Nita Bhalla of Thomson Reuters Foundation is SOPA Journalist of the Year

SOPA Journalist

The Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA), a Hong Kong based not-for-profit organization, named Nita Bhalla of Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Journalist of the Year at the SOPA 2017 Awards Gala Dinner on 15 June 2017 for her reporting on human trafficking and slavery in South Asia. Awards for scoop of the year across three categories—global, regional and local media—went to Thomson Reuters for ‘The Bangladesh Bank Heist,’ MLex Market Insight for ‘MAXpower Bribery Scandal in Indonesia’ and WeMedia01 for ‘Abuse of Policy on Village Houses in New Territories.’

The awards were among the 95 SOPA Awards for Editorial Excellence announced at the event, now in its 19th year. The SOPA Awards, widely considered the most prestigious in the Asia-Pacific publishing industry, this year saw a record number of entries competing in 17 categories, including more than 750 English or Chinese-language submissions by global, regional and local media across the region.

The entries were assessed by a judging panel appointed by the Journalism & Media Studies Centre (JMSC) of the University of Hong Kong. The panel comprised more than 100 media professionals, including journalists, editors and columnists from some of the region’s most influential publications, along with academics from a number of Asia’s leading journalism schools.

“The SOPA Awards provide a platform to honor the best reporting, writing and design in publishing in Asia Pacific,” said SK Witcher, deputy Asia editor of The New York Times and chair of the SOPA editorial committee. “Congratulations to all the winners. By recognizing their best practices, we hope to inspire journalists to keep pursuing excellence in their profession, delivering the information that matters, bringing crucial issues to notice and further guarding freedom of the press.”

SOPA Awards head of judges and associate professor of JMSC, Jeffrey Timmermans said, “Despite all the recent controversy about ‘fake news,’ both justified and imaginary, this year’s SOPA Awards finalists incontrovertibly demonstrate that ‘real news’—accurate, deeply reported journalism on topics of profound human interest—is thriving.”

The keynote speaker at the dinner was Hong Kong’s former governor under British rule, Chris Patten. Speaking by video from London, he shared his thoughts on ‘One Country, Two Systems.’ A recurring topic of conversation at the awards dinner was that of ‘fake news.’ Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent and a noted campaigner for press freedom and the rights of journalists, also addressed the gathering by video from London. About 300 media executives, editors, journalists and industry practitioners from across the region attended the gala event.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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