Judge: Bruce Morgan

Congratulations once again to the entries in the under-4000 category for 2019. With what looks to be a reasonable amount of support from local advertisers compared with last year, these mastheads have managed to maintain paging and, importantly, keep the journalism to a consistent level.

Again, production generally was of a high standard, with good use of colour. This in turn reflected on the standard of advertising, which maintains its local relevance despite the challenge from digital platforms.

Printing was consistently a high standard, notably improved in one case compared with last year.

Community journalism is alive and well, although once again, story count could improve. It is good to see mastheads taking their community voice role seriously, notable in most entries.

As always, it was difficult to separate them…

First: The South Eastern Times

This really is the complete package in terms of layout, general flow of news, advertising and sport. It arguably the best designed newspaper in the category.

So, there is a lot to like about last year’s winner again: its commitment to community involvement journalism has not abated.

As a bi-weekly, it splits its coverage, notably in sport, but this doesn’t deter the commitment to paging; indeed, the balance between the two editions is very good.

From its lovely, old-fashioned masthead through modern layout and a consistently impressive back sports page, the South Eastern Times presents as a positive, balanced community newspaper.

The story count seemed better this year, while photography less so. Advertising was consistent and there was good use of typefaces.

Second: Plains Producer

It is hard to keep the Plains Producer out. This bold and busy newspaper almost wins on sheer weight of numbers. Numbers of pages, pages devoted to local news, pages devoted to sport, lots of features, and impressive local advertising, even if not as prolific as the proprietors would like.

If anything, the Producer’s weaknesses are also its strengths. You could say its messy but also it is busy. Some pages show poor story count, others are the opposite. There are pages of photos that are not great quality but they are full of local people.

The sports section, again, a little messy from the back to a section, but there is plenty of it and, again, lots of local faces.

Community journalism is strong, However, the Producer – given its reach and influence – could pursue a more crusading community role and editorials would help drive issues, not just report on them.

Third: The Loxton News

The Loxton News has maintained a healthy mix of journalism and information advertising. Some solid sections include the real estate, strong classified (given the general demise elsewhere) and some good features on quality stock.

While it could have a better story count, and perhaps more colour, there was reasonable paging given and, with supplements, overall presented a solid newspaper.

The journalism maintains a high level of community participation, including a good sports section.

There was some inconsistency with the use of typefaces, which last year made it one of the best-looking entries. However, overall it has maintained a high standard.

 … Just missing out:

The Pennant

Has maintained its content as compared with last year, and it notable for its strong front pages, with good pointers and advertising opportunities.

The Pennant has an informative multi-station TV guide which must be popular with readers.

The stock was not quite as clean as some others but overall, this is a good community newspaper package.

The Border Times

The Border Times looks to have improved on last year, with a cleaner look, even if the local community paging is low. The use of supplements, interesting, informative and on good stock, adds weight to the masthead. This is a small, community paper and presents well.



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Trevor McAuliffe
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Email: countrypsa@bigpond.com

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