Monday, November 21, 2011

An Idiot With A Rumbly Tummy

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:


  1. To answer your question Prof ... well, yes I have. In numerous law honours theses submitted for assessment at the ANU. And I could add many judgments written by the likes of Judge Mordy. Concerning the diatribe itself, I was struck by the passage "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". This concedes that the Murdoch press is publishing matter worthy of publishing. Which is more than may be said about the Silly and the Phage (and the execrable Canberra Times, which now has the appearance - and the reality given that it can be picked up free at the railway station, the markets etc - of the papers that consists largely of advertisments packaged around with random bits of stale and/or trivial news). (I wonder if this would attract a fine when the wonderful Disney world of punishment is introduced).

  2. No, I haven't. The level of self-delusion is staggering. The SMH is the paper that publishes the worthless, trivial ephemera of people like Adele Horin and Elizabeth Farrelly . . and apparently it's a matter of "professional pride" not to have regard to, one presumes, the Australian, which has a far more diverse and more interesting opinion page than any of the Fairfax papers. The share price, and the circulation, both have a way to fall. Sad, because I most certainly don't want Rupert to be the only kid on the block.

    Let's not overlook the venality, the bullying and the oversimplifying that the Murdoch press is capable of. I'd rather it didn't have the field to itself, thank you.

  3. Well put, Anonymous. Anyone who watched John Hartigan's craven retreat from publishing anything about our PM's realationship with a swindler will understand that News Ltd. is no sensible person's ideal. Add the injustice done to Glenn Milne as punishment for raising the matter, or News Ltd's decision not to appeal the Bolt ruling and there can be no doubt Murdoch's Australian empire is too large to stand tall with such a weak backbone.

    Yes, the Australian is better than its rivals, and the weekend edition can keep you amused for an hour or more. But it would be a mistake to assume this blog is a one-eyed barracker.

    In Melbourne it is only the Age's sins that save the Herald Sun from greater criticism. A few years ago the Herald Sun was a decent tabloid (to be fair, the sport section is still terrific), but the rest of the paper is rubbish. Those seeking a reason to detest Rupert Murdoch need look no further than what he has allowed to be done to the paper his father needed to be the voice of Middle Melbourne. These days, if the Herald Sun is anything at all, it is the voice of a 20-year-old girl fixated on puppies, shoes and who is dating her favourite footballer.

  4. Yes Peter Fray I can imagine Sydney without the Sydney Mourning Herald, in fact I have gone from imagining it to living it. Stopped having the Herald delivered when they employed that typing cartoon Mike Carlton, stopped completely even reading it on-line since they employed that Australian Whiner of the Year Lenore Taylor. So my imaginings have become my reality, and life's great.

  5. You'd think gut instinct would tell you not to have an advertising post-it sticker obscuring their masthead.

  6. Prof, we are Nancy's (of G. Henderson's Media Watch) nightmare in reverse - furiously agreeing with each other, just like they do on the ABC.

    As goes the Herald-Sun, Ditto for the Daily Telegraph, which under Col Allen was a terrific tabloid, comparatively speaking, but which has gone sharply downhill since (Tim Blair excepted).

    The decision not to appeal the Bolt judgment was shameful. It could and should have been appealed. I know something about the RDA, and it is crying out for a fundamental judicial rethink at the High Court level, and it could have been attempted notwithstanding the factual findings in Bolt's case.

    None of this excuses the Fairfax press, its ridiculous self-righteousness and nauseating self-importance.

  7. Hey envirofax idiots!

    What part of "you are going the way of the dinosaurs" are you too stupid to understand?

    Unreadable drivel that exists solely to be mocked.

    They won't be missed.

    What will be funny will be the mad scramble to grab comfy sinecures at the ALPBC.

    At our expense, of course.

  8. It's not hard to imagine Sydney without the Herald. All you have to do is look out the window, because there isn't any Herald out there. It disappeared a couple of years ago to my mind. The same fate now awaits the AFR. It may stagger along for another month or two but that's about it, judging by the rapidly diminishing readership.
    Also, I hope the drongo doesn't approach me and try to give me a hug;UGH!

  9. 1. When he advocates "pro-am", is he referring to 'professional vs amateur' or 'pro-American'?
    2. Can the paper's vigorous support for the Labor Party remain vigorously non-partisan?
    3. Why would the SMH coverage of a visit by Lady Gaga be merely 'intelligent'?


  10. The Canberra Times appears to be written and edited on the assumption that the typical Canberran is a 50 year old APS 5 who works at the Tax Office, went to St Eddy's, votes Labor and loves the Raiders. That's why its circulation is about to dip below 30,000, a considerable inverted achievement in a region that is experiencing rapid growth. I assume that the 30,000 includes the freebies that Rafiki mentions and may also include the large number that seem chronically to fall out of Canberra Times delivery trucks on roundabouts: its drivers seem no more competent than its editorial staff!.

  11. Gee, there's hope for my 6yr.old grandson attaining the position of editor at any of the Fairfax crappy papers before he reaches the mature age of 11 yrs.
    Who would've thought?

  12. Covered in bovine waste might be another way of 'digesting' that 'gut feeling' for the intellectually challenged Silly readers.

  13. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.November 21, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    An editor wrote that?? An editor of a 'quality' newspaper with 'quality' journalism? It is unreadable drivel. That lofty place is getting to be quite a lonely place, from which a tumble down is coming.

  14. I loved this bit:

    "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."

    ha ha ha - the bits they cut out are what I call "locally gathered news". The SMH is little more than wire stories pasted together by numpties.

  15. You know ... I've read it and re-read it. They are certainly mostly English words, but they don't seem to arranged in any coherent order.
    Has someone hacked into the Fairfax Commodore 64 and jumbled things up?

  16. Back when he was premier Jeff Kennett said he never read The Age because he liked to get the day off to a cheerful start. My reaction: "He's absolutely right!" I haven't touched it since...and every morning is a bright one.

    Flying Qantas a few months back the cabin crew couldn't get any takers for The Age giveaway. No Herald-Suns left however.

  17. I don't understand the fuss. I loved the wee bit of meandering.

    Often I wonder how my favourite Loopy Liz Farelly stays employed with her magically mix master approach to journalism (you know put 6 dashes of logic and 4 buckets load of BS into a blender and gyrate vigorously) but Mr Fray revealed the secret in the low self esteem rant.

    I trust Mr Fray will lead the very canny business minds at Fairfax to find a way to complete the nut house, and will likely organise a prisoner exchange SMH / Herald Sun. I can see Mr Paul Sheehan or Gerard Henderson cast out of the temple of the loon to make room for the lovely Jill Singer or Susie O'Brien.

  18. Well Prof, I think the only polite response to the attitude of Mr Fray is a simple observation.

    Sir, when your share price is lower than the cover price of your publications you may want to tweak the basis of your instincts because self preservation doesn't appear to be one of them.

  19. Apart from the increasing fluff that belongs in Dolly magazine, what remains is a group-think generated load of biased opinion masquerading as news.

    I would ask Peter Fray how he measures the Silly's performance with regard to balance. He could start with one P Coorey. You would think that their chief political correspondent would 1) be above the fray with regard to bias and 2) keep his facts in the news section and his fairy stories in the opinions section, so readers can choose whether they want to be informed or simply have a good laugh.

    At a time of great change and uncertainty in the world, our governments and people deserve better.

  20. 'trivial ephemera of people like Adele Horin and Elizabeth Farrelly'
    'Trivial ephemera', is that posh for utter shite?

  21. Fray expresses himself with every bit as much intellectual rigor and facility of expression as our own Meghan McCain.

    It's quite striking that the editor of a major Australian news organization and the pampered daughter of an Arizona politician should both come across so perfectly like adolescent Valley girls!

  22. Never mind an editor. If I were even a first year journalism student, I would be suicidally mortified over having written a load of tripe like that, and I would hope that I had done so while on drugs.

  23. Fray "like(s) the concept of the pro-am, kind of citizen journalists". You might laugh what a clueless airhead Fray is, but he is merely expressing the new modus operandi at Fairfax since the greedy New Zealand destroyer of everything he touched, Ron Brierley, went through the joint in the 1990s with a box-cutter. Fairfax editors now have only roughly half of the editorial budgets they had until Brierley arrived, so they have to make do with less, including amateurs off the street if necessary, "citizen journalists". Fairfax at the time was being run by the clueless academic, Fred Hilmer, so no-one noticed the company's intellectual capital was being dismantled and marched out the door. Hence the uncontrolled tidal rush of leftwing opinion into the news columns in the past decade: opinion is so cheap to produce if you have no budget to produce news. As a result, The Age and the SMH's remaining readership (print and online), after the exodus of their conservative readers, are the public service and poor, young, often unemployed Green zombie consumers of leftwing opinion, an unsustainable demographic for a media company (unless it's taxpayer-funded like the ABC). So Peter Fray is the editor you hire to wave goodbye as the company disappears into the waves. It wouldn't have happened if the company had not got rid of anyone who understood how publishing newspapers works. Too late now, I fear.

  24. Know any brokers whO hold Fairfax stock?
    Pretty hard to short, when there's no-one's been long Fairfax since the 90s' :-)

  25. The AFR is an interesting study in decline. Fairfax basically had the market to themselves. Then, a few years ago, with the utter detachment from reality that pervades Fairfax, they apparently decided that the paper would be more "interesting" if they filled its pages with the writings of envious inner-city types who hate business. As a result, the AFR is full of the customary Fairfax-journalist loathing of profit, commerce and the liberal party. An astoundingly inept piece of marketing. A good friend of mine, a stockbroker, says that he and his friends have more or less given up on the AFR - they don't want to read how uniformly wonderful Julia Gillard is, how uniformly vile Tony Abbott is, and how dreadfully tainted capitalism and its practitioners are. What do they prefer? The Oz finance pages, because they can read it without being preached at by Laura Tingle et al.

    A case study, sadly, in Fairfax self-delusion.

  26. Gee, I'd be dumping my shares too with this bloke in charge.

  27. envirofax idiot watch update.

    Headline from this morning's SMH, dead tree edition:

    "Gillard ends year with a policy triumph - Laybore clinches its mining tax"

    Someone put these clowns out of their misery and soon, please!

  28. Two words, Fray - Paul Mcgeough.

    "Gut" feelings like that come from a tapeworm.

  29. To be honest, the DON'T RISK IT sticker just looks like a warning not to buy the Canberra Times!!

    That's integrity in journalism!!

  30. Well, Prof, sure the SMH is dominated by leftists with agendas. Sure the Silly remains aloof and disregarding of anything west of Madonna's Bra, or if they do go there they'll be totally disdainful if not spite ridden.

    But, what of the Murdoch Terror? Come on, ya gotta admit it's a neocon rag with very little of intelligence to offer, and simply plays to the lowest common denominator, if not is in fact a cultural leader in the race to the bottom.

    Sure the Terror sells, yes it does. So what? Porn sells, dog food sells, why you can even get free pole dancing now at many pubs along with several schooners. Great!

    The true horror of living in Sidley is being stuck between the Islamophobe hating Silly and the anti-anti-semite-israeli Terror. One plays to Disingenuous White Liberals, the other to the horde. Big deal. A pox on both their houses.

  31. Re the AFR v Oz: the AFR, for all its faults, makes a modest profit. The Oz loses an estimated $50 million a year.

  32. Imagine Sydney without the Herald? Yeah, I did that about 15 years ago. And then I stopped buying it.

  33. This is the "New SMH", like the "New Julia".

    As for Bill Nugell's pox on both houses: how very progressive of you - defend the indefensible with relativism- but, but everybody is bad.

    The Oz publishes plenty of external Labor authors like Rudd, Gillard, Ferguson (from memory) recently, and their own Labor wedded contributors like Peter Van Onselen, George Megalogenis and Dennis Shanahan. I know, because I get annoyed reading them.

  34. how very progressive of you - defend the indefensible with relativism- but, but everybody is bad.

    You've obviously missed my point, or perhaps I wasn't clear; I couldn't give a shit for Muslims or Jews. Is that progressive enough for ya?