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Online journalism winner sets new benchmark

At the Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards this weekend, the winner of the online category earned the highest praise.|At the Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards this weekend, the winner of the online category earned the highest praise.

An investigation into South Africa’s growing role in the international heroin trade, by Susan Comrie of City Press, won the online category of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards over the weekend, for its exemplary use of the digital medium.

“The winner sets a new benchmark in the range of platforms that can be successfully combined in strong online journalism in South Africa,” the judges said of the feature, Pushing Heroin, which can be viewed at

The Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards celebrates what makes journalism great. The judges faced a tough job processing entries that were of a very high standard. This year there were 976 entries, an increase of 204 from 2015.

“The increase in numbers of entries this year was heartening,” said Mary Papayya, convenor of the judging panel. “We were presented with outstanding submissions and we are pleased that some of these came from smaller publications and online sites. Next year we hope to see even more entries from as wide a range of media platforms as possible

“We were very happy to see entries from all areas grow – and across all media. This year the Vodacom Awards welcomed an exciting new category, ‘Young Journalist’, which replaced the Editor’s Choice Award, and the judges were unanimous in their praise for the high quality of submissions in this category. Fifty young journalists entered their work. The overall quality and depth of entries bodes well for journalism in South Africa.”

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at Vodacom Group, said: “Once again, I 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.

“I would like to thank Mary Papayya, Arthur Goldstuck, Ryland Fisher, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Nikiwe Bikitsha, Peter McKenzie, Mathatha Tshedu, and Albe Grobbelaar for their service and wisdom.

“Communication is one of Vodacom’s core functions, and with increased connectivity and data speed, the link between connectivity and journalism, we are proud to say that Vodacom serves journalists in keeping track of breaking stories, and indeed breaking them.”


Group shot of the national winners at the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards 2016. Front row L – R: Piet Rampedi, (award accepted on behalf of Bongani Fuzile), Thanduxolo Jika, Zikhona Tshona, David Ritchie, Sameer Naik, Junia Stainbank and Muraga Mpaphuli. Second row L – R: Izak du Plessis, Qaanitah Hunter, Ntokozo Sindane, Sam Nzima, Takalani Netshitenzhe, Pontsho Pilane, Susan Comrie, Lisa Steyn and Julie Laurenz. Back row L – R: Matshwela Ngoveni, Hazel Friedman, Pieter Brewis and Sabelo Skiti.

Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award

The 2016 Overall National Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award goes to a journalist from the Western Region who displayed through his photography a nuanced and captivating montage of one of the biggest stories of the year. For his entry published in the Cape Argus, UCT Under Fire, David Ritchie wins R100 000 and the accolades that go with being the Vodacom Journalist of the Year.

Entries were received in 12 categories this year: CSI/Sustainability, Young Journalist, Financial/Economic, Online, Photography, Print Feature, Print News, Radio Feature, Radio News, Sport, Television Feature, and Television News.

The national winners in the various categories are as follows, with each winner taking home R10 000:

2016 Radio Feature

Courage, strength, seeking the truth, and the appetite for skillful storytelling defined the winner in this category at national level. This radio feature was exemplary in all aspects that make for a riveting radio feature – live sound, in-depth analysis, strong news value, and debate. The winner in this entry featured stories that brought to the fore the specialist skills that are needed for the genre of radio features. The winner is: Izak du Plessis, for SABC Current Affairs, RSG.

2016 Radio News

In a category that featured strong entries highlighting a range of socio-political and economic issues – it was clear that radio remains a powerful medium – with minute-by-minute breaking stories from the scene, and at the heart of the community. While on par with every medium when it came to highlighting the key stories that made the headlines, our winner added new angles, refreshing perspectives, and breaking story hooks in the ever-changing face of radio news. The winner is Nkululeko Nyembezi for his story about the court case and sentencing of the king of the Abathembu for SABC Radio News.

2016 TV Feature

This category was highly contested with 79 entries in the five regions. While a news story on television requires amongst other elements good footage, presentation, and story appeal – it is the overall package that determines its desired impact and result. Our winning entry highlights how the television journalist through sheer hard work can find exclusive angles to stories that have already made social media, print, and radio headlines. The winners are:  Matshwela Ngoveni for the Lily Mine Tragedy, and Ntokozo Sindane for Payola for Checkpoint at eNCA, and Hazel Friedman, Pieter Brewis, and Marc Mullenberg for Afterburn for SABC Special Assignment.

2016 TV News

This category attracted 52 entries throughout the country and the content was riveting. It was clear that those who pushed the limits when it came to telling a story added something extra to what was already known about the issues at hand. The winners brought us insights into all of the key stories that made the headlines and took us to the heart of the community behind the news. The winners are: Zikhona Tshona and Muraga Mpaphuli for eNCA.

2016 Print Feature

There were some very good news features this year, dealing with, among others, the local government elections and serious societal issues, such as rape and serial killing. But it was also a year in which there were several excellent features about prisons and prison conditions in various parts of the country. Our winner in the feature category goes to someone who went beyond the call of duty to expose serious corruption in the prisons system, where millions appeared to have been paid for non-existent security measures. The winner is: Bongani Fuzile for Maximum Insecurity in the Daily Dispatch.

2016 Print News

This category had more than 150 entries, many of which were high quality stories that informed the news agenda and debates in the country. They were as many as they were varied. This can be seen from the regional winners which ranged from stories that compared how media and society reacted to two gruesome virtually identical murders of young girls who were separated by class. There was also the body of work on medical shortages, great coverage about the killing fields of the Glebelands hostel, and the body of work around the coverage of a well-known business family’s alleged influence in the state. Lastly, there was the gruesome tale of a mutilator from Denmark. The winners are: Qaanitah Hunter, Thanduxolo Jika, Sabelo Skiti, Sibongakonke Shoba, and Piet Rampedi for State Capture for the Sunday Times.

2016 Photography

The national award is a vindication for the enduring ability of strong photography and dedicated photographers to represent, reflect, interpret, hold reality up to scrutiny, the moment in time, and the elements in the frame.  The winner is: David Ritchie. UCT Under fire for the Cape Argus.

2016 Financial/Economic

The winner demonstrates a broad range of work combined with insightful analysis and well-formed commentary, highlighting key continuing abuses of power in the economic system. The winner is: Lisa Steyn for a body of work for the Mail & Guardian.

2016 CSI/Sustainability

The winner showed how personal tragedy and local interests clashed with corporate plans and implementation of regional and national political interests on the Wild Coast. The winner is: Julie Laurenz for Mining Murder for eNCA Checkpoint.

2016 Online

The winner sets a new benchmark in the range of platforms that can be successfully combined in strong online journalism in South Africa. The winner is: Susan Comrie Pushing Heroin for City Press.

2016 Sport

This category unveiled a picture of a country mad about sport. The coverage was exceptional from soccer to rugby to cricket, with spy sagas and other associated debates making the headlines. The winning entries highlighted the skill in the sport reporting genre. Journalists have to be on top of their game to cover this demanding field. The winners in this category are: Sameer Naik for the Saturday Star, and Junia Stainbank for eNCA.

Young Journalist

The winner in this category gets an opportunity to fast track his or her 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. Journalists must have worked in the media for up to, but not more than three years, and have demonstrated their potential through their entries. The 2016 Young Journalist Award goes to the Mail & Guardian’s Pontsho Pilane.

Vodacom Journalist of the Year Lifetime Achiever Award

This award honours a journalist who has made a significant lifetime contribution to the media in South Africa. June 16 marked a turning point in the history of resistance to apartheid. When the high school pupils in Soweto undertook their march from Orlando West bent on showing their displeasure at being taught maths and other subjects in Afrikaans, they were saying more than just “Away with Afrikaans”. History has recorded that the march did not go far, and that the apartheid police unleashed bullets on school children.

One of those children was Hector Pietersen, who went on to become the face of the Soweto uprising. The picture of a dying Hector, carried by Mbuyisa Makhubu in his Delela overall, with sister Antoinette screaming alongside, is the aggregate representation of the start of the phase of the revolution that eventually saw Nelson Mandela released 14 years later, and democratic elections ushering in a new dispensation 18 years after that fateful day.

At the centre of that iconic image stands the unassuming Sam Nzima, who was at the right place at the right time and ensured that the first draft of history the following day in The World, could graphically represent the brute force unleashed on Soweto and in following days, on the nation as a whole. Bra Sam shot the picture, had the presence of mind to realise he had a good frame, and took the film out and hid it. When the police later forced him to hand over his film that picture was saved. As the picture grew in stature, the attention of the security police on him also grew.

He left journalism and went on to become a businessman in Bushbuckridge, where he still lives. The judges of the VJOY Awards 2016 are convinced that, as we remember the courage, bravery and commitment of the young ones of 1976, it is time to also honour Bra Sam for his work. The 2016 Vodacom Lifetime Achiever winner is Sam Nzima.

“This year has been a celebration of excellence with great stories being entered into the Vodacoms,” said Netshitenzhe. “From entries telling the everyday tales of human life, to massive breaking stories, we saw entries from journalists who looked beyond the obvious and found jewels.”

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