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Apr 19, 2006

The Sydney Morning Herald's finest hour

The Sydney Morning Herald this week celebrated a remarkable achievement – its 175th birthday – with a stunning piece of journalism. Yesterday the Herald pu

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The Sydney Morning Herald this week celebrated a remarkable achievement – its 175th birthday – with a stunning piece of journalism.

Yesterday the Herald published a 24-page special edition (partly online here),
which covers some of the most important and interesting stories as they
were originally reported since the paper first rolled off the presses
in April 1831.

The special edition is a showcase of everything
that is intoxicating about traditional printed newspapers. It’s a
wonderfully tactile package full of fascinating, important and
surprising information, embellished by great pictures.

But there was an elephant in the room – an eerie item tucked away near the bottom of page 5:

Internet’s officials keep secrets safe
March 27, 1989

Officials
of Internet, the US computer network that ties together hundreds of
academic, government and corporate networks, are planning to begin a
program that will permit users to send messages to one another in what
is intended to be an unbreakable code.

At present, users of the network have little privacy. Sophisticated hackers can easily intercept and read messages.

For
many scientists and engineers, the networks have become a mainstay in
their communications to exchange research results as well as for
conversations.

Under the new system, not only can an encrypted
message be sent but the message will carry concealed information that
will leave the recipient in no doubt that the person who says he sent
the message did indeed send it.

According to the media neophytes who run the Herald‘s
parent company, Fairfax, that “new system” which began its staggering
process of commercialisation in 1989 is a great opportunity for their
newspaper. Sadly, they are wrong.

That story, reproduced in one of the finest editions ever published by the Herald, is the harbinger of the demise of the entire business model that supports The Sydney Morning Herald and its stablemate The Age.

The
“new system” is systematically removing the stellar profits from
printed classified advertising that fund those papers, and as that
funding dries up over the next decade the glory days of the Herald and its journalism will be finished.

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