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JMS Graduates Scoop Health Journalism Awards

Date Released: Wed, 23 May 2012 13:21 +0200

Two recent Rhodes University School of Journalism graduates won prestigious Journalism Excellence awards at a ceremony in Sandton on Monday 7 May.

Date Released: Mon, 21 May 2012 16:11 +0200

Both received a cash prize of R25 000 each. Simjee won her award for a 24-minute Special Assignment TV documentary which she wrote, filmed and edited on her own. Entitled Behind her Smile , the documentary tells the story of 38-year-old single mother, Nozipho Mgoma's prolonged struggle against end-stage breast cancer.

Sadly, Mgoma died shortly before the documentary aired on SABC 3 in September 2011. Simjee spent eight months interviewing her before her death. “She was determined to leave a legacy,” Simjee said. “Although she was often in great pain, she wanted something that could both alert other women to the need to get regular check-ups and mammograms, and also to give her nine-year old daughter, Gugulethu, something to remember her by.”

Mgoma told Simjee: “I am scared. Maybe if I didn’t have child, I wouldn’t be scared. But because I have a child, I’m scared. No one is going to love my child like I love her. I tell her: “Mummy’s sick and Mummy is going to die. Some day, you will be alone and then you will have to do things for yourself. So that is why I’m teaching you now.”

Simjee decided not to use the usual camera crew of three or four people to shoot the documentary, and did all the filming on her own. This helped create a real intimacy between the two women, which shines through in the documentary, which the judges noticed.

Simjee credits both the Rhodes Journalism School and her current employer, Health-e, a non-profit health journalism news agency, with her success. “The Journalism School really prepared me well for the world of work. I was able to join Health-e and go immediately into making TV documentaries for broadcast without any further training. Of course I’ve learned a great deal during my time at Health-e, but in my BJourn fourth year, the lecturers really get you to produce work of broadcast quality, so the transition to the ‘real world’ is fairly easy.”

Stuurman won the radio health journalism award for a story he broadcast about a group of elderly Soweto-based women who have arthritis. The women get together most weekdays in an entirely self-organised support group to do stretching exercises, sing songs and help each other cope with their debilitating illness. “They refuse to bow to their condition,” says Stuurman.

“They have an amazing spirit of resilience and I felt I had to capture that in my documentary.” The documentary was broadcast in both English and isiXhosa on various SABC radio channels late last year. Stuurman also credits the Journalism School for giving him the necessary skills to create good journalism straight after graduating.

Born and raised in Peddie and schooled in Port Elizabeth, Stuurman was actively involved in both the Activate and Oppidan student newspapers, as well as Rhodes Music Radio, while doing the four–year BJourn degree.

He also interned at Health-e, along with Simjee, but with a focus on print and radio. “In the fourth year of BJourn, I specialised in radio, and that’s where I really got into it, learning the art form, and working out how to tell a story in sound. The lecturers allowed me to experiment with sound and think about how to give ordinary people a voice,” Stuurman said.

“I wanted to get down to the grassroots, and create platforms for people to express themselves. I think Rhodes prepared me really well to do that.”