"That decision was considered by a committee which consists of members of the media and people who monitor the media as well," press club chairperson Antoinette Slabbert told the Star newspaper.
She said the decision had been discussed in depth and that Marikana had been considered, but that the committee had to consider who had made the most news throughout the entire year.
"It's a bit unconventional to decide on an animal as a newsmaker," said Slabbert, but she pointed out that Time magazine once chose a computer as its person of the year. "It's not that far-fetched and there is no need for the upheaval," said Slabbert.
The National Press Club was criticised at the weekend for its decision, by among others its former chairperson Yusuf Abramjee. Several people, including journalists, came out against the decision on Twitter.
"The announcement came as a surprise and shock to me. I agree rhinos were in the news in 2012, but newsmaker? Surely not," Abramjee said. "There were a series of individuals, organisations and events that made the news. They include Marikana, Nkandla, Mdluli, Outa, Cosatu and e-tolls."
Spin doctor Chris Vick commented: "Aon provides insurance cover for #rhino. Aon sponsors #NPC Newsmaker of the Year. Rhino declared newsmaker of the year. Join the dots."
Aon South Africa is an insurance broker which sponsored the National Press Club's newsmaker of the year award.
Another Twitter user said: "I actually think these #rhino campaign people bought that newsmaker of the year title. No other explanation."
The National Press club made the announcement in Pretoria on Friday night. – Sapa