Following the judging of the Standard Bank Sikuvile Awards last month, the overall feeling from the judging panel is that the quality of most entries was good.
“The general feeling was positive. We received many quality entries that kept the judges busy for the better part of a week and generated a lot of discussion,” says convenor judge, Lizeka Mda.
Fellow judge, Tyrone August agrees. “The quality of entries “varied from category to category but, in general, it was exceptionally high. This was the case even in categories where fewer entries were received than in previous years.”
He adds that it is heartening to see that many journalists are still producing work of the highest calibre despite various constraints (notably the financial pressures on the media, which is resulting in smaller newsrooms and fewer resources). “This is a tribute to their commitment to the highest ideals of journalism, and their determination to play a meaningful role in South African society,” says August.
Judges Ryland Fisher and Thabo Leshilo agree with him saying that the entries’ quality show there are many journalists who still believe in delivering quality work despite the pressure journalists and newsrooms are under.
“There is still excellent journalism in the newsrooms. Journalists put an effort at their vocation, and this is evident in the quality of work delivered,” adds Phindile Xaba.
However, Xaba says traditional mainstream media no longer have a monopoly on quality. “Donor-funded media, specifically New Frame, Daily Maverick and amaBhungane, are really coming to their own with Daily Maverick dominating journalist investigations.”
What bodes well for the future of journalism is the emergence of new, younger voices, adds Fisher. This year there is also noticeably strong entrants from female journalists says August. “However, it is too early to say whether this is an indication of transformation in newsrooms, or whether this is a result of the individual talent and efforts of the journalists concerned. Either way, it is a welcome development.”
Mda acknowledged that while the overall quality was good, some categories were lacking. “There were categories where the judges felt some of the entrants had not submitted their best work,” she says.
It is a pity, says August, that some entrants disregarded the rules of the competition, and either entered in the wrong category or unfairly tried to optimise their chances by submitting the same entry in more than one category. “Perhaps editors should take a more proactive role in the selection of entries and help to ensure that entrants adhere to the rules,” he says.
The judging panel also included Dinesh Balliah, Henry Jeffreys, Mike Siluma, Shona Bagley, Pippa Green, Liesl Louw-Vaudran, Mary Papayya, Neo Ntsoma, Maud Motanyane, Themba Hadebe, and Gus Silber.
The judging panel reviewed the 14 categories, including the South African Story of the Year, Journalist of the Year, Upcoming/Rising Star of the Year, and the Lifetime Achiever Award – the Allan Kirkland Soga Achievement Award.
Winners will receive R15 000, a trophy and a certiﬁcate at the virtual awards event to be held on 15 October.