My Mum Doesn't Work For The Australian

WHEN MURDOCH PAPERS ARE MENTIONED in class its always with an undertone of sarcasm. I don’t understand why. After all, my mum works for The Australian and she likes her job.

Pity poor Max Maddison, first year journalism student, whipping boy of the week for everybody like me in Australia who disdains not just the Murdoch press institution but the entire sordid establishment of our media. If I have a hobbyhorse I like to ride, then at least I know there are many more like me: we are an angry, sarcastic cavalry of dissatisfaction.

It’s not that this piece is bad, banal, embarrassingly lacking in self-awareness, or that it’s a deliberately selected set of the Australian’s most obvious clich├ęs about itself—that it’s a quality paper of tradition, written by experienced craftsmen, established in opposition to cultural academic elites—because it’s all of these things. The reason it’s in the Australian’s pointedly-named “Premium Content” section, available only on the web, is because Mr Maddison, in his first semester of a university degree, has managed to pull together more or less the perfect Australian article, a mould from which a thousand new peans paeans to institutional self-love will be stamped.1 It’s only flaw might be that it doesn’t call for a small nation to be bombed, or for a union to be crushed.

If the newspaper’s bedtime story to itself weren’t clear enough, Mr Maddison has a credit on this story which, in turn, pities those job market entrants who want a gig in journalism but find one in an organisation outside a traditional news organisation. They might sacrifice things like appropriate promotion on merit, and on-the-job-training, and moving out of entry-level positions into graded structures in a negotiated enterprise agreement. Let’s even imagine that these things exist in News Limited titles, and remind the author—Nic Christensen—that these are exactly the kinds of structurally-reformed-labour-market workplace conditions that his title has been calling for to be introduced universally throughout the economy for the last fifteen years.

The unthinkable horror; a journalist on an endlessly renewing individual contract! How degrading!

Journalism is necessarily a brutal environment that, itself, brutalises. Journalists have an understood social licence to ask questions out loud, over the phone or with a microphone, that break all of the normal bounds of politeness. Their daily bread is a breaching experiment; “foot-in-the-door” interviews, “chequebook” journalism and “the death knock” aren’t euphemisms, they’re real deaths, real cheques, and real feet. In Australia there’s also more or less no recourse available to ordinary people wronged or dissatisfied with the state of affairs—it’s an invulnerable, untouchable, privileged corps. So it’s hardly surprising that a culture builds up, as Robert Manne described about News Limited2 of insular, prickly paranoid swagger, or that it attracts young men like Mr Maddison with seemingly few talents but self-belief and strong Opinions.

It’s not just the Australian. It’s not just Murdoch. It’s the feedback loop of public relations and political power that reinforces itself by projecting its own spectacle. This is a powerful ruling class at its most arrogant.

As humans and citizens, we need information. There’s a market there for providers of it to earn a living mediating it. We don’t need institutional news, and what we need least of all is a deadweight, self-absorbed, institutional press corps whose only narratives are self-directed, and whose power comes, as in the Press Gallery and the sex-and-money gossip-driven sports rounds, from inserting itself into other valuable social institutions.

Our press has no value or redeeming features. Let’s start again.

1 Correction. Thanks @flashman.

2 Bad News. It’s good, but yeah, don’t start me on the ubiquity of Robert Manne, or his own prickly self-belief.

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monkeytypist · 24 April 2012, 13:21 · #

What I find particularly galling in the War on Things That Aren’t The Australian is that journalism academia isn’t the enemy per se; it’s just that it’s a perceived hotbed of anti-Murdoch sentiment. If there was one journalism academic anywhere who agreed with/supported the Australian’s agenda, they would be praised to the high heavens and all of the perceived failings of academic institutions wouldn’t count for anything.

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David Irving (no relation) · 24 April 2012, 22:03 · #

The blogosphere’s giving this poor lad a flogging. Didn’t he also get an honourable mention here?

Ah, fuck’im. Dozy little prick probably deserves it.

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Liam · 24 April 2012, 22:48 · #

DI(nr) I don’t hold anything against MM personally in the Moe Szyslak sense of not wishing him any immediate specific harm. But, if you’re 18, you’re old enough for the Liam rule of journalists: no trust, no respect, no mercy.

Anyway I thought this cheap couple of hundred words stood on its own as anti-structural furia.

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JC · 9 May 2012, 21:18 · #

But you think failedfax is fair?

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Liam · 9 May 2012, 23:00 · #

Do you read posts before you flap your chops in the threads, Joe?

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Fyodor · 10 May 2012, 12:15 · #

I think we all know the answer to that one.

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