Past winners

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2003 Setting the bar high for good journalism right from the outset, the inaugural Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award was presented to Mail & Guardian journalist Sam Sole. This was a thoroughly-deserved win, coming on the back of his breaking the story of the Scorpions investigating then Deputy President Jacob Zuma. Sole has consistently broken vital hard news stories. Spanning a career of more than 20 years, these include the circumstances surrounding the Goniwe murders and the existence of Dr Wouter Basson’s Chemical and Biological Warfare programme.
In keeping with impressive standards set the year before, SABC3’s Jacques Pauw walked off with the 2004 Award for a lengthy investigation into drug-running in Southern and East Africa. In exposing a hitherto unknown heroin trafficking route through these parts of Africa, Pauw and his Special Assignment team travelled some 10000km through three African countries. The judges praised the programme’s research, technical proficiency and quality of script, stating that it set new standards for television content creators.
Renee Bonorchis and Ann Crotty of Business Report were joint winners in 2005, following their hard-hitting series of articles on executive pay. The judges commended the quality of writing and the well-balanced and fair reporting, further indicating that the pair demonstrated the key values of analysis and depth of understanding. Furthermore, they described the series of articles that delved into issues like corporate disclosure and executives’ golden parachutes as the most far-reaching financial stories of that year.
In a break with tradition, 2006 saw joint winners being announced for the very first time. Bruce Cameron of Personal Finance was presented the award alongside Stefaans Brümmer, Sam Sole and Wisani wa ka Ngobeni of the Mail & Guardian. The latter were nominated for a hard-hitting exposé on government corruption and backhanders in the so-called Oilgate scandal. Cameron, for his part, received the award for his work on the pension fund scandal which exposed the secret profits made by retirement fund administration companies. Brümmer says that for him, getting a great story into print is its own reward. Of course, it is always good to receive recognition from a panel of expert judges.
Hazel Friedman of SABC’s Special Assignment was named Journalist of the Year for her 2007 feature “For the Boys”. This hard-hitting expose on South African prison violence shone a light where most people fear to look. Friedman showed how both juveniles and the innocent are thrown into holding cells in flagrant disregard for our Constitution. She also highlighted the extent of the collusion between prison gangs and warders who turn a blind eye to the horrors of rape, drugs and violence that is a part of life in prison today.

In 2008 the award was again presented jointly, this time to Daily Dispatch journalists Brett Horner, Chandre Prince and Ntando Makhubu. These three intrepid writers shone a spotlight on the tragic death of babies at the Frere Hospital in the Eastern Cape, finally holding those in power accountable and leading to the downfall of several powerful individuals. Horner described the win as a humbling experience, given the fine submissions from the other leading journalists they competed against. Prince says that winning gave him an enormous injection of self-confidence and encouraged him to keep going within this sphere of journalism and to go longer, to work harder and to give more than anyone else. For her part, Makhuba said that winning is always the ultimate recognition ofa job well done. She felt that even though seeing a story in print is satisfaction enough, having it also recognised by the masters in the gameonly spurned her further. 2009
Following the violent and deadly outbreaks of xenophobic violence in Gauteng in 2009, many entries from this year focused on that particular topic. Taking home the top prize for her reporting on the issue was Nomsa Maseko of Talk Radio 702. The judges awarded her the prize, they said, because she not only delivered excellent journalism and an important public service, but she proved once again that journalism of the highest order can to be practiced in newsrooms across South Africa. Nomsa says that since history unfolds as it happens, she believes she won this award becauseof her passion forreporting on significant everyday events from the frontline.The award led directly to her being offered a position with the BBC, something Maseko considers a great honour and achievement.
The most recent victor is Barbara Friedman, of eTV’s 3rd Degree, who won the 2010 edition thanks to her sensitive portrayal of the fact that South Africa has one of the highest birth rates of inter-sexed babies worldwide. The judges saluted her for her insight, sensitivity and humility in exposing viewers to a world most knew little about. Friedman herself says that she was a touched as the judges by the struggles of those born intersex and hopes she contributed to reducing societal ignorance around this topic. Moreover, she says that the award has given her increased confidence in telling the kind of unconventional and sensitive stories that she believes in.

– By Vodacom website.