news corp
Rupert Murdoch

Though it’s little known, Australia had an aristocracy for a while. There was never much of it — a few baronetcies, the nobility consolation prize, some of whom might still be around. But the practice died out decades ago.

Now someone’s having another crack at it: News Corp Australia, where ranks of plum jobs are so stuffed with the children of existing and former journalists as to resemble a stately home on Christmas Eve. Both Akerman daughters, Tessa and Pia, roam the halls of News. Joe Kelly, son of Paul, has gone into the family business of Catholic political apocalyticism — with a ridiculous beat-up about a wedding magazine losing its advertisers as a threat to our ferrdom — and, of course, Miranda Devine (who came to the Tele from the SMH) is the daughter of the late Frank, the culture-warrior editor of the Oz a long time back.

Now welcome to the family business Sascha O’Sullivan, added to the ranks of culture-war stories footsoldiers at the Oz. Who? O’Sullivan is the daughter of lawyer John O’Sullivan, and… Planet Janet Albrechtsen, who is still orbiting erratically through the op-ed pages twice a week.  

Quite a packing-in, and I may have missed a few. It seems News Corp has fused “bring your daughter to work day” and recruitment. Does this sort of thing matter? Well, on the one hand, journalism is the sort of thing you’re going to get the taste for in a family. Once you’ve got the bug — as with politics or TV/movies — nothing much else will do, so you enter the family biz.

But on the other hand, hell yeah it matters. We live in an Australia that once recruited its journalists by competitive exams and cadetships, as pretty much a sole mode of intake. Is that the process by which these dynasts were selected? Or, as life in the country has become more cut-throat decade on decade, were such standards loosened to get the progeny hauled up onto the life-raft?

If so, it gives the lie to the Americophile myth of opportunity that News Corp spruiks; our society is increasingly stratified. One of the things people seek most is not only lucrative employment, but meaningful and exciting work, and journalism — compared to corporate lawyering or management, etc — is certainly that. Banging on about the elites, News Corp seems to be constructing a new one, a branch office of the familial plutocracy that the Trump and Murdoch families have helped to normalise in the West.

Now it’s possible that all these children took on pseudonyms like May-Lin Precious Kowalski or something, and applied through general intake and met the requirements for the job. If that’s the case, my apologies. But I think these are questions that should be answered.

The good news on this sort of demoralising hypocrisy? It’s a demoralising hypocrisy. The more people see that the fix is in, in this stratified world — and that nothing you do will compete with being a lucky sperm — the more the system is discredited, and the case for the state intervention in capital is made. Meanwhile we dips our lid to the new rulers, and assent cheerfully as they bang on about the virtues of a lean, mean competitive Australia.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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