IN this morning’s Australian, Cut & Paste runs at some length the insights, such as they are, of Silly Editor-in-Chief Peter Fray. Apart from baring the mindset that leads his southern sister publication to print propaganda of the kind addressed in the post below, it will alert investors that, even at a lowly 82 cents as of Friday’s closing, Fairfax stock still has plenty of room for shorting.
The best part, the one that demonstrates the editor’s immense remove from his potential audience, comes when Fray describes what makes a great editor, a category he sees, presumably, as including himself: “A great editor has a kind of instinctive feel and that's where the gut thing comes in."
WE do have to do more to reveal the processes behind the mastheads. We do have to show the public more about how we make that sausage. That ain't always pretty . . . There is a tendency at the Herald to be, you know, in Mount Herald, a lofty, nice place to be. We all love it for that reason. And we don't pay enough attention to what happens elsewhere, partly because we would have to pay attention to what the Murdoch press is writing, and so there's a kind of professional pride thing there
. . . A great editor has a kind of instinctive feel and that's where the gut thing comes in . . . You know, Lady Gaga comes to Sydney, and the FM radio stations will be full of Lady Gaga. . . and the Herald might write something, dare I use the word, because it's a very elitist word, "intelligent" about Lady Gaga, what she means and other angles that she throws up by way of engaging with the same issue. I mean, not that we're ignoring Lady Gaga; she's a very interesting person.
. . . I like the concept of the pro-am, kind of citizen journalists. I mean wouldn't it be powerful if you said to your listeners: "Go and do x and come back to me" or if we did the same. Powerful stuff. And that's kind of much more interesting than, you know, kind of bunch of feedback noise . . . I think it's the way you approach the citizen journalist question. I think our role in that is what we want to find out? What is it we want to do? So it can't just be "we love you, you should love us a bit more, have a hug". It really needs to be about "we want to do this thing, and this is the goal. We want to enlist you to do that."
I think we probably have reached a point where we've cut as many pages out of certain parts of the paper as we should. I think the Monday to Friday newspaper is going to stay more or less like is it is, but I'd like to increase the amount of pages in the weekend papers.
Like Good Weekend: it isn't that long ago that Good Weekend actually did some literary fiction in there. But now it's only 32, or 38, or whatever it is, 38 pages: you can't do it. And the other thing is that we have to take more risks . . . We're in the process at the moment of trying to re-imagine the Sunday paper and we're heading that way. You know, when I started to do the fellowship, I did actually think for a little while of turning this whole thing into a kind of what-would-Sydney-be-like-without-the-Herald sort of thing. And the more I looked at it, the more scared I got. I did think that was a valid thing to say.
I mean, can you imagine Sydney without the Herald? I think there was a period, about a year or a year and half ago, when some people actually dared to imagine that, and that is a really frightening thing. So we've got to get smart about it. We've got to be really clear about what any pro-am arrangement is. It is fashionable to talk about the death of newspapers. I hope I have shown that predictions of demise are both premature and immature.
The “gut thing”, eh? Fray attributes it to instinct. Former Fairfax readers will understand it as intellectual dysentery.
UPDATE: It just gets better. The Silly is fair and unbiased. It is a daily work of exhausting dedication. Its editors and journalists "just say no" to having an agenda. Have you ever read such a crock in all your life?
UPDATE II: No trace of an agenda at The Canberra Times when Fray was in the editor's office: