Arts, Media & Culture Update - December 15

Arts, Media & Culture Update - December 15
Ben Naparstek, editor of The Monthly, appointed editor of Good Weekend. Image: The Monthly
He sent media tongues wagging when he was appointed editor of The Monthly at age 23, and now Ben Naparstek is doing it again with his appointment as editor of Fairfax's Good Weekend. Turning the fortunes of The Monthly well around, with a series of arresting covers, controversial features and notable bylines, the publishing prodigy presided over a 31.2% year-on-year readership increase for The Monthly in the latest Roy Morgan survey, giving the title 122,000 readers a month. 

"It’s been a privilege and delight to steer the Monthly for nearly three years, during which time it’s cemented its position as the country’s leading magazine for high quality and agenda-setting stories," said Naparstek. 

It's a large leap to catering to Good Weekend's following of 1,536,000 weekly readers, who receive their copy in the weekend editions of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, but Fairfax obviously has confident in Naparstek's expertise.

"In the past couple of years Ben has emerged as one of the finest editing talents in the country," said Fairfax national editor for metro media Garry Linnell. "He has shown a remarkable ability to commission some of Australia's best writers, been unafraid to tackle controversial and important issues and he's passionate about great words and great storytelling. High-quality, long-form journalism has a bright future in the new media world and Ben's appointment underlines our commitment to agenda-setting reporting and writing."

Still with Fairfax, Pat Ingram – formerly of ACP Magazines – has been appointed editorial director of Sunday Life (Fairfax Women's Network). "There is no one else in this industry who better understands what Australian women think and want," Gary Linnell told The Australian. This is the latest in a series of musical chairs movements at the female-oriented newspaper inserted magazine: editor Sarah Oakes is moving to edit new digital site Your Daily Life, with Kate Cox taking up her print post, while popular columnists Mia Freedman (who will be writing for News Limited) and Sarah Wilson have given way to author Marieke Hardy and Sky news presenter and working mum Jacinta Tynan, who recently penned 'Two's Company, three's hard work' for the magazine.

Wilson reflects on her media career and eBooks on her blog: "I was editing Cosmopolitan as the internet came and savaged advertising revenue and readership. I was a TV host when Twitter was finding its feet and experienced firsthand how snark unleashed works. (Prior to that I was in the US, before Twitter hit Australia, and wrote a feature for Good Weekend on these new online hustlers; I thought it was a brief fad.) Now, after 15 years in journalism and 12 years writing columns in various newspapers and magazines, I’m here again, ensconced in the fray witnessing what’s happening to print media – mags, newspapers etc."

Over at ACP, managing director Phil Scott has resigned to be replaced by Matt Stanton. "Now is the right time for me, personally and professionally, to bring to a close my 10 years of full-time involvement in the business and a career in journalism spanning nearly 36 years in total," Scott said in a statement issued by ACP. "There is never a good time for me to leave a business I've been passionate about for so long, but there is now a great group of people to pick up the baton as I make the transition to a lower level of intensity and more time for my family and myself. It's been great fun, and I leave with a sense of satisfaction in my contribution to the business, and very content with my lot." Most recently, Scott presided over negotiations for ACP to buy the publishing rites to an Australian edition of ELLE magazine and also Women's Fitness, which will launch in 2012.  
The FilmLife Project Film Festival – brainchild of The Groundswell Project – launched this week gives emerging filmmakers an opportunity to use creativity to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation in Australia and, in doing so, save lives. The Project provides an opportunity for new and budding filmmakers to interpret this emotionally-charged issue in new and creative ways with a five minute film around ‘asking and knowing your loved ones’ wishes’. 

"It is vitally important that Australian youth – a wealth of creative talent – are given a voice to discuss organ and tissue donation and an opportunity to interpret the theme for FilmLife festival in their own ways," said FilmLife director Karrie Noonan. "I look forward to meeting our next generation of film makers and watching them turn their collective minds to this important issue." The deadline for submissions is February 13, 2012, with the winner awarded a prize package to the value of $10,000.

Paramount Pictures has unveiled a new logo in commemoration of its 100th anniversary in show business. The studio’s first logo, a symbol of a rugged, snow-covered peak from the Wasatch mountain range, was created in 1916. The 100th Anniversary logo was created by Devastudios, Inc.

Screening from December 27 to January 8 at the Australian Centre for Moving Image, Melbourne, is Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, the story of Kevin Clash. "From humble beginnings to one of the most well known puppeteers of his generation, Clash is the voice, mind and heart of our favourite red, furry Sesame Street buddy. Once a pre-teen Muppet fan and now Executive Producer and key driver of Sesame Street, Clash’s rise is nothing short of inspiring. This tender film charts Clash’s puppetry obsession, his motivations and techniques, unwavering commitment to the field and his eventual meeting with the legends of the craft. Through brilliant archival footage, Being Elmo combines surprisingly moving moments with an enormously entertaining history of the people behind the most well-known street on the planet."

Bill Gates has spoken in Sydney about his philanthropic work and his former competitor Steve Jobs. "I'm part-time involved with Microsoft, including even being in touch this week to give some of my advice but that's not going to change – the foundation requires all of my energy and we feel we're having a great impact."
Swan (left) and her The Circle co-hosts Yumi Stynes, Denise Drysdale (who has since retired) and Gorgi Coghlan.
Logie award winning talent Chrissie Swan has stepped down from The Circle to focus on her radio career and raising her two children. "I’m a mum of two little boys under three and I don’t want to miss a moment of them," said Swan. "The Circle is the most fun I’ve ever had at work and I will miss it like crazy but at this time of my life, with two kids not even old enough for kindergarten, I had to make the tough decision of family time over work. I feel VERY fortunate that I’ve been able to switch from a new love (TV) to an old love (radio) and address the gaping hole in my work/life balance. My new role on the MIX 101.1 breakfast program will give me the flexibility to volunteer at kindy tuckshop, be around for story time at the library and to watch Bananas in Pyjamas in real time – all things I was simply not able to do while working on The Circle." Admirable!

Tina Arena, 44, returns to Young Talent Time
Meanwhile, Sarah Murdoch has relinquished her Australia's Next Top Model hosting duties, original cast member Tina Arena will be a judge and mentor on Ten's new-look Young Talent Time, Ten's new breakfast show is to be called Breakfast, and David Campbell will reportedly be joining Sonia Kruger on Channel Nine's new morning chat show, to replace Mornings With Kerri-Anne, in 2012.
Meryl Streep shot by Annie Leibovitz in Upstate New York, for U.S. Vogue, January 2012
American Vogue has featured Meryl Streep, 62, star of The Iron Lady and the actress who portrayed editor Anna Wintour in The Devil Wears Prada, on its January cover. In the cover feature, 'Force of Nature', penned by Vicki Woods, Streep shares of her desire to correct the gender imbalance in American history, prescient given her latest role portraying Margaret Thatcher, of whom she says "there was a special venom reserved for her, I felt, because she was a woman" and possessed a "superhuman" ability to get things done. Though traditionally a smaller book (i.e. low risk), the cover is significant in that Streep is its oldest ever cover girl and appears on the magazine's cover for the first time in her expansive and impressive career.
In other American Vogue news, the magazine's stable of issues since 1892 is now archived online for access for a nice price. The Australian Women's Weekly digitised backcatalogue is available through the National Library of Australia for free.

Global Creatures, the production company behind Walking With Dinosaurs –The Arena Spectacular, remains at number 1 on BRW’s annual Top 50 Entertainers List – despite earnings more than halving in 2011. The Wiggles came in at number two with earnings of $28.2 million, while Naomi Watts is the country's highest earning actor, coming in at number three on the list.

Occupy Wall Street protestor Chelsea Elliott, 25, by Peter Hapak TIME
Time magazine's person of the year? The Protestor. "Protests have now occurred in countries whose populations total at least 3 billion people, and the word protest has appeared in newspapers and online exponentially more this past year than at any other time in history, " writes Rick Stengel. "For capturing and highlighting a global sense of restless promise, for upending governments and conventional wisdom, for combining the oldest of techniques with the newest of technologies to shine a light on human dignity and, finally, for steering the planet on a more democratic though sometimes more dangerous path for the 21st century, the Protester is TIME's 2011 Person of the Year."

Janet Robinson, 61, leaves her position as CEO of New York Times Co. after 28 years with the company and and seven years in the job. "I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many outstanding people over the years, and I am particularly proud of my role in helping to navigate through one of the most difficult periods in publishing history as we transitioned from traditional print journalism to the digital world," she said. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the chairman of the Times Company and the publisher of The New York Times, will serve as interim chief executive while the company looks for a new C.E.O. (Source: New York Times)

Glen Boreham, chairman of the Convergence Review
Media ownership laws are in the firing line, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, while The Days of the Digital Divide are coming to a close, reports The Australian. Essentially, an interim report by the Convergence Review says old media laws, developed in the '80s, such as the rule preventing one person from controlling more than two out of three traditional local media in a licence area, are redundant, inefficient and in need of overhaul as they don't reflect media companies' cross-platform operations. 

Instead of cross-media ownership rules, the report – to be finalised and filed in March 2012 – suggests media mergers should be governed by a "public interest" test to be implemented by a new independent regulator, which would also serve as a "platform neutral" one-stop shop for consumer issues. Additionally, Australian content is also a focus point, with overseas content impinging on the competitive efforts of local content providers. Internet industry bodies have been quick to suggest that the $50 billion online industry will be hampered by the report's recommendations, which will deter foreign investment.

The report - which represents a blueprint for regulation in the new media landscape - will recommend local content quotas for ABC and SBS, the lifting of licensing fees for free-to-air networks, and the requirement for newspapers and websites to publish a diversity of voices.  "One thing we heard from the public is that there has been a loss of localism and they want it back," said Committee chairman Glen Boreham.
How many cover-up stuff-ups can a Murdoch make? asks David Leigh of The Guardian. James is starring in his own Nightmare Before Christmas, and I can't help but feel sympathetic towards his pickled position, despite all evidence to the contrary, as he bears all the empire's weight on his young shoulders. A lesson for us all: tell the truth in the first instance and avoid the inevitable shaming when it all comes out.

In the latest Media Underbelly scenario, Victorian police executed a search warrant at The Age newspaper in Melbourne yesterday seeking evidence to support allegations reporters has illegally hacked into an ALP electoral database, but have been prevented from removing computer equipment after a Supreme Court injunction was issued. In defence of his journalists, Fairfax media chief Greg Hywood said, "It would be extremely disappointing if quality journalism, the public interest in the story and the integrity of what we stand for, including protecting our sources at all costs, suffers because powerful individuals didn't like what we revealed." (Source: The Australian)

Popular Sydney Morning Herald economics writer Jessica Irvine attributes her weight loss to a simple numbers game.

Award-winning sports commentator David "Dasher" Fordham has died of prostate cancer at the age of 62, while Molly Meldrum is fighting for his life after a fall at his home, which certainly puts media matters into perspective this Christmas. 

And here's a sneaky peek behind the making of Compassion Australia's new child sponsorship campaign with voice-over by friend of GWAS Kym Rolle...

Girl With a Satchel