Welcome to the 51st issue of New Matilda, and my first as editor.

New Matilda will continue to be full of independent, opinionated news and commentary, free of the usual propaganda and manipulation.

Even as we speak, what remains of the public sphere is being stage-managed. Our opinions are being filtered, surveyed, massaged and domesticated by ever more advisers, minders and purveyors of spin. It’s no wonder that entire readerships for the old, mainstream print press are evaporating, as Phillip Knightley describes in his piece in this week’s issue. Readers are abandoning newspapers because we know that we’re being treated like dolts and dullards, and we know that there ought to be a better way to sell us the news.

Thanks to Scratch

Thanks to Scratch

Online news publication is the future of journalism. And the most exciting thing about it is that it’s still relatively open-ended — we’re on a rollercoaster ride, but we’re not quite sure where we’ll end up. This is what it must have felt like for Gutenberg as he started chiselling and moulding his typefonts in Mainz around 1450. Or the way Joseph Addison and Richard Steele must have felt as the first issues of The Tatler and The Spectator skipped out the door towards the coffee-houses of early-18th century London.

New Matilda will carry on the outstanding work of Hilary McPhee, who has been Commissioning Editor since last October. On behalf of the staff and Board of New Matilda, I want to thank Hilary for her inspiring vision and tenacity during this period. She remains on the New Matilda Board and will continue to advise us (and maybe even contribute occasionally).

We will build upon the already solid base of subscribers and contributors that Hilary attracted to New Matilda over the past ten months. We want to expand our readership both here and overseas, while introducing a range of new voices to the Australian media scene. We will add new functionalities and open up new parts of the site as we evolve. And, as always, we will encourage you as readers to contribute and comment, to fulminate and challenge, to NOT just sit there in front of your screens, to NOT just consume, shut up and die — but to respond, act and participate.

Here is a round-up of our incitements to you to act this week:
Phillip Knightley’s 50 years as a Fleet Street journalist were recently honoured when he was asked to deliver the keynote speech at a conference of the ICIJ in London. We offer the text of his speech.

We have pieces by some of our regular commentators: John Hooker on the excesses of Melbourne Young Liberals; Moira Rayner on stupidity and corruption in our bureaucracies; and Jane Caro on why fundamentalists just can’t tell jokes.

On the international front, Michael Connors blows the cover on Alexander Downer’s foreign policy agenda, and introduces the ‘Loop of Inanity’; Antony Loewenstein exposes the seedy underbelly of Israel’s pull-out of Gaza; Charles McPhedran introduces us to Cindy Sheehan — aging hippy, grieving mother, and George W Bush’s worst nightmare; Aron Paul asks whether Australia will ever match Canada’s radical choices for Governor-General; and we publish the first of two extracts from Robert Pape’s new book Dying To Win, which argues that Muslim suicide bombers are motivated more by a desire to expel foreign, occupying troops than by religious fundamentalism.

George Morgan confronts issues of racism and free speech in the Fraser case at Macquarie University; and James Greenwood vents his frustration at the lack of challenge and inspiration offered by modern university education.

And finally, Monica Dux worries about the disappearance of nice people in films.

Next week, we celebrate a year of waltzing. Stick around, bring along some friends. It should be fun.

José Borghino

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.