The Media Satchel - Murdoch, The Monthly & Boys' Club Camaraderie

The sight of a smiling Rupert Murdoch with his first Sunday Sun newspaper in his hands would have been enough to make a British parliamentarian's skin crawl. In this Orwellian narrative, Murdoch, ostensibly, wins: a slap on the wrist and a few hefty fines, his younger son obligingly stepping aside, lives of innocent bystanders in tatters, and the top dog gets to open a new paper to better his defunct News of the World. Isn't that a bit, well, unjust? "Grrr, disgust!", we say.

While GWAS concedes not is all that it should be in the media world, it should at least be made better. Polly Toynbee's commentary in The Guardian (vested interest, of course) shines a light on some home truths about the state of British journalism, more particularly the machinations of the old patriarchal model (nay, not even patriarchal, more mere populism gone awry in the hands of monied people; and, no, the irony of this being a new Sunday paper has not been lost on me) is concerned. 

"Commentators are awestruck by the old man's sheer "chutzpah" (BBC), with a "you've got to hand it to him" note of admiration all round, restoring the "morale" of the Sun newsroom. In the camaraderie of old Fleet Street a new title tends to be celebrated – jobs for journos in a time of decline. Even the Guardian's editorial politely joined the welcome – with many provisos.

I have never felt much professional comradeship with people hired to promote the self-serving views of a few eccentric far-right billionaires controlling large parts of the British press. In the National Union of Journalists or Women in Journalism, I feel a distinct lack of fraternity or sorority with many plying their trade on the other side.

Nominally we are all "journalists" under the press code of practice, but this rough trade has none of the attributes of a "profession". Instead of a guild, practitioners are hired to do their masters' bidding, even when that can mean spreading disinformation and disregarding evidence. 

The seventh Sun will offer jobs to those willing to put their pens to abusing migrants, travellers, trade unionists, single mothers, women, the unemployed, public sector staff, young people, Europe, foreigners or anyone to the left of John Redwood. Even the disabled are now being harassed as scroungers to win public support for benefit cuts reducing the already poor to penury."

Albeit a "softer" version of the News of the World, the Sunday Sun bears all the same hallmarks, including the page-three girl (she was topless but her nipples were covered). The sad thing? The British public love it. The debut edition sold more than 3.25 million copies. 

For its part, people are buying for a reason (titillation, newness, lack of exciting alternatives) and the Sun assured readers, "We will hold our journalists to the standards we expect of them. After all a newspaper which holds the powerful to account must do the same with itself. You will be able to trust our journalists to abide by the values of decency as they gather news."

In a debate on governance of the BBC in the wake of the Leveson inquiry, former Times journalist Lord Fowler said British journalism is going through "the most tumultuous period" in its history and is entering a "post-Murdoch era". He said, "The lesson of this is not just to rejoice but to ask how we can prevent any other organisation obtaining that kind of disproportionate power... It means resisting any temptation to follow the glib, lazy and often partisan narratives that develop in other media." 

Of course, it doesn't look like we're in a post-Murdoch era at all and, what's more, huffing and puffing at the injustice isn't going to get us very far. Is it? Or is it?

Here's some huffing and puffing care of The Guardian's "Open Journalism" Three Little Pigs campaign (which looks like a scene from a Harry Potter movie)...

Video link c/o Naomi Tsvirko at Write About Me 

What if by birth you are a member of the Murdoch Old Boys' Club? While Wayne Swan's essay on 'The 0.01%' for The Monthly has attracted the ire of the wealthy minority of the mining industry whom he targeted with his pen (and again at the National Press Club today), the March edition also features Paola Totaro's essay on Lachlan Murdoch, appointed chairman of TEN Network Holdings in February. It contains an illustrative quote from David Penberthy, appointed editor of the Daily Telegraph at 35 when Lachlan was director of News Limited Australia: 

"I remember one time after a social event where he had bumped into the then premiers of NSW and Victoria, Bob Carr and Steve Bracks, and both of them expressed a high level of happiness with the Tele [Daily Telegraph] and the Herald Sun. Lachlan later asked us what the hell we were doing wrong. It was a fair question." And from Baz Luhrmann: "It can't be easy to be part of a family of such global prominence, and I have always been impressed by how he has defined himself as a person, and created a life for his wife and family." True that.

Meanwhile, the highly capable Elisabeth Murdoch, who sold her Shine company to News Corporation last year is reportedly waiting in the wings - the current favourite to succeed her father (a likelihood debated in The Monthly).

"No news is bad news," reports The Economist from strike-happy South Korea where, for the first time since the arrival of democracy in 1987, reporters are laying down their microphones. "The complaint is an increasingly familiar one of government interference," reports The Economist. "Last year Freedom House in America downgraded South Korea's media from 'free' to 'partly free'. The monitoring group blamed increased censorship and the practice of parachuting in presidential cronies to run the country's most prominent media outlets." But bloggers are pulling punches, much to the chagrin of government: one of the most popular sources of views about current affairs in South Korea is Naneun Ggomsuda, an anti-government podcast.

The Aussie newspaper turf war continues with The Australian Financial Review's editor Michael Stutchbury (formerly economics editor for The Australian) telling Mediaweek that there will not be a cease fire between the two national dailies anytime soon: "The idea is to be a bigger and bolder and more ambitious enterprise which concentrates on the really big stories in terms of news-breaking and in terms of setting the national agenda... We're in head-to-head competition with [The Australian] every day. It's good, it's healthy, vigorous competition... our markets overlap to a large extent." The AFR will launch an app in April.

Nicole Sheffield has been appointed chief executive of NewsLifeMedia taking responsibility for and directing business strategies across the NewsLife network, which includes these mastheads: Donna Hay, Delicious, Masterchef magazine, Super Food Ideas, Australian Good Taste,, Fresh magazine;, Country Style, Inside Out, Vogue Living, Golf magazine;,,, Sunday magazine, Wish, The Weekend Australian Magazine, Q Weekend, St*M and The Adelaide Magazine. An impressive portfolio, but Sheffield is more than capable, says News Limited chief executive Kim Williams. 

"While at Foxtel I worked closely with Nicole for a number of years, and became a great admirer of her leadership and style," he said. "She is a terrific executive, with a proven track record of growing lifestyle brands across multiple platforms and, I am positive, will be a great asset to News." Sheffield's CV includes managing XYZnetworks' LifeStyle Channels and overseeing lifestyle and youth brands at Pacific Magazines.

The Herald and Weekly Times has announced the creation of a new multi-media package for the Herald Sun, to be launched next Monday. The Herald Sun Digital Pass will give readers access to multi-media content via the new-look website, a new mobile phone 'm-site' and the paper's iPad app, which is getting an upgrade for launch in April. Existing 6-7 day subscribers will get a 12-month Digital Pass in addition to their print subscription. The papers "army of football reporters" can connect with fans via an interactive match centre.

Stacie Wolf, Lawrence Schaffer, Gretchen Jones and Michaela O’Connor Abrams c/o KCRW Design & Architecture.
"The world of design can be intimidating to some, but Dwell's team of editors strives to show the field’s friendlier, welcoming side, reports Media Bistro's 10,000 Words blog. “Dwell has always been about showing real people in real homes,” said editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron. “We don’t send stylists, and we don’t want people to create an artificial idea of how they live in their home.” Dwell Media president Michaela O'Connor Abrams will receive an Exceptional Woman in Publishing Award this week at the Women's Leadership Conference. 

Proving good and wholesome things do come out of Great Britain, Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food is touring Australia and with it a friendly word on nutrition. "It's about having relationships and actually taking a vulnerable mum that's nervous to cook and doesn't want to waste money buying some weird ingredients called onions and cabbage and raw chicken - [and ] actually getting them comfortable and teaching them how to make a brilliant curry that's full of vegies and full of good stuff," he said.

"Or make a beautiful pasta; bake 10 times better than the shit they reheat in the microwave. Really, what we try and do is get them to do better versions of the stuff they're spending loads of money buying and reheating." His grammar may not be great, but you've got to admire his enthusiasm (read an excellent defence of him by Pip Lincolne at JUSTB). Does he not look a little bit like Lachlan Murdoch?

SHOP Til You Drop magazine's Justine Cullen tells Mediaweek it's a tough gig editing a shopping magazine in a fragile retail world but she keeps a check on her magazine's credibility by not letting advertisers intrude. "For Shop, it's all about our credibility and the reader has to know that they can trust is so I'm very careful. I give my advertising team a very hard time where sometimes they'll have some great idea and they can get a sponsor for it but it might be too tight. For example, we do a shoe and bag guide every season and we're constantly having shoe companies want to sponsor that, but to me, that becomes that fine line that you're crossing so I'll often turn down sponsorships for that reason." With a local edition of Elle magazine on the shelf, there should be more scope for Shop at ACP.

Issue Seven of COLLECT magazine, which can be found in select coffee houses, book shops and specialty stores, contains Tim Dunlop's "searing analysis of mainstream media" as well as a range of editorial fare. This includes a trip to Niseko, Japan; a defense of in-store retail shopping (by way of Ebenezer Place, Adelaide); a pictorial feature on gentleman's tailor Patrick Johnson; a fresh fictional take on the humble library; thoughts on good value food and upcyclers East London Furniture; and an interview with Adelaide Biennial curator Natasha Bullock and Alexie Glass-Kantor.

COLLECT also features a chat with Tyler Brule of Monocle magazine about his 24-hour worldwide radio service and daily decencies. Interestingly, he says he has declined to open up a reader's forum because, "absolutely the last thing the world of media needs is another place for people to comment." 

Issue 54 of Monocle has its sights set on Australia. "With a pivotal geographic location, a vibrant media culture uniting both Asian and European markets and a flourishing defence sector, Australia is in a prime position to become a new, fresh-faced regional power," it says. Perception is everything. 

"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed-if all records told the same tale-then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'" - George Orwell, 1984

Notes on the Finkelstein Inquiry to come.

Discussion point for the week: That old struggle between Saint and Sinner. To point the finger at Murdoch and his enterprise as the sole cause of the media's tragic state (if that is how you perceive it... because there are good bits even where badness reins) is a bit, well, rich, and yet there must surely be accountability for producing papers that are not very edifying... especially as far as women are concerned. Thoughts please? 

Girl With a Satchel