The Frewin, McCall and, Joel Mervis Awards recognise the look and feel of a newspaper in terms of typography/layout, pictures/images printing and production, and advertisements. Beeld, Pretoria News and City Press were announced winners alongside this year’s Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards held recently at The Venue, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg.
The Frewin Award recognises urban daily newspapers with a circulation above 40 000, and went to Beeld, while Pretoria News was awarded the McCall Award, which honours urban daily newspapers with a circulation of 40 000 or less. The Joel Mervis Award recognises urban weekly newspapers irrespective of their circulation and went to City Press.
Conveyor of the Frewin, McCall and Joel Mervis Awards judging panel, Margie Backhouse, says the general impression is that there is a great deal of competence in all the publications, with some kind of coherence in each of their approaches.
“We all know the newspaper industry is struggling to compete with digital, and some publications are trying to answer that. These are the ones that have a more modern and fresher look. Others still have an old style, and this is not necessarily wrong if they are a more traditional publication with a traditional audience that is comfortable with that. However, in a competitive world, you are looking for something with a bit more edge and awareness,” she says.
The newspapers that are evolving are encouraging she adds. “They are nicer to read and feel more contemporary. Newspapers have to be aware of trends in typographical styles as well as why people are going digital and then answer that.”
She admits this is not an easy task. “Newspapers have nice things about they that people enjoy but today they have to fight for their readers. Fitting into this world is about the style of the newspaper,” she says.
However, she warns against trying to be different and not pulling it off. “This is when a newspaper feels like it is trying too hard, when there is no structure, or the style is schizophrenic. Too many changes do not work. You must know what your approach is and stick to that.”
The winners of the newspaper awards are the ones that get it right. “Being judged against your peers for the sake of excellence can be a reality check for some. It is the opportunity to be aware of where you stand and where you can improve,” she says.
Fellow panel member, Linda Rademan, agrees that there is a good standard in general. “But one or two were head and shoulders above the rest with more daring cropping of images and a good use of graphics.”
Logan Naidoo says quality of printing is a problem and this has to do with the mind set of the operator. “Despite the printing machines being fully automated today, operators still need to ensure tension and density settings, and many are not getting it right. Each newspaper should be commercially acceptable and user friendly and this requires a good quality print newspaper.”
Naidoo has three decades experience in printing and packaging and over 12 years of judging experience. Rademan is a full-time artist following a career in lecturing and advertising. Backhouse is a freelancer who was a graphic design lecturer a AAA after a career in advertising as an art and creative director.