ONE reads every few months of the latest declines in newspaper sales, which have hit the Silly Moaning Imperilled with quite a whack. It is always encouraging news, a further demonstration of the public’s common sense in recognising irrelevance and dispensing with it. Still, it would be interesting to dig a little deeper into those declining figures, to determine, for starters, just which parts of Sydney have rejected the newspaper more than others. While it is no better than a surmise, the likelihood is that Silly sales are holding up in Newtown and other epicentres of fashionable opinion, but tailing off in parts of town where mortgages and job prospects leave less time for striking fetching poses on the more academic abstractions of the day. For those who know not Sydney’s demographic geography, that would be locations like Rooty Hill and Emu Plains, where John Howard’s battlers did so much to keep his government in office.
Alas, that insight is available only to the Silly’s circulation department – and perhaps, were she to ask politely, to Fairfax insider and columnist A Dill Horin, who would have been well advised to seek a few pointers from the sales team before sitting down to pen her latest Saturday offering. A heart-rending piece, it explores the anguish of A Dill’s friends as they raise broods too large for cramped inner-urban digs. There is no hope for them, she laments, but that they must bite the bullet and decamp to distant suburbs where their cash buys more space and bedrooms.
Some are contemplating exile to the Blue Mountains with its morning rush through the freezing dawn for a city-bound train. Others are gloomily surveying far-flung suburbs never before visited only to discover they can't afford to move there.
And what will they find upon arrival? Shocking stuff!
But Robert Mellor, the managing director of BIS Shrapnel, the property and economic forecasting analysts, says trade-offs have to be made: "People who have never experienced these suburbs find it hard to compromise. They have somewhat negative views." He mentions the word "bogans".
Bogans! Oh, the absolute horror! Just fancy A Dill’s cobbers being obliged to mingle with people whose wardrobes are not dominated by black, ignorant folk who might never have swapped bon mots with sophisticated French tourists. The thought fills her with such dread she even advances the case for having but a single child. “You never regret a second child. It is more love, more complexity, more interest,” she grants, before getting to what appears to strike her as the better option. “A one-child family is good, too, and Sydney's inflated housing prices just might spur the overdue reappraisal.”
Now just imagine that you happen to be one of those benighted unfortunates, the victims of brick veneerial disease who already reside in icky places A Dill’s pals “never before visited.” Do you reckon you might take exception to her column, discern the disdain and condescension that underscores her words? Do think you might even get a little angry at the arrogance of an argument which posits it is better to abandon the idea of a second child than be forced to move in and live next door to, well, people like you?
When Fairfax’s next owners assume control, via either a takeover or from the receiver’s auction block, they might want to expand their papers’ welcome – the Age suffers from the exact same elitist ailment – to those now dismissed with slights and insults.
Who knows what might happen?
Maybe, just maybe, if the Silly were to stop sneering at Rooty Hill it might actually sell a few copies there.