What on earth is going on at the Fairfax blog The
Daily Truth
? Today Jack Marx responds, tongue in cheek, to
my piece last Friday (item 2) about his discussion of drugs and his sponsorship by
Absolut Cut. Read it. Make up your own
mind.

But in the meantime, Marx on Monday
published an inflammatory piece suggesting, again tongue in cheek, that
Israelis should move to Tasmania. Every editor in Australia
knows that the Middle East is the one topic likely to generate passionate and
even abusive reader response. Marx was
not disappointed. Some of the comments from readers had to be pulled off the
site.

And now today, alongside his response on
the Absolut Cut issue, there is this on the relationship between school students
and teachers.

My route to and from school each day was strewn with beautiful women
disguised as schoolgirls, and, even now, they strut through my memory not as
children, but freshly-matured beauty queens in a pageant that never ends. The
irony is that where once all I dreamed of was to see such girls dressed up for
adulthood – in skirts and heels, the ponytails gone – today my first question
of a woman my own age would be whether she still had her school uniform handy.
Which is why, I guess, it’s a good thing I’m not a teacher but a journalist,
and a freelance one at that. Of course, if I’d known back then what I know
today, I would have diverted my own attentions from the young girls with whom I
mistakenly thought I had a chance, to she with whom I believed, equally
mistakenly, I had no chance at all. The teacher.

It is inevitable that Marx will
respond to any concerns raised by me by glorying in his edginess. People who
mention words like “ethics” are easily cast as life denying killjoys.
I brace myself for this response.

And of course his post on school
children and s-x will attract lots of response.
And lots of eyeballs for Absolut Cut.
And therefore advertising revenue for Fairfax. I
guess both corporates are happy with this?
Or are they?

It is accepted at Fairfax that different rules apply for blogs than
for the hard copy op-ed pages. But do
any standards apply at all? And if so
what are they? Do they bear any relationship to the Australian Press Council
principles
on the reporting of drugs and issues affecting children? Or are they just sad-sack old hat in
Fairfax’s revenue hungry new media world?

I love Jack Marx’s writing. No-one can doubt he is a prodigious talent.
Perhaps the strength of his writing cannot be winnowed from its moral
complexity.

But where is the moral
compass? Surely this matters, if not for
him, if not for Absolut Cut, then for Fairfax.

Peter Fray

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