Monday, June 18, 2012

Fairfax redacted

Today’s news that Fairfax is to cut 1900 staff (including about 380 journalists) cheers me with Schadenfreude.

Having survived multiple workplace redactions/reductions myself, and being in the journalism game part-time here for love/obsession alone, I really can’t share the pain of these highly-paid, (about to be) newly unemployed dinosaurs. They certainly didn’t provide a guard of honour for me, with or without bonus pitiful-weeping sound effects, outside Centrelink in 1996, 2002, 2006 or 2007.

My resolve here is hardened by a Fairfax Op Ed piece just last week, which dumped on bloggers like me thus:

Many independent writers and bloggers provide commentary rather than reporting, depending on mainstream journalists' facts for their analysis. Much of it is very good, but I doubt that the less glamorous aspects of our civic life will be covered by a well-intentioned brigade of bloggers . . . High-end journalism is being eroded the world over, and the democratisation of micro-publishing isn't an antidote. David Simon, a former Baltimore newspaperman and creator of the television series The Wire, testified at a Senate hearing into the future of journalism. He said: "You do not, in my city, run into bloggers or so-called citizen journalists at City Hall or in the courthouse hallways or at the bars where police officers gather. You don't see them consistently nurturing and then pressing others”.

Yep, I’ll happily admit to never speaking to – much less “nurturing” and/or “pressing” – police officers. If cosy relationships between journalists and police officers have gotten the broadsheets (which in Fairfax’s case will be tabloids physically from next year, anyway) and the police into their present dysfunctional marriage (e.g. the skating over corruption in Victoria by both parties), indeed I wear this status as a badge of honour.

And while I don’t do much shoe-leather reportage – instead mainly relying on a modus operandi I term forensic Googling – my part-time coverage of last year’s Matthew Johnson murder trial, which included several very-reportable (IMO) facts or developments that none of the four (at least) MSM journalists also present in the court-room took up, convinced me that the mainstream media is akin to a dementia patient on life support, just waiting to be euthanised.

Another recent example of the pathetic enfeeblement – specifically at the Age this time – is to do with the leaking of last year’s OPI report “Crossing the Line” to News Limited, on the eve of its parliament tabling on October 2011. Given the supposed rivalry between Fairfax and News, I would have thought the Age would have gone in much harder than accepting, at face value, the lame official explanation for the leak (accidental premature website posting).  Ahem, I sure went in harder.  And rubbing salt into the wound here, Saturday’s Australian appears to baldly, if belatedly, admit the truth: that there was (as I had thought all along), a deliberate, old-fashioned leak to News: “Last year’s OPI report, called Crossing the Line, was leaked to The Australian 10 hours before it was tabled in parliament in October [2011]”. “Deputy Premier still fighting for his reputation as political enemy continues to throw bombs”, John Ferguson, Australian 16 June 2012, no URL.

Gee, if I were a senior editorial figure at Fairfax, I’d be putting my commercial rival’s admission on Saturday, that they corruptly obtained a sensitive document, on the next day’s front page (i.e. 17 June 2012), but in the two days since, of course, not a peep from Fairfax about this. Once again – and it almost pains me to be able to say this so regularly – you read it here first.

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