Dennis toast of journalism awards for giving ‘voice to the voiceless’
RJRGLEANER Group sweeps 14 honours
Moments after hearing his name announced as Journalist of the Year 2022, Giovanni Dennis descended the steps of the Courtleigh Auditorium almost apologetically, wiping away tears rather than breaking into whoops of joy and fist-bumping triumphalism that often accompany the achievement.
But the long journey to glory, with thousands of hours of gruelling work, was not lost on the Television Jamaica (TVJ) reporter, who was almost speechless at the honour.
“It’s a lot of emotions right now,” Dennis, a journalist of 12 years, told The Gleaner shortly after collecting the top award.
What made the accomplishment even sweeter was the clutch of other prestigious prizes: President’s Award for Investigative Journalism, the Hector Bernard-Theodore Sealy Award for News (print), and the Award for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment.
Dennis, who said that he was “incredibly humbled, grateful, and shocked”, revealed that he was keen on producing original stories that were not necessarily popular but were in the public interest.
The 32-year-old Dennis led the charge for the RJRGLEANER Group, which swept 14 of the 23 awards up for grabs on journalism’s biggest night.
There were other big winners on the night, including the Jamaica Observer’s Romardo Lyons, who was named Young Journalist of the Year, and The Gleaner’s Kimone Francis and Janet Silvera who each scored double victories in features and business, and news and breaking news, respectively.
Nationwide’s Ricardo Brooks received the Morris Cargill Award for Opinion Journalism and Best Radio Feature for his coverage of the search for missing girls in St Thomas.
Leevan Rainford of Street Driven was a standout at the ceremony, claiming two awards to break the stranglehold of mainstream media with his video feature on Delano Tucker of Guy’s Hill, St Catherine.
But Dennis was the toast of the night, garnering praise for a series of stories on the vexed issue of building approvals and high-rise developments, front-of-package labelling, school violence, and the neglect of birthplaces of high-ranked public figures.
The focus on front-of-package labelling, he said, “was very close to my heart”.
“There’s a labelling system that makes it very easy for people to understand when some kind of products are unhealthy for them. That’s a story that I feel that most Jamaicans need to know that the people in authority are choosing to keep labels on foods that keep them confused, that aren’t clear,” he said.
Dennis thanked his colleagues at TVJ for being partners in his development.
“For television, it’s impossible to do excellent work by yourself. While I may be the spotlight right now, the persons behind the scenes - the technical editors, the actual editors who edit the story, the cameramen, the graphics team - I have to give a huge thank you to all of them because without them, I would not be here today,” Dennis told The Gleaner.
Dennis said that he was spurred to become a journalist by his desire for social justice and “giving a voice to the voiceless”.
He said that he formerly had ambitions of becoming an actor, an aspiration he credits for another route to the screen - a bachelor’s degree at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communications at The University of the West Indies, Mona.
Dennis started his career at News Talk 93 FM as a student journalist before moving to the Jamaica Information Service in 2016 for three months. He has since made the RJRGLEANER Group his home, serving as producer for ‘Beyond The Headlines’.
Francis, who won the Carl Wint Award for Best Feature (print) for a Gleaner front-page story on Jamaica’s history-making army chief Antonette Weymss Gorman, thanked God and current and former editorial colleagues for contributing to her growth.
Francis also won the Carlton Alexander Award for Finance and Business.
“As journalists, we sometimes settle where we are planted to our own detriment, and so I’m challenging my colleagues to push a little harder and dig a little deeper for what will ultimately set you apart from the field. As journalists, we face a lot of heat for the work we do, and so it’s always a good feeling when it’s the reverse,” Francis said in a post-awards interview.
Silvera, a media veteran, won the Hector Bernard-Theodore Sealy Award for News (print) and was also honoured for her breaking news and follow-up coverage of the bloody Pathways International church saga in October 2021.
Silvera said she felt as if she was part of history unfolding and decided to own the story in a competitive news environment.
“I don’t feel as if I won these two awards. I actually earned them owing to the sacrifices I made covering the issues surrounding the almost-once-in-a-lifetime story, which has had a tremendous impact on how religion is viewed in Jamaica.
“I am humbled, honoured, and truly inspired by being recognised by my peers. The feeling is almost difficult to describe, but what it does is give you a sense of pride and satisfaction,” she told The Gleaner.
Sagicor Journalist of the Year: Giovanni Dennis (TVJ)
Jamaica Broilers President’s Award for Investigative Journalism: Giovanni Dennis (TVJ)
Jamaica Broilers Young Journalist of the Year: Romardo Lyons (Jamaica Observer).
VMBS Carl Wint Award for Best Feature (electronic): Leevan Rainford (Street Driven)
VMBS Carl Wint Award for Best Feature (print): Kimone Francis ( The Gleaner).
Carib Cement Best Radio Feature: Ricardo Brooks (Nationwide).
SVL Best Television Feature/Documentary: Donald Oliver (SportsMax).
SVL Ken Dawson Award for Videography: Leevan Rainford (Street Driven).
JN Junior Dowie Award for Sports Photography: Gladstone Taylor ( The Gleaner).
Red Stripe Aston Rhoden Award for News Photography: Rudolph Brown ( The Gleaner).
NCB Errol Harvey Award for Human Interest Photography: Ashley Anguin ( The Gleaner).
NCB Morris Cargill Award for Opinion Journalism: Ricardo Brooks (Nationwide).
Flow Award for Best Breaking News Coverage: Janet Silvera (The Gleaner).
JPS Hector Bernard-Theodore Sealy Award for News (print): Janet Silvera ( The Gleaner).
JPS Hector Bernard-Theodore Sealy Award for News (electronic): Giovanni Dennis (TVJ).
NHT Award for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment: Giovanni Dennis (TVJ).
UNICEF Award for Excellence in Reporting on Children’s Rights: Myesha Broadie (Irie FM).
Sagicor Award for Excellence in Reporting on Health and Wellness: Nationwide News.
Jamaica Broilers Award for Excellence in Reporting on Agriculture: Vashan Brown, Glenford Campbell and Jelani Campbell (TVJ).
Digicel Award for Excellence in Reporting on Technology: Kelesha Williams, Uton West and Milton Reid (TVJ).
GraceKennedy Carlton Alexander Award for Finance and Business: Kimone Francis ( The Gleaner).
Hugh Crosskill-Raymond Sharpe Award for Sports Journalism (electronic): Jerome Foster (TVJ).
Hugh Crosskill-Raymond Sharpe Award for Sports Journalism (print): Sherdon Cowan ( Jamaica Observer).