Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Big Sweat On Spencer Street

THAT Andrew Bolt, he’s such a tease!

Twice in one of his most recent posts he has tantalised with the dropped hint that he is talking with the Age. He is going there tomorrow, he tells us, and in the next breath speaks of discussing with a lofty Fairfax sort the wan performance of apparatchik academic Matthew Ricketson as that newspaper’s former media writer. Could his journey to Spencer Street be to discuss joining Fairfax, perhaps becoming part of a Rinehart-led attempt to revive a publication that, quite frankly, is so far gone it would tax the alleged Messiah’s best efforts to raise it from the slab?

It is nice to dream, to wonder how some fresh blood and fresh perspectives might revitalise an institution which has betrayed and abandoned the city it claims to serve. There is almost no local news in the Age these days -- no coverage of councils or planning decisions, for instance, that is not distilled from the acid lactations of Labor spinners intent on eroding the reputation of Planning Minister Matthew Guy.

Nor is curiosity to be observed in any measurable quantity. There was a race riot recently in Canberra, and the person who appears to have been at the centre of it, former prime ministerial glad-hander Tony Hodges, has gone missing. He could not be that difficult to find, yet no reporter has the made effort.

In that big building on Spring Street there are mutinous mutterings about the near-uselessness of Victoria’s current premier and of what private polling suggests would be his government’s rapid eviction in the event of an election. Barely a word of that discontent has made it into print. While it would undoubtedly suit the paper’s leanings to showcase discord in Liberal ranks, the effort required to tap out a few words apparently trumps the inclination to do so.

Good writing? Hah!

Objectivity? Read anything by the infantile Adam Morton, environment editor, and despair.

Insight? Other than covering Canberra as radio announcers do the footy, the only thing Michelle Grattan looks into is her handbag.

Fodder for the mind? With the likes of Overland luvvie Jeff Sparrow serving as a regular book reviewer, it is chaff, not oats, which the editor of that section sees fit to dump weekly in his readers’ nosebag.

So what, if Andrew were to join Fairfax, could he reasonably hope to achieve? There would be strikes and leaks and rallies, not to mention drawing pins and dog dirt left on his seat and blotter. If he doubts that, Silly refugee Miranda Devine could tell him of the bile to which she was subjected by her leftist colleagues, as remains the case for Paul Sheehan. Can anyone imagine Andrew discussing editorial policy and direction with Sunday editrix Gay Alcorn, who is Margo Kingston’s half-sister and draws heavily on the common gene pool?

And the thing is, lovely as it would be to see an adult directing operations, a high-profile hire may not even be needed. The emerging proof of that is the Financial Review, which has made encouraging progress in recent months toward reclaiming its reputation as a lively, serious newspaper. One assumes that is the doing of its new editor, who actually appears prepared to lead.

An Age insider recently dropped a line to the Billabong in which he ranted at some length about his employer’s decline. The evidence is everywhere on Media House's second floor, he said, from the wiping of the paper’s institutional memory when all the sub-editors were fired to the profusion of what he termed “student newspaper activists” in positions of influence and trust. He was particularly scathing of some colleagues’ Twitter utterances, which he disparaged as updates on the action at Smith Street bars and rock venues.

But as he noted, they are mere symptoms, not the cause of the contagion, which he saw as a plague of paralysing self-interest at the top. The correspondent asked not to be quoted, but his view could be expressed thus: The Age’s editorial hierarchy is replete with people making big money. While they recognise their newspaper’s deficiencies, doing something about them would jeopardise those incomes. So they count the days to retirement, make no waves and hope the paper does not die in the meantime. And, most culpable of all, they studiously dodge the responsibility to lead that goes with large pay cheques.

It would be terrific to see Andrew’s columns in the Age. But what the paper needs most of all are some adults prepared to be disliked -- the sort who would wear that disdain as a badge of honour. As a marquee name, Andrew fits that bill. But if the confidential correspondent’s analysis is correct, the columnist’s recruitment would count for little without a cadre of belligerents in less prominent, more work-a-day posts. As the informant says, he does not believe any editor in recent memory has ever taken a reporter to task for submitting a sloppy, inaccurate or nakedly biased report.

Maybe Rinehart can fix that. Maybe she can’t. But somebody needs to before Melbourne is left with only the daily edition of New Idea, otherwise known as the Herald Sun.

A NOTE OF ADVICE: News business insiders' insights are always welcome, but they should never be sent from employers' computers. Ever. Not if you value your own weekly cheques.

26 comments:

  1. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.March 7, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    My goodness Professor, if they have to be told not to use their employer's computers for such, then one wonders how much use their info would be, as they'd have already shown they have no real smarts. However, be that as it may, and I could just be casting over these innocents a jaundiced eye, may I say to all please do keep our humble Professor up to date as he requests. He is so helpful in updating others.

    I believe the technical term in HR circles, Prof, is 'toe-cutter'. That's what they need to help Andrew along, should he go there.

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    1. a toe-cutter as chief-of-staff, eh? may I suggest chopper read

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  2. "the near-uselessness of Victoria’s current premier".

    He combines Malcom Turnbull's politics with an apparent lack of interest in Victoria's economic well-being. I am reminded of this when driving on the roads and finding peak hour traffic now lasts to 10:30 AM weekday mornings and 7:00 PM in the evening and now occurs on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

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    1. Walter, how right you are. And what makes the problems worse is Ted's disinterest in shaking up the bureaucrats. Example: recent Saturday roadwork on the westbound Monash tied up traffic for hours. They were re-paving only one or two lanes, but safety regulations obliged them to shut adjoining lanes as well. Result: 90 minutes for the Bunyipmobile to creep from Kew to Yarraville, where it was a mercifully pain-free run from there to Geelong.

      Similarly, the case for linking the eastern freeway with the Bolte Bridge is undeniable, yet because the Greens oppose it -- as they oppose everything that might make motorists' lives easier -- a tunnel beneath Melbourne Cemetery has been tossed in the too-hard basket. The irony is that such a project would get cars off Greens-voting streets and significantly reduce carbon emissions to boot.

      And as a further (unrelated) case study in unworthiness to lead, why hasn't Ted cleaned out the Labor whiteants in the public service, the ones who are leaking all that artfully spun dirt on Guy and so many others?

      And why is he ignoring the enemies in the arts world, which he supervises? God Almighty, he is hanging out with Beecher and Sophie Cunningham! Malcolm Turnbull, low as he is, would be an improvement.

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    2. Hi Walter, and welcome to NSW.

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    3. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.March 7, 2012 at 6:49 PM

      Cheering news on NSW though. Bazza (aka Fatty O'Barrel) has taken on SuperGreen luvvie Clover Moore, who as both Lord Mayor and MLA (coterminous but especially as the Lord Mayor) has dedicated herself to ridding Sydney of cars, chaining us all to bicycles or shank's pony (no public transport due to years of Labor neglect). Her intent has been to return us to Beijing circa 1966, in the process wasting squillions on unused bike lanes in Sydney's historically narrow streets. Her efforts have been such a source of irritation and road rage.

      Poof! (as it goes in Francais). He has in one fell swoop whisked away her traffic planning privileges. Just like that. Easy. Now go for her money, Bazza.

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  3. I reckon Bolta would be mad to consider anything more than a fortnightly or so column for the Pravda on the Yarra.
    I also consider he is too smart to not know which side he butters his bread.

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  4. Professor Northcote C Parkinson once observed that whenever an organisation moves into new grand buildings it comes ever closer to its decline and end. He does give various examples of this and now in Melbourne we have our own. The Age built its magnificent new Spencer St building and moved in just at its most impotent and non read period in its long history. I doubt whether it can recover, the only possible way would be to replace every person involved in the writing of the paper. Not one of the current crew of incompetents should be permitted to remain as they would slowly but surely reinfect the paper.

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    1. From my faulty memory, Parkinson's Laws are:-
      1. Work expands to fill the time available to it.
      2. The amount of time spent discussing an agenda item is in inverse proportion to its cost
      3. A Department that appears to operate with absolute competence (includes a flash set of offices) is about to end in terminal decline

      And even if Mr Bolt does go to the Age, that alone will not persuade me to buy it. But it is a good start.

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    2. Mrs Plinge ands I were discussing a clean out of our bookshelves. "All those Parkinson books can go for starters" she said. I was obliged to speak quite severely to my good lady and remind her that though they might be rather old they are as relevant today as they were when they were written in the 60s and 60. I must re-read 'Left Luggage'...

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  5. Don't forget the resident Atheist Gross Dick who covers his anti-Christian bile with the face-saving 'over to you' tripe at the end of each rant. Who to ridicule this week? The pope/catholics- check; Republicans- check; conservatives- check. Balance? Don't make me laugh.

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  6. I read Bolt's reference to a meeting at The Age as a wry joke on the theme that Ms Rinehart is taking over the media world, mixed in with a smidgeon of predatory panic-making.

    I don't know what he gets paid, but surely he'd want a 500% increase to move from a newspaper that seems, for the moment, secure, to one that is looking like it's in terminal decline.

    Would Bolt be sufficient to alone bring back sensible readers? Or would his presence merely infuriate the remaining few subscribers, who are in complete opposition to everything for which he stands, and thereby further collapse its circulation?

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. What, Professor? Censoring yourself?

      I reckon they are going to make the Bolta editor.

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    3. Oooh! Mysterious! The Professor knows something we don't know!

      No doubt the Fink and friends would have representations made to block a potential Bolt move to Fairfax in any way, shape or form. Not good for media bias, you see.

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    4. Yes, Bolt is just taking the Mickey out of all those who think he's a Rhinehart puppet. And why would the Hun "loan" a columnist to a competitor?

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    5. Totally agree (in reply to the Professor). Speechless!

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  7. Having braved the regular 0640 Brumby-Ballieu traffic jam on the Princes Freeway at Hopper's Crossing this morning en route to the Tullamarine ATM for a quick trip to the Macquarie Sydney slush fund for a short meeting, I have only now been able to apprise myself of your latest intelligence on the progress of the attempt by the Fairfax Dumbionaires to turn the Phage into a Green child-minding centre or a smoking tribute to Whelan the Wrecker. Between Paul Ramadge (Phage editor) and Gregory Hywood (FFX CEO), there simply isn't sufficient brain power to offer a real job to a stellar page views magnet like Bolt, who is also familiar with concepts utterly alien at the Phage, such as research and relevance. For a daily output of up to 5000 words, his biggest problem at Port Melbourne is lack of editing support, which gives him an abnormally high rate of literal errors (from which the Phage could offer no relief, as it has replaced subeditors with outsourced K-Mart word stackers). Besides, Bolt would so outshine dullards like Ramadge, he would be in continual conflict with the "Mahogany Row" silk department, which is populated mainly by frayed hand-me-downs. And if Lang Hancock's girl attempted to parachute Bolt in, the luvvies' picnic would be a city block of food fight directly. Better that Gina does her hard talking with the man running the farce (Hywood) about his inability to slow the outrushing of revenue and credibility and the man overseeing it, "Rotten" Roger Corbett, who honed his expertise in short-changing customers running half of the greediest supermarket duopoly in the world.

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    1. And here's the missing 'i' in Baillieu. Careless!

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  8. A minor correction Professor. Gay Alcorn is Margo Kingston's full sister- marriage accounts for the different surnames.
    I sincerely hope this blog won't be threatened by the wretched Finkelstein Report- it's one of the few and much needed commentaries of sense I look forward to reading each day.

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  9. In this case I'd personally be happier if Bolt was outside the tent rather than in it.....

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    1. Agreed. As a prolific, multi-media content producer surely Bolt is now able to dump salaried positions and emulate Mark Steyn.

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  10. Perhaps Andrew can go there and White Ant the RedRag just like the National Socialist alp Worms Would do?

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  11. At least here in NSW our Premier is smashing that useless Clover Moore's ruining of our streets with bike paths.

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  12. Noooooo!!
    Say it isn't so!!

    As you know Prof, I have burnt the bridge to Spencer St and won't be rebuilding it.
    But if Bolt moves there what is a man to do?
    Buy his fish 'n chips in Fitzroy in the hope they will be wrapped in a recent Bolt column?

    The Irish Lion

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  13. In relation to your inquriy about Tony Hodges, he is working for Bob McMullan (former Labor minister) who is now Australia's London-based representative on the European Bank of Reconstruction.

    Shipped off in the diplomatic bag never to been seen again.

    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sacked-julia-gillard-advisor-tony-hodges-leaving-country/story-e6freuy9-1226274237373

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