Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Australian, Grid Girls, Crikey, and delusions of grandeur

(Above: sixty one photographs of Grid Girls in a News Ltd. gallery. Another thing we'd love to see behind a pay wall. Guys, if you want soft porn and girls without bikinis, take the safe filter off Google and go have fun. Anything but helping out the deluded Murdoch press with its preening pontification about how great it is).

If anybody deserved to die by having a giant dildo thrust down their throat, surely the writer of The Australian's Friday editorial deserved such a fate (you can catch it here, under the header Old media, by Crikey).

Forgive the graphic image - after all, it's all you can expect from the kind of e-scandal sheet that litters the intertubes full to overflowing like faeces in a toilet.

Forgive me, because as I don't already buy The Australian, and never will, I can't boycott the rag. I get it for free, courtesy of the intertubes. But if they took it away tomorrow, and put it behind a firewall, I'd die happy.

In fact, I respectfully demand that they put it behind a firewall or a paywall, or for that matter start publishing it in China, so it can be subject to appropriate government censorship.

But why the fuss? Well preening self esteem and indulgent wankery is always a little hard to handle. Sure you can start talking about pride coming before a fall, but snakes and ladders is such an arbitrary game, and I'd like to see them fall on a banana right now.

Old media v. new media is the sermon for the day, and in its festering stupidity you can see Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, wandering down the street in Sarajevo thinking the world would never change.

Crikey, and its many peers in the US and Britain, are not newspapers. Rather, they are the work of small groups of passionate people with big barrows to push. In contrast, great newspapers, and their websites, are professional products staffed by men and women who combine deep knowledge of specific subjects with a talent for finding and reporting facts.

Barrows to push? From the home of Tim Blair, Piers Akerman and Andrew Bolt? Take a giant cucumber and shove it where it fits.

Surely Archduke it ill behoves you to even notice that fleck of fly shit on your wonderful black leather shoes?

But pray tell, what makes a great newspaper full of these homeric reporters with their deep knowledge and their wonderful talent? Perhaps The New York Times? The Washington Post? After all, they knew about deep throats.

Certainly, newspapers in the US are in trouble. But this is because of bad business models and editorial approaches. The Chicago Tribune is burdened by debt and The New York Times is deadly dull.

Silly gooses, only a Murdoch paper can be a great paper.

Their work, rather than ink on paper, is the lifeblood of their publications. Their writing is the reason The Australian's circulation is increasing and why News Limited mastheads are making money, despite declines in advertising income ... Even in the US, newspapers that invest in quality can make money, demonstrated by the success of The Australian's sister publication, The Wall Street Journal.

Oh jerk your own chain and come in a heap of righteous blather.

And what's got up the nose of this fine editorialist? Why did they notice that speck of fly poo known as Crikey?

Crikey sells itself as the future of serious journalism, but it isn't. It does not break big stories. It does not send reporters around the world. It does not analyse policy in detail. And too often it escapes the laws on defamation and the scrutiny of the Press Council. Crikey is what newspapers were in the 18th century, a small-circulation propaganda sheet, read by people less interested in news and debate than having their prejudices confirmed.

Talk about protesting too much. What a grinch, and Christmas still six months away. What got up the editorial nose? Well what's the real reason for the all out slagging off of Crikey?

Sadly but unsurprisingly, it seems it was Bernard Keane sending up the great News Limited CEO John Hartigan on Twitter for the pompous self-serving stupidity of his speech at the National Press Club.

There was no faulting Keane for caustic commentary or brevity, given Twitter can only accommodate messages of 140 characters. But as a news report of what Mr Hartigan had to say, or even as considered opinion, it was electronic ephemera. It was light on for facts and awash with anger that Mr Hartigan, CEO of the company that publishes The Australian, dared to predict a positive future for the print media. It was a case of all the news that is fit to fabricate and it explained why newspapers will survive while parasitical publications like Crikey will come and go.

Oh jerk your chain and vanish up the chimney of your own deluded sense of self-importance. How do you recognize a pompous twit? By the pomposity of the howl when his (or her) beard is tweaked.

Crikey's editor, former Age journalist Jonathan Green, may not like this situation, but he obviously understands how much he needs newspapers. In common with the generality of online news outlets, Crikey would not exist without the papers its writers affect to despise. Every morning it includes many links to the websites of real newspapers. The only original content Crikey's writers often offer are rants about what they read in The Australian.

Er actually Australian editorialist with finger up bum, I think you fail to understand how much newspapers actually need paying readers. And when you start trashing other publications on the basis of who's most recently got up your nose, readers begin to think of the comparative value of things. But I guess I'm just offering up a rant about what I've read in The Australian. Please go behind a pay wall so my days of ranting might end.

Could I live without The Australian? Sure thing. Would I love it to go behind a paywall? Sure thing. Did this editorial help promote clear thinking on this matter? Sure thing.

Did I sense a whiff of paranoia and stale resentment? Did I sense a cock o' the walk preening and ruffling feathers? While at the same time detecting a touch of bird lice? Sure thing.

Did the editorial writer think that by slagging off The New York Times as dull, while boosting the WSJ, and stroking in public the rather eccentric and small cock of a parochial post colonial paper called The Australian was helping the cause of old media? Perhaps for publishing Michael Costa and Christopher Pearson? (And let's not argue over the inches or question how greatness can be determined, because when somebody's determined to be up themselves, only reality can deliver the kind of check that's required).

You know, I used to worry about the future of newspapers. But lately I've come to the conclusion that the chips can fall how they may, and if newspapers in hard copy were to disappear from the land tomorrow, I'd shed not a tear. You still buy them? Why not make a weekly donation to a favorite charity?

Then we'll see about payment for online content.

Take it away Bobby:

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin',
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world,
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin',
Heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin',
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin',
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

(Below: those Grid Girls again. Still, be fair. How to stuff a wild bikini is more fun, and much more clever a title than the average Australian editorialist could muster, by crikey).

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