"This is encouraging, as it includes entries from publishers from outside the traditional base of this competition, which is just print," says Mathatha Tsedu, convenor of the judging panel, adjunct professor in the school of journalism at the University of the Witwatersrand, and a member of the board of the SABC.

Tim du Plessis, journalist and lead adjudicator in Popular Journalism and Presentation (layout and design), says the quantity and quality of the Popular Journalism entries in this category were down from last year. "Too many entries were just straight reporting that appeared in tabloid papers. Tabloid journalism is a very specific genre," he adds. 

The opposite is true of the Presentation category, which garnered excellent entries. "Any of the top three could have won," says du Plessis. Tsedu says that the journalism in some categories is of a concern – this is something that can be directly attributed to the lower staffing in many, if not all, media houses.

"Also playing a role in this are the very fluid economic setting we are in, as well as the changing consumption patterns of consumers, which is changing from legacy media such as radio and print and to some degree television, to digital. Unfortunately, this is occurring without the movement of advertising revenue following these eyeballs," he adds. 

These dynamics have led to staff cuts. "If we continue this way and do not change, then the South African media will not be able to fulfil its mission as it still managing to do at the moment," says Tsedu. Categories that also disappointed were the photographic categories – in particular, Sports Photography.

This year is the last time that the multimedia and multi-platform categories will be judged. These categories were created at a time when newspapers were starting to dabble with the web. Since then, technology has moved so fast that these categories have evolved and need to be converted into one category; digital.

Mary Papayya, media consultant, editor, and news specialist at Papayya Media, says that the overall quality was exceptional. "The popular journalism and hard news categories as well as features category received a good response and were highly contested," adds Papayya. "As judges, we also applied our minds to making certain that the criteria in the various categories were strictly adhered to."

"Judging is a huge responsibility, but the judges are all professionally competent, well versed, and experienced in the different fields that are judged. The judging was robust, with much discussion," adds Tsedu.

All in all, Papayya says the entries reflect a society where media has its work cut out. "This highlights the importance of the role of the fourth estate in our country and democracy," she adds. 

The judging panel also comprises Dinesh Balliah, Gus Silber, Henry Jeffreys, Mike Siluma, Tyrone August, Phil Mtimkulu, Pippa Green, Liesl Louw-Vaudram, Thabo Leshilo, Ryland Fisher, and Neo Ntsoma.

All finalists will be awarded a Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Finalist Certificates. Winners will receive a Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Award of R15 000 cash, a trophy, and a certificate. Commendation Certificates may be awarded at the judges’ discretion.

The Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards will be presented at a prize-giving function on Thursday, 19 October.

For more information, visit www.pdmedia.org.za. Alternatively, connect with them on Facebook.