Saturday, August 24, 2013

A refreshed pond lands, proudly myrmecophilous ...

Okay, let's get myrmecophilous out of the way first ...

Now to business.

You see, the pond has been thinking long and hard about refreshing its masthead.

Frankly the loons at the top of the page, loveable as they are, look a tad tired. And readership is plunging, hits are dropping, comments as rare as hen's teeth, and circulation in trouble.

What to do, what to do? Well, we've decided to stop circulating the roneoed copy we drop into the letterboxes of neighbours (ha, there's a mimeographed word you thought you'd never see again).

And we've come up with this:

What's that? Oh no, Fairfax has already done it, and left out the key bits of the text?

Naturally the pond didn't actually bother to read about the Fairfax initiative in Fairfax.

It was perfectly well covered, at a price that the pond could afford, at mUmBRELLA, as you can read in Fairfax launches new position - Independent. Always.

We know you have many choices when it comes to your news.
All we suggest is that when choosing, do as we do. Seek out the truth.

Well if the copy that accompanied the re-positioning - which coyly presents a faux war with Murdoch rags as the solution to Fairfax's own problems - isn't delusional and offensive enough for you - "go seek the truth, wombats, seek the truth, become truth seekers like us, the ultimate wombat seekers after truth" - then perhaps you needed a dose of Crikey in the Tips and Rumours section (yes the pond's love hate relationship continues) dropping this gem on the world:

So circulation is meaningless?

Well that's a relief to the pond. Surely the odd hit from outer Mongolia with someone thinking they've stumbled on a pirate site is more than enough ...

Of course the pond has been leading the charge in the industry by deliberately reducing its readership, and focusing on what's amusing, and sure enough the laughs obtained per copy of Fairfax has substantially increased. No doubt others will follow the pond ...

Yes, it's easy to mock the Fairfaxians, and no doubt the news for the Murdochians will be equally grim, if they ever dare to actually publish their results, due out by the end of August, as Glenn Dyer explained, also for Crikey, in Papers losing $7m a week? Fairfax results look grim for News (may be paywall affected).

But back to the notion of independence.

At one point, the pond used to have the AFR dropped over the gate, but there came a point where its coverage of broadband issues and the NBN and related matters - unimaginably - became just as bad and as infuriating and as mendacious as The Australian.

There used to be an old mantra that if you didn't like what you read, stop reading and read something else.

So the pond did.

Now Fairfax made an abysmal adaptation to digital delivery - the AFR paywall was an exemplary example - and they were told by many people that they were going about it half-arsed, but away they went, and sure enough it was half-arsed.

And it wasn't just the way that they let fleet-footed rivals take away their classified business online.

It was the ponderous, arrogant notion that they were still the main game, though they routinely failed to distinguish between the delivery of news and opinion, and grew to resemble a clone of Murdochian habits and behaviour.

News is everywhere, so superabundant that these days the pond hides from it rather than seeking it out.

As a pond correspondent has noted, the ABC's televisual news arm, exactly like its commercial television rivals, is dedicated to ambulance chasing of the most parochial kind, and not just on television, but in its radio service and online.

The pond rarely goes to the ABC for news, just as it doesn't much bother with the News free service.

Yes, amazingly, at a time when the Murdochians are flinging up paywalls everywhere (and then dropping the paywalled stories into blogs - hello Simon Benson, here no cash for your prejudiced bilious opinion pieces, no cash here) - it still runs an entirely free news site under the white label, generally without the stench of the corrupt bias that litters the tabloid rags like the Daily Terror, the HUN and the reptiles at the lizard Oz.

How long will it last? Who cares?

But with news so free and abundant, opinion is the only distinctive game in town, so please allow the pond to continue to harp about the notion of independence.

In fact during the Gillard reign, Fairfax routinely confused news and opinion, with the likes of Peter Hartcher front and centre, and with a fascination for Labor's internal squabbles that saw them almost completely ignore policy issues and policy discussions (you can't call Gerard Henderson or Paul Sheehan policy wonks, just baleful nattering right wing negativity mongers).

Now it wasn't just the pond who noticed this, it was written up by Kerry-Anne Walsh. So who did The Age drag away from the lizard Oz to review it? Yes, they dragged in Peter Craven to scribble A loyalist's rage against the Rudd conspiracy, no doubt with a fair expectation of what Craven would scribble, in the Craven manner.

Happily the AFR has Mark Latham on its books, and he didn't hold back in Shame on the Canberra press gallery:

Walsh lists many guilty parties in her book, among them Simon Benson, Phil Coorey, Dennis Shanahan, Phil Hudson, Matthew Franklin, Chris Kenny, Jessica Wright and Steve Lewis. But she saves a special contempt for Peter Hartcher of The Sydney Morning Herald, the equivalent of Rudd’s press secretary, a political agent masquerading as an independent reporter. 
Last month, Hartcher unintentionally confirmed the strength of Walsh’s critique when he wrote of how his man Kevin was using “the proxy of the press gallery” against Gillard; summarising the media’s role in making Rudd’s comeback possible. This is the greatest cowardice of all: people who want to be players in politics but lack the integrity and courage to run for elected office in their own name.

Indeed. The reporters became the news, or more to the point, their covert opinions became the news.

The pond can't think of a greater insult than bracketing Hartcher right down there with Chris Uhlmann.

But it wasn't just Hartcher. The Age's editorialist, in his infinite wisdom, decided to run a front page editorial:

That's not independence, that's being interfering busybodies in a front page exhibitionist way ...

Others put it better:

The Fairfax newspapers generally tried harder to be impartial, but there was a remarkable turnaround last week. The Age – as if its own pre-occupation with polls and personality politics had nothing to do with it – came out with a vacuous and hypocritical front page editorial (forced video) saying that Gillard had to go, otherwise the voters would have no chance of focusing on the issues. Really. (Old media ethical failure propelled Gillard demise).

Well in the end Hartcher and the Fairfaxians got their wish, and where has it got them?

The Ruddster on the path to doing a John Howard and losing his own seat ...

And as for a rigorous scrutiny of Tony Abbott's actual policies and their implications for key areas, not least climate change, broadband and education?

Go whistle in the wind ... and expect to pay to read the wind ...

But now there's time for a little contemplation, reflection and perhaps even remorse, as it emerged I wasn't told: Age political ed out of the loop on Gillard hatchet (may be paywall affected):

Age national political editor Michael Gordon has revealed he was not told about a controversial front-page editorial published in his own paper calling on former prime minister Julia Gillard to sack herself. The Walkley Award-winning press gallery veteran told an audience at the University of Melbourne last night that he only knew about the splash 12 hours before it was published after a conversation with the soon-to-be-dumped PM. 
The Saturday Age treatise, published on June 22 in the week prior to Kevin Rudd’s re-ascension, was titled “For the sake of the nation, Ms Gillard should stand aside”, and prompted Age editor Andrew Holden to a record a justificatory video message after outpourings of outrage on social media. The issue of front-page editorials and media bias has exploded in recent weeks after The Daily Telegraph and The Australian Financial Review published damning assessments of Rudd. 
Responding to a suggestion from fellow panellist Kerry-Anne Walsh that it was “extraordinary” to call on a sitting PM to stand down without an election in sight, Gordon set the record straight: “I was not consulted about that decision, the editorial is written by a group of three leader writers who have a conference with the editor each day and on that week … the editor-in-chief came to this decision, the leader was written and the first I knew about it was midday on Friday after having had a conversation with the Prime Minister.”

Uh huh. So that's independence.

(Gordon) said the decision “shocked a lot of Age readers and it shocked a number of people on the editorial floor … but that’s the way it was done”.

So independence is playing queen destroyer and king maker, without a roundtable conversation or consultation, and the difference between Fairfaxians and the Murdochians is ...?

The pond is so over journalists as sources of opinion - opinion-makers acting as news deliverers, blathering and babbling to fill the void and the 24 hour news cycle, talking to each other, talking over each other, shouting and arguing with each other, turning up on Q and A like flies - that these days silence is the preferred option.

The ABC is almost impossible to watch or to listen to, for fear of encountering yet another murder of crow journalists cawing and crowing as they interview other journalists about what other journalists have said or written.

It results in a plague of journalists, all with an opinion, yet its also a diminishing throng, thanks to cuts, and without many signs of new blood.

Instead there's a preferred bunch of babblers who rush from one talkathon to the next ...

The pond thinks of it as the Uhlmann disease, and panel on the media got it in one:

Commenting on the nature of the modern political campaign, one major change noted by the journos was the pressing expectation to file analysis and opinion pieces throughout the day when previously they had hours to give their considered take. 
 “The pressure now is to have instant opinion, if you’ve got six hours before deadline you really want to use that six hours, and the expectation now is that that’s gone,” Gordon said. The Oz’s Ferguson concurred. “It does creep in and it’s all over the shop. It’s almost a big characteristic of Australian journalism now. It’s everywhere. I’ve commented too much in news, absolutely; it’s like being in AA sitting up here isn’t it?” he said to mass belly-laughs.

Which is why the Fairfax tag is so pathetic.

Instant opinion, mingled with news and prejudice and distortion, isn't independence. But it surely is as irritating as hell, and a sure way to earn a switch off, which is why there's a fair chance that the Murdochians will soon enough announce that they're in the same leaky boat as the Fairfaxians ...

They still don't get it, or if they get it, they refuse to acknowledge it.

Time for the pond to join the AA ...


  1. DP - You might find a use for one of these ...

  2. Here, have a 'hit' and a comment, gratis.
    But only cos you deserve it and I want you to feel wanted, hey, needed even.


  3. The SMH have copied the slogan of UK's Independent.

    I remember when it launched in 1986. They had big billboard ads saying -

    "We're Independent. Are you?"

    Seems a bit like plagiarism.

  4. Hey,I'm with you Fred. Thanks DP. If I could write half as well as you do,I would be as happy as Larry.As for the Crikey piece,"circulation is a meaningless number" was a real eye popper.Their shareholders must be quite impressed with that one.
    That these organisations can bleed such huge amounts of money,day in,day out,just to run a political line is amazing and informative in itself.
    As for Uhlmann's disease,this is obviously the most contagious pandemic since the Spanish Flu,deliberately spread by the King Tweet himself.
    The fact that the worlds media is controlled by 6 or 7 conglomerates means that you just have to search a bit harder to find the truth.Case in point; Clive Palmers statement that he was approached by Mal Brough to fund the Slipper affair.Totally ignored by the great majority of our media.(See Independant Australia online article)

  5. As reported by Crikey on 16 Aug

    “In the land of the dead trees, Fairfax Media recorded another poor quarter. The weekday Sydney Morning Herald was down 17% year-on-year to 141,699 and is now outsold by southern sibling The Age, which fell by 16.2% on weekdays to 142,050. The Saturday SMH (once overflowing with classified ads) slumped by 20.2% to 233,335”

    “Independent Always” will not stop the funeral.

  6. Hi Dorothy
    If I could only put my message out like you. But where to start with the rubbish published in the name of news has no publishing or broadcasting agency realised how untrustworthy journalists have become at presenting news.
    I have formed the opinion not to rely on any organisation to present facts or truth of the news.
    Talk about used car sales men journalists have become so distrusted that we cannot believe any of them.I would like to say how I distrust journalists in a more derogatory terms but that would leave me to use foul language.

  7. Dorothy, I am going to comment regularly to swell the numbers. You deserve it. You amuse, delight and terrify me. You drag morsels and tidbits in and set them before me to savour. And I do. I do. I will be turning to you for solace more and more in the coming Murdochracy. I am not looking forward to it one bit.

  8. The Slipper/Ashby/Pyne/Brough saga could become a turning point.

    Was Pyne having an affair with Ashby? (as reported in IA)

    Did senior libs conspire to bring down Gillard via Slipper?

    Was Palmer solicited by Brough?

  9. don't you noworries about you here ulan Bator very too friendly you,


Comments older than two days are moderated and there will be a delay in publishing them.