If there’s one thing to take out of Ben Hills’ new page-turner on what wrecked Fairfax, it’s that there’s plenty of blame to go around. Hills fingers a conga line of incompetent, greedy and vain directors and executives, who each had their part to play in wrecking what Hills, and many others, considers to be one of the true jewels of Australian democracy.
Hills worked at Fairfax for close to 50 years, leaving as a member of staff in 2000 (without a redundancy, he somewhat ruefully revealed to Crikey this morning), but he continues to freelance for the company. He says the public is owed an explanation of what went wrong. “The internet has had a huge impact. But Fairfax has a particular responsibility for having handled it so badly. Since the receivership [in 1987], there have been 40 or 50 directors, and none of them have had any media experience. They were really ideally placed in the late ’90s to hop onto internet bandwagon. They could have bought into SEEK, REA, Carsales — just as Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer did. The were caught flat-footed, beaten, and are paying the price.”