Themba Sepotokele.
Themba Sepotokele.

OPINION: Sanef decision on the Nat Nakasa award is unfortunate and misguided

By Time of article published Aug 30, 2020

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By Themba Sepotokele

Congratulations to the newly-elected leadership of the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and I understand and appreciate their role, moreover with enormous challenges facing the media.

It is surely a challenge to operate in a space with so many shortfalls such as dwindling newsrooms, lack of ethics in some sections of the media and the outbreak of the Covid-19.

With the media under constant criticism from armchair critics mostly with no knowledge on the workings of the Fourth Estate and those who are found wanting for trampling our Constitution after taking an oath or affirmation, they blame the media for their wretchedness.

The media is an easy target and often used as a scapegoat when it shines the spotlight in the dark corridors of power.

Since the dawn of the new dispensation, media practitioners and photographers have been recognised and rewarded for journalism excellence. I emphasise, “journalism excellence” where events such as the Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards, CNN Journalist of the Year, Vodacom Journalist of the Year, SAB Journalist of the Year Award, the under-reported SADC Media Awards, and others.

With the Nat Nakasa Award for Courageous Journalism, it is important for the media to reward and recognise those on the forefront of reporting news without fear, favour or prejudice by producing unrivalled and unmatched reporting.

As one of the pillars of democracy, the Fourth Estate plays a critical role in society by keeping check to those in power. It is the media, or specifically journalists working for different media outlets, be it print, broadcast or social media companies who shine the spotlight in the dark corridors of power.

Therefore, it was mind-boggling that the lobby group of editors decided against awarding an individual journalist for the award but to bestow the award to all in sundry covering the Covid-19 story. It must have not been an easy decision but it was unfortunate and misguided.

What bravery is there in covering a press conference? What distinguishes the rest of media practitioners who covered the story? Does it mean that the adjudicators and judges, whoever they are, use one yardstick to measure journalism excellence?

I can mention print and broadcast journalists whose reporting stood out during the coverage of Covid-19.

These two names crop up immediately and that one is SABC fearless reporter Chriselda Lewis who’s reporting is not only exciting but she goes where most fear to tread. The second is the Sunday Independent investigative editor Piet Rampedi who not only broke the story of corruption using PPE (personal protective equipment) tenders, during the trying and testing times, but sustained the story to date. There are other reporters and photographers who did well in covering the story and there are those who only reported on government media briefings.

In this regard, my esteemed erstwhile colleagues have erred and must accept their shortcomings and their collective bias in this regard.

They have made the same mistake that was committed by the National Press Club in 2012 by awarding the Newsmaker of the Year Award to a rhino instead of journalists who broke the Marikana shooting story.

Among the to-do list, the newly-elected leadership should prioritise the adjudication and judging process of the Nat Nakasa Award.

Sepotokele is a journalist, communication strategist, media trainer. He runs TS Headlines Consultancy.

Sunday Independent

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