Community press: Still champions of the media industry

Incredible stories of hope and resilience were entered in the new Covid-19 category during the Forum for Community Journalists (FCJ) annual competition.

The FCJ Excellence Awards remains the only national newspaper competition for the SA community press with this year’s competition attracting a total of 2 042 individual content pieces entered.

The FCJ’s mandate is to represent, promote and express the interests of all journalists employed at any community newspaper in South Africa.

The FCJ released its annual general report, with the industry picking up the pieces after an unimaginable economic downturn amidst an ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Marietta Lombard – Executive Director said newspapers face ongoing ethical challenges.

“The FCJ identified training as one of its main goals earlier this year, focusing on the importance of skills needed in newsrooms such as fact-checking, identifying fake news and understanding and adhering to the Press Code of South Africa”.

The FCJ kicked off its online training platform, which will continue into 2022, with Helene Viljoen, legal adviser to Caxton and member of the Press Council’s Legal and Regulatory sub-committee, who presented two sessions on the new Protection of Personal Information Act, and its impact on the media.

The FCJ has also obtained a Zoom license to ensure that these sessions are accessible to as many community journalists as possible.

The forum continues to actively be part of the industry with representation on the Press Council where the FCJ increased the voice of community journalists with the election of Viljoen as press representative on the panel of adjudicators.

“Attacks on journalists in the reporting field have increased and the FCJ remains committed to being a vocal voice for press freedom. The FCJ urges all members to report attacks, which will be addressed at the appropriate levels.”

Community newspapers have embraced the digital age during the hard lockdown, offering new and innovative platforms to advertisers to reach their target markers.

“Community press is presently the best advertising avenue for struggling local businesses to reimagine previous marketing strategies, in order to survive,” Mrs Lombard said.

“Despite ongoing economic challenges across all sectors, the community press remains committed to uplift and seek solutions to the individual problems facing respective towns and districts.”

The Forum also announced its newly elected board, comprising:

• Marietta Lombard – Executive Director and Gauteng

Marietta Lombard.

• Ben Burger – Deputy Executive Director Western Cape

Ben Burger.

• Hugo Redelinghuys – Director: Eastern Cape and Garden Route

Hugo Redelinghuys.

• Dustin Wedewich – Director: Northwest

Dustin Wedewich.

• Pieter Delport – Director: Free State and Northern Cape

Pieter Delport.

• Jolene Nash – Director: Limpopo

Joline Nash.

• Tobie van den Bergh – Director: Mpumalanga.

Tobie van den Bergh.

•Lientjie Mentz – Co-opted Free State and Northern Cape.

Lientjie Mentz.

The industry as a whole, has renewed reason to celebrate.

Realising the importance of the work done by community journalists during 2020, the FCJ decided that despite the challenges, the FCJ Annual Local Media Excellence Awards, will go ahead to give acknowledgement to those journalists who excelled at keeping their local audiences informed despite challenging lockdown frustrations.

The second virtual FCJ Annual Excellence Awards will be broadcasted on the FCJ’s YouTube channel on December 3.

The FCJ Excellence Awards remains the only national newspaper competition for the SA community press.

An esteemed panel of judges agreed that the strongest voice for any community, is that of its local community newspaper.

The FCJ also took the decision to include Covid-19 reportage in the 2020 competition, and it was the right call. It turned out to be one of the FCJ’s biggest categories.

The competition, again enjoyed the support of main sponsors, Caxton and Media 24, without which the competition would not be possible.

This year’s judges were:

• André Gouws
• Cornia Pretorius
• Thalyta Louw-Swanepoel
• Hennie Stander
• Willem Kempen
• Colin Hoffman
• Marita Meyer
• Pedro Diederichs
• Johann de Jager
• Johann Maarman
• Marlene Malan
• Hennie Homann
• Eddie Alberts
• Sarie van der Berg
• Lizette Odendaal.

Gerhard Rheeder

I have been a journalist for two decades, with numerous awards to my credit, both in photography and writing. A brief stint as researcher in the opposition offices of the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature, honed my skills as specialist local government reporter, covering crime and courts.
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