U2's Bono. (Image: AAP/Paul Miller)

Dum de dum. Struggle to the cafe on a Saturday morning. Open The Age. Local council corruption. Organ harvesting in Good Weekend. And what’s this on page 6? A feature on U2’s latest tour with a focus on a gig in, um, Auckland. By venerable and very good culture journo Karl Quinn.

But why, uh, is it? Ah, here we are, at the end. “The author travelled to Auckland as a guest of Live Nation …” So it’s a junket. OK, well that’s not unknown, in travel at least. Less acceptable in entertainment. But it’s on page 6.

Page 6 of the news section of a major newspaper, up there with the world events and national affairs. Which makes it something more than a junket. It’s unlabelled advertorial, and the news placement is possibly part of the deal — bigging up a band that has been together two-thirds as long as the Rolling Stones. (Old? You’re not old. You’re dead.)

There’s not much that’s newsworthy about U2, but if Bono said something wanky, or the ticket prices were obscene, would it make the story? And any possibility that a Nine TV U2 special is in the offing?

Oh and what’s this on page seven, by equally respected arts journo Andrew Hornery? A half-page story on the globally earth-shattering news that Karl Stefanovic is returning to the Today show at, uh, what’s that network again?

This is junk, pure junk, the destruction of a once-great paper in real time. Is news director Michelle Griffin happy with her pages being turned into a giant billboard? Journalists and section editors need to resist it, as the hoons pile in.

There used to be a saying, “you should look in the paper and see if you’re dead”. Now it’s the paper that needs to do the looking. No wonder its mind is on organ harvesting. 

Peter Fray

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