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Judge: Bruce Morgan

Congratulations to the six entries in this year’s under 4000 category. It is pleasing to see the high standard of production and the busy, colourful presentations. I was particularly pleased to see the commitment to paging to ensure quality journalism remains a priority for publishers, who clearly understand that unique content is their most important asset.

Publishers and their communities face a relentless challenge from digital platforms that give nothing back, so it is a positive sign. Let us hope that the communities they serve come to appreciate this more as the battle continues to remain strong and effective.

Generally, the quality of advertising was high. Both colourful, informative and often highly original.

Printing also is of a consistently high standard.

While not having judged this category before, the local volume mostly seemed healthy given the difficult trading environment.

The community approach to the journalism overall was pleasingly positive. In some cases, story count could improve but there was solid editorial content, from campaigning journalism, to people, places, sport and all kinds of activities that show once again that the local newspaper is the glue that helps hold regional and rural communities together.

As usual, it was difficult to separate the contenders, but here goes:

FIRST: The South Eastern Times

For a small bi-weekly, The South Eastern Times shows an impressively strong commitment to community journalism, combining hard news with balanced opinion. Clearly it is a campaigning newspaper, with a high awareness of the need for inclusion. The issue of shop trading deregulation was a very good case-in-point. But in all editions, it showed a constructive approach to reporting, feedback and opinion.

The photography showed a commendable effort at originality and if there was a criticism it was with story count on some pages, leaving some big slabs of type

Elsewhere, the standard remained strong. The advertising content was consistent, with effort made to make local ads stand out, and it was a very good car guide.

Generally, serif types are avoided for main headlines these days but I liked the overall effect, which compliments the traditional front page masthead.

The printing was clean, with decent stock

Overall, this wins on quality journalism committed to community.

Second: The Loxton News

There was a lot to like about The Loxton News. It has by far the most impressive Real Estate section, reproduced on heavier stock, and some excellent front pages, in both design and content.

The local advertising was impressive and added to the busy layouts and its sports was second to none.

The typefaces were well balanced. Indeed, this was arguably the best “looking” of all entries.

The journalism was solid, positive and lifted by good design and good story count. Sport seemed to be well covered. The opinion page suggested good community interaction.

Only a couple of points behind the winner.

Third: Plains Producer

Wonderfully big, busy newspaper and shows clearly why it is a previous winner.

The strong commitment to sport was impressive, although splitting it from the back section, but not as a lift-out, interrupted the flow.

Overall, good grassroots journalism and solid content, and generally good story count.

The advertising was vibrant and there was plenty of it, a good sign in these difficult newspaper days.

Not always the best use of type fonts but, largely, this is an impressive journal and one doing its regional community proud.

 …And the rest (in no particular order):

The Border Times

The Border Times was always going to struggle against the winners with its limited paging. However, as a small, community newspaper, it presents quite well and has a nice balance of news, photos, and advertising. For what is able to do, it does well.

The River News

A consistent, solid weekly newspaper, colourful and, also with a first-class real estate section, on quality stock. Consistently good also, were the front pages, with appealing layouts and a strong ad presence. The editorial content was at times excellent but occasionally let down by large slabs of type, making for poor story count. Very good community engagement however.

The Pennant

Good looking newspaper with strong front pages, and a busy sport section. I’m sure the community enjoys the 3.5 pages of television guide, although it is a lot of space in limited weekly paging. However, no doubt it would be an outcry if tampered with. Overall, a good package of editorial and advertising, with a notable car guide.



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