Peter Carey’s message to Fairfax. Novelist Peter Carey sent this email to Fairfax staff on Friday:
Sent: Friday, 27 May 2011 10:43 AM
To: ODI-Editorial-Level 4-DL
Cc: Greg Hywood; Peter Fray; Jack Matthews
Subject: A message from Peter Carey
Shortly before she died the syndicated American journalist Molly Ivins had this to say about her financially ailing profession: “What really pisses me off is this most remarkable business plan: Newspaper owners look at one another and say, ‘Our rate of return is slipping a bit; let’s solve that problem by making our product smaller and less helpful and less interesting.”‘ Can outsourcing vital functions like subbing and design save so much money it is worth the complete demoralization of your remaining staff? And what affect does such a decision have on your loyal readers?
It is hard for us not to notice that as the newsprint edition suffers a thousand cuts the online editions continue to grow more clickable, cheekier and noticeably less thoughtful than their paper siblings. Am I wrong to see in your latest business decision the relegation of the paper edition to the position of “the poor relation” whose future you clearly don’t see as an investment? Would I be right in guessing that the ‘editorial’ decisions of the online versions are made less and less by journalists and more by someone counting ‘hits’? Right or wrong this is the impression the online versions give as they veer towards tabloid sensationalism losing the very defining strength of Fairfax newspapers — in one word the “quality” of their journalism. And without an editorial vision and quality journalism what is left?
The numbers may appear convincing, but how do you measure the organic damage to a beloved newspaper? What happens to the culture and energy of the surviving members of your staff, their morale, their desire to go the extra mile for you? You will speak encouragingly to them, of course, but the survivors are worldly people who will know they are now unsafe. They will see you do not care about what you promised you would always care about.
I would guess you have conducted focus groups as you think about your future, but focus groups may easily underestimate the ability of ordinary readers to react to gradual changes in a paper’s personality, its seriousness, its look, its tone. By underestimating your consumers, by removing their pleasures, you run the risk of destroying the very market you are trying to save.
Journos blame their subs — on Twitter. It’s hard enough to pick a footy winner without your own newspaper buggering up your tips. Age AFL reporter Emma Quayle wondered what happened to hers on Saturday…
Her colleague, soccer man Michael Lynch, hinted at who was at fault. And Pagemasters hasn’t even started yet…
The Bryce ain’t right. It’s never easy for online news outlets when two people share the same name, especially sportsmen. But when those two ball-handling namesakes play two different games, well it should be an elementary distinction to make. Not so for smh.com.au, which made a small error when it got its Bryce Gibbses mixed up on the front page this morning:
One Bryce is a star midfielder for Carlton in the AFL, the other is a front rower for the Wests Tigers in the NRL — and a teammate of Benji Marshall, the other player involved in the “bust-up rumour”. Carlton’s Bryce was eventually replaced by Wests’ Bryce, but not before someone copped a rap over the knuckles no doubt. — Tom Cowie
Reporters in line for copyright windfall
“Print journalists will receive a $3.5 million windfall in copyright payments this financial year from the Copyright Agency Limited, more than double that of last year.” — The Australian
Fairfax gives iPad apps a second go
“Fairfax Media is to take a second run at a iPad offerings for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, with new apps to launch tomorrow.” — mUmBRELLA
Iran vows to unplug internet
“Iran is taking steps toward an aggressive new form of censorship: a so-called national Internet that could, in effect, disconnect Iranian cyberspace from the rest of the world. The leadership in Iran sees the project as a way to end the fight for control of the Internet, according to observers of Iranian policy inside and outside the country. Iran, already among the most sophisticated nations in online censoring, also promotes its national Internet as a cost-saving measure for consumers and as a way to uphold Islamic moral codes.” — Wall Street Journal
Twitter unmasks anonymous Brit in libel battle
“Twitter has been forced to hand over the personal details of a British user in a libel battle that could have huge implications for free speech on the web.” — The Guardian