A newcomer has upset the competition by offering readers a wonderful read – and for free, nogal. It has a clean, consistent layout, a lively letters and opinions page, a comprehensive diary page and an impressive food, wine and arts supplement.”

Nickey Jackson (graphic designer), De Waal Steyn (publisher), Murray Stewart (column writer and deliveries) and Hedda Mittner (content editor) with the awards they received at the Forum of Community Journalists (FCJ) Excellence Awards. PHOTO: Pieter Delport

These were the comments from the judges before awarding The Village NEWS the title of Best Independent Commercial Newspaper in South Africa at the annual Forum of Community Journalists (FCJ) Excellence Awards.

The FCJ Excellence Awards is the only national competition for local newspapers. This year saw stiff competition between some 130 journalists and more than 80 local newspapers from all nine provinces who submitted entries.

As a first-time entrant The Village NEWS was not only nominated as one of the finalists in all four categories it entered, but also brought home three more prizes. Our columnist, Murray Stewart, was awarded second place as Columnist of the Year, designer Nickey Jackson won second place for Front Page of the Year and editor Hedda Mittner also received a second prize for Best Headline of the Year.

As part of our winter break, the team decided to take a road trip up to Centurion, where the awards ceremony took place on 29 June. With a brand-new Nissan Navara kindly sponsored by Wikus Niemand of Nissan Hermanus, we travelled in style and comfort, clocking over 3 000 km and having a whole lot of fun along the way. Driving back with all those awards in the back of the car was the cherry on the cake.

“These awards mean the world to us as it recognises our commitment to producing a top-quality, informative and entertaining newspaper for our readers. The true value of being named as the best independent newspaper in the country is that it was awarded by a panel of highly experienced judges who compared us to our peers from all over South Africa,” says publisher De Waal Steyn.

The panel of judges for this year’s competition was chaired by legendary South African journalist, editor, writer and former Executive Director of the South African Press Council and Press Ombudsman, Joe Thloloe together with former editor of Die Burger, Henry Jeffreys, former journalist and lecturer, Fanie Groenewald, senior journalism lecturer at the North West University, Dr Thalyta Swanepoel, wellknown journalist and bureau chief of The Citizen, Virginia Keppler and journalism lecturer at North West University, Cornia Pretorius.

De Waal Steyn behind the wheel of the Nissan Navara sponsored by Nissan Hermanus for The Village NEWS team’s road trip to Pretoria for the FCJ awards ceremony. PHOTO: Hedda Mittner

FCJ Executive Director, Marita Meyer says the Excellence Awards is the only competition in the country where journalists and publications can measure their work against their peers from all media outlets, big or small, corporate owned or independent. “The general impression of the judges is that the local newspapers are still very much alive in South Africa. They are indeed serving their communities very well,” she says.

The judging criteria for Best Newspaper included the total package: the content (news value of stories, language and style, readers’ input), typography/layout (including photographs, headlines and advertisements), printing and production as well as advertisements.

De Waal says the awards were just the ticket the team needed to tackle the second half of an already exciting year. “News-wise we have grown in our quest to become the number one source for news you can use on the Cape Whale Coast, while maintaining our vision of being a good news newspaper.

“While The NEWS will be celebrating only its third birthday in September, the newspaper has already made its mark by not only winning these awards from the FCJ but also the Overstrand Mayoral Entrepreneurial Award in 2017 and earlier this year the Public Image Media Award from Rotary District 9350 that stretches from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay and includes Namibia and Angola.

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