We need to talk about the behind-the-scenes treatment of media who were covering the South African Music Awards (Samas) at the Sun City Superbowl this year.
To put it simply, it was a a mess.
Journalists were told that there were two different ways of covering the event:
1. Cover the red carpet and backstage where there would be opportunity to interview the winners; or
2. Enter the Superbowl for the live event
From the communication, it looked perfect. We would cover the red carpet with our video team and then we would head down to the back to wait for the stars and get our few minutes with them. The plan included TVs set up downstairs from the Superbowl with wi-fi from the organisers, so we did not need to be inside to cover the social media part of the event. This, however, is not how it happened.
The problems started on the red carpet. Celebrities did not walk down in a flow that would allow them to walk past all the media on the carpet. This was how it worked at the South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas). Journalists had to run around holding celebrities by the hand to get them to their own video teams. Based on our previous experience, alarm bells went off in our heads and we rethought the plan for social media, video, as well as our entertainment writer's story.
Then came the time to go down to the holding area where we were meant to speak to the winners. We were all squeezed into a tiny space backstage area where we set up our cameras and banners, waiting for our chance to talk to winners.
When we tried to get food before the show started upstairs, we were told only people with food vouchers would be served. Few people had these, and everyone else had to leave the venue to access the food court to buy their own grub. The sound on the televisions was poor. Journalists had to stand behind the TV to hear what was being said, and with only two TV sets, it was impossible for everyone to do their part. The wi-fi was also poor and as such, we used our own phones as hotspots to get the job done.
When the time came for our shot to interview the stars as we were told we would, the celebrities were ushered past the long row of media waiting to interview them, straight to where E! Entertainment and Metro FM were set up. Of course, all news and coverage plans for those of us who were not either E! or Metro were royally trashed. New plans were made and so we decided to cover the awards differently. Lucky for our team, we had planned stories prior to the event that did not require speaking to the celebrities involved.
Accreditation was supposed to cover the afterparty too. We didn't go, but based on a text we received at about 12:10am, there was confusion about media wristbands and whether these granted access to the afterparty. Media were then told it was sorted out and they could now make their way to the party.
As reporters, we are well aware that we are there to work. We are not the celebrities and so we do not expect world-class VIP treatment. What we do expect, however, is that we are able to do our jobs. If the Samas were exclusively catering to E! Entertainment and some SABC coverage, then we should just have been denied access or informed of that prior to the event. To be railroaded on the night is not fair and makes it almost impossible to do the best of our jobs.
Without media, there is no coverage. Without us, there is no background for those watching on their televisions. Please, all we are asking for is respect. What happened on Saturday was a joke and if people are to take these ceremonies seriously, then they need to be organised well too.
Do better, folks.