Channel NewsAsia scores international awards for hard-hitting digital features

SINGAPORE: Channel NewsAsia has won two awards at the annual Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards and one at the Banff Rockie Awards for its digital features.

The SOPA awards for editorial excellence were announced at a gala dinner at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday night (Jun 13).

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Senior regional correspondent Jack Board, from Channel NewsAsia’s digital desk, won the Excellence in Photography award with his visually compelling piece on sulphur miners at Indonesia’s Ijen Crater.

Part of a series titled Asia’s Toughest Jobs, the article, photos and video portrayed how the workers endured noxious fumes to mine sulphur on steep slopes.

Miners will usually make two trips up and down the crater with heavily loaded baskets. (Photo: Jack Board)

CNA Insider also won the Excellence in Video Reporting award for The real Suicide Squad: Heroes of Marawi, which told the story of how civilian volunteers risked their lives to save those trapped in Marawi, which had been under siege for five months.

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As bombs fell and bullets flew in the 5-month siege of Marawi, one group of civilian volunteers risked their lives to rescue more than 1,700 trapped in the conflict zone. For the first time, here is the untold story abou the extraordinary courage of the real-life Suicide Squad. 

Digital news supervising editor Yvonne Lim said: “This was a unique opportunity to stitch together a compelling story almost entirely from user-generated content, about a hitherto unsung group of heroes.

“Current affairs producer Anna Tolentino trawled through reams of self-shot footage, while digital producer Ruth Smalley pieced together a fast-paced package designed for the digital audience.”

Judges at SOPA said it was “very well paced and structured” and “excellent visual storytelling using user-generated content”.

At the Ijen Crater, Board said they had to wear face masks during the shoot as they worked amid toxic fumes.

“It requires a hike in darkness up a mountain in cold conditions, traversing slippery climbs and jutting rocks. It was like being on another planet … Then there’s the steaming, venomous sulphur lake and the noxious gases whipping from it. It was hard to breathe and persistent rain made filming really difficult,” he said.

Board added that the workers’ willingness to share their lives with him openly was the decisive factor for this story.

“And when that life is such a challenging one, that generosity is a wonderful thing to receive,” he said. “So is this amazing award. I’m really feeling honoured.”

SOPA judges praised the excellent photos and video in the feature: “The photos don’t just document and illustrate the topic, but they are unique artworks with artistic compositions, colours and forms.”​​​​

READ: The fire and brimstone miners of Ijen Crater, in Asia’s Toughest Jobs series

Separately, CNA Insider also picked up an award at the Banff World Media Festival Rockie Awards, an international competition for television and digital content with entries from more than 40 countries.

Manufactured Orphans, a six-part series on the international orphan trade, won in the Digital Non-Fiction Series category.

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Jyothi Svahn was 5 when her Swedish parents adopted her from India. Growing up, she was haunted by the memory of her birth mother abandoning her. But a trip back to India revealed a dark secret – she could be one of the millions of ‘manufactured orphans’ around the world.

This is the first chapter of a 6-part web series.

“The Rockie Awards win was a big deal because it is one of the world’s largest programme competitions of its kind with entries from major networks such as Discovery Network, Vice and BBC,” said Ms Lim.

“Manufactured Orphans was the result of months of deep investigative work across several countries by Sumithra Prasanna, to expose corruption in the global adoption industry. Digital editor Ray Yeh serialised the journey of one woman’s search for her birth mother and the emotional conclusion as a digital six-parter.”


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