Melbourne street signs get Robyn Riled — but they’re a hoax! “Our children are our connection with our future” Robyn Riley, the Sunday Herald-Sun‘s bleeding-heart columnist opined this week. How true. How true. But what was she on about? “The message is heartbreakingly simple. John’s parents want him home.”

Riley was writing about a series of signs that appeared in Melbourne last Sunday morning. Written in black texta on box cardboard they told a simple tale “John come home we miss you. Dad’s not angry”. “John Grandma is in heaven. We miss you”. “John come home . All’s forgiven” etc, etc. Very moving. Until you see 10 of them in a four-block radius. And notice that they’re all neatly written, and laid-out with an eye to aesthetic balance. And remember that you’re in Melbourne, stenciltown, home of Ern Malley and more conceptual art students you can shake a stick (and get a grant for doing so) at.

Robyn, you goose, the signs are a hoax. They went up one Sunday morning and they all came down at once a few days later. They’re addressed to a person only known as John, with nothing to distinguish him in the name or the message. They are visually well-composed and, to be frank, unlike similar desperate messages that  sometimes go up, accurately spelt and apostrophised. Seriously, didn’t “Grandma’s in heaven” start to set your alarm bells ringing?

Who did them? My money is on either a VCA third-year student, or Christian activists from the hip, arty St Paul’s Cathedral mob, or possibly both. What were they aimed at? Well, among other things, the cheap oleaginous “voice of the community” journalism which the Hun trades in. Hilarious. Poor, poor Hun. First the Dole army, now this. — Kim Serca

Worse to come for newspapers. Despite some tentative optimism from Washington, Wall Street and Madison Avenue, people who monitor the newspaper business for a living say it has not yet hit bottom. But in what passes for good news these days, the free fall in newspaper advertising may be slowing, and specialists predict it will ease through 2009 and into 2010. — New York Times

Sydney Morning Herald gets a rebrand. [Today] sees the relaunch of The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper with its new tabloid inside sections. The move is being backed by a “get a new perspective” ad campaign created by Whybin TBWA Sydney. — mUmBRELLA

Coke is it — when it comes to the world’s most valuable brands. Turns out that during the downturn, Coke still has plenty of fizz. According to a new report from Interbrand, a global consulting firm, Coca-Cola is the world’s most valuable brand. Coke is worth $68.7 billion in brand value, which is a 3% rise from a year ago. — Time

Fox News bags its competition for not coming to the Tea Party. In this morning’s Washington Post, on page A9, the Fox News Channel took out a full-page ad, chest-thumping about its coverage of this past weekend’s Tea Party protests in Washington, DC (which were heavily promoted by Fox News). “How did, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN miss this story?” the text reads. It makes one wonder: Did Fox’s marketing department bother to check on its competitors’ coverage before they made these claims? — Jason Linkins, Huffington Post

SMH mixes its homophones. Troy, in his new blog, Bad Aussie Grammer and other Erors, gets nitpicky with The Sydney Morning Herald: “In this article, the journalist has confused the homophones “two” and “to”. If you grow up speaking English, this mistake is a real no-no.”

Investigative journalist bids $60k for dinner with Sarah Palin. Loses. The Huffington Post reports how journalist and true-crime writer Joe McGinniss bid $60,101.01 in the eBay auction for dinner with Sarah (and Todd) Palin, but was unfortunately pipped at the post by a real Palin supporter.

Why it’s not cool to photoshop Cheney. Featured inside the magazine was a full-page, stand-alone picture of former Vice-President Dick Cheney, knife in hand, leaning over a bloody carving board. Newsweek used it to illustrate a quote that he made about CIA interrogators. By linking that photo with Mr Cheney’s comment and giving it such prominence, they implied something sinister, macabre, or even evil was going on there.

I took that photograph at his daughter Liz’s home during a two-day assignment, and was shocked by its usage. The meat on the cutting board wasn’t the only thing butchered. In fact, Newsweek chose to crop out two-thirds of the original photograph, which showed Mrs Cheney, both of their daughters, and one of their grandchildren, who were also in the kitchen, getting ready for a simple family dinner.  — NYTimes Lens blog

Book sales are saved by 50% off stickers and Oprah. Dan Brown’s latest thriller is selling briskly at half the price, but does this indicate that the rest of 2009 won’t be as recession-racked as anticipated for the book industry? Mr Brown’s fifth novel sold a total of more than one million hardcover and e-book copies in the US, Canada and the UK in its first 24 hours on the market. — Wall Street Journal

Oprah’s latest pick. Now it’s official. The new Oprah’s Book Club selection is, in fact, Uwen Akpan’s Say You’re One of Them, according to’s official announcement. Oprah’s Twitter feed also had the news, with Oprah exclaiming, “My first collection of short stories. Let me know what you think!” (Oh, and we owe the Washington Post Book World’s fiction editor, Ron Charles, an apology for for doubting him yesterday.) — Portfolio

The state of UK science journalism. On Tuesday The Times hosted a debate between British Science Minister Lord Drayson and Bad Science author Dr Ben Goldacre asking “Science reporting: is it good for you? “. The Times asked readers to participate via Twitter. Times Higher Education

YouTuber profile — they love a drink. YouTubers are electronics buying foodies who love to drink alcohol and look beautiful, according to statistics revealed by a study of Australian YouTube users. — YouTube

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.