Not much has changed since I started as a journalist – Vodacom Journalist of the Year on Gang Wars series

2019-11-24 09:01
News24 journalist Tammy Petersen with her award at the Vodacom Journalist of the Year ceremony in Johannesburg. (News24)

News24 journalist Tammy Petersen with her award at the Vodacom Journalist of the Year ceremony in Johannesburg. (News24)

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Vodacom Journalist of the Year Tammy Petersen of News24 reflects on the task of telling "heart-rending" stories in her series, Gang Wars, and notes that not much has changed on the Cape Flats since she first started reporting.

Petersen won in the Feature/Lifestyle category at the 2019 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards on Thursday night for her seven-part series, before scooping the overall prize of national journalist of the year too.

"What she found were stories of compelling compassion and people needing extraordinary courage in order to live decent lives. She reflected sensitively on their daily struggles and gave a voice to many people who would not ordinarily have a voice – which is what good journalism is supposed to be about," read part of the observations made by the judging panel for the Vodacom Journalist of Year Award.

They described the seven-part series as "bold and heart-rending".

READ | Gang Wars series: 'When you live in Hanover Park, you know death'

In the 12 years since she started as a journalist – as a 20-year-old intern at a community newspaper – Petersen said she has seen a lot of things, specifically in Hanover Park (one of the areas she covered).

"Dead bodies at the taxi and bus terminus, bullet holes in people's furniture as stray bullets pierce through their windows … not much has changed since then," she noted.

As communities on the Cape Flats came to grips with the deployment of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), the goal of the series was to put faces to the casualties, and explore the repercussions of such violence on the ordinary people living in some of these areas.

Petersen also thanked the subjects of her stories for sharing their lives with her: "Thank you to Martine Gaffley for telling me about the short life of her beloved son Ashtivon whose death she will probably never get over. 

"To Welcome Witbooi for showing it's never too late to turn your back on even the notorious 28s.

"To Professor Andrew Nicol for doing absolutely every damn thing he possibly can to save the lives of the casualties who end up in his theatre at Groote Schuur Hospital".

News24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson praised Petersen.

"I am particularly thrilled that Tammy received the much-deserved award for national journalist of the year. A journalist with more heart, passion and dedication to her stories I have yet to meet," Basson said.

News24 investigative journalist Kyle Cowan also won the national award in the Investigative category for his series of articles revealing new insights into Bosasa-related claims of state capture.

Fin24 took home the Data Journalism award for its special report, written and researched by Liesl Pretorius, on mobile operators' data prices.

Read more on:    news24  |  media
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