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Country Press SA

Best Front Page


Judged by Bob Mackie

This year’s entries varied from the more traditional style of newspaper layout with a photo story and strong but separate hard news story to the increasingly popular “newsmagazine” style where a strong photo dominates and takes up most of the front page.

In the latter style of layout, editors need to resist the urge to place multiple graphics (headlines, text boxes, more photos, etc) on top of their main photo. Technology now makes it easy to place graphics and text on our photos, but the ensuing visually “busy” result can detract from the intended result of using the photo large in the first place.

Traditionally tabloid newspapers’ shape has leant to vertical layouts. Not one entry this year featured a vertical layout; every photo was printed in the “landscape” format. I’m not sure if that’s because more and more we are using templates for the base of the design or if photographers no longer turn their cameras vertically.

That said, all of the entries were strong examples of displaying the “shop window” of the newspaper to draw in readers. Many of the front pages would be more than welcome at our more fancied metropolitan outlets.

First: Eyre Peninsula Advocate

A fantastic photo of a farmer walking through a new giant chasm gouged into his paddock after a “once in a lifetime” deluge of rain dominates the page and serves as a powerful illustration to the main story. The story is aptly headlined in very large capitals: THE BIG WET. This is a very well-balanced layout which works well, in part, because of the restraint shown in placing additional graphics. There is only a handful of lines of text and a small headline placed over the photo which is all it needs – this picture tells the story and the layout allows it to.

Second: SE Voice

Again, a truly great photo dominates this front page, showing an aircraft dumping fire retardant on an out of control bush fire. The page also features a separate news story which has been nicely differentiated from the fire story by a light blue screen isolating it without reducing the text’s readability. This entry was a very strong contender for first prize but lost a few points due to the distracting graphic elements placed on top of the photo. A large white headline accompanied by a slab of text on a white screen pulls the reader’s attention away from the impact of the photo. The text could have been much better displayed; a light brown screen appears to have been blended in at the bottom of the photo and the text could have been placed directly on it in much the same manner as the pointers have been treated at the top of the page. This is a great front page which could have benefited with a bit of tweaking of the text elements.

Third: The Courier

The Courier entry followed much the same format; a very good large photo dominating the top of the page with a strong lead story – announcing a new Mt Barker Mayor for the first time in 16 years - at the bottom. Strong headlining of the Mayor story ensured it wasn’t totally overshadowed by the “striking” storm photo above it showing a lightning strike hitting the hills in the night skies above Mt Barker. Again, this entry was a strong contender for the top prize but again lost points due to the placement of text over the photo. The white screen background for the block of text rips the reader’s eyes away from the point of the photo – ie the lightning strike. This distraction could have been overcome by putting it in an extended caption below the photo which had plenty of opportunity for tighter cropping or by photo shopping in a dark shadow and running the text in reverse. That said this is also a great front page and does well to equally promote two, separate hard news stories.

Honourable Mention: The Southern Argus

This is a neat and tidy layout with a strong photo used well – and a good example of blending colours to enhance the layout. It is a simple but logical layout which works well. With the photo promoting a drag queen show at Strathalbyn, the editor also made a “courageous” decision in the accompanying text by linking the  “Queens” performance to the- then recent passing of Queen Elizabeth.


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