All entrants in the 2019 Best Newspaper, over 4000 circulation, are commended for their continued focus on delivering the best possible publications for their communities.

The papers submitted for judging indicate that all entrants continue to play important roles and that readers appreciate their on-going contributions to community engagement and well-being.

These roles are more important today than ever, particularly with the “salt and pepper” dissemination of information via various online platforms. The hard copy newspaper remains the most trusted carrier of news and information in regional and rural communities.   

News and pictorial coverage were of a high standard with tight, well written stories a feature of all papers. However, there was again an absence of smaller news stories – two and three paragraph briefs – particularly in early general news pages. These stories add variety to the overall offering so all papers would be well advised to look at this as a way of improving story count at minimal, if any, cost.

Most papers could also improve shelf appeal by ensuring they do more than one story/one pic front pages. Front pages which stood out during judging had more than one story and included pointers. One paper submitted for judging carried one seven column pic and just three paragraphs on its front page. One pic/one story should be the exception and not the rule.

There also appears to be a tendency to be driven by press capabilities rather than publishing principles. Some papers appear to allocate sections/pages around availability of colour, rather than having sections/pages where readers would expect to find them.

In the final analysis, however, the strengths of the papers far outweighed any weaknesses and a case could be made for any one of them to take the top award. In the end the winner just shaded the others in the four judging areas – editorial and photographic content, typography, advertising content and placement and printing.  

The 2019 winning paper is The Border Watch.

This four-days-a-week paper is indeed a classy publication and is providing the people of Mt Gambier and surrounds with a great variety of well written and researched news articles.

Presentation is first class with double page spreads used to add impact to major issues the paper is championing. On occasion these spreads were less effective when the facing pages were a mixture of full-colour and mono.  This is a product of press capacity so it should be avoided wherever possible.

The traditional page lay-outs where all advertisements “touch” copy help guide the reader through the publication and add value to advertisers.

Second placed Murray Pioneer went from a bi-weekly to a weekly publication mid-year –and did it well.

Its Tuesday and Friday editions were replaced by a much bigger and better Wednesday edition. At a $2 cover price, the Wednesday edition represents a $1.20 saving for those who bought the paper twice a week. It will be interesting to see its year-on-year circulation trend.

News pages carry good solid leads with big bold headings. Readers are effortlessly drawn to the page’s major offering.

Front pages are well designed but could do with more shelf appeal. This could be done by carrying a second story. The addition of an “inside” panel should also be considered to showcase what is inside.

The Yorke Peninsula Country Times, which finished third, continues to evolve.

Coverage of the Yorketown and Price fires was outstanding. The November 26 wrap-around had great impact and was backed up with full front-page treatment, plus nine pages of run-of-press coverage.

This paper is not afraid to break with the norm and it has a quirky edge to it. This is good to see, although the practice of using the back page for “Action” ads and breaking up the classified advertising pages with Entertainment and puzzles pages does not appear to make a lot of publishing sense.


What the judge observed:

The Bunyip: Does most things right but needs some glitz, particularly in the early news pages.

The Leader: If it was a cake, it would have all the best ingredients, but still waiting to be baked.

The Courier: Very much focused on its community, providing excellent coverage of events and achievements.

The Border Watch: Does most things right, but why is the weather page wedged in between the sports pages?

The Murray Pioneer: Very well-presented paper with good clean lay-outs and photographs. It could, however, improve its offering by using horizontal cut off rules between ads and editorial.

The Country Times: Well written stories and well-presented general news. However, could do more with its back page, perhaps with a sports lead, rather than lineage ads.



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
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