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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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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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