Head of the Express Investigative Desk Camini Marajh yesterday won the 2012 Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Award for Best News Story and Best Feature Story. The awards were presented to Marajh at the Hyatt Regency, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, during the PAHO National Media Awards For Excellence in Health Journalism.
The audience included journalists, representatives from the Ministry of Health and PAHO representatives,
Marajh won Best News Story for her piece "Deadly Dose" which looked at the radiation overdose incident at the privately owned and operated Brian Lara Cancer Treatment Centre. She also copped the award for Best Feature for her story titled "State Failed To Protect Patients" whereby it highlighted the state's failure to protect cancer patients at the privately owned cancer treatment facility. Both reports appeared in the Express in April, 2012.
Marajh said, "I am happy that the PAHO media awards selected work that sought to shine a spotlight on a terrible tragedy that has impacted on the lives of 223 cancer patients and their families. From the evidence, it was a tragedy caused by negligence. My big regret is that after all is said and done, publication in this case failed to get the required help for the people who most desperately needed it."
Another member of the One Caribbean Media group also picking up two awards was TV6 reporter Nisha Mohammed who copped the award for Best News Report and Best Feature Documentary. She was not there to receive her awards however Express editor-in-chief Omatie Lyder accepted on Mohammed's behalf.
Also receiving awards were Garth St Clair and Natasha Nunez who won the award for Best Feature in the radio category for their piece "Living Years - Being a Senior Citizen in T&T."
Chief judge Jones P Madeira commented in his remarks that this year was not the best of years and for the first time in the history of the competition the deadline had to be extended due to a small number of entries.
"We eventually received 30 entries straddling the various categories of Best News Story and Best Feature for print, radio and television," he said.
"We found news items were too long, instead of being succinct, 'punchy' and to the point, causing us to go back to my maxim of a few years ago: whatever happened to Who, What, When, Where, Why and How," Madeira said.
"There was also confusion over what is a news story and what is a feature," he added.
He noted while there was some improvement this year, he was concerned about radio journalism.
"I don't know what else to say about radio in this country that remains one of the most powerful but underutilised tools," he said.
Looking at topics such as lack of access to reliable information, limited support from editors for health stories, lack of skills to interpret health research and persistent stigma, Madeira said that these matters they would like to take up with more journalists at their workshops.
He said, "Another key issue which we discussed as judges, and that is the extent to which the structures of newsrooms and the daily hassle, hustle and bustle of news gathering and production allow experience to blend with and define the path via which apprenticeship could journey towards excellence."
Assuming that the experienced is at the top of the structure, Madeira noted that all experience should recognise strengths and weaknesses in stories submitted by novices. Experience knows when to leave a good story alone. Experience understands when and how to preserve a writer's style and works effectively with the newcomer to improve content, organisation, clarity and readability, he said.
"In perusing some of the material we were of the view that there needs to be a greater connect between the experienced and the newcomer," he added.