The decline of newspapers:

Kim Lockwood writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Well may you editorially excoriate the populist drivel published by the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph. (That’ll show ’em!) But if memory serves, Crikey publisher Eric Beecher, seeking to be editor-in-chief and editor of The Herald, Melbourne, sold his appointment to Rupert Murdoch on taking the paper “up market”, on making it “serious”. It was bleeding circulation, something had to be done, and Rupert said yes.

With pretty much a blank cheque Beecher bought some of the finest editors, writers and investigative journalists in the country: Geoff Slattery, Ben Hills, the Long Lunch Legend and Jonathan Green … wait, maybe Jonathan was already there. The typefaces were changed. The layout was changed. The Herald looked … what is the opposite of “populist drivel”? And what happened?

You may well argue Eric left six months before Murdoch merged the paper with The Sun to form the Herald Sun (Bruce Baskett replaced him after he stormed out one day over computer and other problems) but the fact is the move away from “populist drivel” had not stemmed the sales dive.

Crikey, Eric even published a 7am edition a couple of times — after a federal Budget, for instance — and sold at Flinders St Station and elsewhere in competition with The Age. Nothing worked.

I am aware Eric does not write your editorial. But somewhere in there a pot is calling a kettle black.

Megan Stoyles writes: The alleged looming demise of Australian daily newspapers following closures in the US may be more panic-driven than international swine flu. The latest official figures for the drop in advertising revenue in Oz mainstream papers for the year ended 2008 was 0.6 per cent — not a tragedy during GFC time. The Age circulation is apparently holding and occasional investigative scoops encouraging.

But talking about survival of serious Oz media commentary — Gideon Haigh and The Monthly soap opera: Enough, please, enough.

Tim Villa writes: So Crikey is sad to see the “slow snuffing of quality reporting” and the “cockroach titles” that are likely to survive … but how did you choose to advertise the front and centre on your new site?

…although of course it wasn’t populist drivel, but I still had a chuckle 🙂

Cardboard coffins do not have tabs!:

John Kirkham writes: Re. “Crikey’s cardboard controversy” (1 May, comments). As a contract worker, I made all sorts of cardboard products in a factory fully owned by Visy but not branded Visy. The highlight was assembling “coffins” … with some of the thickest cardboard (12 laminations) I’d ever come across. Only about 15 per session were made, otherwise anymore and your work day was all but over — they were that difficult to assemble.

Being incredibly heavy and handmade, the only machine used was a foot operated floor standing staple gun. About 200 “four inch” metal staples held it all together. They were made for deceased homeless/penniless tramps and for certain funeral directors around South Australia.

Rudd money:

Paul Ferraro writes: Re. “Rudd government stimulating the world’s backpackers” (yesterday, item 2). I read Bernard Keane’s piece on Rudd’s backpacking allowance and was struck by your intern’s admittedly back-of-the-envelope findings regarding student eligibility.

I am a 31 year old part-time postgraduate student who (until the late stages of my partner’s pregnancy in August last year) was working casually to supplement my partner’s full-time income (as a self-employed graphic designer). Since my son’s birth, I have not had the time to work and my partner has only been able to resume her work on a part-time equivalent basis.

With that in mind, my accountant believes I am ineligible for the cash bonus. Without wishing to sound like a whining bludger, how can I not be eligible? Is there a minimum amount one must have earned during the preceding financial year? Or was I required to have worked a minimum number of hours?

Perhaps I was employed in the wrong field — maybe I should have picked vegies instead of working at a video store? Any comments/suggestions?

Martin Gordon writes: The papers will be full for days about further speculation about the federal budget. I have found no compelling argument for, or questioning of the Rudd strategy of splashing money around and slashing expenditure to pay for it. Did I miss something, but it is completely illogical?

The Monthly:

Wes Pryor writes: Re. “Gideon Haigh: Manne relishes controversy, Warhaft does not” (yesterday, item 3). Look, I don’t mind The Monthly — I bought it because at one point Black Inc. was everything my undergraduate, increasingly “New Jingo” mind desired. And I like Robert Manne, too. Read his books, essays, volumes (Left Right Left is still the best title in Australian non-fiction, nay, all of literature). Heck, I even shared a bowl of wonton soup with the bloke at La Trobe. Never a finer mind (or leather-elbowed tweed) graced that hallowed Chinese eatery.

But this sledging is a waste of airtime. Never was a more intellectually glacial skirmish played out in the Australian media. Fights are supposed to be sound bites, attacks, honest. But this drivel — my brain is bigger than yours and I oughtta know because she was my missus, and you’re old and sick — is cr-p. It’s making the finest intellectuals in the country look like the kids of fine intellectuals talking their way out of a wedgie in PE class.

Let them slug it out however they see fit, but why is Crikey a vehicle for what is an internal professional matter and a sad deterioration of what seemed to be a genuinely positive working arrangement between a gang of cracking writers and publishers?

For one thing it’s non-news about non-news about the news. For another, it’s giving Bolt a leg up for years to come.

The “left-leaning intelligentsia” just kicked an own goal and wound up sounding like a pack of d-cks. My bubble is burst, that’s for sure.

Guy Rundle writes: Gideon Haigh’s reference to my piece on The Monthly, in his piece on The Monthly, was more than a little silly. The reference to it as a general “moan” was simply inaccurate — I set out an argument about what a magazine like that should be doing, and suggested The Monthly was doing something other, and, in my opinion, lesser.

The idea that it was a whinge about “not genuflecting to my genius” ignores the fact that I suggested a whole raft of writers from across the political spectrum who could have made it more interesting, whether or not I got a guernsey. The remark about being an expatriate something or other makes it sound as if I left in 1963 — I’ve been away three years, in an era when the internet makes all news sources universally available.

As to the remark that “magazines don’t have teeth” — I suggested The Monthly should grow some — “they have words and pictures”, that indicates the attitude that I’ve found troublesome with the publication all along. A magazine is not just a magazine. For what it’s worth I do think that Meanjin, Arena and The Nation (Oz version), among others, have all done more with much less at various points in their lives.

To not aim for that is to end up as a higher end in-flight publication. To not believe it possible is to fall back into a protective cynicism. To see it as foolish or misguided is to be simply unable to invest yourself in something with a collective spirit or intent.

Josh Meadows writes: Out of all the “he said, she said” nastiness at The Monthly one clear truth has emerged: Gideon Haigh is a better writer than Robert Manne!

The electoral process:

James Walker writes: Re. “Tinkering with the electoral process: Liberal margin of error” (yesterday, item 19). The Federal Member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby should note that fraud would need not be wide spread to unduly influence an outcome. At the last federal election the seat of McEwen was won by 12 votes. Perhaps he rues the fact that someone didn’t decide to vote early and often in 13 McEwen booths.

This PM story in 2000 is a good refresh as to what might have inspired the decision to tighten enrolment processes of the rolls. Whatever point of view anyone takes on debates around enrolment on electoral rolls, people justify their position on the grounds of democracy.

If people genuinely wanted a democratic process then as with our contemporaries in New Zealand or the U.K we would not be compelled by law to vote.

Climate change cage match (now with its own blog):

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 14). Richard Farmer wrote: “Thankfully the ice is growing…” Mr Farmer seems to have something of an obsession with random snippets of data about polar ice sheets.

That’s fine, we all should have a hobby, but without any broader context to link it in an intelligent and informed way to an issue (such as global warming) of some relevance to a broader readership, it is as fascinating and significant as a straight report on the number of out of service street lights last month in Narvik compared to the local council’s earlier estimates.

Please reconsider why you publish such junk.

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