Wednesday 27 May 2009

Black and white and all over, almost

My father's name was Maurice Patrick Moore. I have the same initials.

Living and working in Wellington, an in Parliament at the same time as the Rt Hon Mike Moore, a former Labour (that's how we spell it) and then Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, who went on to become World Trade Secretary, our names often got confused.

I was even listed in the phone book as "Moore MP", creating the potential to help out callers who needed their family rescued from the Gaza Strip. Many a Parliamentary security guard would stand over while I opened a package addressed to "Mike Moore", just in case it was a case of Bolivian Rum with a card attached: 'Thanks for the visa."

Dad used to tell the old joke that went something like... 'What's black and white and read all over?' The 'read' was pronounced 'red', maybe worked better with a Kiwi accent. The answer being newspapers. Well, that old line is becoming irrelevant as today's newspapers are yesterday's fush and chup wrappers, discarded and used for cat litter trays and their primary commodity. Did you know, the tabloid-sized newspaper, is a perfect fit for the standard kitty litter tray?

All Bloggers and Blog followers, should have been glued to last evening's 7:30 Report on ABC 1, where they challenged the very existence of newspapers, as they've been come less independent to foist out the truth and tell the story.

Group Editorial director of News Ltd, Campbell Reid says we're at an absolutely crucial moment in the history of information.

"The business model that has sustained newspapers for all these years is broken," journalist Nick Davies said.

  • The past year has been an ominous time for the global newspaper industry. In the United States, mastheads that have published the news for more than a century are falling into bankruptcy, going online or closing down altogether.

    While the global financial meltdown has hit newspapers hard, some argue the rise of the internet and the subsequent collapse of classified ad revenue poses a fundamental threat to the viability of the business model which has sustained big city newspapers for centuries. Australia is facing the same challenge.

The report said that the United States alone, during the past six months, the publisher of the 'Los Angeles Times' and the 'Chicago Tribune' has filed for bankruptcy, while even the 'New York Times' has reported record losses.

In Cairns, the Cairns Post weekly Cairns Eye will now be monthly, and the Real Estate weekend supplement has almost halved in sized over the last two years, as many readers research property online.

The glossy Cairns business magazine In Touch In Business has ceased printing their magazine. Editor-in-chief Danae Jones says she made the decision early this year to stop producing a print edition. "We have not noticed much fall off in readership," Danae Jones said.

Produced since June 2007, the magazine has received a strong niche following, with many local contributing business experts. It is now an online-only publication, saving substantial production costs.

The future of printed newspapers in the US prompted a Senate committee inquiry.

  • High end journalism is dying in America, and unless a new economic model is achieved, it will not be reborn on the web or anywhere else.

    In the United Kingdom.... more than 50 local and regional newspapers have closed in the past year. There are newspapers are merging, and even within those newspapers which are continuing, there are journalists being sacked.

    Big city newspapers have traditionally relied on advertising, particularly classifieds, to employ hundreds of journalists. While the global recession has seen a dramatic drop in ad revenues, what has many observers worried is the steady leeching of content and advertising to the internet.

Journalist Nick Davies says that over the last three or four decades, big corporations moved in, bought up newspapers and ransacked them for profit, which means that they cut the staff and increased the output, made a lot of money, but there was no spare fat left on the bone.

We have Australian Rupert Murdoch to thank for his global News Ltd empire. In North Queensland, almost every newspaper comes out of the same factory of news. The Townsville Bulletin, The Tablelander, Tableland Advertiser, The Cairns Post, Douglas and Mossman Gazette. Even the Cairns Sun, another News Ltd miss-mash, is meant to be a community newspaper that hardly lives up to its mantra.

Only the Cairns Bulletin, Cooktown Local News and The Place Street Press, and The Kuranda Paper, are independent print newspapers.

The emergence of several active Blogs in our region (see Cairns BlogRoll in the sidebar) is evidence of the growing dis-satisfaction of traditional print journalism, something former Media Watch host Monica Attard calls 'churnalism'.

  • BRENDAN HOPKINS, CHAIRMAN, ‘THE NEWSPAPER WORKS’: I think we will see newspapers with us for many years, providing, as ever, we as publishers can keep the quality of our titles.

    In Australia, the industry body says predictions of the death of newspapers are premature, citing significant differences between the newspaper market here and overseas.

I don't like the chances Brendan. It's the quality that's missing already. Remind me who published the fake Pauline Hanson photos?

  • BRENDAN HOPKINS: The UK's 700 miles long, 150 miles wide, it's got 14 daily newspapers. I mean, it's - by definition, you know, it's very difficult for those newspapers to get very high - very strong penetration of their markets. So, in Australian, and indeed in New Zealand, where I also have experience, you don't have those issues.

    THEO DIKEOS: While Fairfax declined to be interviewed, former Fairfax editor Eric Beecher believes the nation's oldest broadsheets, 'The Age' and the 'Sydney Morning Herald', are now vulnerable.

The only news is, the current NewsLtd have got their head in the sand.

  • ERIC BEECHER, ONLINE PUBLISHER: Fairfax, in the last few days, have confirmed that those two newspapers are barely making a profit. When as a couple of years ago, between them they were probably making a couple of hundred million dollars a year profit.

    THEO DIKEOS: Now running his own online publishing business, Eric Beecher argues the Fairfax empire has been too heavily reliant on classified advertising revenue, the so-called "rivers of gold", which are flowing onto the internet.

And this is true. Revenue is moving to more effective viral media.

  • CAMPBELL REID: I think people who think that the internet is responsible for the death of newspapers are searching around and blaming the wrong person. Poor management, poor newspapers, I think are responsible for the death of some newspapers.

Very good point. The internet has facilitated independents Bloggers and other news sources, but if papers like the Cairns Post were actually doing a half decent job in reporting Council and local issue to account with some sort of respect and balance, we might actually respect them still.

  • THEO DIKEOS: But the economic downturn has hit News Corp's global newspaper empire hard. Last quarter, profit collapsed by more than $267 million.

    RUPERT MURDOCH, CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NEWS CORP (teleconference, May 7): There is no doubt that traditional newspaper business model has to change.

    THEO DIKEOS: Rupert Murdoch now says 'The Age' of free online newspaper content is over, and News is considering variations on the paid online subscription version of the 'Wall Street Journal'.

In the United States, some newspapers like the 'Seattle P-I' have gone exclusively online.

  • THEO DIKEOS: Even as News Limited rationalises its newspaper production in Queensland, a move which will result in an unspecified number of redundancies, Campbell Reid remains adamant the presses will continue to role.

    CAMPBELL REID: There's a sweet spot about a newspaper, printed on newspaper, in your hand, that people like. So, we aren't even going to contemplate turning them off.

You can read the full transcript here or view the programme.

The future is indeed uncertain for newspapers. Hurray!


John, Kuranda said...

For the record, I would also point out that our local monthly newspaper up here in the rainforest, The Kuranda Paper, is not part of the News Limited stable.

Syd Walker said...

True John, although I've been told the Kuranda Paper is printed on News Corp presses under an arrangement whereby the latter have the right to veto content.

This may be an urban legend - and even if true it's probably just a 'reserve power', rarely if ever excercised.

Anyhow, I've heard this story more than once in Kuranda. Perhaps one of the editors could let us know for the record?

Clifton Ratbag said...

While newspapers are currently "in trouble", the future of the press IS SURELY NOT blogs like this.

Real journalists have ethics, check sources, and have standards. This blog like most have NONE of these.

As a result, non-news like Swine Flu become stories. Non-talents like Susan Boyle get fawned over while real musical talent goes undiscovered.

If this is the future, I want my money back!

Maddie of Machans said...

Clifton Ratbag.. you really are misguiding if you put your money behind News limited papers.. i recall those photos of Pauline Hanson were published as legit by your mates.. with no checking whatsoever... and they have ethics?!! hahaha very funny.

Newspapers are dying as a mixture of poor journalism and the evolution of people seeking out and creating news themselves.

That is a fact.

nocturnal congress said...

Poor journalism or "infotainment" and an overt political agenda, ie beating the drums of war on Iraq...demonising the entire Muslim world etc... . These are the major reasons why people are turning away from the globalised media machine in disgust.

Pez said...

The trouble with so many blogs is they simply regurgitate what was on TV last night - like this one.

At least the newsapapers tomorrow will carry coverage of the Cairns Council meeting at Mossman, not just sit back and lamely print Pyne's homemade press releases and call themselves a new blog - like this one.

Look realistically at the contents of blogs - like this one. Do you really see a replacement for the local newspaper here? No.

The local newspaper may not be perfect - few things made in one day are - but it still provides way more and way better news coverage than blogs - like this one.

Kathleen R, Cityview said...

Hey there Clifton Ratbag.. How much did you pay for visiting this Blog?

Paul Taylor, Maryborough said...

Pez.. what kinda drugs are you on?

You say that these websites simply regurgitate what was on TV last night. We've searched around this blog and there's nothing on here that was on the telly... actually... I recall seeing the reverse from time to time.

You also say that newspapers provide 'way more and way better news coverage than blogs'. Give me a break! What have you learnt from the Compost about the Cash for Comments inquiry? Did they print the emails from Big Bad Dodgy Blake and that weed of a media chick Kerie Hull?

You need to get out more mate.

pez said...

Paul Taylor said: You say that these websites simply regurgitate what was on TV last night. We've searched around this blog and there's nothing on here that was on the telly...

Errm, except the very article that this comment was attached to, which after a brief intro went on to the rest of it with:
"All Bloggers and Blog followers, should have been glued to last evening's 7:30 Report on ABC 1, where they challenged the very existence of newspapers..."

You need to stay home and learn to read a bit better mate.

Paul Taylor, Maryborough said...

So Pez... why do you hang around blogs.. since you believe they have nothing to offer?

You a lonely Councillor or something?

Why do you hide behind a dodgy name? Why???

Jaye Wilson, G'vale said...

Hey all you no names..

Would you keep going to the same bar and say "God I hate this place. You lot don't knwop what you're doing here. It's all bullshit!" ...yet keep on going back to teh same bar.. time and time again...

Would you keep watching the same TV programme and say... "God I hate this rubbish. what a crap show.. I don't know why anyone would watch this stuff!" ... and keep on watching it.. time and time again...

Get the message?

Paul said...

Newspapers are dying not because of the advent of the Web alone, but because we have witnessed them lying, exaggerating, and trivializing, at the behest of their Editorial masters and owners who are more concerned with molding stories to fit our perceptions to their politics. The Murdoch stable is the most blatantly obvious here.

S. Northy said...

and because we have had a gutful of the trivial, asinane tripe about "Hollywood" stars and continuing assault on our senses of "sex stories" and half clad skinny girls all clutching their crotches and simpering how lesbian they are, all being passed off as "news". Once upon a time women's magazines gave a good, informed read. Today, they are 95%advertisements and five percent recycled stories picked up via email from the USA. No-one I know buys them any more. Sheer greed and stupidity is killing Murdoch's empire, and good riddance too.