Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cleaning House At The AFR

THIS BLOG has had many things to say over the past year about the Fairfax press, few of them favourable and none cause for regret. The Silly and Phage remain as successive editors have reduced them, pustules of smugness waiting to be lanced and cleansed by adult supervision or new proprietors, whichever comes first. And it will happen, as the ongoing renovation of the Australian Financial Review demonstrates.

For long years the paper was in decline, a source of annoyance as much as of information, its pages colonised by the same sort of left-leaning groupthinkers who continue to make its broadsheet siblings so excruciating. But at the Fin, well, put it this way: if you have neither bought nor read it lately, invest three dollars in today’s edition and see what genuine leadership can do.

Under new editor Michael Stutchbury the paper is brimming with change and promise. News coverage has acquired a harder edge and the focus, while still very much on business, is expanding to take in the broader vista of the nation’s affairs. Its coverage of IR issues, for example, has been must-read stuff, and if it has over-reached with its recent assault on News Corporation, well Rupert Murdoch is a big boy and can look out for himself.

The most encouraging news came two days ago, when Opinion page bore John Quiggin was thanked for 20 years of lefty lockstep predictability and sent on his way. Some years ago, when the appalling Tina Brown took charge at the New Yorker, she was hailed as a genius for introducing the use of photographs, an innovation other publications had adopted quite some decades earlier. That move was a no-brainer, and Quiggins’ forced exit is in the same vein. One can only wonder why successive editors insisted for so long on presenting a doctrinaire leftist's insights, such as they are, to a readership consisting primarily of investors and believers in markets’ wisdom. Had Green Left Weekly showcased Gerard Henderson it would have been no less discordant.

Now that he is gone, one can only wonder why it took so long. Were former editors scared of his beard? Their immunity to nonsense was certainly high. Here is Quiggin, flushed with triumph, after Kevin Rudd’s victory in 2007:
For once, my electoral predictions haven’t turned out too badly, so I’ll offer one more before we get back to policy: The Liberal Party will never again win a federal election.
This isn’t a prediction of unending Labor rule, rather an observation that the Liberal and National parties are in such dire straits that they can’t continue as they are. They haven’t got enough support, parliamentary representation or ideas for one party, let alone two.
As Quiggin is now saying “the Liberal Party will never win a federal election” does not actually mean the Liberal Party will never win a federal election, it might also be interesting to hear his current thoughts on the so-called culture war, which he declared over and won in the ecstasy of Rudd’s romp in 2007. Here is how Quiggin saw the future not long after that glorious Saturday night:
… the best course is probably the one the Rudd government is taking. Get the big symbolic issues that have to be addressed (Kyoto, the Nauru camps, an apology to indigenous Australians) settled once and for all, and as soon as possible. Then try and move forward with substantive policies that will achieve better outcomes.
The Financial Review is so much better for Quiggin’s  departure that only news of Laura Tingle’s exit could prompt a rosier glow.

22 comments:

  1. Prof.
    Quiggin's abilities in the areas of conceit, ignorance and retrospective self-justification are undoubtedly of epic quality, but in a way it's good for a newspaper to have at least one columnist like him on its staff. He acts as a sort of reverse compass - every time I'm tempted to think that there must be some modicum of sense in the latest left wing trope, reading Quiggin or someone like him disabuses me of that notion. That's what "balanced" journalism is about - allowing megalomaniac folly to self-immolate in public.

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    1. Whilst there are some in-built truths in the 9.31pm posting above, I have never been able to grasp why such articles are posted in a financial paper which I used to buy for insights etc.into the share market.
      If Quiggin and his ilk had been confined to the Silly & Phage then maybe I would still be a reader.
      I am sure the founders would be turning in their graves wondering just how did they allow the luvvies to gain control of this once profitable news group.and subsequently reducing it to the tragic pile of shite it has now become.

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    2. Ah. The "Mumble / Megalomewhatever" Defence.

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    3. "... the tragic pile of shite it has now become."
      Well said.

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    4. This media industry video interview with Stutchbury explains why the AFR will become an essential read - and not just for business types - it will break news and campaign on issues:
      http://panpa.org.au/2011/12/02/michael-stutchbury-on-the-afrs-new-direction/
      Stutchbury's authority will grow after he was convinced to go along with Neil Chenoweth's recent ill-advised anti-Murdoch gotcha about Australian pay TV, a typical Fairfax groupthink operation.
      http://www.thepowerindex.com.au/guidebook/neil-chenoweth-news-corp-s-tireless-tormentor/201204021221
      I wouldn't be surprised to see Chenoweth leave the AFR in the next year.

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  2. Tingle's columns have been relegated to the cutting room floor. Good enough for me

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  3. The Old and Unimproved DaveApril 5, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    "Now that he is gone, one can only wonder why it took so long. Were former editors scared of his beard?"

    Maybe they just needed some place to hide their stash.

    Hiding it in that chiming clock that gave out a bong every half-hour was a bit of a give-away to the Fuzz.

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  4. Poor old Laura Tingle I feel sorry for her given the nature of her readership how many of those readers has ever paid attention to any of her twaddle. Leave her there to rot indefinitely otherwise she will end up replacing that fine and non biased fellow at the Silly Mr Philip Coorey who could then work full time for Labor as a press secretary rather than 99.99% of the time for Labor unofficially and for free as he does now.

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  5. You'll know the AFR is serious about its future when Laura Tingle is shown the door.

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    1. If Geoff Kitney is sent out with her I will consider buying the paper again.

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  6. Well, I am presently out of the country and have only intermittent access to the Internet, so to log on this evening and read this little gem of good news after polishing off a bottle of Good Enough But Not Australian Shiraz, has simply made my day.
    Like the commenters before me I can only hope that when I am next able to log on in it is to read the news that La Tingle has also been asked not to come back Monday.

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  7. "Get the big symbolic issues that have to be addressed (Kyoto, the Nauru camps, an apology to indigenous Australians) settled once and for all, and as soon as possible. Then try and move forward with substantive policies that will achieve better outcomes."

    Actually I think he summed up the Rudd experiment pretty well in retrospec. A whole bunch of 'symbolism' followed by a collection of 'try'.

    Seriously, apart from from the feel good, what did Rudd actually achieve that everyone in hindsight has sat back and said, "well, I never liked the man but at least he managed to do..." ?

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    1. actually, the 'feel good' didn't feel all that good. his only accomplishment was to be succeeded by someone who could make a transparent liar and try-hard, wanna-be pissant nerd seem an improvement.

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  8. There's always room for more of John Quiggin's ilk over at the Australian (Labor Party) Broadcasting Corporation. Perhaps a seat in-between David Marr and Laura Tingle on the next Insiders?

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  9. Laura, a permanent fixture on the Insiders may be her only future.

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  10. Quiggs...gone and sentenced to the dustbins of history. Vale, oaf.

    JakartaJaap

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  11. Unfortunately the shareholders might be shown the door first, by the administrators or the receivers, or both.

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  12. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.April 5, 2012 at 9:50 PM

    My three dollars will be added to yours this Saturday, Prof, and I will read the Fin Review inbetween my packing and cleaning this Easter.

    As I am of Scottish birth, and thus frugal, it had better be worth it. So much though do I trust your judgement ...

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  13. Actually I think he summed up the Rudd experiment pretty well in retrospect. A whole bunch of 'symbolism' followed by a collection of 'try'.

    ...and fail. Don't forget the fail (as if we ever could).

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  14. I love you guys. Sorry to break it to you, but Tingle is the AFR's biggest star. People buy the paper just to read her stuff - a big ask at $3 a go. If she were to leave the Fin someone else would snap her up in a heartbeat. And give her a payrise.

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    1. Is that you Laura?

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    2. Nah,it's Alan.

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