Wednesday, October 14, 2015

IN PICTURES: The landmark 20th CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2015 held in Nairobi, Kenya.

This past weekend I attended the landmark 20th CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards which this year took place in Nairobi, Kenya on Saturday night and which is a journalism competition honouring the best journalism of a given year across the African continent.

I've covered this prestigious journalism competition for a decade of its existence as a journalist and as a TV critic all the way since 2005 - the journalist who's done it the longest and I'm still keeping an eye on it year after year after year as its been evolving and changing.

It's been interesting to see year after year how its changed and adapted. The part I really like the most are the various journalism forums, topics and discussion sessions that journalists from across the continent get to attend with really thought-provoking and interesting topics.

Since CNN International (DStv 401) is the big organiser together with MultiChoice, I enjoyed this year meeting CNN's senior international correspondent David McKenzie again who I first met and first interviewed a few years ago in Uganda at the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards.

David McKenzie was brilliant as a moderator at the one Saturday forum, and was also the host at the Friday evening dinner in the Karura Forest.

CNN International's Soni Methu was also there again for her second year, and on Saturday evening I had a chat with Robyn Kriel covering East Africa for the channel after she jumped earlier this year from eNCA (DStv 403) to CNN.

It was also hugely delightful to talk to several of the CNN International executives - people you don't see on television but who make the decisions and who are involved in the day-to-day running and news gathering process.

Where some people chase celebrities, I chase TV and news executives, journalists and TV news anchors - the rock stars in my world. They're the clever and insightful people I just can never talk enough to.

A lot more happened in the jam-packed itinerary over just 3 days with a lot of travelling involved, but I'm only one person and there's really only so much even I can capture and possibly try to report on.

While some press went off to go look for fabrics at the masai markets, or to lounge at swimming pools I did the whole 100% of the official schedule which quickly yields an overwhelming amount of content and images.

Here's a photo heavy round-up:

On Thursday night CNN International and MultiChoice hosted a wonderful, bathed-in-blue Welcome dinner at the Nairobi National Museum.

Possibly the shortest speech from any TV executive I've ever listened to is the one from Tommy Evans, the vice president for newsgathering at CNN International for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. "I think everybody is hungry. Let's eat".

Friday morning and afternoon was filled with media forums at the Zen Gardens event venue in Nairobi where topics included looking back at 20 years of African journalism and the opportunities and challenges, as well as how digital media is reshaping journalism.

On Friday evening CNN International and MultiChoice hosted a Thank You dinner for the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2015 finalists, media, sponsors and TV executives.

The Thank You dinner took place inside the Karura Forest in Nairobi. It was simply magical and the best gala dinner this annual awards ever hosted.

The Saturday morning media session at the Norfolk Hotel was a waste of time, dull and very boring. Dow Water & Process Solutions which came onboard as a sponsor this year of one of the categories of the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2015 did the session but didn't really do it "right".

The staff and the facilities at the colonial Norfolk Hotel was great but Dow Water& Process Solutions was completely unprepared.

There wasn't enough tables, there wasn't enough chairs. 

Even after the session began people were still left standing. More chairs arrived (I eventually got a chair way at the back wall) while the organisers apologised that there's not enough tables and not "enough goodies" for those at tables (water bottles).

I took no photos and monitored the session and tweeted out some short bits from the uninspiring (and actually irritating) session which used to be presented by Coca-Cola in past years (and much better) but wasn't a sponsor this year. I sat with my laptop and worked through stories of the previous day.

Dow Water & Process Solutions didn't seem to know how to deal with the media at all or how to approach the journalists in the room. It was awkward, it was largely a waste of time. The company asked all the journalists to put up their hands if they've heard of the company. Nobody did.

When you have the press, you need to give them something like a fact sheet or press release or something those who want to or care, can use for a story, or to get a hold of your company or to make contact. Dow did nothing (except the few water bottles - which didn't come with anything like even a business card).

If Dow is back as a sponsor, perhaps someone can just help them if they do a media session on what the media actually want out of it, how Coca-Cola, MSD and others did these sessions it in the past, and how it can be more functional.

In the past Coca-Cola, who've done several media sessions over many years in a great integration of sponsorship company marketing, corporate social investment message, and meet the press combined actually made me almost cry once.

I was so emotional over what Coca-Cola told the group of journalists three years ago in Cape Town - how far the average woman in Africa and even in South Africa walks daily just to go and fetch clean water for her household for drinking, washing, laundry and cooking food that I've told it to many of my friends.

What also happens is that the mother when she has kids, will take or order the girl in the household first to help her to go fetch water, even if there's a boy or if a boy child is older. The result: The girl gets late too school and miss out on work and steadily each day fall further and further behind or miss an entire day because it takes so long to walk to fetch water.

So Coca-Cola helps to build water pipes because people are not going to buy Coca-Cola when they don't even have enough clean water. 

Those are the stories and CSI facts a company need to share and integrate into their media message to make it a win-win for the corporate and for the press - not asking "Why was Ebola eradicated from Africa?" (which one journalist instantly pointed out: "Uhm, no it hasn't").

Saturday afternoon was a visit to the M-Net and SuperSport studios in Nairobi. It took forever to get there in the traffic but I'm very glad and grateful for the guided tour from people who came in on their Saturday to do it. I'm hugely appreciative to see it, and now you can too:

Two of the SuperSport outside broadcast or simply "OB vans" as they're known in the biz - the camera trucks that go to sport stadiums or basically wherever needed to film anything from sport events to big live action.

These were used earlier in the year for president Barack Obama's visit to Nairobi and the special 24-hour Obama visit TV channel that ran on DStv and will again be utilised for the Pope's upcoming visit to Nairobi as well.

We got to peek inside one of the standard definition (SD) ones:

I was shocked with the massive size of the cavernous, brand-new Studio 4 at SuperSport and M-Net's Nairobi headquarters. There is absolutely nothing that can't be filmed in here and no set that can't be accomodated in here. Amazing.

The walls, the floors - all so new I actually felt that I didn't want to walk on it. This is like a massive, massive Star Trek holodeck just waiting to be filled by a fantasy:

The rest of the Saturday afternoon tour included a look at the other studios, M-Net offline and editing suites, SuperSport sets and control rooms:

With literally just an hour and a half to spare it was time to prepare and get dressed for the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2015 on Saturday evening.

This year it took place at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC). 

The media, finalists, sponsors, government officials and other guests all had to arrive extra early to ensure they're seated in time before the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta arrived (the conference centre is named after his dad).

I wondered how many guests at the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards 2015 would notice the roses and would maybe realise that it being there wasn't just something random.

There were roses throughout the various events and at the Kempinski Hotel where the media and finalists stayed. Kenya is actually one of the biggest exporters of roses in the world. 

As has been the case in the past, and proper and fit to celebrate the 20th anniversary, the awards was in the form of a sit-down gala dinner, or "Golden Globes" style.

In the past the awards had versions where you sat "bleachers" style with cocktail-area mingling afterwards, the sit-down gala dinner style where the ceremony and dining are combined, theatre seating with table dinner afterwards, or "Oscars" style where you sit in auditorium seats - even a marquee tent event once.

Sitting at tables is for me personally the best style - it's just more formal and "grand" and signals "official" and "proper" in a way no other way can.

The seating of the media table I was part of wasn't the best if I have to be honest. 

It was even worse actually, originally - we couldn't see the stage and sat right next to the wall separating the room from the buffet dish-up area and stared at largely blackness and the back of the stage, complete with lattice construction and black tarp.

The actual stage on which presenters and people appear is on the right hand side of the white square.

I don't want to sit right in front. And yes, there's the president, the judges, dignitaries, main sponsors, government officials, TV executives from CNN International and MultiChoice and other very, very important people.

They have to get the best seats and tables, absolutely. 

It's just that it doesn't make sense to go to a thing like an awards show and you can't actually see it - to the point where if you stay home and watch it on television its better.

Luckily, thankfully, we got moved from the very bad table to a less bad one where we could somewhat see the stage now and from where it now looked like this:

The actual stage looked like this if you sat centre-stage where the Kenyan president and MultiChoice and CNN executives sat:
During the night one of the journalists disappeared. When he came back and we asked where he went he joked "my friends at the CNN table".

The hugest thank you goes to the MultiChoice miracle worker Emelda Pretorius who instantly moved us from table 42 to table 60 which was a way better table after we complained. She didn't even have to, and instantly also decided to come and sit with us, for the entire night. 

If you're stranded on a deserted island you want it to be with Emelda Pretorius. She can solve anything.

The evening was still great though thanks to a lot of constant jokes between the various journalists at the table, commentary, tweeting and discussion about the awards and the various finalists and winners.