Fairfax: Making It More Like Murdoch


I share the concern of many readers about individual Fairfax newspapers like The Age, The Canberra Times and The Sydney Morning Herald becoming one great big and very bland Fairfax Daily.

The bad news is that this trend will worsen over time. It is the logic of capitalism which, in an age of working class passivity, means newspaper proprietors will ride roughshod over readers.

As readership numbers of mainstream media collapse (because they are selling us the slops of journalism these days) and the advertising rivers of gold run dry, proprietors look to cut costs in response.

It is cheaper to have one article reproduced in three newspapers – The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times – than to have three different, locally based journalists and perhaps locally oriented articles.

For example on Saturday, 200 Canberrans turned up at Petrie Plaza to demonstrate against the current slaughter of Palestine, a slaughter which I regard as the latest iteration of the 66 year campaign of Israeli genocide against Palestinians.

There was no report at all of this outpouring of support for Palestine in the next edition of the Canberra Times (The Sunday Canberra Times.) Presumably it is too expensive to send a reporter to see what a sizeable group of Canberrans think.

Obviously it is far better and cheaper to pay some middle class air head to pontificate about prior goofs or for a real journalist to prattle on about fake lottery tickets in the ACT than report in depth on real issues of concern to many Canberrans, for example Palestine, and our support for those many, many innocents the Israelis are deliberately targeting.

At least the local ABC TV ran a report, but dismissed it with a comment about dozens turning up.

I think there is something else going on here and that is the Murdochisation of the Fairfax stable.

This is most noticeable to me in the changes in the bosses' paper, with the Australian Financial Review some time ago axing Keynesian economist John Quiggin being one small but telling example.

This Murdochisation is becoming also more evident in The Canberra Times, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald with more dogmatic and right-wing reports and articles and now, as we have seen recently in The Canberra Times, completely reactionary editorials against asylum seekers and their advocates.

Fairfax doesn't have the same deep pockets that Murdoch does (up to $50 million a year) to sustain his consistent loss maker, The Australian.

It seems strange then, in a time when the mass of voters are well to the left of politicians on most major issues and the rusted-on support for the two major parties is collapsing while that for non-traditional parties and independents is growing rapidly, that the Fairfax group would aim to replicate the failed Murdoch model.

It is a recipe not just for ongoing readership disgust but quicker financial ruin.

Now far be it from me to suggest that the Fairfax stable turn to the left to win more support.

However, even tapping into the disgust many feel with the two major parties – the parties of neoliberalism, and the unease some feel with the Greens' brand of neoliberalism – perhaps by occasionally running a report about the oppressed or workers from their point of view or, God forbid, even an opinion piece by someone outside the mainstream, not just a liberal, (which very occasionally Fairfax still does), might help reinvigorate the Fairfax papers and engage the readership.

Pigs might fly. Oh well, there is always independent media like New Matilda.

John Passant is a casual tutor in the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry at the University of Wollongong and blogs at En Passant

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.