Return of the escalator of decline! Win prizes! Fans of the literary stylings of Mr Paul Kelly will recall his unveiling of the “escalator of decline”, the strange machine that goes down by going up, which we are all on. “No one knows where the escalator is going,” Kelly intoned, which seemed to doubly confound the principle of the escalator, which was now a wandering one.

Word came from on high that Surry Hills was not happy that the warning by”Australia’s greatest political commentator” was not being taken seriously. Chris Kenny weighed in, so you knew it was getting serious. Now in a final desperate attempt to get some respect for this ridiculous metaphor, Maurice Newman has weighed in. The article itself is predictable fat-headed dyspeptic businessman blather, but it has a doozy of a mixed metaphor, in which the government is running on empty, being reined in to get a seat at the dinner table.

Now it’s over to you, Crikey readers! What does the escalator of decline look like? Can you draw us a picture? Can your kids draw us a picture? Send them in, online or by post, and some Crikey merch and freebies will go to the best entry. It will then become a $10 million public sculpture in Sydney. Guy Rundle

Quacks like a duck. The Crikey bunker was rather puzzled this morning by a story in The Sydney Morning Herald website about a girl in Sydney who has been attacked by what’s believed to be her pet duck.

There’s not really much more to the story than that. We’re going to risk the ire of Fairfax’s lawyers and republish the story in its entirety…

“A pet duck has bitten a girl in Hurstville in Sydney’s south.

“The girl is understood to be the owner of the duck.

“Paramedics treated the child for the bite at her residence about 5pm on Wednesday.

“It is understood that the victim has not been transferred to hospital.

“It is unclear what species of duck committed the act.

“However, ducks can get aggressive during mating season.”

What is going on? Crikey understands the news desk got a tip-off about the attack, and the Fairfax editors decided, in their infinite wisdom, to stick cadet Eryk Bagshaw with it. He evidently tried to have some fun and reported it straight, with very few details. The editors were tickled and let it through.

Amid all the terrible news lately, the whimsical story seems to have struck a chord with readers. The piece has nearly a thousand shares so far. — Myriam Robin

Who, us? We’re British. The Guardian’s London bureau has published a redacted version of the superinjunction revealed yesterday by WikiLeaks. Compared to locally headquartered news outlets, the Guardian has been relatively confident in its reporting of the injunction, despite having a business presence in Australia that could be used to prosecute the media company in Victorian court. That said, the outlet hasn’t been entirely laissez-faire — we saw a comment published on a story this morning that flagrantly breached the superinjunction. But by 11am, that comment had disappeared.

Profit boom for ITV UK. No wonder Liberty Global and its chairman and biggest shareholder, John Malone, bought BSkyB out of ITV, the UK’s leading commercial free-to-air broadcaster — ITV overnight reported a 40% rise in first half pre-tax profits to 250 million pounds (A$450 million), thanks to the World Cup in Brazil, which boosted ad revenues 13% in the second (June) quarter. First-half revenues rose 7% to 1.225 billion pounds (A$2.2 billion, which is more than the total ad revenue of the Australian commercial TV industry in the June half year of A$1.8 billion).

Total adjusted profits — earnings before interest, tax and amortisation — rose 11% to 322 million pounds (A$571 million). ITV Studios, the production arm that makes shows including Come Dine With Me and Coronation Street, recorded revenue rises of 2% to 402 million pounds (more than A$720 million). Profits rose 14% to 72 million pounds (A$128 million).

“We have made further good progress with our strategy of growing and strengthening all parts of ITV,” CEO Adam Crozier said in a statement. “In the first six months of the year, we again delivered double-digit profit growth in every area of the business and increased revenues by 7%.” At a media conference he shrugged off the move by Liberty to take a 6.4% stake in ITV (paying more than A$800 million). Liberty already controls Virgin Media in the UK (it paid US$23 billion for the business in February 2013), which is the second biggest pay TV operator after BSkyB. — Glenn Dyer

Fall in US newspaper jobs. In the US newspaper industry, jobs have joined falls in sales, ad revenues (especially analog print) and readership. Figures released this week from a survey conducted by the American Society of News Editors and the Center for Advanced Social Research revealed an estimated 1300 jobs were lost from America’s daily papers’ newsrooms last year. That left an estimated 36,700 full-time daily newspaper journalists at just 1400 papers, down 3.2% from the 38,000 at the end of the previous year.

Figures from the Newspaper Association of America showed overall revenues for the sector fell 2.6% in 2013, meaning the pace of job loss in aggregate matched the weakness in revenues.

But the census, completed by 965 of 1373 daily newspapers asked to contribute, threw up some interesting variations. Not all papers shed jobs — the largest actually increased employment. The largest papers, with circulation of more than 500,000 (think USA Today, Wall Street Journal and The New York Times), recorded a gain of 5.8%. The smallest papers, under 10,000 circulation, were up 2.8%. The census said losses were heavily concentrated at metros and other papers in the 100,000-500,000 circulation range where year-to-year declines were roughly 16% (which applies to most of the second tier metro papers in the US).

US media website Poynter said in a commentary that with the weak revenue trend continuing this year for US newspapers, another drop in employment can be expected. We reported yesterday that the New York times saw a 6.6% fall in analogue ad revenues on the second quarter, reversing a first quarter rise, while digital revenues were up 4.1% and now account for 26% of total ad revenues (just over 25% in 2013). Other paper groups have reported weak analogue print ad revenues for the second quarter, along with rising digital ad sales. But the dollar amounts of the increases in digital sales are nowhere near enough to make up for the losses in conventional ad revenues. — Glenn Dyer

Front page of the day. Usain Bolt totally did not mean to dis the Commonwealth Games …

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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