A Sydney Morning Herald journalist gave this amusing piss-take address about Fairfax CEO Fred Hilmer recently but did not realise it was secretly taped and the transcript fell off the back of a truck outside’s Crikey’s house. I’ve no idea who gave the address or who leaked the transcript but it makes for an interesting left-wing perspective of morale at the Herald.

Mercifully, a copy has fallen into our hands and this afternoon I’d like to bring you a world exclusive – Fred Hilmer’s UNCENSORED Little Blue Book – the Director’s Cut. It says:

“Shortly after I was appointed CEO, I began a dialogue with myself. It was one of the most fascinating experiences I have ever had. I heard voices and I replied to them, and I discovered we were in complete agreement.

We discussed the 20 million options that I was awarded when I took the job, and said to myself: “What this company needs is corporate values, an ethos, ethics and business morality.”

I immediately began an intense workshop with the people that matter in any great company based on ideas and imagination? I talked to Human Resources and Marketing. I found that they, too, were desperately keen to fashion an ethical framework to govern the standards of our products, otherwise known as newspapers.

It was a thrilling challenge. We interfaced with HR and IT and called in the brains trust from F2. I regret we were not able to involve SMH but, as you know, they know sweet FA.

We decided to call on a Focus Group to assist us in establishing the essential role of our products in a democratic society. After an exhaustive debate we asked our sample of six citizens:

1. Do you want to read about politics?

2. Do you want to read about the economy?

3. Do you want to read boring sinister crap written by Alam Ramsey?

4. Or would you prefer to read about Tom and Nicole?

5. Or about the private lives of celebrities and people in high public office?

The results shook every one of us. I don’t need to tell you where we are now heading. The great compass of Fairfax has been re-adjusted, we are sailing in new waters, the mainsail has been spliced and our ship of state is now responding to the great issues of our times.

There will be cavilling cries of protest from the swill we unfortunately still have to carry below decks. But their days are numbered. Soon we will flush their down the toilet of history and move forward into an era when news and information will be buried by the tidal wave of Big Brother’s House.

Isn’t it obvious? Would you rather do the bum dance with Sara-Marie or Tony Abbott? Let’s write about Enimem not HIH. More NRL, please, and less One.Tel.

I have tried to encapsulate these corporate principles after talking to HR and PR. Let’s make Fairfax a leader in business culture and social responsibility by offering options to the staff, but naturally keeping most for the executive classes.

Let us accept a manifesto based on these timeless propositions:

1. Let us say what we mean and mean what we say – as often as is humanly possible.

2. Let us speak for the many not the few, and sometimes the other way round.

3. Let us speak for the future, not the past, unless if it upsets John Howard.

4. Let us be unequivocal when we are equivocating, er, or something like that.

I have received tremendous support for these humanistic principles from some of the finest intellectuals employed on our products, er titles. They include Tilly Devine, Imre Vyshinsky, Pauline Sheehan and the celebrated Irishman from Balmain whose name escapes me.

For 160 years Fairfax has been producing quality products for a home-town market. You might think that is our strength – it isn’t. Modern marketing tells us that we are out of step with the six people in our Focus Group and we are in peril of losing our way.

I speak with an incredible store of background knowledge. I was Dean of the School of Business at the University of NSW where I first developed my theories about competition policy. Who can now contest the fact that I helped change the face of rural Australia?

It was my far-sighted policy which saw once-thriving towns turned into outstanding real estate opportunities, where you can pick up a whole street for a song.

You know it makes sense.

I call upon the recalcitrants to give up their pathetic, hopeless adherence to old fashioned ideas about reporting the news and informing the public about their communities and their social, cultural and political life.

What people want to read about is bikini wax and how far it will go this summer; will the cult of motorbikes return this year or next; does David Dale eat at The Establishment or the Turkish Bath; has eating Japanese food passed as a fashion statement, is Tibetan the new rage.

This is the new journalism. Let this be a wake-up call.

Here endeth the Lesson

Your sincerely

Frederick G Hilmer

[email protected]

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey