Are book reviews written by anonymous reviewers fair? Plus other media tidbits of the day.
Who wrote this crap? Discontent is building afresh in Oz lit circles around The Saturday Paper’s practice of using unsigned book reviews. When editor Erik Jensen announced the move, designed to allow reviewers to more easily tell the truth, there were questions about its fairness. And also why other artistic reviews like theatre weren’t included in the deal. The issue has come round again because of rather dismissive review about Angela Meyer’s new short-story collection, Captives.
The review, by “DL”, slammed the book’s “seeming inability to resist sentimentality and cliche”. Being able to write negative reviews without fear or failure was Jensen’s reasoning for having anonymous reviews, but Meyer’s book (she’s a former Crikey blogger) is a first foray, and there’s a feeling about that she didn’t deserve such a sledgin’.
“If you wanna give a book of short stories by an emerging author a good kicking, fine. But at least have the guts to sign your name,” tweeted Overland editor Jeff Sparrow, after a response from former Sunday Age editor Gay Alcorn, who said running anonymous reviews was a “silly decision IMO”. Sparrow has previously written on Overland about anonymity giving people cover to pursue hidden vendettas. This is a concern with Meyer, who’s been a long-time commentator on Australian literary culture, and has made a few enemies in the process.
Print is the future. Country papers have found maintaining profit margins difficult when taking the digital leap, but The Warragul Citizen is coping with it in an unusual way. After moving to an online-only format early last year, owner and editor William Kulich says the paper will go back to print next month, under the new banner The Warragul and Baw Baw Citizen.
Kulich has an interesting business model for the venture, saying print is the best way for him to make money. “Despite the website’s popularity, selling online advertising in a region still new to the concept of an online paper is difficult. The old print editions rarely made losses, despite advertising taking a backseat to content, and I expect this new, more competitive publication will be a success.”
Based in Victoria’s West Gippsland region, the monthly tabloid began printing in June 2011, presenting the only competition to the weekly Warragul and Drouin Gazette – an entity in the town since 1898. In its short lifetime the Citizen has already become a reliable news presence online, publishing stories well before the Gazette (which has a minimal, recently established website) goes to print on Tuesdays. Kulich is the only staff member of the paper, with regular contributions from volunteers, and he hopes that with the move back to print the paper may take on staff and interns.
This former local isn’t surprised that local advertisers prefer a physical newspaper, but wonders if the market is big enough for two. — Sally Whyte
Australians saved by discerning editors. You know you’re in for a good read when the press release screams, “New survey reveals Catholics most likely to stray”. According to a survey of members of a cheating website (we won’t name it — the point of this is not publicity), 25% of its members are Catholic. Mind you, so are 25.3% of the Australian population, according to the 2011 census. But never let facts get in the way of smearing a whole class of people as cheaters. This website’s “chief science officer” (we’re not making this up) points out that “people who have faith often use it as an outlet for forgiveness so they’re more likely to cheat and less likely to feel guilty”. Right. In case this couldn’t get any more stupid, the PR flack who sent it to us refers to himself as a “mediaologist”.
Here at Crikey, we try to shield our readers from the relentless churn of PR-driven news. But on this particular release, we have some good news — no major Australian website seems to have written about it (though dozens of American news outlets weren’t so discerning). — Myriam Robin
Trouble at Seven? The sharemarket thinks something is wrong at Kerry Stokes’ key media company, judging by the sustained slide in the Seven West Media share price in the past few weeks. While media stocks are weakening on the market, Seven West Media stands out with the biggest fall in the past nine months. Shares of Seven West Media hit a year low yesterday of $1.68 (they closed at $1.69) and have now lost around 10% of their value in the past month (and more than 7% in the past five trading days). The shares are 35% under the year high of $2.60 reached last September.
Yesterday’s government discussion paper hinted even more strongly the media ownership and reach laws might change, but the fact that Nine and Seven shares have fallen from their highs and have continued to fall in recent weeks says investors reckon the prospects of media consolidation are not very high. Seven West Media has around $1.2 billion in debt (and falling), while Nine is in talks to renegotiate its $850 million debt pile.
Some analysts blame the weakness in the Seven share price on the refloating of Nine, but Seven’s slide is not fully accounted for by Nine’s reappearance on the ASX. Seven West Media’s new 52-week low tells us the market is increasingly worried about the Stokes-controlled company. An added problem for Seven is the move by its big shareholder, Seven Group Holdings, to move into the oil and gas business via a takeover of struggling Nexus Energy, which is going to be knocked back by Nexus shareholders today. Seven Group says that won’t stop it buying Nexus assets more cheaply once the company collapses. Some investors reckon all this is a negative for the 35%-owned Seven West Media.
The network’s ratings remain solid, but if you look a little closer, there are a couple of hints that things are not going swimmingly at Seven. This week we found out that around 10 jobs are going in Seven’s news and current affairs division as it sloughs off people from the closed Today Tonight. Its Pacific Magazines subsidiary has been quietly easing staff out to keep costs under control as it faces the continuing circulation and ad sales revenues. The company’s West Australian newspaper is also losing sales and ad revenues. But an important surprise for investors came this week with the surprise confirmation of rumours that Seven’s big-budget local drama A Place To Call Home has been axed. And Seven’s 6pm news broadcasts in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are being beaten regularly by Nine’s 6pm news. The losses are especially big in Sydney and Melbourne. This is probably Seven’s most pressing problem. — Glenn Dyer
Video of the day. This video of American high school boys explaining why they are feminists is the perfect antidote to the #YesAllWomen fracas …