Friday, November 07, 2008

Not So "Funny", Now...

In August, The Daily Telegraph's Tim Blair thought events following the sacking of more than 500 staffers and journalists from The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald was "fun" and "hilarious".
(Sacked staffers are) having a little rally in Sydney tomorrow morning, in case you’re wondering about an apparent increase in the city’s homeless population. Sing along, comrades!
Blair was particularly excited about the sacking of a highly paid Herald columnist.

But how many laughs will Blair get out of the fact that his boss Rupert Murdoch is about to start sacking some of Blair's own friends and fellow staffers, along with a savage culling of his barnyard of highly paid columnists?

Announcing a 30-per-cent fall in first-quarter profit yesterday, the media magnate, 77, said the company would step up cost cutting and "manage down" staff numbers where appropriate.

Asked about his newspapers in Britain and Australia, where News publishes The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Courier-Mail, Mr Murdoch told analysts: "You will see even leaner operations in both those places. I'm not prepared to say how many people - I know, but I don't want the headlines - but expect across-the-board cuts."

News shares fell 21 per cent yesterday, posting their biggest losses since December 1990, after the company said its operating earnings would fall as much as 15 per cent in 2008-09.

"Did you get fired, pal?"

"No, of course not. I was managed down."

Bridgit at Grods explains here why Murdoch's Sackapalooza Festival exposes The Rupe's first Boyen lecture on Australia's future as :
"...a masterly concoction of cloying nationalistic cliches and paternalistic bullshit."

There's an interesting rumour coming from media friends in the US that Murdoch will follow the example of a growing number of American newspapers and will take at least one of his own Australian newspapers out of printed circulation, to become an online only production with greatly reduced staff numbers, by next February or March.

I'll predict The Australian will get the chop from daily printed editions to become a more lavish, more expensive weekend newspaper, maybe with two magazines and a weekly free DVD.

It seems impossible to think that actual newspapers could eventually disappear, but without classified advertising, most newspapers can't afford to keep going, unless they raise circulations and cover prices and shred staff numbers.

The more newspapers rely on simply printing up Reuters and Associated Press wire stories and running syndicated op-eds, as the Sydney Morning Herald now does incessantly, instead of having actual reporters reporting on real local news, the more newspapers will die. The more reporters they sack, the less individual and local those daily newspapers will become and the less reasons there will be for readers to buy those papers. It does sound like doom.

For me at least, the daily newspaper is already all but non-existent, unless there's a long train ride to be...rodden. I've read most of the next day's paper online by about 2am. From the age of about 12 to only recently, I brought newspapers every single day, without fail. The idea of letting a whole day pass without picking up a newspaper was thought blasphemy, and downright wrong. But I can't say I even noticed when a full week had passed without having picked up a weekday newspaper along with lunch, or the evening bread and milk run.

But losing the weekend newspapers, that actual bundle of magazines and supplements and wind-catching broadsheet pages, will be devastating, and will forever change the fabric of lazy Saturday mornings, particularly those Saturday mornings spent sipping lattes at a paperback-sized, heavily leaning, curb-side table at an achingly fashionable Newtown coffee shop after a big night 'reading Miranda Devine'.