The Age

Life in the Collective

? Andrew Bolt

Interesting description from Tom Switzer at The Spectator about life in the Fairfax news rooms. I dare say the comparison with the Herald and Radio New Zealand here is very close:

I?ll never forget my first week of work in Australian journalism nearly a decade ago. I started work at the Australian Financial Review at the height of the waterfront dispute in March-April 1998. My editor called me into his office … and instructed me what our editorial line would be, which was along the following lines: ?This is a great day for Australian capitalism; at long last, Australia is reaching a big bang end-game in its decades-long quest to remove the shame on its waterfront.?

After writing my first draft of the next day?s editorial for the editor, I then walked around the floor to meet my new colleagues. They were clearly concerned about the docks dispute unfolding outside our Darling Park office windows. One disturbed journalist asked me: ?Comrade, how do you think we are going in the war out there on the waterfront??

Now, the ?comrade? talk naturally astonished me? Leaving that aside, I still assumed that my new work friends meant we in the sense that we were on message with the company line. So keen to assimilate into my new workplace, I thus plagiarised the editor?s refrain: ?This is a great day for Australian capitalism!”?

Imagine my surprise when one senior journalist called me aside and warned me that airing such provocative opinions around the office could amount to a workplace dispute–even though I was merely parroting the paper?s editorial line! My colleagues, you see, belonged to the journalists? union and so had pledged solidarity with the battling wharfies. Never mind that these battling wharfies had held the country to ransom for decades…. I stood out like a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention.

The episode, though, made me think: if the sober and august journalists at the nation?s leading financial daily had such views about the modern workplace, I wondered how much more entrenched the same attitudes might be among the journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, as well as at the public broadcaster.

The problem with Fairfax

? Quadrant Magazine

David Flint finds where the problems lie with Fairfax:

For two decades now, successive Fairfax boards have hidden behind the charter. To them it has not been a charter of independence ? it has been an abdication of responsibility. The board has abandoned the running of newspapers to the journalists while they have concentrated on ?growing? the company business.

Instead, the business declined, exacerbated by the drying up of those famous rivers of gold, classified advertising. Roger Corbett?s Canute like defiance of the advertising drought, as recounted by Eric Beecher, would be funny if it were not so tragic. That the classified drought was coming was obvious. But successive boards and management were unable to rise to the challenge in the way any capable media mogul would have.

Fairfax has been run too long by a board full of accountants and management men most of whom – with the exception of the passing appearance of John Fairfax – knew absolutely nothing about the running of newspapers. Worse, they seem to have had little interest in doing so. Contrast that with the typical media mogul who is totally obsessed with and entranced by the media. The fact is, to make any media outlet a success, you have to know the media intimately.

Fair and square the board is to blame as those ultimately responsible…but the journalists and editors do not escape unscathed:

Faced with the abdication of responsibility by the Fairfax board, the journalists went their own way. A succession of charter based editors accepted that they were at most first among equals in these cosy, politically correct collectives. They result was those once great journals of record, the?Age?and the?Herald, were converted into fey mouthpieces of the bicycling vegan inner-city elites whose lives are far removed from the mainstream.

The journalistic collectives took the papers in a direction which first irritated and then outraged their traditional readerships. For years I have been told by countless numbers of people that they have given up their subscriptions to the Fairfax papers. Invariably, they mention the letters page which they see as a forum for the inner-city left. In both papers conservative, suburban, Australians are the subject of condescension and ridicule.

Sound familiar? I suspect the board at The NZ Herald is likewise facing the same issues.

“Independent” Journalism

? The Daily Telegraph

There are a great many moaning minnies out there talking about the loss of “independent” journalism. The crescendo is growing, particularly because fo the?upheaval?inside Fairfax as they realise that?alienating?readers doesn’t really pay in the long run.

One such whinger even maintains a blog that constantly moans about partisan bloggers because they don’t fit his world view of what “independent”?journalists?or commentators should be like. Every second post almost he takes aim at bloggers because they aren’t pure of thought and purpose like him.

Miranda Devine explains how it was at the Sydney Morning Herald and what “independent” journalism looks like. I imagine it isn’t too dissimilar at the NZ Herald or even TVNZ:

This column is based on my experience and on recent conversations with current and former Fairfax journalists, editors and high-ranking executives.

When I arrived at the Herald it was controlled by a handful of hard-Left enforcers who dictated how stories were covered, and undermined management at every turn.

“At one extreme, they could be likened to the KGB’s Cambridge recruits at MI6,” recalls former editor in chief Alan Revell.

“More generously, I think they saw themselves as ‘the keepers of the flame’, whose job it was to resist the approach that I (and others) had, which was to encourage a ‘broader church’ of opinion.

“In my view, the paper was not serving its market: its readership was predominantly on the north shore and in the eastern suburbs, not in Balmain and Glebe.”

Another former high-ranking executive described the newsroom collective as “sabotaging the paper and some very good journalists. It’s a crying shame”.

A former editor said: “They love acting like politicians act. To them it’s a war, to the great damage and detriment of the newspaper.”

Another former executive described the world view of the collective as, “inarguably Left-leaning, and anti-business”. It was also anti-religion – especially anti-Christian – and hostile to bourgeois family values.

“The tragedy was that (Fairfax’s) core audience was a conservative audience. You’ve never seen a paper more disengaged from its core audience. Particularly The Age.”

While editors in morning conference decided which stories should be covered, the collective decided how those stories were framed – and they were ruthless enforcers.

For example, in 2007, a journalist was assigned to write a story about the appointment as head of the NSW education department of Michael Coutts-Trotter, who had once served three years in jail for dealing heroin. To his credit, he had rehabilitated himself, but his conviction remained an important part of the story.

One former executive recalls the journalist being heavied by members of the newsroom collective to remove the fact from the article, because Coutts-Trotter’s Labor politician wife was a “particular favourite”.

“All the usual culprits just ganged up on the reporter and bullied her into changing that story, first to not include that fact at all. When she refused she was pressured to downplay the matter. The defenders of free press and independent journalism censored the story.”

He was struck by how overt the interference was: “Such was the strength of that group, and the level of confidence they had around their position. It was understandable, since they’d seen off very many editors and CEOs and directors.

“There used to be a saying that you didn’t need to worry about the current Fairfax regime because there would be another one along any minute”.

The collective, or “nomenklatura”, as one of my Fairfax colleagues described them, were not household names. They rarely had bylines because they did very little of what you might call journalism. They were too busy policing what the real journalists did.

Their tactics against me included bombarding my screen at deadline with poison messages about previous columns, or recruiting friends to lodge complaints about my work.

Fairfax papers worthless – analyst

? Herald Sun

As Gina Rinehart continues to?increase?her stake and demands more board places at?beleaguered?Fairfax, a leading media analyst says that their flagship paper The Age and the SMH are worthless:

THE Fairfax Media unit that runs the company’s flagship newspapers is now worthless, according to a leading analyst.

And the radical cost-cutting program unveiled this week may not be enough to revive the publishing and broadcasting company, industry experts say.

Deutsche Bank media analyst Andrew Anagnostellis has told investors th at Metro Publishing – the Fairfax unit that publishes?The Age?and?The Sydney Morning Herald?- has “nil value”.

He issued the warning yesterday as Fairfax shares tumbled 8.5 per cent, surrendering Monday’s gains.

It came as the deadlock between Fairfax directors and mining magnate Gina Rinehart continued, and amid forecasts from insiders that the media group would yield to her demands.

Mrs Rinehart, Australia’s richest person, is asking for three seats on the Fairfax board but will not agree to follow the group’s charter of editorial independence.

The stand-off is heaping more pressure on the board, which on Monday unveiled a dramatic restructure. It will cut 1900 jobs, introduce a subscriptions for websites, change its broadsheet newspapers to tabloids and shut the Tullamarine printing press among other measures.

More jobs coming back to NZ

? TVNZ

No doubt the Labour party will complain about these jobs coming back to New Zealand:

Journalists from Fairfax’s biggest Australian newspapers continue to risk fines as they strike in protest against plans to move dozens of production jobs offshore.

Staff from publications including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review walked off the job for 36 hours at 5.30pm local time yesterday after learning Fairfax planned to move 66 editorial production jobs from newspapers in Newcastle and Wollongong to New Zealand.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) said the outsourcing of jobs, mostly in sub-editing, means Fairfax is taking cheap shortcuts at the expense of quality journalism.

I wonder if the journalists union here will tell the MEAA to get stuffed with their attacks on Kiwi journalists. Of course this is the same MEAA led by Simon Whipp who?targeted?the Hobbit and joined with other Hobbit hating unionists like Helen Kelly.