“Top 40: Young, phenomenal and making waves.” The Media Online 40 under 40 awards

These young people have what it takes. Meet 2014′s top 40 under 40 in the media industry.

Some ask why we bother celebrating the young powerhouses in our industry. Simple: if they aren’t yet the leaders, we are nailing our colours to the mast and saying they will be because they have something special going for them. Choosing 40 from the entire media – or at least the many who were nominated – is no easy task. So, this year, we brought in some big guns in this industry across the board to help us make the decisions. Have we included everyone who is phenomenal out there? We’ve certainly done our level best.

We salute these powerful, smart people who are prepared to stick their necks out for excellence. We congratulate them for what they have achieved and would like to spur them on to achieve even more than that. They have made their mark in this industry and we will keep an eye on them all to see what they do. For those who didn’t make it, push yourselves, make your mark, don’t give up. We want to see you on this list next year!

Melini Moses

SABC senior reporter and radio news anchor

Age: 33

SABC radio journalist Melini Moses has a knack for finding a different angle on worn-out topics, and exposing fraud and corruption in South Africa.

With an impressive collection of awards to her name already, Moses won a SADC Gender in Media Award in the radio category in 2013 for her in-depth coverage on international gender issues.

She also won the 2012 Vodacom Journalist of the Year radio feature award for her reporting on the inner world of drug dens known as ‘Lolly Lounges’.

She recently conducted an investigation into the labelling of genetically modified food in South Africa, tracking the process from mielie farmer to store shelves.

SABC radio news editor Zolisa Sigabi says that Moses is an asset to the newsroom as she is passionate about journalism and storytelling. “Her stories have the view to educate and inform,” says Sigabi.

Unique: Moses plans to visit 50 countries in her lifetime.

Elton Ollerhead

Managing director at Mediamark

Age: 39

When Elton Ollerhead came on board as Mediamark’s managing director in 2012, he successfully pulled off the launch of the brand in less than 10 months.

His passion for delivering innovative multi-channel advertising opportunities has ensured that Mediamark has grown to include a radio, digital, events and TV division.

In the last year, Mediamark successfully added three new regional radio stations to its offering: Power FM, Capricorn FM and Smile FM. Mediamark TV also launched its first Kagiso Media Channel, called Glow TV.

At the end of 2013, Mediamark won the MOST Award for the Best Radio Sales House for the fifth year in a row.

“Such huge changes… over a short period of time are tough on any business. Elton has managed to lead and inspire his team, while still maintaining an exceptional level of service” says Charlie Wannell, marketing manager at Mediamark.

Unique: Ollerhead is an avid cyclist and runner.

Waldimar Pelser

Editor at Rapport

Age: 35

When Waldimar Pelser took over at Rapport in July 2013, many said he was too inexperienced to edit South Africa’s biggest Afrikaans newspaper.

Pelser has since refocused the newspaper on viral human interest stories backed by top-notch political coverage. He established a young and dynamic team around the veterans to create a paper that bristles with energy, attitude and new voices.

“Editors today need to be incredibly multi-skilled,” says Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman. “They need to identify good angles on copy… navigate easily between print and digital journalism… understand the business side of media and… be exceptional leaders. Waldimar is that rare package.”

City Press editor Ferial Haffajee says he has returned Rapport to its readers but modernised its look and feel. “He has vitalised the opinion pages to a Sunday must-read.”

Unique: Pelser has two Masters degrees – from Oxford and Stellenbosch Universities.

Doug Place

Marketing director of Ster-Kinekor

Age: 31

Doug Place has received more than 30 awards, the most recent being a gold Loerie in 2013 for the Ster-Kinekor commercial ‘Intersection’.

In 2013, he was at the helm of the launch of the Ster-Kinekor smartphone app, which has received more than one million downloads in less than a year.

He also relaunched the Cine Prestige cinemas and the IMAX theatres, with one of the biggest opening weeks for an IMAX anywhere in the world.

Ster-Kinekor’s Facebook followers have also quadrupled, with one of the top engagement metrics for a retail brand in South Africa and one of the highest for a cinema brand globally.

Ster-Kinekor CEO Fiaz Mohamed says, “He has the ability to interpret the market and recognise the opportunity and act on it.”

Unique: Place is passionate about music and passed Grade 5 in classic piano in 1998.

Piet Rampedi

Group political editor at Independent Newspapers

Age: 33

Award-winning journalist Piet Rampedi’s rise to the Independent Newspapers’ group political editor for the morning titles last year came as no surprise considering his track record of breaking political investigative leads.

In 2013, Rampedi uncovered Julius Malema’s plan to form a new party to challenge the ANC. Prior to this, Rampedi and former City Press colleague Adriaan Basson won a CNN MultiChoice award for their three-year investigation into how Malema was funding his lavish lifestyle, opening up a web of maladministration and corruption in Limpopo.

Deputy editor at The Star, Kevin Ritchie, says Rampedi is a fearless and indefatigable investigative journalist and political reporter.

“He has the ability to get politicians to talk to him with the same ease and trust as he did as an investigative journalist, allowing him to break seismic political stories well ahead of the pack,” says Ritchie.

Unique: Rampedi is scared of snakes and cannot swim.

Julian Rademeyer

Editor of Africa Check, investigative journalist and author

Age: 38

Instead of writing a newspaper story on the international rhino horn trade, Julian Rademeyer wrote a book. The result was ‘Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade’, shortlisted for the 2013 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award.

At the beginning of 2013, he accepted the editorship of Africa Check, the first fact-checking website on the continent, which questions what is in the media. The site’s readership numbers have tripled to about 50 000 unique users and it is now expanding its operations to Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Zambia.

Wits University Caxton Professor of Journalism Anton Harber says Rademeyer represents exceptional excellence in journalism with a deep-seated commitment to accuracy and fairness.

“He has courage and credibility – two of the most essential elements of good journalism,” says Harber.

Unique: Rademeyer had a brief role as a reporter in the film The Bang Bang Club.

Julie Reid

Media academic, analyst, working member of Right2Know campaign

Age: 34

As a media academic, analyst at Unisa’s department of communication science, Dr Julie Reid is a pivotal media freedom activist in South Africa.

She is involved in a number of projects that promote an independent press, working as a project leader for the Media Policy and Democracy Project and an inter-varsity research initiative aimed at promoting media policy-making in the public interest.

She edited and co-authored a book in 2013, ‘Looking at Media: an Introduction to Visual Studies’. She was elected as the president of the South African Communications Association last year, and conducted research on the state of media independence in sub-Saharan Africa.

Reid is a Right2Know campaign activist and is vocal about media politics and press freedom in her Daily Maverick column.

Unique: Reid’s hobbies include riding her motorcycle and playing with her labradors.

Garth Rhoda

Sales director at Habari Media

Age: 35

As Habari Media’s sales director, Garth Rhoda drives digital education and adoption across the media industry through his work with brands such as Facebook, BBC, LinkedIn, MTV and Vodacom.

His efforts have won the company an award for Best Digital Sales Team at the Bookmarks Awards in 2010 and Digital Sales Team of the Year at the 2012 MOST Awards.

Rhoda’s sales and business leadership were recognised by two global media businesses in 2013. Habari Media was awarded LinkedIn Champions of 2012 in the Middle East and Africa Awards, beating 11 markets in the region, while BBC Worldwide was awarded the media business Best Digital Media Sales Team 2013 across 27 global markets.

Habari Media managing director Wayne Bischoff describes Rhoda as a “digital guru” and one of the best networkers in the industry.

Unique: Rhoda used to manage a retail store in Cape Town that specialises in hockey and cricket equipment.

Ben Said

Group news editor at e.SAT (eNCA and eNews)

Age: 39

Ben Said plays a significant role in moulding the national news agenda of the country’s most-watched 24-hour news channel.

Since becoming eNCA news editor in 2009, Said has raised editorial quality, improved employment equity in the newsroom and ensured the stability of ratings and audience share of eNCA and eNews PrimeTime.

Said joined e.tv in 2000 as a producer before working as a news reporter two years later.

“Ben has done what very few journalists of his generation have done – he has stayed the course,” says eNCA group head of news Patrick Conroy.

Conroy says that it would have been easy for Said to be lured to the corporate world for big money and better working hours, but he is “not that kind of guy”.

“Journalism is in his blood and we are thankful to have him at the editorial helm,” says Conroy.

Unique: Said does not enter awards.

Bongani Siqoko

Editor of the Daily Dispatch

Age: 38

Bongani Siqoko kicked off his journalism career as an intern at the Mail & Guardian in 1997. A year later he joined the Daily Dispatch before a brief stint in government and corporate communications.

He returned to the Daily Dispatch as a senior reporter and moved through the ranks as news editor and managing editor before being appointed editor in 2013.

Since then, Siqoko has stabilised declining copy sales by working with the marketing and circulation departments, ensuring that the Daily Dispatch’s circulation figures sat comfortably at 108 484 in 2013, compared to 107 628 the previous year.

Mike Robertson, Times Media Group’s managing director of media, says:“Bongani has been a great asset to Daily Dispatch. He identifies with his readers and owns a finely tuned editorial eye. He knows how to maintain the paper’s connection with the audience.”

Unique: When it comes to local soccer, Siqoko is obsessed with Kaizer Chiefs.

Alon Skuy

Chief photographer at The Times

Age: 33

Alon Skuy became a photographer after completing a course at The Market Theatre’s Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg. He worked as a freelance photographer for The Star, The Saturday Star and Sunday Independent before becoming a full-time photographer at The Star in 2006. He later moved to The Times where he has worked for the last seven years.

Skuy’s chilling black-and-white photographs documenting the 2012 unrest in Marikana won him a number of prestigious awards, including first place in the news picture story category at the Pictures of the Year International awards. Award-winning photojournalist Thys Dullard says of Skuy, “Alon is one of those photographers on whom you can count to such an extent that you know he’s coming back with an amazing image. To me, Alon is … one of the best photographers I can imagine.”

Unique: Skuy is fascinated by the discovery of new planets.

Paula Slier

Middle East bureau chief for Russia Today, founder of Newshound Media

Age: 39

Paula Slier is an international war correspondent who reports from some of the world’s most dangerous war zones.

As the Middle East bureau chief for television station Russia Today, Slier has reported from the frontline in Damascus and Homs in Syria; told the story of the fate of Syria’s refugees in Lebanon and Jordan; and reported on the violence in Egypt from inside the demonstrations in Cairo.

Slier is the founder and CEO of Newshound Media, a television production company that provides services to international broadcasters from across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. She occasionally works for Eyewitness News (EWN), eNCA and Carte Blanche as a stringer.

EWN news editor Benita Levin describes Slier as, “remarkably brave”.

“Paula is a consummate professional, maintaining her standards despite working in incredibly dangerous situations,” says Levin.

Unique: Slier is scared of cats.

Thabiso Thakali

Senior reporter at The Saturday Star

Age: 34

Since joining The Saturday Star in 2007, Thabiso Thakali has worked doggedly on exposing crime and corruption in Johannesburg.

In the last year he has worked on stories involving the infamous Gupta mansion, tenderpreneurs in the Johannesburg municipality, and careless corporates who were leaving their clients’ personal details in rubbish bins around the city.

Thakali won an award in the enterprise news category for the Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards in 2013 for his feature ‘The Road to Mangaung’. He was also named 2012 National Press Club print journalist of the year.

“Thabiso is the kind of newspaper journalist who will take us into the future with his innovative thinking about stories and how to tackle them,” says Saturday Star editor Cecilia Russell.

Unique: Thakali says he suffers from ‘Fomo’ – ‘fear of missing out’ – and checks Twitter as soon as he wakes up.

Nicky Troll

Producer at Carte Blanche

Age: 33

Nicky Troll takes no prisoners and gets great pleasure in catching crooks on-screen, be they small-time scamsters or big corporates involved in white-collar fraud.

Troll went undercover to expose cops who were hijacking civilians. The police promised the culprits would be arrested. But when they weren’t, Troll went undercover again to show how easy it is to buy a police uniform, hire weapons and get hold of a police-marked vehicle.

When asked about the secret to catching crooks, Troll says that you have to beat them at their own game by catching them red-handed on-camera.

“The most amazing thing about Nicky is her attitude: in an environment where there is scope for high drama and meltdowns, she merely gets on with the job,” says Jessica Pitchford, managing editor at Carte Blanche.

Unique: Troll never leaves the house without making sure her toenails are painted red.

Kristen van Schie

Reporter at The Star

Age: 27

Kristen van Schie calls herself a “roving reporter” who is happiest when she is reporting on environmental issues from isolated or warring countries.

In 2011, Van Schie reported from Somalia on the devastating effects of the famine in the Horn of Africa and from Antarctica on various environmental topics.

The following year, she spent three weeks with a Greenpeace ship on the Indian Ocean, reporting on overfishing and pirate fishing.

Her biggest project so far has been a trip to the Central African Republic, where she covered the tensions in the country following a coup. Van Schie put together a three-part multimedia series, which she wrote, photographed, filmed and researched herself.

“Kristen van Schie is one of the finest young journalists in the country, recognised … for her incredible hunger to report the unreported and record the unseen,” says deputy editor at The Star, Kevin Ritchie.

Unique: Van Schie grew up in the Middle East.

Ryan Williams

Group executive for sales strategy and marketing for Primedia

Age: 35

Ryan Williams takes up the position of Primedia’s group executive for sales strategy and marketing officially from March 2014, although he has been working in this capacity since September 2013.

In his previous position as head of Cinemark in South Africa, Williams oversaw the biggest three-month run of cinema ad sales in a decade. Williams spearheaded a clean-up of Nielsen’s cinema data and negotiated to get Cinemark’s competitor to submit data as well, making it the first time both cinema advertising players reported to Nielsen.

“Ryan’s passion, combined with a sound commercial mind and an incredible ability to think strategically makes him a very valuable member of my executive team,” says Primedia executive chairman Kuben Pillay.

Unique: Williams’s first job, while he was at university, was teaching music. He also has an interest in theoretical physics, artificial intelligence and cosmology.

Kate Wilson

Editor of Women’s Health

Age: 39

Having worked in magazines since the age of 19, Kate Wilson brings a vast amount of experience to her work as the editor of Women’s Health.

Women’s Health’s paid circulation overtook frontrunners COSMOPOLITAN and Glamour in 2013, making it the third largest English women’s monthly in South Africa after TRUE LOVE and Women & Home. In terms of market share, last year the title overtook both Marie Claire and O, The Oprah Magazine.

In 2012, Wilson scooped Editor of the Year award at the PICA Awards and, in 2010, Women’s Health won the Philip Tyler trophy for best launch at the same awards.

Women’s Health is the fourth title that Wilson has edited, with her track record including Student Life, House & Leisure and Marie Claire.

Unique: Wilson is obsessed with growing courgette flowers so that she can deep-fry them. She says her spiritual home is in the Luberon Valley in the south of France.

Riaan Wolmarans

Digital executive editor of BDLive and Business Day

Age: 39

After revamping the digital presence of Business Day and Financial Mail, Riaan Wolmarans faced the challenge of retaining BDLive’s audience while launching a subscription model for the website.

While the idea of paying for online content is new in South Africa, BDLive has reached record user traffic numbers.

Wolmarans and his team go to great lengths to ensure that BDFM’s websites and apps are worth paying for. Wolmarans’ efforts paid off following the death of Nelson Mandela in December 2013, where BDFM’s round-the-clock, in-depth reporting ensured that their online traffic increased by nearly 40%.

“Riaan is part genius, part street fighter,” says BDFM editor in chief Peter Bruce. “He has absolutely transformed the BDFM digital presence and, particularly with BDLive, has created a market-leading site in South Africa that could hold its own anywhere in the world.”

Unique: Wolmarans collects vintage comic books.

Mike Wronski

Managing director of Fuseware and tech analyst

Age: 27

Social media analytics whizz kid Mike Wronski was 23 when he established Fuseware. The company, which boasted a 300% growth in revenue in 2013, gathers and analyses data from South Africa’s social media users in an effort to understand what makes the country tick.

Wronski also collaborates with information, communications and technology expert Arthur Goldstuck to produce the annual ‘Social Media Landscape Report’.

“Mike brings to our projects professionalism and dedication, and an ability to make dry numbers come alive. He… is already becoming one of the stars of the industry,” says Goldstuck.

Last year Wronski was contracted to Media24 Magazines for four months as the head of business development. He guided the development of the company’s new media platform called ‘MyEdit’.

Unique: Wronski is an aspiring electronic music producer who wants to incorporate traditional instruments into the genre.

Songezo Zibi

Associate editor of Financial Mail [Update: Zibi has just been appointed editor of Business Day]

Age: 37

Songezo Zibi made a smooth transition from public relations to journalism when he became Financial Mail’s deputy editor in June 2013.

He left the corporate world because he wanted a chance to write more and highlight the political economy.

Zibi has written several cover lead stories for Financial Mail and op-ed pieces for Business Day. He has gathered a loyal readership as a well-known public intellectual and commentator. Financial Mail editor Tim Cohen says that Zibi has established himself as an influential, independent and creative public voice on local affairs.

“He writes and thinks with flair and has developed a strong following in almost no time at all. I have no doubt he will be a major figure in journalism for years to come,” says Cohen.

Unique: Zibi wanted to be a journalist after leaving high school in 1992, but his parents were against it because of the political violence in South Africa at the time.

The Media magazine team would like to thank the judging panel: Kanthan Pillay, YFM CEO; Clare O’Neil, broadcast media expert; Michelle Meyjes, MEC Global CEO; Dr Melanie Chait, CEO of Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking; Toby Shapshak, Stuff magazine editor; Tim Spira, general manager online for eNCA; and Michelle Munro, MD of MMAP Integrated Outdoor Solutions. They were a superb judging team.


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