Best headlines and front pages of 2021

Best headlines and front pages of 2021
Kristy Nguyen

2021 was a busy year for Australian journalism, from covering a global pandemic, to providing breaking updates on major local and international news events. In newsrooms across the nation, print and digital editors, production staff and headline writers spent the year designing creative story packages and headlines to keep their audiences engaged.

From witty puns and word play, to exceptional investigative reporting, Telum took a look at some of the biggest newsrooms in Australia and their favourite stories and headlines from 2021 and beyond. 

Anthony De Ceglie, Editor-in-Chief at The West Australian:
We try really hard to make our front pages timeless. In many ways, we now see the "front page effect" as more than just a great story, a great image or a brilliant pun - it's the combined effect of all three working together with really quality art. We want our front pages to be viral in themselves.

I think this comes through in the following covers:


CNN posted our LAST DAYS OF TRUMP front page on their Instagram page, exposing our work to their 16.5 million followers.
We are really proud of our art team and, to be honest, artists don't get enough credit (Olivia Desianti, Jamie Hart, Steve Penn, Colin Poad, Chris Leopardi, John Henderson and Tom La Verghetta). Some newsrooms have cut back on artists in recent years, which I actually think is very short-sighted. We've actually gone the other way and tried to invest more in artwork. 

We took events that everyone else covered (the Capitol Hill riots, a landmark climate change report and the breakdown of national cabinet), but treated them in a timeless fashion. Our front covers became stories and talking points in themselves.


Of course, sometimes a great page one is actually just about a brilliant pun. I love it when newspaper editors try to outdo one another when there's clearly one big issue that will dominate the headlines.

Across the nation recently, there were some awesome puns for Novak Djokovic from other mastheads (RETURN SERB and DJOKE-EVICT were two of my favourites). But I think NOVAK'N'WORRIES stands up well against them. 


Baz McAlister, Deputy Night Editor at The Courier-Mail and The Sunday Mail Brisbane:
I work alongside a heap of talented people who wrote their own absolute gems throughout 2021, but here are a few of my favourite headlines I wrote for The Courier-Mail and The Sunday Mail in 2021:

NAT KING COAL: Joyce vows mine job focus

On the day Barnaby Joyce was sworn in after his shock re-anointing as King of the Nats, coal was the first thing on his agenda. My brain managed to put those three keywords together in homage to the vintage American crooner, Nat King Cole.

As the headlines about Joyce's resurrection had been the day before, this was my way of taking the story forward on day two to highlight his agenda after being sworn in.


Another "playing with names" example. When accused drug kingpin Mostafa Baluch planned his escape from NSW to Indonesia via Far North Queensland, it took him across one of the most heavily guarded and thorough borders in the world - from NSW into a very Covid-conscious Queensland. Even hiding inside a special truck compartment didn't help.

There was a great opportunity to play up how dumb his exit plan was.


Sometimes you just have to go with a really silly rhyming headline to jazz up a bizarre crime story. I wrote this one primarily to amuse myself.

Ben English, Editor at The Daily Telegraph:


The combination of an amazing submarine image and news of Australia's new strategic military acquisition with the US laid the foundation for a headline that not only reflected the nation's controversial about-face naval purchase, but the strength and coverage of the US-Australia alliance.


Surfer Kelly Slater was so tickled pink with this headline, he broadcast it far and wide on Twitter and his own social media feeds. Just to be able to compete in the Hawaiian Masters event was one thing, but to win it in the same week as his 50th birthday, three decades on after he first started out in the sport, is a feat deserving of a classic headline.

If you're too young, or have never heard of the classic American TV series Hawaiian Five-O of the 60s and 70s, you might need to Google it.


When the nation's top blue-collar union, the Australian Workers Union, weighs in suggesting that Australia should develop a nuclear industry for the sake of national security, politicians on both sides tend to take notice. 

The headline reflects the decades-old argument around whether Australia should embrace nuclear power, whether it be for electricity purposes or to power our fleet of military might.


This headline says it all with just a hint of tennis top spin. Novak Djokovik's deportation in the midst of surging new cases of coronavirus was the talk of the nation for a whole week before the sporting great was unceremoniously punted out of the country.


Barclay Crawford, Editor at Daily Mail Australia:
Headlines are a big part of the reason 234 million people come to the MailOnline for their news, entertainment and lifestyle - and Daily Mail Australia has some of the best headline writers in the country. Here are some from 2021 we’re proud of:

In terms of global reach, there was no bigger story in Australia in 2021 than the kidnapping and miraculous discovery of little Cleo Smith.

Daily Mail Australia, as always, had the best breaking news coverage of the story. Thankfully, the border between Queensland and WA was still open, so our reporter was quickly on the scene and did a fantastic job, aided by our team back east.

Covid will be the biggest story of most of our working lives. It continues to drive traffic to Daily Mail Australia and our reporting of the pandemic took us to Nielsen’s number one most-read site in Australia in 2021.

When people ask, "where did your readers go before Daily Mail Australia arrived in Australia in 2014?", I’m always proud to confirm many of the young ones didn’t go anywhere. Daily Mail Australia has brought a whole new generation into the regular habit of digesting news and views.

Daily Mail Australia has plenty of vegan readers, militant vegan readers, anti-vegan readers … and those who just love fighting battles about the diet and lifestyle choice in our comments section. We’re a broad church at Daily Mail Australia and certainly have no dog in the fight, but we DO love a vegan-fuelled stouch!

Oliver Murray, Editor at

This was the story that started the biggest political news event of 2021. Samantha Maiden's exclusive on Brittany Higgins' allegation she was raped in Parliament House was not only an incredible piece of journalism, but is the story that would start a movement in parliament, eventually leading to Scott Morrison saying sorry to any people who had been allegedly abused at Parliament House over the years. 

Samantha Maiden received the Gold Walkley award for her work on this story on Friday, 25th February 2022.

This story really struck a chord because it is the worst nightmare of every Aussie trying to break into the property market. Imagine saving your deposit and finding your dream home, only to miss out on the home AND lose the deposit because of a bank error?

When we let James Weir loose on Byron Bay, we had no idea he'd come back with a story like this. James perfectly described how Bryon Bay has changed, by looking at the Insta influencers who have invaded, and the frustration of long-time locals.

More stories

Telum media database

  • Barclay Crawford
  • Anthony De Ceglie
  • Ben English
  • Baz McAlister
  • Oliver Murray
  • The Daily Telegraph
    24 contacts
    27 media requests
  • The Courier-Mail
    21 contacts
    11 media requests
  • The West Australian
    21 contacts
    5 media requests
  • Daily Mail Australia
    22 contacts
    19 contacts
    12 media requests
  • The Sunday Mail (Brisbane)
    8 contacts
    3 media requests
  • Telum Media
    11 contacts
    58 media requests

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