The Age long ago abandoined what it is supposed to be doing, ie., reporting on the city it claims to serve, but there is little chance its senior executives have forgotten the guiding philosophy of managers in large, sclerotic organisations: cover your arse. What brings this to mind is the ongoing presence in the Saturday edition of Danny Katz, columnist and alleged humourist.
Week after week, Katz strops away and yet, week after week, nobody at Media Floor fires him. (Media Floor, by the way, was known as Media House until recently, when the newspaper’s shrunken finances obliged it to surrender one of its two original levels and consolidate in a single plain of idiocy, where insiders report there are insufficient desks and terminals for the survivors. Not to worry, the next winnowing will equal things out. ) Does Katz amuse the Age’s editor? Do Age people actually think he is funny, witty or capable of a deeper insight than a quick glance down the front of his pants to see if the object of his greatest affection is up for working on another column?
Of course, they don’t! That the Age crew is profoundly stupid goes without saying, but even people who believe in pedal-powered electricity grids and attracting readers who scare the daylights out of potential advertisers must realise that Katz is, as George Johnson put it, “funny as a dead baby’s doll.”
So how does he survive? This is a hunch, but surely the answer resides in reader surveys and focus groups. It is well known that participants in these sessions tend to give answers that reflect well upon themselves. They like to seem intelligent, informed and to give the impression that they need to be taken seriously, being well-rounded individuals. Good marketers adjust for this, in part by posing questions that reveal their subjects’ conceits and put other answers in perspective.
At the Age, however, perhaps to save money, answers must not be filtered, so when participants say, “Yes, indeed, I love a good laugh!” their answers are taken as ipso facto endorsements of Katz’s jollity quotient, Age execs not grasping that the entire rest of their paper is seen as an unintended exercise in the giggles. If anyone above them – Greg Hywood, for instance – asks why Katz continues to draw a weekly cheque, the ready answer must be, “Well, our research indicates he is a greatly cherished.” That settled, the Age can then go back to publishing Katz and taking dictation from ASADA in its ongoing campaign to crucify James Hird.
Katz’s latest contribution is here. But please delay examining it for ten minutes or so. The Professor needs to place some orders and extend his short position on FXJ. The more people who realise that Danny Katz is a star columnist, the more certain another dip in the stock.
On another Age-related matter, a recent refugee from Media Floor reports that female staffers are in good spirits. According to the Billabong’s informant, an editorial entity has been moved to a new job where duties oblige remaining seated in one spot throughout most of the day. This makes it very difficult to look down the front of colleagues’ dresses.