Sell newspapers? Nah In its latest act of penny pinching, The Age is about to sack 14 customer service staff, a team dedicated to servicing the paper’s subscribers, a group that has grown from some 85,000 in 2005 to near 140,000 today. The average salary of the customer service group is in the mid $40k range. Said one Age insider “they just don’t want to sell newspapers”. — Jonathan Green

And introducing the car pool It seems bitter Melbourne metro rivals the Herald-Sun and The Age have even more in common than their shared propensity for sacking editors. As this aggressively-worded email reveals, late night journos, already burdened by a canteen shutdown, the lack of a switchboard and a dearth of hard-copy newspapers, have been directed to abandon individual cab charges and instead rideshare with other hacks “travelling in the same direction”. Night staff will now will have to register each day on a special list “facilitated” by administrative newsroom enforcers in a move apparently influenced by junior sport carpooling. Presumably this will involve magical mystery tours around Melbourne’s outer fringe as each scribbler is randomly off-loaded in an order determined by one of the city’s notoriously wayward cabbies.

This mirrors a similar cost-cutting move at the Hun a few years ago, a directive immediately ignored by senior staff. Soon after the ruling was handed down, cabs were routinely seen leaving HWT’s Southbank building with only one passenger, with junior editorial assistants still forced to slum it. It will be interesting to see whether senior Age slasher David Skelton and Managing Director Don Churchill heed their own advice as they plan their nightly escape from the Spencer Street asylum to Melbourne’s leafy inner ‘burbs.

Night Staff Transport Home

A reminder to night staff that a new procedure has been put in place for transport home after 9pm.
Those wanting a cab home need to join up with colleagues travelling in the same direction. Like before you need to put your name on a list kept at the newdesk [sic].
The NRAs are there only to facilitate the process; if there are issues please raise them with the relevant manager — not our newsesk [sic] assistants.
As announced previously:
– No cab chits [sic] will be given to staff to get home before 9pm.
– Staff must have at least 3 people per cab before the cab charge will be issued.
– The NRA will take the names of the staff and order the cab.
– Staff wishing to leave before 9pm will have to make their own arrangements.
– Staff who miss their allocated cab will have to make their own arrangements.
Thanks for your co-operation

Andrew Crook

Wrong wrong wrong It’s always risky for politicians to appear on TV comedy shows (or indeed on Kerri-Anne Kennerley’s show as Joe ‘Shrek’ Hockey would attest). So who at Coalition HQ decided it’d be a good idea for Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop to appear on Channel TEN’s Good News Week? Generally, politicians keep a low profile and roll with the punchlines if the decision to brave such a show is made. To her credit, Bishop decided to take the comedians on at their own game. Pity the results were so disturbing. Watch and feel nauseous as Bishop jokes about ‘doing a Sharon Stone‘.  — Media Mook

Zen and the art of New York Times headline writing. A question for New York Times headline writers: Are you not yourselves? You’re no doubt a witty bunch, and yet house style requires you to resist any temptation toward flavorsome puns or tabloidy provocation in favor of the blandly informative. Your mission is to distill a piece to its essence in a few words without sacrificing nuance, and usually, you are more than up to the task. Once in a while, though, you respond to the challenge not with straight-up-the-middle declaratives but with enigmatic paradox and riddle-me-this contradiction. — Slate

An Obama tilt in campaign coverage. The [Washington] Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts. The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts … The op-ed page ran far more laudatory opinion pieces on Obama, 32, than on Sen. John McCain, 13. There were far more negative pieces about McCain, 58, than there were about Obama, 32, and Obama got the editorial board’s endorsement. The Post has several conservative columnists, but not all were gung-ho about McCain. – Washington Post

Can Facebook make its ‘engagement ads’ work? Forecasts for social-network advertising were already being scaled back long before the credit crisis began dampening ad spending, but Facebook is keeping the torch burning for its new “engagement ad” format. The format, which asks users to interact with an ad and then shares that action with friends, launched back in August. But WSJ.com today throws some cold water on the idea. — Guardian

Wall St meltdown hits Oscars With only seven weeks left to qualify for Hollywood’s biggest dog and pony show, Wall Street’s collapse is hitting Sunset Boulevard. As studios scramble to reign in costs, the slowdown is changing the dynamics of the Oscar race, and narrowing the Best Picture field. Since full-fledged Oscar campaigns can break the bank, some studios are pushing potential Academy Award into 2009, taking them out of the running. Paramount’s The Soloist, an uplifting tale of a schizo, homeless violinist, and Weinstein’s The Road, an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s soul-crushing apocalypse novel, have both been pushed back to next year. And to cut back on publicity costs, an unusually high number of films are also being released late in the season, which means they may not have time to build the word-of-mouth momentum to clinch votes. — The Daily Beast

Peter Fray

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