Best Advertiser stories of 2020 – free to read for a limited time
In a year like no other, our SA newsroom created a plethora of premium content for our loyal subscribers. Here are our best 25 pieces of subscriber-only journalism from 2020 – now unlocked and free for all to experience until January 27.
In a year like no other, the newsroom of The Advertiser, Sunday Mail and Messenger created a plethora of premium content for our loyal subscribers.
As we head into what we can only hope will be a better 2021, our senior editors have selected their favourite pieces of local journalism from 2020 to unlock for all of our audience to enjoy, for free, in January.
Of the more than 12,000 articles we published last year, this is our 25 Best of 2020.
If you’re not a subscriber, we hope this selection of thought-provoking, entertaining, confronting and surprising South Australian stories might entice you to consider supporting our local newsroom with a subscription.
Our subscribers allow us to continue to shine a light onto issues that matter to our audience, to tell the stories of our communities and to ask the tough questions on their behalf. We’re here for you, but we also can’t do it without you.
And if you are a subscriber – thank you, as ever, for your loyalty and we look forward to delivering you our very best throughout 2021. Whatever it may bring.
THE 25 BEST OF 2020
These 25 articles are unlocked and free to read until January 27. To become a subscriber for 2021 and get full digital access to all of our trusted news and analysis, it costs just $5/month for the first three months (min cost $5). Explore all the options here.
SOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE DESTRUCTION
Long-form journalism at its very best, by one of the best in the business. Roy Eccleston’s astonishing retelling of the fire that consumed the Southern Ocean Lodge while six people were trapped in a bunker and praying for a miracle is a must-read – and a timely reminder a year on from the devastating fires of how brutal nature can be.
IN-DEPTH PROFILE OF NICOLA SPURRIER
It was clear pretty quickly that Dr Nicola Spurrier was going to become a regular part of our lives in 2020 but even when this outstanding profile was written by the brilliant Penny Debelle in May, we could not have guessed just how much our chief public health officer would influence our lives. This SAWeekend magazine cover story gave our audience an unprecedented insight into Nicola Spurrier, one of four in-depth interviews with our “COVID Quartet” made up of Premier Steven Marshall, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, Health Minister Stephen Wade and Professor Spurrier.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE CROWS CAMP
Another SAWeekend cover story that gave a unique insight into a well-publicised subject: the Crows camp. Graham Cornes, an excellent and meticulously researched writer, gained the trust over many months of the two men behind that infamous camp that has been blamed for so many of the Crows’ woes since their 2017 Grand Final capitulation. Here he finds out their side of the story, which may never have been told if it weren’t for Cornes’s tenacity and integrity.
SHOCKING PLIGHT OF INDIGENOUS SOUTH AUSTRALIANS
Serious journalism tackles the hardest of subjects and respected journalist and author Michael McGuire took on one of the biggest issues to face us as a nation – the plight of indigenous Australians in modern Australia. It’s a challenging piece that divided our audience – one reader said “Thank you Michael McGuire for an intelligent, comprehensive, sensitive and well-researched article. Too many journalists consult too narrowly and gain a limited understanding of indigenous issues in SA as a result.”. But another said he told only half the story. We think it showcases the very best of our newsroom.
THE BOATIE THAT CAPTURED THE STATE’S ATTENTION
The tragedy of Nathan Davies’ remarkable profile of a true South Australian character was, days after it was published, missing-then-found boatie Tony Higgins went missing again for good. Davies’ fabulous piece of writing takes on an unintended poignancy when reading it with the knowledge of how the story ultimately ends.
EX-BIKIE BROTHERS ON THE ROAD TO REDEMPTION
Some stories come together easily and require one interview. Others, such as Roy Eccleston and Veathika Jain’s gripping piece on two identical twins who became high ranking bikies now on the road to redemption, take nearly a year of negotiation and the building of trust – on both sides. But it was not just a story told in words – our talented videographer Emily Dawe shot and edited four outstanding videos with “the brothers Grimm”, which now have almost one million views. And Matt Turner’s gritty photos completed an utterly compelling package of words and imagery.
SA SCIENTIST BEHIND GLOBAL TRIAL OF COVID-19 VACCINE
Roy Eccleston’s stories appear more than once on this list, and for good reason. As one of Australia’s most respected writers – having written for The Australian as their Washington correspondent, spent five years in the federal press gallery, covered two Olympic Games and written for The Bulletin, Time magazine and The Times of London. In August, he turned his seasoned eye to SA scientist Nikolai Petrovsky, going deep inside the remarkable story of one man’s obsession with finding a vaccine to COVID-19.
PORT ADELAIDE’S ZAK BUTTERS OPENS UP ABOUT HIS SISTER’S ICE ADDICTION
Trust is a critical ally of great journalism and sports journalist Matt Turner (a different Matt Turner to the photographer mentioned above) has won the trust of many top sportspeople by telling their stories accurately, honestly and with empathy. The Port Adelaide youngster opened up to him about how he struggled with the move to Adelaide from Melbourne
INSIDE THE FIGHT FOR PORT ADELAIDE’S PRISON BAR JUMPER
It’s the long-running saga that is always bound to get Eddie McGuire whinging. Port Adelaide’s push to don their historic prison bar guernsey more frequently during AFL matches gathered significant pace last year, with a petition generating widespread support. This inside story from Matt Turner takes a look at the claim from McGuire that Port Adelaide signed a contract upon entering the AFL limiting the use of the prison bars. Those leading Port Adelaide at the time they entered the competition disagree. Take a read and decide for yourself.
TOP 50 REGIONAL RESTAURANTS
It was clear by about June that our annual October delicious100 list would not be as relevant in a year of lockdowns and restrictions, so we decided to turn it into a part-travel-guide, part-restaurant-recommendation package to help SA foodies plan their regional holiday to help the local tourism industry. We’re really thrilled to be unlocking this one for our audience as it’s one of the major subscriber-exclusives we do each year, and it’s exciting to be able to offer it to all our audience in January. Enjoy.
JOCK ZONFRILLO BEHAVING BADLY
It was a year of ups and downs for Scottish MasterChef Jock (real name Barry) Zonfrillo. He became a nationally renowned TV star but in his business life was facing severe headwinds, having to shut down his globally renowned Adelaide restaurant Orana. Plus the Walkley Award-winning Colin James found another event from Zonfrillo’s past that sent him bankrupt: the confronting tale of when he set an apprentice chef alight. Colin’s story made national news and was read first by subscribers to advertiser.com.au
EXCLUSIVE DETAILS BEHIND ANNIE SMITH’S DEATH
Veteran journalist Nigel Hunt has for decades been one of the heaviest hitters in The Advertiser’s newsroom with a contact book the envy of anyone in SA media circles. His investigation into the care company charged with looking after Annie Smith revealed shocking new details behind one of the most shameful and distressing stories of 2020. A forensic, complex and important piece of journalism, superbly executed by one of the very best in the business.
ANNIE SMITH’S FAMILY SPEAK OUT
Nigel wasn’t the only reporter in our SA newsroom investigating the circumstances around Annie Smith’s death. The Sunday Mail’s senior journalist Rebecca DiGirolamo spent months tracking down then winning the trust of Annie’s uncle and brother, who eventually decided to exclusively speak with Rebecca. They tell of rage and disgust and also for the first time paint a detailed picture of Annie’s life. Five long months after her death came to light, Rebecca – first through painstaking research and then with compassionate patience – was finally able to tell the full story.
WOMEN’S MENTAL HEALTH DURING COVID CRISIS
Rebecca’s work in the second half of 2020 has focused on a subject the global pandemic has brought front and centre – mental health. It has put pressure on all of our lives in ways we could not have predicted as we headed into March last year. Here, Rebecca takes a look specifically at the impact on women of COVID-19 lockdowns and other restrictions. It’s a mature and intelligent piece asking important questions about the cultural implications of the pandemic and what can be done by individuals and society about the unseen impacts of the coronavirus.
LETTER OF LAMENT FROM HUNDREDS OF SA DOCTORS
One of the biggest stories of 2020 was the debate surrounding the resourcing and equipment at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Way back in February last year, respected Health Reporter Brad Crouch broke a major story in the saga when he revealed a letter, signed by 215 doctors, calling for change and warning of the consequences if no action was taken. It was the first time the letter had been seen publicly and stands as a powerful example of how experienced and trusted journalists bring matters of critical public importance to light.
160 YEARS OF WEST END IN PICTURES
A change of pace now. We raided our extensive photo archives for a stunning selection of 70 images tracing the history of the West End Brewery – it’s got everything from a wonderful 1908 image of workers where all but two have been identified, through to the crazy hair and fashion of footballers hoisting their colours up the flagpole in the 70s, and even tells the story of a man who fell down a deep well in the 80s. A great way to disappear into some SA history.
WHO OWNS SA’S PUBS
While the corporate raiders are snapping up our local beloved pubs, there are still a whole bunch owned by famous SA families. We put together a map of more than 200 hotels so you can see who runs your local. These kinds of stories take a lot of time to research and verify, plus to build maps for our digital audience, which is why we usually make them subscriber exclusives.
ADELAIDE’S MOST LEGENDARY NIGHTCLUBS
One of our most fun – and as it turns out most popular – stories of the year was Patrick McDonald and Anna Vlach’s hugely entertaining look back at the nightclub scene of the 1980s and 1990s. Such was the success of the first piece and the hilarious responses from our audience, Patrick and Anna did a follow-up. We’ve unlocked both as a bonus – enjoy.
SA’S STREET ART MEGA-GALLERY
Here’s another double bonus – two picture galleries totalling more than 120 images of the very best mural art across South Australia. Taking weeks to compile, it’s a stunning visual experience to lose yourself in and showcases the incredible artistic talent on display in SA.
MARKING FIVE YEARS SINCE PHIL WALSH DIED
As one person wrote in the comments of this story, it’s hard to believe 2020 marked five years since the death of Crows’ coach Phil Walsh. This in-depth tribute, beautifully written by Chief Sports Writer Reece Homfray, starts unexpectedly with a very personal story from a little-known player who tells of the profound impact Walsh had on his life. This is well worth your time to reflect on a story that still feels unbelievable even to this day.
THE PARWANA STORY
Another beautiful piece of writing, this time from Lifestyle Editor Jessica Galletly – described by one reader as a “superb story of resilience and love, what a way to start my day.” Another said it was the “best article I’ve read for a while.” Another simply said “Thank you.” It’s one of those fabulous reads that may have slipped under the radar – so here it is again, the story of how one family fled war-torn Afghanistan to create a beloved and acclaimed Adelaide restaurant.
THE PHIL RANKINE FILES
When well-known local concert promoter and former Block star Phil Rankine was arrested in June 2020 on 20 counts of theft, we did a deep dive into his business affairs and the people impacted – including names such as Mark Ricciuto and members of the Kidman family. It provided the kind of depth you can only get from a dedicated local business team, led by our award-winning Business Editor Cameron England.
GUPTA PUTS STEEL CITY ON BRINK OF BLACK
Cameron England has long followed the fortunes of “saviour of Whyalla” Sanjeev Gupta. This piece marking two years since his “big reveal” for the future of the Steel City charts the ups and downs of the journey so far. It’s an important analysis of a man who holds a region’s future in his hands.
HAUNTED PUBS OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Everyone loves a good ghost story and a whole lot of you loved this piece from the Sunday Mail’s Rebecca Baker. Here she reveals thirteen pubs across SA where the spirits are not just in bottles – and it’s not just the cold brews that will send shivers down your spine!
10 MOST INSPIRATIONAL SOUTH AUSTRALIANS
What better way to round out our list of 25 of some of our best stories of 2020 with a list of our 10 most inspirational South Australians. Published on Christmas Day, this list comprises people who care, who fight the odds, who break barriers. And, perhaps most importantly, who provided hope for 2021. It’s also compiled by some of our most distinguished scribes: Andrew Hough, Liz Walsh, Lydia Kellner, Matt Turner, Rebecca Baker, Rebecca DiGirolamo, Reece Homfray and Roy Eccleston