Thursday, May 8, 2014

CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2014 cut categories, dump TV news bulletin and TV features awards along with Radio and Digital.

Entries has opened for the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2014 but the journalism competition has quietly cut categories, dumping the very important TV news bulletin and TV features awards, along with the Radio General News Award, and Digital award.

The CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards has now shrunk from 14 categories in 2013 to 11 in 2014, with CNN International (DStv 401) and MultiChoice making it even harder for great journalists and journalism to be rewarded.

With less and more general categories, the competition now forces journalists to enter more generalised, more broader categories. It also forces print and television to compete together and against each other, although on the African continent print and TV are still strong, growing and very separate mediums.

Very important work is being done in places in Africa in print where often print is the only medium; likewise very important work is being done in places in Africa where TV often is the only medium.

Now the CNN MultiChoice Africa Journalist Awards 2014 is forcing them together - there will no longer be recognition of the best work in a television news story and the best work in a television feature story, as well the best work in English in print.

It's a sad regression and a big step backwards for the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2014 which bills itself as "Africa's most prestigious media event".

With major pressure and attacks on journalists and journalism and press freedom in Africa, the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2014 should, judiciously and with careful deliveration, actually be handing out more awards to really deserving journalists - not less.

It will now be even harder for winners like 2013's Msindisi Fengu and Yandisa Monakali from South Africa to win with an investigative print news story series like "School hostels of Shame" which appeared in the daily print newspaper Daily Dispatch.

The CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2014 also got rid of radio and digital platform as separate categories - hugely important mediums with incredibly important work being done across African nations to inform, educate and impact Africa's listeners and readers.

By removing these specific categories it feels as if CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2014 is saying to journalists that these mediums don't matter or matter less. The same with the categories of TV news bulletin and TV news feature story which vanished.

CNN and MultiChoice appear to want to make as if Africa is a first world continent where all media are equal, all journalists have equal access to all mediums, where all journalists are free and competent to use whatever canvass they choose.

The stark reality is that a massive number of Africa's journalists don't. In a lot of cases a journalist even having access to just one media form to try and tell or report a story is a privilege - where even one small community newspaper appearing one a week in a remote rural area of just a few pages is an incredible miracle.

More should still be done for a long time to foster and support and reward individual work in individual and separate categories for separate mediums in a journalism competition of this type.

I asked the organisers CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2014 earlier this week:

Where is the English language general news award for electronic media and print?

What has happened to the TV features award and the TV news bulletin award?

Why has the number of awards and categories been reduced?

Why has the Radio general news award been dropped?

Why is there no longer a Digital platform award?

TV with Thinus didn't get specific answers to these specific questions, but CNN responded saying that:

"The African Journalist Awards have been running for 19 years now and evolving them in step with the changing media landscape is integral to their success in finding Africa’s best story tellers".

"Every year we review all aspects of the Awards and this is not the first time we've revised and refreshed the categories. The Awards for 2014  allow electronic and print entries to be considered equally to reflect today's vibrant multi-platform media scene in Africa where great story telling can come from any medium".

ALSO READ: Entries open for the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2014 - but there's less categories than before.