typing is not activism….

environ mentalism, fresh articles, interviews & checkitouts from Sydney.

How crap is Fairfax? How crap is Miriam Steffens?

with 2 comments

The correct answers are “more than ever” and “completely”. “totally” and “who?” are also acceptable.

The main Fairfax broadsheets are Melbourne’s Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. One of the supposed strengths of Fairfax is a pluralistic approach, namely that know-nothing scene queens like Miranda Devine and Liberal Party lobbyists like Gerard Henderson appear alongside worthwhile writers and analysts like Michelle Grattan, Ross Gittins, and Peter Hartcher.

Anybody who has been paying attention would have noticed that the Herald has increasingly hybridised itself over the last 12-18 months, becoming – at least in part – some sort of pillar for right wing hacks and Pauline Hanson supporters to lean upon in times of need of propaganda or self-approval.

Add in to the mix elements of Ralph crossed with Who Weekly and New Idea, and you have some kind of race to the bottom marked by pictures of boobs and no need for reading or analysis above a fifth grade level. The only reason that the papers are worth reading is for ridicule and the fact that they are 60% not this (or 40% in the case of the Herald – whose editor scrapped and investigative journalist’s final piece after five years in and around Palestine because he didn’t want to offend the Israel lobby. What a dick!).

The Fairfax Brains Trust’s self-perception is perhaps best evidenced in their latest tv ads – cool and striking photos from around the world flash in sync with rocking guitar, and then there’s some lame tagline about being cool and cutting edge. The fact that the paper is neither is underscored by the fact that the music is a blatant plagiarism of that ancient anthem “Fuck You I won’t Do What Ya Tell Me” by Rage Against the Machine parading as futuristic freshness.

Either Fairfax doesn’t realize that it actually is the Machine, or its directors do realize this but figure the rest of us are so stupid that rainbow-bright advertising featuring photos taken for international non-Fairfax publications will stop us working this out for ourselves.

So now Fairfax’s directors have taken the bold decision to reward shareholders and themselves by sacking 550 employees, including a large number of journalists. Amusingly, even with their massive resources, Fairfax have been slow to adapt to the age of new media. They are only doing something now – the wrong thing – because their profits have shrunk. Rather than an innervation of their online presence (with wacky upgrades like “hyperlinking”), it is likely that we will see more tacky crappy “Sam” type blogs and uncredited reposting of even more articles from the New York Times, and of course even more crap press releases parading as articles.

Like this one by some p.r. mole called Miriam Steffens. Amazingly, the Fairfax staff seem incredibly upbeat about their own rapidly vanishing prospects. Steffens even managed to frame the quote from the journalists’ own union in such a way that it almost sounds non-combative:

“It’s a gut reaction that reducing costs is going to be the salvation of media groups who are struggling in these difficult times. One would have thought that the way to attract readers is to produce the best quality journalism we can.”

The Australian presents an entirely different and far more insightful viewpoint. The articles make for a good exercise in contextualisation and comparison – structures, highlights, flow, tone, viewpoint; even in comparing the comments by reps from the same union, The Australian takes a mighty dump on Steffens brown-nosing head:

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance Victorian sectretary Louise Connor said The Age journalists were angry and shell-shocked and had condemned Mr Kirk for making the announcement before talking to staff.

Which also goes to show that direct quotes can hide the truth more effectively than paraphrasing when they are pruned with intent. Although absent from Fairfax’s own article on the subject, The Australian – which properly discloses all of its potential conflicts of interest in quoting from sources such as the Daily Telegraph’s editorial staff – gives voice to Gerard Noonan of Fairfax.

After a meeting at Fairfax’s headquarters in Sydney’s Pyrmont, senior Herald journalist Gerard Noonan branded management “gutless” and said they were using “the worst of the Work Choices legislation” to make deep cuts to journalism.

“This is a panicked response,” he said. “Management is clearly struggling to deal with how to handle the complex demands of high-end, quality journalism.”

Miriam works in the same building as Gerard, but completely misses the existence of this anger, doesn’t feel it worth mentioning that the Stock Exchange was informed of this decision before the people to be fired, and indeed thinks that the key point of note in the entire piece of scumbaggery is that:

(Fairfax Executive) Mr (David) Kirk said the targeted $50 million in annualised cost savings would “hold us in good stead for years to come”.

Fairfax, you’re in something, but it’s not “stead” and if employees like “Miriam” are anything to go by, it’s not good.


Written by typingisnotactivism

August 27, 2008 at 9:17 am

2 Responses

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  1. They have to go on strike. Now. Indefinitely.

    I listened this morning to some mealymouthed soul from Media Alliance, insisting that the hangover from Workchoices was so pernicious, strike action was “risky”. Not as risky I would have thought as losing your job, or your work mate’s job, or losing it in the next round of retrenchments following the next management fuckup.

    And let us see whether a Federal Labor government would support a punitive legal response to strike action. Now that WOULD be interesting…

    Crikey also reported on the day of the sackings that management bonuses had risen by $20 – $30 million over the last 2 years. And of course the sackings occurred a week after Fairfax announced a record increase in profits.


    August 28, 2008 at 1:56 pm

  2. that’s interesting about the bonuses – strange for that not to have appeared elsewhere, being so blatant. Interestingly enough there’s no mention of the fact that journos are striking at Fairfax in Fairfax publications.
    Shame about the Media Arts etc alliance being such a twee union. They grab a headline every three or four months with some gourmet out-of-touch arts concern. Then – even though they have a finger in all media – something major like this happens and they mealy-mouth it up. Kind of get the feeling that they employ all the journos who weren’t capable enough to get work as journos.. or press secretaries.. or spokespeople.. or artists.


    August 29, 2008 at 10:06 am

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