Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In which the myrmidon Murdochians continue to reveal they don't have a clue ...

(Above: at last the end of coffee-loving Fairfax).

So what's the inevitable conclusion to the Fairfax Rinehart affair?

Given the market vacuum opening, Australia can no longer afford a heavily taxpayer-funded ABC locked into a fashionable "writers festival" political culture that caters to a dedicated "true believer" minority. The ABC carries a special responsibility at this point in history.

Oh sweet absent lord, it's the usual dribble of cliches from Paul Kelly, all agog at the new role the ABC can play in a post-Fairfax world.

You can find it here or by googling around the paywall using the text above to search.

That means commitment to the central policy questions: the decline in productivity and competitiveness, rising protectionism, the need for tax reform, the implications of industrial re-regulation, the loss of trust in politics, the rise of entitlement, the ramifications of population ageing, the resources boom and lethargy in education and health systems.
It requires an approach more mainstream, more intellectual and more independent.
The media restructuring should mean a greater journalistic onus with opportunity for the public broadcasters.

Say what? You mean the ABC should become an as boring as batshit Paul Kelly column, full of lickspittle Rupert Murdoch fellow-travelling? As turgid as a government press release trawling through central policy questions? Isn't that why we're blessed with Paul Kelly and The Australian?

Or is The Australian simply incapable of becoming more mainstream, more intellectual and more independent?

But wait, is there any attempt by Kelly to reconcile - in his verbal sludgefest - the demand that the ABC should in the self-same leap, become both more mainstream and more intellectual? Because the mainstream in Australia is becoming more and more intellectual? Or more and more fatuous?

Of course Murdoch publications could daily take up the Kelly challenge, and become more mainstream and more intellectual and more independent. What a grand sight that would be ...

But Kelly is quite happy to admit that the fix is in, that the rags pursue a right-wing agenda:

The wider media and political consequences of the Fairfax re-structure are vast. It means a shift in relative media power. Radio and talkback will be enhanced with its right-wing agenda as opposed to the Fairfax centre-left agenda.

Yes and let's discreetly not mention the Murdoch rags and their right-wing agenda.

If the Fairfax mastheads are shut, this trend to the Right will be accentuated. It must favour Coalition values over Labor values.
But isn't this good, isn't this grand? A thousand year reich of Tony Abbott and his descendants? Who could quibble about that, so devoutly desired and daily demanded by the hacks of Murdoch?

The impact on state politics will be tangible. The weakening of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age will favour the long entrenched News Limited tabloids, The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun, in political coverage of the two main states.

Which raises the question as to why Kelly should care. The conglomerate has won, the rags which routinely abuse Pravda by the Yarra and Pravda by the harbour can now head off righteous and full of joy at a glorious victory into a glorious future, where we'll all become Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt parrots ...

Or do they secretly yearn for a cup of coffee, and a little joy and recognition at a writer's festival, and wonder - just wonder, let's not get carried away - whether climate science might have a point.

It seems somehow that Rinehart might pose a threat:

There is no evidence Rinehart has the nous to improve Fairfax's corporate and financial plight. But there is plenty of evidence she wants to use Fairfax assets to promote the west's mining values that define her life and to promote Tony Abbott with his anti-carbon tax, anti-mining tax, anti-Labor-Green agenda. Convinced Australia is on the wrong road, Rinehart wants to change that direction. But with Fairfax mastheads in decline and the age of media magnates in eclipse, her ambition may finish in a deluded dream.

Say what? Doesn't Rinehart in her life and mining values promote all that's dear and meaningful to Murdoch hacks, most notably Tony Abbott with his anti-carbon tax, anti-mining tax, and anti-Labor-Green agenda? Is it possible to imagine a more perfect description of The Australian's editorial policies these past few years, Mr. Kelly, rampantly tedious Australian editor-at-large?

Haven't the rags been stout-hearted in their defence of Rinehart and her right to do anything she likes? And now she's doing it, there's a sudden squawking? Talk of deluded dreams?

Naturally it's all the fault of the elephant in the room:

...not one journalist at either of yesterday's press conferences in Melbourne and Sydney addressed the elephant in the room.
Journalism at Fairfax wassupported by the so-called "rivers of gold" -- classified advertising -- but that's pretty much gone. Some money is now being made from online advertising, but the only real solution for media companies is to try to charge for access to news -- and that's difficult to do when the ABC distorts the market.
The ABC provides a similar product to Fairfax (it has 1000 reporters, providing news online, updated several times a day) but it does not need to charge because its funded by the taxpayer.

But none of that got a look in yesterday. It was all about that woman in the West. (here, but google to avoid the paywall)

Thanks Caroline Overington and Nick Leys, and isn't it grand that in the midst of the Fairfax crisis, The Australian can find the time to target the real issue. The ABC ruining the market ...

In much the same way that chairman Rupert and spawn was always willing to identify the elephant in the room in Britain. Which of course wasn't the wayward News of the World, or the perfidious Sun, or the paywalled shuttered largely irrelevant Times, or Andy Coulson or Rebekah Brooks, or Rupert himself and spawn, and their BSkyB ambitions, but the BBC ...

There's a quaint irony in all this, because there really shouldn't be a hint of concern in the Sun King's rags. The right has won, Gina Rinehart is just wanting to turn herself into a media baron Rupert Murdoch style, and all the correct policies will begin in the reign of Abbott the first in 2013.

But what if Fairfax suddenly turns into a rampant, raging centre for right wing thought? What if Rinehart uses her money to turn the rags into an epicentre for all the right wing hacks in need of an eastern suburbs mansion and plenty of opera recordings? Do a Bolter, so to speak ...

Why wouldn't that be shockingly bad news for a market-segment News Ltd thought it owned.

If Fairfax turns Faux news, where will that leave The Australian, the HUN and the Daily Terror? Will they go even more right? Beyond Genghis Khan and into the galaxy beyond?

How will they be able to publish daily articles denigrating cafe latte sipping, chardonnay swallowing inner city elites who spend all their time pouring scorn on that sweet Australian Gina Rinehart ... when all she wants to do what The Australian has urged to be done for years: elect Tony Abbott, demolish the mining tax, demolish the carbon tax, and to hell with global warming.

Rinehart simply wants to follow the Murdoch manner, and exercise editorial control in the manner of Murdoch's myrmidons. So why all the wringing of hands, and the agitation?

Meanwhile, there has to be someone living in cloud cuckoo land, and naturally the job belongs to Mark Day in Bad news belies the future (may be paywall affected).

Day manages to hold two seemingly contradictory thoughts in his head. Don't worry about newspapers, there's life in the old tree-killing dog yet, and in the same breath, Rinehart's billions may be the only thing between Fairfax and oblivion.

Day references - but in the usual rude Murdoch manner doesn't link to - Eric Beecher's piece for Crikey Corbett, the functionary, sees Fairfax die on his watch - in which Fairfax chair Corbett is given a sound thrashing by Beecher for his lack of digital vision.

Day, in a gratuitously self-serving and self-promotional way, decides to put Beecher straight:

Beecher's passion is obvious, but he falls into a mindset apparent among many media commentators: he assumes Fairfax is the only home of quality journalism in the nation and that its cuts mean the end of quality and is therefore a threat to democracy.

Uh huh, so where's the home of quality journalism?

This is a common join-the-dots argument favoured by the Left, but it is hardly supported by the facts. There is much quality journalism published every day: the pages of The Australian carry the best writing from The Times and The Wall Street Journal ...

Yes quality journalism comes from abroad, presumably in exchange for shipping out iron ore, produced by minions of Murdoch abroad, and the salvation of slack layabouts at home.

Of course there's no space to mention The Guardian, which exposed the deep, dark, dank underbelly of the seething, suppurating Murdoch empire, or a dozen other institutions which provide much better journalism than Murdoch hacks, and for free ...

But do go on ...

... and its opinion pages are the nation's town square for debate ...

Oh roll the jaffas down the aisles. A rag which during the week sells an average 127,942 copies a day (1.6% down first quarter 2012, here) and hasn't dared to reveal its digital subscription situation is the town square for debate?

Some square ... some debate.

Can punters get the chance to throw tomatoes at some of the figures who should be put in stocks every so often in the square? There might be a handy sideline in tomato sales if Janet Albrechtsen or Greg Sheridan turns up in the town square ...

But do go on ...

... the ABC produces it morning, noon and night on its current affairs radio programs such as AM, The World Today and PM and TV programs such as 7.30, Lateline, Four Corners and Q&A.

Uh huh, but so much for Paul Kelly, who assured us in his piece that the ABC isn't up to the game, outside a couple of shows, and needs to step up to the plate.

So who or what else you got?

Laurie Oakes is a standout on TV; one of the few journalists outside newspapers who actually breaks stories.

One man for the entirety of Australian commercial television? And no mention of The Dolt Report, a brand new dynamic current affairs show featuring one of Murdoch's proudest and finest?

So what about the other Murdoch rags?

The News Limited state-based dailies are deliberately less snobbish, but they hit the spot with the people who really matter: their readers.

Ah that must be the more mainstream and more intellectual approach Paul Kelly proposed.

More than 475,000 Victorians choose to buy the Herald Sun every day because, rather than wringing their hands about threats to democracy, they prefer to know what's happening in their state, their towns, their communities - and their football clubs. The paper delivers what they want and puts itself at the centre of the Victorian conversation every day.

Uh huh. That'd be the extreme right wing Victorian conversation every day about the joys of Collingwood footy and the delusion of climate science.

And how is the HUN's digital subscription scheme going, as the first two months free offer begins to wind down?

Anyhoo, to cut a long - really long - story short, here's Day's solution:

What I think a healthy newspaper sector needs is a renewed focus on telling interesting stories and telling them well. I would abandon the past emphasis on lifestyle "news you can use" information, such as where to get the best coffee, and return to digging out stories about people and places that evoke a response from the reader, whether it be empathy, outrage, pride, inspiration or any other emotion.

Uh huh. The village voice. Import the best from overseas, and let the locals go 'hix from the stix' tabloid.

Don't tell them something useful, like where to get a good coffee, but bung on a do, and generate some kind of response or emotion, never mind if it amounts to a hill of beans, or has any meaning. Just sturm und drang.

But The Australian does that every day. It provokes outrage, shock, indignation, horror, revulsion, and any other base, low, insulting emotion that can be mustered.

To once again connect with their communities, newspapers should leave the endlessly grey and boring government pronouncements and the nuts-and-bolts car crashes and road closures to the ubiquitous rip-and-read breaking news websites or smartphone apps. People can get that information free of charge, anywhere, anytime.

What papers should be doing is reporting on their communities with the same fervour and intensity that they devote to sport. That will require journalists with a nose for news and a capacity to tell a ripping yarn.

A ripping yarn? Is that the best that Day can come up with?

Didn't the BBC turn them into a sitcom?

Is this the patented Mark Day Australasian Post solution? A little fervent, simple-minded Dick Smith Australian patriotic nationalism? Or is his heart in the Melbourne Truth?

Well surely Gina Rinehart's just the woman for the job ... she won't stand for any nonsense about where to get a good cup of coffee, not unless you can dig it up and ship it to China ...

By the end of it all, was there any sense in the hubris of The Australian's coverage that their turn might be coming? That they might have got the wrong end of the straw in relation to extreme right-wing coverage and the promotion of the right of Gina Rinehart to do anything she likes, including suppression orders and getting journalists to reveal their sources?

That lurking in their city elite coffee-sipping hearts is a little of the leftist heresies their day job forces them to expunge so they can follow the group think? And a recognition that they might not be able to scarper from the Murdoch flotilla so easily in the future, whether to Fairfax or the ABC?

It's a hard rain that's falling at Fairfax, but when Gina Rinehart shows how right-wing journalism really should be done, perhaps The Australian can return to the centre, or be prepared to head off to oblivion ...

As Paul Kelly should have written:

The media restructuring should mean a greater journalistic onus with opportunity for Murdoch hacks.

In your dreams. You might want coffee but all you'll get is kool-aid.

(Below: the way forward for Australian journalism, spinning a ripping yarn).

(To a ripping audience).


  1. I have had poetry published in the Australasian Post. In its heyday it was like The Bulletin for bogans.

  2. I wonder what will happen to Paul Kelly and co. when the axe falls on the Oz. It won't happen while Rupert is still alive, but when he goes...Look what happened to Alan Jones's gig on the Nine Network, once Kerry Packer popped off.

  3. I possibly read it AJ. It offered something for everyone in the bush, something for mothers to read, fathers to perve on politely, and children to be inducted into the bogan way.

    And yes GlenH, when Rupert goes, and he surely will, instead of being propped up and indulged, The Australian will have to make a living, and work to satisfy its readers, and what a shock that will be ...


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