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VJOY 2020 to recognise innovation in SA journalism

The prestigious journalism awards go digital to continue rewarding journalistic excellence.



Entries for the 19th Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards (VJOYs) have opened, introducing a new category: Innovation in Journalism will replace Multiplatform journalism and Data journalism, as these are regarded as being standard elements of reporting in 2020.  Entries will close on 28 August 2020.

This year’s theme is “RE: Imagine, Invent, Build”, addressing the way global societies adjust during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s regional and national award ceremonies will be hosted virtually for the first time in the competition’s history.

“This has been a year of massive challenges for the entire world, as well as in South Africa, as we deal with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Takalani Netshitenzhe, chief officer for corporate affairs at the Vodacom Group says. “Vodacom is pleased to be able to continue with this year’s awards through the digital technology at our disposal, and we look forward to paying tribute to extraordinary journalistic talent under particularly difficult circumstances, while at the same time supporting media freedom in South Africa.”

The 2020 awards will see the competition’s esteemed panel of judges working virtually. Media veterans Ryland Fisher, Mapi Mhlangu, Elna Rossouw, Jermaine Craig, Franz Kruger, Mary Papayya, Arthur Goldstuck, Patricia McCracken, Collin Nxumalo, Jovial Rantao and Obed Zilwa will be a part of this year’s judging panel. 

Newcomer Jovial Rantao replaces Albe Grobbelaar on the 2020 panel, who has retired from the competition after many years of service. Jovial is editor of the African Mirror, the chairperson of the African Editors Forum, an executive of the Southern African Editors Forum and a council member of the South African National Editors Forum. He is also a board member of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism and sits on the board of Special Olympics South Africa. Jovial was the former group ombudsman for Independent News and Media, former editor of the African Independent, Sunday Independent and Sunday Tribune. He also served as deputy editor of The Star for eight years. Rossouw, who lectures at the University of Johannesburg, makes a return to the panel after taking time out last year to complete her PhD.

“As the VJOYs go digital this year, it is even more important that we recognise the many South African journalists who have gone above and beyond to do their jobs in the midst of this pandemic,” says Ryland Fisher, convener of the VJOY judging panel. “These brave women and men have been compelled to find new ways to bring the news and stories to South Africans during a time when factual and timeous reporting have never been more critical to the preservation of health, lives and our democratic institutions.”

Awards are given to the best journalists in a range of categories in five regions nationally, with the process culminating in a virtual awards ceremony in Johannesburg. Winning a Vodacom Award is regarded as a prestigious career achievement.

The categories for 2020 are:

  • Live reporting/ breaking news;
  • Investigative;
  • Opinion;
  • Lifestyle;
  • Features;
  • Photography;
  • Sport;
  • Economics;
  • Politics;
  • Sustainability;
  • Innovation in Journalism (replacing Multiplatform and Data journalism),
  • Young Journalist of the Year Award

For more information on what is expected in each award, and a description of each category, visit

Journalists will be able to enter their best achievements for work produced between 1 August 2019 and 31 July 2020. Entries can be submitted online at R5,000 is awarded for each of the regional category winners, while national category winners will take home R10,000. The overall Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award winner will receive R100 000. In the event of joint winners, the prize money is shared.

The winner of the young journalist award, one of the competition’s most prestigious accolades, will win an all-expenses paid overseas trip to work in an international newsroom, including a visit to the renowned Thomson Foundation. Should the pandemic continue to interrupt international travel, the trip will be deferred to the following year.