You’ve got to love Aussie summers. Citronella burning and cicadas croaking. Lleyton slugging it out at the Open. The washing drying before you can peg it on the line.
And, of course, Crikey‘s favourite silly season ritual: the tsunami of news stories from G’Day USA — the week-long corporate and taxpayer-funded shindig promoting ties between Australia and the United States.
News stories hardly come any more manufactured or frivolous than G’Day USA, now into its 11th year. But for media outlets and journalists, the offer of subsidised travel to Hollywood (courtesy of the organising committee and/or sponsor Qantas) during awards season inevitably proves irresistible. As journalism junkets go, this one’s hard to top.
The commercial TV networks lapped up this year’s event, with Seven, Nine and Ten giving G’Day USA prominent coverage on their morning chat shows and nightly news bulletins.
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The love-in was a particular gift from the gods for the beleaguered Channel Ten, which was able to use it to cross-promote one of its most popular shows after creators of Modern Family confirmed they would film an episode of the show in Australia this year. Entertainment gumshoe Angela Bishop put her investigative skills to the test by tracking down the details (apparently Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Great Barrier Reef are possible shooting locations — but others are on the cards).
Speaking of beleaguered companies, the event was a PR bonanza for the flying kangaroo. Ten kindly announced that Bishop was reporting from the “Qantas Spirit of Australia party”, and the red carpet veteran noted that attendee John Travolta, filmed in front of a Qantas logo, was an ambassador for the airline.
On the Seven’s Morning Show, Melissa Hoyer reported that Kylie Minogue had “nailed it” in an acoustic set at the event. As well as singing Locomotion, Hoyer revealed: “She also did a great version of I Still Call Australia Home because Qantas have got a lot to do with this G’Day USA thing. It was perfect for them …”
Fairfax Radio’s entertainment reporter Donna Demaio reported on the “intimate poolside soiree” for 3AW, 2UE, 4BC and other stations as well as filing selfies posing with celebrities. Demaio jumped on the #spiritofoz hashtag but showed her fearless independence by noting Modern Family star Ty Burrell had snubbed the Aussie press.
Two days later, the G’Day USA awards for excellence were reported with all the gravity of the Nobel Prize. Nine’s Richard Wilkins hosted the black- tie gala, where gongs were handed out to Jacki Weaver, Geoffrey Rush and celebrity chef Curtis Stone. But besides Travolta — who unleashed his Aussie accent in an admirably straight-faced package by Nine’s Jayne Azzopardi — US stars were thin on the ground.
Print hacks were there, too, and did a fine job disclosing their paid travel in their reports. News Corp Australia’s tabloids gave the event a good run with stories on Minogue wowing the crowd and a Sunday puff piece on Curtis Stone. But there wasn’t the same enthusiasm from Murdoch’s mob as last year, when the announcement Ellen DeGeneres would travel down under inspired a front-page frenzy. Representing The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Daisy Dumas expressed some weariness with the tired “shrimp on the barbie” riff.
But she couldn’t match the venom of SMH gossip hound Andrew Hornery writing in Sydney. The long-time G’Day USA critic unleashed on the “stateside smugfest”, labelling it “slightly nauseating and unconvincing patriotic frippery”.
The Australian — where celebrity stories aren’t usually a priority — sent business editor Geoff Elliott to report on the festivities. As well as talking economics with Kim Beazley, Elliott argued the event is “not just a gala but a deep policy and business dialogue across multiple cities”. But we’re not sure about the claim the event achieved “the necessary cut-through in the Los Angeles media market”. As usual The Los Angeles Times ignored the event, both in print and online.
While the economic benefits of G’Day USA — funded in part by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade — have never been quantified, the pollies are convinced it’s a winner. A replica “G’Day China” celebration is on its way this year. Any chance of an invite …?