Ask John Menadue whether his internet-based publication New Matildais preaching to the converted, and he
says “well you have to start somewhere”. It’s a fair point. But perhaps today the
emphasis should be on the word “preach” because New Matilda is proclaiming itself not only a journalism outlet, but
also a think tank and political campaigner. For those raised on notions of disinterested journalism and objectivity,
it’s an unusual and perhaps awkward combination.

In the NSW Parliament this afternoon, New Matilda is releasing a statement titled Reclaiming our Common Wealth: policies for a fair and sustainable
future
. It is the beginning of a new
phase in New Matilda’s life –
developing policies “based on the public good… filling the policy void
becomes an important focus for New
Matilda
“.

It’s an interesting development for those of us who wonder where
internet-based journalism might fit in the future media world. The New Matilda model is in the tradition of
pamphleteering, rather than the staid journal-of-record approach of traditional
broadsheet newspapers. And yet it wants the best of both traditions. Menadue insists that the
magazine would publish views fundamentally opposed to its proclaimed values,
providing the content was of good quality.
Nevertheless, he describes New Matilda as a “gathering space
for like-minded people”. Whether it manages to do anything more than preach to
the converted remains to be seen.

Developing policies based on the public good is, doubtless, what most
politicians would say they are doing. So
what distinguishes New Matilda’s approach? Menadue says it is the identification of
values, and the document released today lays out those values and principles
that follow from them.

The pitch is that while Australia might
superficially seem to be in good shape, we are in fact living off past
accumulations of capital and drawing down on future prosperity. “In short we are eating our seed
wheat.” And what are the
all-important values? Freedom. Citizenship.
Ethical responsibility.
Fairness. Stewardship. It all sounds a bit motherhood, but the
specific policies will follow soon, having been canvassed and drafted through
the magazine’s policy portal, which is free to access.

The idea is to encourage all sides of politics to adopt these policies,
and then inform readers as to which parties are closest to the New Matilda ideal. New Matilda is almost two years old and has about 4,500 subscribers, which is not quite at break even, but
ahead of the budget. Growth is,
according to Menadue, “quite dramatic”.

So can an organisation be both a political campaigner and a robust
journalism outlet? One suspects that it
will end up being more one than the other, and that either the journalism or
the campaigning must suffer. But in the
new media world, boundaries are being blurred all the time. New
Matilda
has been amazingly successful over its short life, which perhaps
proves that crusty traditional journalists should shut up and watch.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW