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Groundhog day at the Loeries

Mandy de Waal is a writer who reports on technology, corruption, science, the media and whatever else she finds interesting. She loves small stories and human narratives, and dislikes persistent evangelists, bad poetry and the insane logic that currently passes for political rhetoric. Back in journalism after spending time in the corridors of corporate greed, de Waal has written for Mail & Guardian, Noseweek, City Press, Rapport, MoneyWeb, Brandchannel (New York) and a number of other good titles. She now writes for The Daily Maverick because it’s the smart thing to do.

Like Phil Connors, the self-absorbed weatherman perpetually trapped in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Andrew Human and his Loeries seem stuck in the clutch of a repetitive drama. Connors - played by Bill Murray in the culture defining movie - moved on by becoming a better person. The big question is will Human and The Loeries Award head in the same direction?

(Disclosure: Mandy de Waal is an associate editor of MarkLives, which is run by Herman Manson.)

The City of Cape Town’s Grant Pascoe is not impressed that the Loeries is trying to shut a journalist out of the local advertising industry’s creative awards show. “I was certainly not aware that the Loeries management had banned any journalists,” says Pascoe, who is Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing. “We would not stand for any journalist to be banned from any event that we are involved in.”

Cape Town Tourism and The City of Cape Town are the major sponsors of The 34th Annual Loerie Awards, which of course is being held in the DA stronghold. The journalist in question that the Loeries organisers would prefer kept away from the event is Herman Manson, editor and publisher of MarkLives.

In a post on MarkLives entitled “MarkLives refused media accreditation to The Loerie Award Shows (again)” Manson writes: “MarkLives (or to be more precise, me) have been refused media accreditation to the award shows of the 2012 Loerie Awards. Lebogang Mohaule, Media Assistant at The Loerie Awards, confirmed that no accreditation to the two main award events would be forthcoming.”

If this is all sounding horribly familiar, that’s because it is. In 2010 Daily Maverick carried a story called “The Loeries and the media – not such happy fellows anymore” which detailed how Manson was blacklisted; how Loeries’ media partners (BizCommunity) was protesting the banning given that Manson was reporting for the trade marketing title; and of battles between the trade media and the Loeries organising committee.

The fracas back then was caused by the fact that Human and the Loeries organising committee believed that journalists should operate like spin doctors and promote the awards. Good journalists like Manson, however, have a nasty habit of acting like, well, journalists. Manson was censured back then, as he is being now, (despite what the Loeries’ tap dancing PR says) because he is a critical reporter.

The story the Loeries’ PR is forwarding this year, goes like this – the Loeries “are following the same accreditation process used by the Cannes Lion Festival of Creativity” in which accreditation “is not based on the type of media you represent, rather (on) the planned media coverage.”

“Because we now receive more applications that we have availability, we have to determine the most suitable accreditation for each application. If a media plan is not deemed of sufficient value, we do not provide accreditation.” Creative, very creative. But hardly plausible when there are only a handful of marketing journalists of which Manson is arguably SA’s most influential.

But let’s get back to Pascoe and the DA-run City of Cape Town which has put money into the Loeries, and now has a bit of bad press to contend with. The DA has publicly been a strong supporter of media freedom and has thrown its weight against bills that would threaten media freedoms like the establishment of a statutory Media Appeals Tribunal and the ANC-driven secrecy bill.

“We have entered into a three year partnership agreement that we would fund them to host the Loeries. We have put money into this event, and I will certainly take this matter up and find out what is going on. We stand for a free media and we would want any journalist to have free access with every event that we are associated with, and we will definitely not take this lightly that there are journalists that are barred from any event that we are associated with,” Pascoe says.

“The media should be critical. That is what the media are there for. How else are we going to learn from our mistakes? The City of Cape Town has a fairly good relationship with the media. They criticise us all the time, but we don’t ban them from any press conference, nor do we keep any comment away from them,” he says.

“The media in our society, particularly with the political environment that we are living in now, are absolutely critical to keep the broader community and public informed about what is happening. They must also be critical of government in terms of where we falter and where we don’t do what we said we would do. The media is absolutely important to us to convey a message, but also to hold us accountable as public representatives and government. That role is crucial in a democracy,” Pascoe adds.

In 2010 the Loeries blackballed Manson outright, and declared that “the Loeries would no longer deal with Herman [Manson] in any capacity whatsoever.” Manson’s access was reinstated then after interventions on his behalf by the SA National Editors’ Forum and the South African Media Interest Group. This time round it isn’t an outright ban, rather a barring from the crucial event – the awards ceremony, which Manson says amounts to a “game of ‘accredited non accreditation’.”

This year the industry body Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA) came to Manson’s rescue by sending him all-access tickets to the awards, in a  generous gesture that was facilitated by ACA chair and Lowe + Partners CEO, Wayne Naidoo.

Human, who heads the Loeries, was called for comment about refusing Manson accreditation, but in turn refused a telephonic interview, asking instead for written questions to which he said he’d respond by deadline. As the deadline approached he changed tack saying by SMS: “I have to get feedback from our chairperson and board members and this will take several days,” Human’s text read.

Like Connors in Punxsutawney, Human seems to be stuck in a perpetual time loop. Just as Connors offends and annoys, so too Human seems hell bent on creating his own reputational dramas, year in and year out.

2010 was the year Human alienated marketing journalists and his trade media partners. 2011 saw the industry abuzz with rumour about his involvement as a silent partner in a business called ‘i did that ad’ (link to, touted as ‘the largest collection of South Africa’s best creative’.

To promote the site, a prediction list of Loeries winners was produced as Human strenuously denied that his role as Loeries CEO and his involvement in the site presented a conflict of interest. Shortly afterwards it was announced that Human was stepping down as the CEO of the Loeries.

By February 2012 Human was back with the Loeries, and Manson – it appears – was still in his crosshairs. Perhaps Human would do well to rent Groundhog Day before the Loeries in 2013. It could save him the trouble of reliving the same Loeries dramas over and over, and over again. DM

Read more:

  • The Loeries and the media – not such happy fellows anymore in Daily Maverick, circa 2010
  • Andrew Human’s Loeries resignation not ‘unexpected’ – Andy Rice in BizCommunity;
  • Is luring back the Loeries CEO all that alluring? By Chris Moerdyk on BizCommunity.

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