The Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers are, in the opinion of many, the ball-and-chain dragging this once-proud media company to its doom. This opinion is not unique to the more prominent Right Wing bloggers in
who lament those papers’ lack of political and ideological balance. The opinion
is shared by, among others, the Wall Street Journal.
It appears that the editorial board (and the journalists they supervise) want Ms Reinhart to sign a “charter of independence” that would prohibit her from exerting any influence over what the journalists report or the editors opine. Now while I’m all for editorial independence from corporate ownership, it strikes me that there’s more than a hint here of something else. That what they really want is the right to pursue the ruinous course that has taken them to this point (of which more presently) while simultaneously being propped up endlessly with Gina Rinehart’s money. In other words, they want their remuneration to be independent of their output.
This is not how the world at large works.
It’s been a while since I’ve read the Sydney Morning Herald, but I have long memory of reading the Age for four years of my life because my thoughtful boss used to provide it (and its competitor The Australian and the local Melbourne tabloid, the Herald Sun) on a daily basis in the tea-room at work, and because in 2007 I used to see it offered free to a good home (or at least very cheaply) at Starbuck’s with anyone who bought a sufficient-sized coffee. To put it bluntly, the thing is huge – if ever you went travelling back in time to that part of prehistory which features dragonflies as long as your forearm and other such insectoid unpleasantries, The Age (especially the Saturday Age) is just the thing to take along in order to have something to swat them with. And yet all the reportage is over in the first section, and much of the rest fits under the rubric of what could most broadly be called “lifestyle” – cars, real estate, fashion… that sort of thing.
Bolt and the others are IMO not far wrong in accusing the paper of pandering to a readership which is predominantly left-wing, inner-city, moderately to very wealthy, and fashionably interested in “environmental” concerns. This is predominantly the makeup of those who write for the paper, and it would appear they have deluded themselves into believing that much of their potential readership agrees with them.
Except it doesn’t.
Fairfax is dying; and as
it dies, the Australian Labor Party (which governs the nation, and upon the metaphorical
penis of which the Fairfax
papers appear to slobber in servile delight) is considering ever-greater levels of media regulation to ensure that something exists out there to report
favourably (or at least not-unfavourably) upon its doings. Because the last
thing the government appears to want is an exceedingly rich person (though not
the same rich person) at the helm of
both the major media empires on Australian soil, selling a lot of newspapers that
people want to read, none of which say nice things about the government.
It seems most peculiar (*sarcastic cough*) that Fairfax’s decline begins where the Howard Coalition Government ends – almost as if it needed an enemy to whip up a frenzy among readers who need their Two Minutes’ Hate but won’t stand for endless fellatory hagiography when those being metaphorically fellated are failing in their tasks by all but the most ideologically blinkered benchmarks; and where the people being attacked are a Federal Opposition which, when in government, had a sterling record for economic and political management and which, in Opposition, is powerless to do anything - because the government clings to life by a pair of MPs who, in a majority parliament, it would not hesitate to wash its hands of.
The Government is determined to hold out to the last possible day before the Constitution scruffs it and forced-marches it to the polls, and Fairfax requires a Coalition government upon which to feed the masses with hysteria. Will the Government nationalise the newspapers in the interests of "balance" until this can occur? Will the board relent and give Gina Rinehart the seats she requests (she is currently the largest shareholder and yet is denied a seat on the board, primarily because she is a mining magnate and the self-made richest woman in Australia - far more accomplished in her time than the Prime Minister)? Or will the papers turn up their useless toes and die as they deserve?