Crikey‘s iPad winner:

Congratulations to this week’s lucky iPad winner: Max Hunger. There’s three more up for grabs, get your entry in today by resubscribing to Crikey.

Press freedom:

David Hand writes: Re. “Simons: the bottom line … news or profitability?” (yesterday, item 4). I found Margaret Simons’ item on editorial interesting and insightful. Clearly, it is important to be able to pay the bills and no news journal can survive for long it it’s not making money. Even The Australian may find its life significantly shortened when Rupert finally releases his hold over News Ltd and the newspapers lose their patron.

Winning and keeping an audience requires the product or service to have integrity and in my view this acts as a protection of editorial independence. We seek out news for facts that reflect our world view and if we find a particular channel isn’t doing it the value of the service goes down and we get our information from elsewhere. So if Gina Rinehart changes Fairfax to become The Gina Daily, people will not buy it.

This is also in my view a blind spot for left elites. The right-leaning media are so offensive to them that the notion that they represent the views of most people can’t be contemplated without serious heartburn. So there is a perverse reversal of the process. In the eyes of the left, Murdoch creates right-wing opinion and most people blindly follow.

Once you entertain the view that people can’t be trusted to make up their own minds, then media regulation is seen as a convenient way to muzzle the voices of those who have a different view. To an economic rationalist like me, it is much simpler to take the view that editors of all media channels hone their message to what most people think, thus maximising their audience, than to think there is an evil mind-controlling conspiracy led by Murdoch.

Crikey is a good example of editorial independence seeking its own audience. To a Crikey reader, there was no significant story last week about boat people. Absolutely. Of course not.  Maybe you couldn’t find anyone in your contributors’ group who actually watched Four Corners last Monday night. Maybe it was not interesting. Maybe your independent editor doesn’t want to piss off your left-wing readership by discussing a clearly awkward development for the left.

But now you’ve been saved. Tony Abbott has gone public on Saturday so I expect Bernard Keane and Guy Rundle and their ilk to be hyperventilating about the evil coalition in the next day or so. I absolutely respect your editorial independence to seek your audience and pay the bills.

John Richardson writes: Re. Friday’s Editorial. “Politicians cannot be trusted to have any role in regulating the media,” Crikey confidently asserts, having just made the case that the media itself can’t be trusted with the task either.

Then shock turns to horror as, a few lines further on, Margaret Simons convincingly argues that the same conclusion should be drawn in the case of business. A pox on all their houses would seem to be in order. Against this backdrop, Crikey‘s thesis in support of the creation of a stronger, independent regulator seems compelling until, of course, we start to think about what such a body might look like.

Given the simple fact that there has never been an institution created in this country that has managed to operate free from tampering by politicians, media proprietors, business moguls or all three, how could anyone be optimistic about the prospects for creating such a wondrous creature, fearlessly dedicated to the cause of “truth, fairness and accuracy, and animating democracy”?

Sadly, it’s just the stuff that dreams are made of.

Peter Isaacson writes: Of course proprietors, through the board, have the responsibility of determining the political policy of the media they direct. In my proprietorial days, when I published a swathe of community and business newspapers, (and wrote the editorials for several of them), I considered it was not only my right to determine the political policy but my responsibility to do so.

Hey MONA:

Virginia Gordon writes: Re. “Tasmanian recession? Not at David Walsh’s bizarre world of art” (Friday, item 2). I’m a MOFOer and proud of it … it’s not as vulgar as it sounds. I think MONA FOMA has some of the smartest programming in the country, receiving little of the attention the larger festivals attract. To the shame of arts journalists who presumably wait to be wined or dined.

Its intelligent, inclusive, beautiful programming is for me a must-see each year (between fabulous Sydney Festival events at the same time). It’s great to read the boost to tourism the amazing MONA has generated as Tasmania is doing it very very tough.

MONA is a playground for adults that puts the major contemporary galleries to shame, but is pushing them all, which is great. The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is a very special space where small but well-curated intelligent programs such as their recent Antarctica/Mawson exhibitions have extraordinary documents and objects.

Hobart and Tasmania have so much to offer. Visit MONA, enjoy Bruny Island and see the Tarkine before it is destroyed. Your heart, mind and soul will be better for it.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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