Media CEO looks for parachute. Which newspaper CEO, fearing he is about to be axed for chronic under-performance, has been consulting his lawyers on a golden parachute payout?

Corruption commission in the gun. A referral is being prepared to forward to the Inspector General for the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The complaint relates to ICAC’s investigation of matters arising from last year’s murder of Michael McGurk, which unleashed a torrent of allegations of dodgy dealings in the Premier State. Over the past two weeks, five individuals have been charged with offences relating to the murder.

The complaint to the ICAC Inspector General will ask him to address whether the ICAC investigation (which made no findings of corruption, let alone murder) frustrated and prolonged the criminal investigation by NSW Police. A police acquaintance tells me that ICAC was absolutely useless. In fact, he says Greens MP Sylvia Hale, who put an allegation directly, unsuccessfully to one of the accused at a Parliamentary inquiry, was of more use, creating a sense of security.

Paramedic courses on life support. I am a paramedic student from Victoria. I have been told by my head of school that Ambulance Victoria are planning on charging the universities $70 per day per student for placement. The unis have until January 1 to agree to the contract and the word is that at least two of the unis have said they may have to consider discontinuing their paramedic courses. I’m sure you guys know the significance of this, considering recent promises to put more paramedics on the road, etc. I’m terrified that my course will be discontinued with me in the middle of it, if the unis can’t afford to pay.

The Christmas stories. It’s that time of year already …

From: ABC Radio Chief of Staff

Colleagues,

This festive season, I would like to tell you a story which goes back to the half forgotten realm of the smoke filled coffee tents frequented by the reporters of the Silk Route, tellers of tall tales and true for travellers, traders and transients of those times.

The really great storytellers were referred to as ‘Ray-Dio news’, a local dialect expression meaning ‘shining light of truth directly from the heavens, telling us stuff we didn’t already know, starting with a snappy lead, in a nice voice, with concise, correct grammatical constructions and a pleasant conversational manner as well.’

There were lots of different kinds of storytellers in those days, although most of them weren’t much chop. Not very clever tellers dissembled for some minutes for no particular reason before getting in to the meat and potatoes of it, even though some had quite good yarns.These longer, rambling shows would often be forced to stop by audiences throwing rotten or wizened fruit. They were known by several derisory names, including ‘raisin episodes’ and ‘eggplant showers’, but the dismissive epithet eventually settled on was ‘currant affairs.’

Usually, people would listen patiently to the first couple of stories then leave in droves to await the next news ‘bulletin’, another local term derived from the phrase ‘the bull is in’, meaning ‘the true powerful energy is among us.’ Although to be fair, these “bull is in’ performances were not all that popular in Chinese shops at the eastern end of the Silk Road, but that’s another story.

Most bizarrely of all, were the storytellers of the tents known as Tea Venues. ‘T-V’, as it became known, only did stories everybody had heard already. The tellers had to rely on a small army of helpers who were reduced to drawing pictures to literally depict the images the tellers themselves were unable to create with words. The TV crowd imagined that all the extra activity must mean they were important, and the other storytellers let them live in their little fantasy world because they thought it would be cruel to tell them their stories were crap.

“TV” also had very strange customs. All the men had to wear a blue or grey uniform. Women were only allowed to tell stories if they painted their hair yellow.

In Old Samarkand, and all along the Silk Route, the storytelling abilities skills of Radio News became legend. Sure, traders along the route were consumed with the business of buying and selling silk and other fabrics, spices and silver, but when the dusty caravans came to rest, the merchants would erect their tents and try their best to re-enter the magical world of the story.

Of course, it was never like Samarkand, but they tried their best to capture the atmosphere of their storytelling home. Being both spiritual and enterprising by nature, the merchants fashioned silver and brass lanterns and ornate boxes in which they would figuratively steal away the splendour of their narrative heartland by capturing smoke from the story tents. These precious containers held the memory of the days of plentiful stories to help them across the narrative emptiness of the steppes, deserts and mountains on the long roads to China and back. These objects were known as Charisma Holders.

Over the years, the magic of the Charisma Holder became caught up with other cultural practices. “Charisma” became “Christmas”, the charisma boxes became Christmas gifts, polishing lanterns to release smoky inner spirits became a symbol of wish fulfilment.

But the message is the same. CHRISTMAS HOLDERS are stories produced in the time of plenty held over to be used in barren times. Over the next few weeks, the yellow folder on the EP’s desk marked XMAS HOLDERS will fill with suggestions for stories for the Christmas season. Your participation in this ancient ritual will be viewed favourably. Non-participation would be a most unwise course.

Peter Fray

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