Farewell to the switchboard The misery and miserliness continues at Fairfax’s southern outpost, The Age. Buried in the internal newsletter (how long will that last) this week was mention that there will shortly be no switchboard at the newspaper after 8.30 each week night, a move that neatly compliments the earlier removal of night shift canteen facilities. There will be no switchboard at all on weekends. All calls ‘out of hours’ will be diverted to either Age security, or the Fairfax Sydney switch, whose operators may or may not be relied upon to accurately pronounce Mordialloc, Birrarung Marr and the like. The seven Age switch operators (some with serious seniority) have been told that there will be jobs for only three of them.

The decision to curtail switch operations at 8.30pm is an extraordinary one for a morning paper. It may come as news to MD Don Churchill and his operations manager/chief axeman David Skelton, but significant work at morning newspapers is done under cover of darkness, even at papers whose timeliness has been so eroded by successive bungled introductions of unsympathetic technology and awkward sectionalisation that they have first edition deadlines as early as 9.30pm.

The switchboard change was canvassed five years ago but then wiser heads in management decided against it because of a feared community backlash and the perception that The Age was being run out of Sydney. Plus, the switch of course was viewed as an essential customer service for The Age generally. Times have changed, and the latest round of cuts at The Age will not stop with a usable phone service. Plans are also afoot to axe the paper’s Reader Services department, the linking mechanism between the paper and its audience and the cell within the paper that communicates reader feedback to editorial. Staff from other departments – editorial in particular – will be expected to field calls from irate and/or happy readers but nothing will be logged and no one will keep track of problems and issues in the paper. Editorial will essentially be flying “blind”. These latest developments are the work of David Skelton, approved by Churchill. Skelton now has the title “Business and Operations Director” having been demoted from Chief Operating Officer and Churchill’s second in charge, apparently given the brief to dismantle the paper’s essential infrastructure. — Jonathan Green

How’s this for religious freedom? A group of evangelicals have decided to advertise on British buses. Serious. And which divine being are they plugging? Well, it turns out the evangelical atheists at the British Humanist Society are plugging no God in particular. In fact, they’re advertising no god at all. Britain’s bendy-buses will soon carry BHA-funded advertisements proclaiming “THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. Already the BHA has raised around 4 times what they expected for this ungodly advertising blitz.

Richard Dawkins, an Oxford Professor, is supporting the campaign. Why? He told the Pom version of the Daily Telegraph:

Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride — automatic tax breaks, unearned ‘respect’ and the right not to be ‘offended’, the right to brainwash children. Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side. This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think — and thinking is anathema to religion.

Irfan Yusuf

The twisted language of politics. The language of politics is fascinating when you look at it as linguistic science and infuriating when you look at it as manipulation and persuasion. May Kernan, an accomplished communications strategist, shared this today as an attempt to “see” better. — Bloghound

The elite newspaper of the future. A smaller, less frequently published version packed with analysis and investigative reporting and aimed at well-educated news junkies that may well be a smart survival strategy for the beleaguered old print product. — American Journalism Review

The Chairman Speaks: Tuesdays with Rupert. The great fear about Rupert Murdoch, among journalists and proper liberals everywhere, beyond even his tabloidism and his right-wing politics, is that he acknowledges no rules. He does it, without mercy, his way. Since buying The Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch has talked freely with Vanity Fair, about his business, his family, and the future. — Vanity Fair

Picturing the crisis: A look at photographic coverage in the financial press. What does the financial crisis look like? Well, judging from recent weeks, it looks better in The New York Times than it does in the Financial Times or The Wall Street Journal. — Columbian Journalism Review

Yahoo dims outlook after disappointing 3Q. Yahoo Inc. is lowering its revenue estimates for the remainder of the year. The move reflects mounting concerns about a downturn in online ad spending as the economy unravels. The tough times promoted Yahoo to draw up plans to fire at least 1,500 workers after a 64 percent drop in its third-quarter profit. — Yahoo Business

Guardian blog launches atheism bus ads. In the UK, a Guardian blog has devised and launched a bus-ad campaign promoting atheism. the adverts will feature the URLs of secular, humanist and atheist sites, so that readers can find out more about atheism as a positive and liberating alternative to religion. — Poynter Online

Peter Fray

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