THANKS … Sue, Tom, Richard, Richard, Mike, Allan, Harriet, James, James, David, Mike, Pete, and all you wonderful guys who have made Tasmanian Times what it is, whatever that is ...
This talk began as a learned dissertation on journalism. An observation on the wisdom of Rupert Murdoch generously endowed on us in the Boyer lectures recently.
Then I got drunk. Massively, irredeemably, embarrassingly, drunk.
And when I woke, filled with post alcoholic binge regret, I saw this dissertation in a new light. And threw it away. It was awful. You would have been crying into your beer and champers.
Suddenly, however. I am without a few words to accompany little Tassietimes Christmas drinks.
I wrestle with this at 2.30am on Bruny Island just two days after the poisonous, indefensible drunk which has so debilitated me. I am sleepless as the wind and rain batter the little tent on the CWA ground beside the road to Dennes Point. I lie there so regretful as scattered memories of outrageous behaviour worm their way to the surface. Those of you familiar with the dark labyrinth of alcoholic regret will know what I mean … desperately you seek the thread which will lead you from this torture chamber
The words of those who love and like you hammer at your conscience: “You idiot. The grog’s gotcha, you’ve got to give up grog; you’ve got to give up your motorbikes….” And one I really like, which is a bit rarer: “You’re sometimes very frustrating and stupid, but I accept you just as you are. Stop beating yourself up. Turn away from the accusing mirror; it’s a form of narcissism”
And whisperered Pharisaic condemnation of those who detest you: “He’s a self-centred wanker. How does his wife put up with him. I would never do that. She’s a saint”
I lie there, in the dark, lonely, a little lost, a frightened little boy.
Frightened not just by outrageous, dangerous drunkenness. Frightened also by what awaits me in a couple of hours. And that is 64km of extraordinary pain. I’m on Bruny for the Bruny Ultra-marathon. My third. I have got poisonously drunk just two days before this torture of long distance running.
I wonder why I do this. For this is not the first time a running marathon has been immediately preceded by a drinking marathon. Earlier as we trundled towards Bruny I asked my running mate James Crotty if he knew why? A wise man, Mr Crotty replied. “Perhaps you fear success. Perhaps you set yourself up for failure.”
Perhaps. Perhaps I just like food, wine and conversation. And then more wine. And I do it a lot. As I run a lot.
Whatever … I’m in trouble. No speech. Possibly no life as the strains on an ageing body overwhelm comparitive wellness and fitness and I slump to the rocky road just before the Bruny Light. The Black Door of the lighthouse you long to touch as a sign of completing this particularly testing ultra-marathon … suddenly a very black door, slammed firmly shut.
And then it hits me. I know what I’ll talk about:
I’ll talk about me. Yes! It’s all about me. Look at me, look at me, look at me.
Why not? John Gay does, lower lip pouting. Robin Gray does, Paul Lennon does. Jim Bacon used to. David Bartlett increasingly does, sadly. Even more sadly Will and the Libs don’t know quite who to look at, apart from whomever Bart and the mates are looking at.
Gay, Gray, Gunns et al exemplify the worst consequences of narcissism I reckon, consequences seen most starkly in Tasmania’s most recent and intractable controversy: the bloody pulp mill … and the narcissistic middle-aged or old white rich men deciding what is good for Tasmania. We’ll stick it where we want to stick it. We don’t care what you say. You are a NIMBY. You are against jobs and progress. We will brook no opposition.
We will lie, We will cheat, We will steamroll due process. We will turn your parliamentarians into subservient panting puppies. We will do whatever it takes …
And that’s the problem with wildly uncontrolled, non-self-questioning ego. Carelessness of the wide-ranging consequences. That’s the problem with this darker bit of our humanity. In this case, Who gives a fuck about the Tamar Valley. Bloody big egos driving throwback visions at terrible consequence for the innocent.
But it’s interesting … whenever there is action there is reaction. Wherever there is life, there is love and paradox.
Little Tasmanian Times is that. It began six years ago from a frustrated conclusion that Tasmanian journalism was failing its society. An arrogant assertion perhaps. But things can only exist if they are needed. It got traction and it was sitting there as controversy after controversy hit … attempting and increasingly giving a voice to those who believed they were voiceless…
And it was there to reflect and give voice to the increasing rage over this bloody pulp mill
As Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill’s Bob McMahon put it so eloquently earlier this week, commenting on a Karl Stevens cartoon, published on Tasmanian Times: “This is Karl Stevens at his devastating best. If nothing else the whole pulp mill shitstorm has generated a renaissance of creative work: the cartoons of Karl and Luke Henning, the writings of Peter Henning and Mike Bolan to name a few.”
Peter Henning wrote last Monday on TT an article I found particularly resonant and touching: Referring to a failure of the Fourth Estate in Tasmania, he wrote: “This is seriously detrimental for Tasmanians. There are times when the media takes to task those who criticize its performance, editorializing about the “public’s right to be informed”, and extolling the virtues of “freedom of the press”. It is paradoxical in fact, that the print media in Tasmania (with the exception of some fine journalism by some of the Hobart Mercury’s journalists) has undertaken the role of restricting its own freedoms, of imposing its self-limiting straightjacket on what the public has a right to read about, and what the parameters of debate and discussion should be.” ( John West, a printing press on a cart ... and TT
Tasmanian Times was thrust into the ether in an attempt to express this frustration. I put up a few articles, notably by Richard Flanagan, Pete Hay, Julian Burnside, Bob Cheek, Hillary McPhee, Danielle Wood (actually that’s not a bad little collection of writers) - after being rescued technologically by Mike Ward - six years ago as a rage against what I saw as limited, gridlocked narrow vision, white middle aged, middle class Murdoch-tabloid journalism. And it grew organically. It isn’t mine … that’s for sure. It’s yours. It belongs to everyone who believes every voice, however small, should be heard, in the way they want to speak it.
Thank you … now I could end there. I should end there. But I’m not going to.
Not without a gentle dig at Rupert. He’s a big boy. He’s my ultimate boss, I know he can take a pinprick from a little gnat on his enormous arse. Rupe’s Boyer Lecture on media was notable to me for little or no self-reflective sorrow. This is a Big Ego. No self-doubt here. His Boyer on media was large on the glories of gumshoe journalism when print was king. That is large on the type of tenacious forensic journalism of a long-lost way of being a journalist. The one who sought the story; who never gave up, who worked and drank the 24-hour clock and would have been dismissive of today’s desk and office bound email addicted nine to five public servant newshound.
But while he gloried in the days of print as king he also accused many modern scribes, of being locked in the past; and of being so obsessed with winning awards that they missed the bigger picture. He condemned the Luddites and spoke of the glorious future as net journalism grew and print mediums metamorphised into online platforms. It’s happening the world over and Rupe, as you would expect, is on to it. But thank god, it’s now out of his control ...
In the Boyer, Rupe decried the award-seeking journalist while setting up and presiding over the News Corp awards. What is that all about? Just to compete with the Age-predominant Journalist of the Year awards? Just to be seen as the ageing Emperor with his gorgeous talented acolytes.
His observations set me thinking about his long-term legacy. Yes, massively successful and admirable in so many ways. Journalism for the masses. The middle finger to the establishment and tradition in the UK. But what of the dark side of all of this. And all things have a dark side. It’s just that is so murky and hard to look at. Rupe, what about the trickle-down affect of your philosophy, the inevitable outworking that sees your acolytes become more Rupert than Rupert as “What Rupert wants” trickles down the worldwide News food chain. And on the vital issues Rupe’s 140-odd papers have been seen to amazingly be all of like-mind. Witness the editorials which beat the drums to go to war in Iraq. All Rupe papers worldwide of like mind. We must invade for freedom’s sake. All that is except the Mercury Hobart, when I was accidentally left a little in charge of the editorial joy-stick. But that’s another story. And the uniformity of opinion on issues like population growth. My facts are imprecise here … but I heard of a senior academic whose time as a contributor to the Australian came to an abrupt end because of his championing of population control. Limit population? Fuck what about circulation? Which reminds me of the story told in a new biography of Rupe… of the time – and I take some comfort from this – that Rupe allegedly got massively pissed at the Dorchester on learning of Princess Di’s death because of the consequences for the Sun’s circulation and had to be carried next door to a meeting with bankers..
Then there’s imposition of Rupe’s “small-format” philosophy. That’s what he called it in the Boyer. God Rupe it’s actually tabloid. You should know. And for some reason, the moment a paper becomes tabloid there is a not-so-subtle shift in philosophy also. A culture descends which is reflective less of the local community than an imposed idea of what the community must have… a steady diet of tragic figures and riddles, Kylie’s bum, Elle’s Body, saintly Mary’s latest bump, Paris’ sordid peccadilloes, 10-best lists, vox pops, traffic accidents and tragedies, a steady outpouring of doggie stories, and poor failed creatures on the court steps in the photographic stocks for the masses to hurl rotten apples at. To me this is the height of disenfranchising arrogance … it is talking down to readers. It assumes a particular mass mentality.
Which is not to say that too many cartons of eggs should be hurled locally at Rupe’s reps. Where over the years would we have been without Simon Bevilacqua, Matt Denholm, Sue Neales, and many others’ forensic application – allowed through News Ltd and local editor Garry Bailey – to flourish and embarrass? I’m just a bit sad … I reckon it could have been so much sooner and so much better. Tasmanian Times would not exist had Tasmanian media acted as a Fourth Estate should. Even now, News Ltd could have an online presence which is more democratic and agora-like … truly creatively concerned with forensic journalism rather than the number of online hits generated by galleries of cute babes, cuddly doggies, beautiful sunsets, sordid peccadilloes and curiousities.
For here lies a great flaw in Rupe’s argument … when his empire became entertainment and news there was an increasing not so subtle blurring of the once distinctive boundaries between journalism and advertising and promotion, PR flackery and entertainment. God it was vomitous to see the Herald Sun’s front page used as an unashamed marketing tool for Rupe’s latest blockbuster, Australia, for all the merits of the movie. And were you like me sick to death of Nicole and Hugh’s face and families dominating every media imaginable?
I gotta stop. I could go on but there is beer to be drunk, James Dryburgh and Bob Burton to be listened to.
And the high point of the afternoon. The Tasmanian Times Spin Awards, brought to you by Lazlo Steigenberger and Linzee.
Thank you! Now go and drink and talk. The next instalment will be on soon.
Download the awards: NewKEITH_AND_ME_3.doc
Sympathy for the old devil: Rupert Murdoch emerges from this snootily barbed biography as a surprisingly appealing figure, says Peter Preston
One of Wolff’s nicest vignettes finds Murdoch at his desk, interrupted on the telephone, pursuing a scandal story for himself and taking punctilious pencil notes as he goes. A hack at heart, an outsider, a mordant wit, a workaholic, an absent dad and wandering husband, an elephant who never forgets and a lion in winter, an ogre with aubergine hair ... build your own last tycoon to taste. But, unlike Wolff, try to keep it simple - and try to imagine a landscape without him, one left to Richard Desmond, Sam Zell, the blithering Bancrofts who sold their birthright, and America’s corporate clones of newspaper chain destruction. Will the inchoate empire survive his passing? Probably not - crunch permitting - except in more sedate, conventional form. But at least look on in wonder while it’s rumbustiously alive. Read more here
And then it hits me. I know what I’ll talk about: I’ll talk about me. Yes! It’s all about me. Look at me, look at me, look at me. Why not? John Gay does, lower lip pouting. Robin Gray does, Paul Lennon does. Jim Bacon used to. David Bartlett increasingly does, sadly. Even more sadly Will and the Libs don’t know quite who to look at, apart from whomever Bart and the mates are looking at.