the process. Thanks go to Ryland Fisher, Mary Papayya, Arthur Goldstuck, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Nikiwe Bikitsha, Megan Rusi,  Mathatha Tshedu, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa.”

The winners of the 2017 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Regional Awards in the Western region. with citations, were:

2017 Online

In the emerging age of data journalism, much of a story’s impact revolves around how it is presented online. The judges want to commend the extensive use of various digital formats by the OpenUp team to tell the human story behind the numbers in “Long commute to freedom” for Code For SA and City Press. However, the regional winner proved that there is still plenty of opportunity in the online medium for courageous reporting. Traditional, hard-nosed, enterprising journalism combined text, photos and video, often obtained at great risk to personal safety. The regional winner, who laid bare some of the inner workings of the Cape Town underworld, providing a rare insight into the characters behind the nightclub security turf wars, is: Caryn Dolley of News24 for “Underworld unmasked”.

2017 Radio News

The Western Cape had its fair share of bad news in the past year, challenging Radio News reporters to cover stories of tragedy, pain, disaster and often murder. For the high standard of reporting on the tragic death of three-year-old Courtney Pieters, the regional winner is: Kevin John Brandt of Eyewitness News.

2017 Radio Feature

 Good use of sound, great analysis, high impact and brilliant story telling on a complex and controversial subject made the regional winner in the Radio Feature category exceptional. This story was of the highest standard, taking an in-depth look at the campaign for affordable housing. The regional winner is: Rahima Essop of Cape Talk for “A place to call home”.

2017 Sport

The quality of Sports writing in South Africa is outstanding and widely varied. Very well shot and edited, the regional winners found a story from off the beaten path which highlights an important reality – that cricket in South Africa is not only a white man’s sport. For their depiction of cricket in the rural Eastern Cape, including the fervour of locals who love the sport, the regional winners: Ronald Masinda and Nceba Ntlanganiso of eNCA for “A game loved by all”.

2017 Sustainability

Entries to the CSI/Sustainability category consistently prove that the best exponents apply all the most demanding journalistic skills to this beat. The judges want to commend Jay Caboz of Forbes Africa for tenaciously following the fracking issue and raising early critiques of the viability of available shale gas in the Karoo in “The fracking future fades”. This specialist category rewards excellent in-depth reporting in any medium and the regional winner took risks to create an exciting and thought-provoking report in both a well-made video and an online feature. For outstanding portrayal of how the dilemma of shellfish poaching is a matter of survival for some, the regional winner is: Aletta Harrison, freelance for Eyewitness News, for “Turning the tide on poaching”.

2017 Print News

Talk about transformation and decolonisation of our culture, education and other spaces abounds. But black learners at Sans Souci Girls High School in Cape Town found out that sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. They were forbidden to speak their indigenous home languages and forced to tie their hair in ways that could be achieved only if that hair had been stretched. For showing why the Mother City is also part of the debate on the politics of black hair and languages and how these learners joined others around the country calling for an end to cultural imperialism, the Print News regional winner is: Lisa Isaacs of the Cape Times for “Not allowed to speak Xhosa”.

2017 Print Feature

The many good entries for the Print Feature category in the Western region included the well written, the quirky and the historical reassessment. The regional winner demonstrated how a strong feature writer can take ownership of an important news story by following it up with a series of in-depth articles. For a series on the theft of police weapons and their sale to gang members, the regional winner is: Maygene Prins of Die Burger for “Kolonel se wapens eis 1066”.

2017 Online

In the emerging age of data journalism, much of a story’s impact revolves around how it is presented online. The judges want to commend the extensive use of various digital formats by the OpenUp team to tell the human story behind the numbers in “Long commute to freedom” for Code For SA and City Press. However, the regional winner proved that there is still plenty of opportunity in the online medium for courageous reporting. Traditional, hard-nosed, enterprising journalism combined text, photos and video, often obtained at great risk to personal safety. The regional winner, who laid bare some of the inner workings of the Cape Town underworld, providing a rare insight into the characters behind the nightclub security turf wars, is: Caryn Dolley of News24 for “Underworld unmasked”.

2017 Financial/Economic

The specialist Financial and Economic category attracted a broad range of fascinating entries in this region, including 21st-century consumer advice on preventing lobola from wrecking your credit report from Kabelo Khumalo of Independent’s Personal Finance to Ann Crotty’s SASSA analysis for Financial Mail. However, the runaway winner used the online medium to expose the billions lost in tender manipulation and dodgy investment approvals, delivering a wakeup call to the economy and the nation and changing the face of South Africa’s politics. The regional winners are: for #GuptaLeaks the Daily Maverick and the AmaBhungane team of: Stefaans Brummer, Branko Brkic, Pauli van Wyk, Lester Freamon, Adriaan Basson, Richard Poplak, Adi Eyal, Micah Reddy, Susan Comrie, Angelique Serrao, Antoinette Muller, Marianne Thamm, Sam Sole, Tabelo Timse, Pieter-Louis Myburgh, Craig McKune, Lionel Faull, Rebecca Davis and Sally Evans.

Photography

Photographic journalism is clearly flourishing and relevant in this region, making for robust competition. The judges would particularly like to commend a series of strikingly creative images achieved by sharing the risks of going underground with illegal miners into reopened shafts: Cindy Waxa’s for “Survival beats safety at deadly illegal mine” for the Sunday Argus. The regional winner creatively used the subject and the light to reinforce a story depicting the harsh truth that one in five women in South Africa experience domestic violence. For a series of photographs showing the devastating consequences for a woman beaten to blindness by her partner, the winner is: Phandulwazi Jikelo of the Cape Times for “Blind and in despair amid hardship”.

2017 Television News

Some stories seem to be everlasting, interest in them ebbing and flowing. Yet they can still produce honest and often horrifying results. Stories in the crime beat often follow this pattern and also demand huge commitment from journalists to get the real inside story by spending considerable time gaining a subject’s trust. For an unflinching reflection of what is happening in one of the Cape’s oldest gangs, the TV News regional winners are: Athi Mtongana and Mario Pedro of eNCA for “Gangsterism in the Western Cape”.

2017 Television Feature

 NO WINNER.

Young Journalist Award

The winner in the region gets a certificate and goes through to the national round to compete for the overall prize. The overall award provides an opportunity to fast track a young journalist’s professional and personal development through an all-expenses paid overseas trip that includes a visit to the renowned Thomson Foundation, as well as the opportunity to work in a newsroom. To enter this category, the journalist should have worked in the media for up to, but not more than three years, and be able to demonstrate their potential through their entries. The winner is Monique Mortlock from Eyewitness News.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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