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.
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