2017 BEST NEWSPAPER - under 4000

The entrants in the Best Newspaper, Circulation under 4000, are all to be commended. Without exception, all publications are serving their communities well with a wide range of grass roots issues as well as major news featuring prominently.  Unlike past years, there were no sub-par publications. Good country newspapers lead debate and inform their communities. The Penola Pennant, Plains Producer, River News, Loxton News and South Eastern Times do this and are all great servants of their respective communities. 

All publications are well presented with strong front pages and good coverage of local events, ranging from government and shire council news to social and sporting activities. In an industry where quality has suffered in pursuit of reduced costs, it is pleasing to see that SA country papers in the under 4000 circulation category continue to do what their readers expect of them – to inform, stimulate debate and entertain.

Although all papers entered are “winners” the judge had to come up with one paper which was ahead of the pack. He eventually chose The Plains Producer, just ahead of The South Eastern Times. These papers used all the tools at their disposal to provide readers with newsy pages. In this digital age, both publications prove that the old adage of “doing things and doing them right” is as relevant todays as it has ever been.

FIRST: Plains Producer

There is something for everyone in the Plains Producer. Large photos on the front page and well written lead stories draw the reader into the publication. However, it could do more in this respect by adding a smaller secondary story rather than the usual big picture and lead. Pointers to some of the good reading material inside the publication would also not go astray.

Talking about what is inside, it would be hard to find a newspaper anywhere in regional Australia which does sport better. The four editions submitted for judging included between 16 and 24 pages of sport which could be lifted-out of the main book. The paper also showed its “soft” side in well presented social pages covering a variety of activities such as Australia Day celebrations, in the February 1 edition, the Variety Bash, on August 16, and the “Oooh baby, baby” featuring parents and their offspring on April 27.

SECOND: South Eastern Times

The front pages of the South Eastern Times stood out from the pack with distinctive serif headlines, strong leads and pointers to what was inside.  The paper got even more marks when it added a smaller story on the front page – generally a single column leg down the outside of the page. Good photos supported by well written captions are also a feature of this publication.

There is a lot for the staff at the Times to be proud of. The judge, however, found the use of an “index” somewhat perplexing in the bi-weekly publication. The Page 2 index on Tuesdays is fine, but having the index back on page 6 in a 20-page paper on Thursdays seemed to be filling space rather than drawing attention to stories in the later pages.

THIRD: Loxton News

The Loxton News provided four very good editions for judging. Sport was a feature with the back page of the papers submitted for judging being well-presented with good use of colour photos and a sports strap which also promoted sport stories inside the publication. Its front page is generally a one and one (one big picture and one story).

All four editions carried a seven columns wide photo and only one edition used pointers to stories inside the publication. It would help its cause by making pointers a standard feature (as it has on the back page for its sport) and whenever possible add a second story, even if it means reducing the pic size. It could also look at varying the look of the front page by using vertical rather than horizontal pics. 

Penola Pennant

The Pennant, like stable mate the South Eastern Times, is an attractive newspaper doing a great service for its community. The paper goes out on a limb for its readers and local causes, such as was the case on December 6 when it called on its readers to “Give locals a go” when doing their Christmas shopping. Television guides were once a staple of regional newspapers and the Pennant is maintaining this tradition with an excellent seven-day guide which covers 18 stations. 

The River News

A mid-year reduction in page size from a 41-centimetre image area page depth to 38 cms has given The River News a much newsier look. It also provides more prominence for advertising. A strong letters section is generally a good guide as to how readers feel about their local paper. The News is a big winner in this area. It had five or six letters in each of its editions submitted for judging. The paper has a good cross section of the community covered in its news pages and also appears to go out of its way to record significant local events as was the case in its December 6 edition which carried a stunning 40 photos coverage of the 2017 Waikerie High School formal – a keepsake, no doubt, for the many youngsters featured, and their families.


Country newspapers will get your message to more people because local people love to read their local paper. In South Australia, 30 newspapers stretching from Ceduna in the west to Mount Gambier in the south, boast a weekly readership of about 400,000. Country Press SA helps advise potential advertisers on specifics relating to a particular member newspaper.


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Trevor McAuliffe
Mobile: 0408 845 104
Email: countrypsa@bigpond.com

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