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An Open Letter to Fairfax Media Limited

To whom it may concern,

A great deal has been said about the media in Australia of late, especially with regard to political coverage. Most of it has been necessarily and appropriately critical. Many Australians feel that the media has failed them and continues to do so. Not even the people’s ABC has been spared, and rightly so. Its coverage of the current election campaign has been little more than a failed social experiment in journalistic sloth. Essentially reblogging stories from other news outlets regarding polls conducted by those news outlets is hardly journalism. Nor is posting Twitter feeds in the place of actual analysis. But you, Fairfax, are not innocent in this or removed from the public’s critical glare. Fairfax News unashamedly joined the Julia Gillard lynch mob and cheered at the gallows. The negativity that the Gillard Government faced from the MSM, right across the board, was unrelenting. Your anti-Labor leanings have noticeably softened with her departure, but there is still a great deal of work to be done if any kind of balance is to be restored to the presentation of political information and opinion in this country. I presume you care about that.

You would be studiously aware, no doubt, that the main focus of the public’s criticism has been News Corp. The reasons for that are as obvious as the glaring and daring headlines, transparent and tenacious as they’ve been in driving the Murdoch agenda to seat Tony Abbott in the Lodge. It’s surely incontrovertible that the Murdoch press has fully embraced the philosophy and modus operandi of the Tabloid Press. Australia has been confronted for too long with the jaundiced jabbering of pseudo-journalists of the Gemma Jones ilk, who would be far more appropriately assigned to writing gossip columns. Mind you, the difference between that and what is presently being offered as news is one measured in yoctometres. That the Murdoch Media Machine has made this choice, taking some of Australia’s most respected print media outlets with it, is plain enough. What may not be so obvious is the potential benefit that exists for Fairfax in this betrayal of all things intellectually and morally credible.

The gleeful abandon with which the Murdoch Press has thrown off the shredded rags of any vestigial sense of journalistic integrity has been most unedifying. Aren’t there laws about disrobing in public? But whilst the journalists of News Limited indulge in their collective streak across the playing field of Australia’s media landscape, a task goes unattended. A void has been created in the news market in this country, as well as in the hearts and minds of politically engaged and concerned Aussies. That void is simply one of reasoned, objective journalism that does not ignore the code of professional ethics governing it, but instead takes pride, both professional and personal, in adhering to it with consistent authenticity. It is that of a media that does not attempt to obfuscate the difference or blur the line between journalism and commentary or opinion; a media that does not set out to manipulate the perspective or emotions of its readers when reporting news; a media that seeks to report news rather than be the news.

I put it to Fairfax News that they have an opportunity to take that market share and fill that commercial and emotional void. Yes, news is resource heavy and doesn’t attract the profits enjoyed by other facets of the media, but no price can be put on the status and pathos afforded a respected and trusted news service. I assert in the strongest possible terms that in what is commonly known as the Mainstream Media, no such news service exists. You only have to look at the social standing of journalists to know this is true. People simply no longer trust you. And that is nothing less than a cultural tragedy – one that we ignore at our peril.

The demand for real, balanced, ethical journalism is alive and well. Australians all over this land are crying out for it – into their beers and into their keyboards, or in some cases both things simultaneously. The market for it is genuine and not just something artificially generated by the ephemeral passion and pandemonium of an election campaign. The significant rise of alternative on-line information sources is testament to this fact. Rest assured that if the Coalition should prevail on September 7 much of the public is excruciatingly aware – and some of it dangerously and naively unaware – that the Murdoch media empire will not provide the sort of scrutiny of Government that the people of this Nation require and deserve. Current circumstances make that patently clear. Neither the Murdoch press nor the Coalition are going to look that particular gift horse of reciprocity in the mouth. If they did, the stench of the halitosis might well render them as catatonic as Tony Abbott in an awkward interview.

This is a defining moment, I believe, not only in Australia’s political history, but also in its media history. Fairfax has the opportunity to capture not only a specific share of this media market, but also a place deep in the spirit of average Australians. It’s an opportunity for Fairfax to reverse, or at least mitigate the trend of cynicism directed at Australia’s media with respect to news and political coverage in particular. This is not hubris, nor is it excess maudlinism. It’s real. The need is real. The demand for that need to be met is real. Can Fairfax enter that reality?

Now, you may feel you already have a place there, and it’s true that to some extent you do, but you must surely also appreciate that the larger market share for real news and real journalism is not a mere abstraction but something tangible and there for the taking. This particular market, made available by Murdoch’s deliberate and seemingly joyous relinquishment of it, doesn’t require capital investment; it requires intellectual and moral investment. All it takes for that market to be in your hands is to heed the calls of the people and to meet their demands for better quality political journalism. I believe Murdoch has handed this opportunity to you on a gold plated, solid silver platter. Even Bargain Hunt couldn’t put an estimate on its value.

You have before you the opportunity to be the news service that Australians trust uppermost. You have the opportunity to return the craft of journalism to a place of respect in our communities. Please don’t underestimate or dismiss the significance of the absence of that trust and respect in Australian society. It has been socially cancerous. Cynicism is cancerous. Who can the people trust? It seems not the politicians. Nor is it anymore those whose brief it is to cut through the jungle of Machiavellian Madness and give us some clear, unbiased and informed vision into that which effects our everyday lives. There was a time when journalists appeared to feel the moral weight of meaningfully and objectively informing the community. There is a certain sentimental yearning running through the Australian psyche right now with regard to that time. You can either tap into that sentiment and become culturally relevant, or you can strip off and let it all hang out with the cavorting clowns of the Murdoch Circus.

As far as I can tell, only one of those options comes at any real cost.


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  1. didisaythataloud

    Indeed. If they work very very hard at proper journalism, eventually I may occasionally buy Fairfax to read over coffee. Haven’t bought one since that week they told Julia to stand down.

  2. antl88

    Thank you for your reasoned discourse. Sadly, I think this will fall on deaf ears and if we are plagued with 3 years of Abbott & his masters, Australia will rue the day and alas many will fall by the wayside, victims of economic mismanagement & “austerity”.

  3. Lorraine

    1 September 2013 the day journalism died in ustralia

  4. deknarf

    A resounding HEAR HEAR!!

  5. Michael Taylor

    Brilliant post, Dan.

  6. Oscar

    I think Fairfax have basically destroyed the ‘brand’ by trying to compete with News rather than remain what they always were-a great collection of investigative journalists. Now it’s full of churnalism and it’s just down right boring.
    The websites are woeful and the printed versions so dull looking. Former editor Andrew Jaspan gives them 5 years on the outside. He is being generous.

  7. John

    Thanks Dan – I could not have said it better. I actually changed my reading from The Murdoch tripe Telegraph to the Sydney Morning Herald and love the read, especially now it is no longer a broadsheet.

    However I am disappointed because I can see clearly, the plan hatched by Abbott and the power hungry Murdoch. The repetitive slogans, the running away from interviews,the lack of real policy and no costings, combined with the total support of Murdoch papers which have failed to question Abbott and his opposition team on anything.

    Surely the SMH could have done more. Why have they not questioned Mr Abbott on his scare mongering on the carbon tax…(Whyalla Ghost Town) and his stupid statements like the invisible substance …baddies versus baddies…etc. How about his manic stance when asked about his remark “shit happens” after being told of Australian deaths in Afghanistan, when he stood for almost 60 secs nodding and not saying a word! He is obviously totally unsuitable to hold the high office of Prime Minister of Australia but even the Fairfax Press fail to examine this.

    I don’t need to buy a newspaper – I can get reliable information from independent journalists on the Internet. So if the SMH is incapable of fair reporting I will just ditch them also.

    I feel strongly at the moment to support any call for a boycott of everything Murdoch including not buying his papers, refusing to advertise in them and a boycott of Foxtel.

    I believe there has to be something done about his ownership of over 65% of the print media in this country. Murdoch should not use ‘Free Speech’ to hide behind his disrespect for our democracy.

  8. J.Fraser

    “Nowadays, the perfect crime is getting caught and selling your story to T.V.!”
    Alfred E. Neuman

    And that is how Queensland now operates with the LNP winning 78 of the 89 seats in the Qld. State parliament (so far they have lost 4 seats … due to their own incompetence … not via the Ballot box).

    Murdoch’s Courier Mail is the domineering paper in Queensland and the de facto Opposition …. whatever they want to tell you they will.

    I would be very surprised if Fairfax Media survived an Abbott win.

  9. cornlegend

    a good read mate.
    If only it didn’t fall on deaf ears

  10. johnlord2013

    Excellent piece of writing. I would have been proud to have put my name to that.

  11. Richard

    excellent read. Hopefully a copy has been sen to the Fairfax Management and the Australian Press Council.

  12. Felix

    Thanks for the article. As a long term SMH reader, more than 20 years, I refuse to buy another paper or subscribe to their pay wall. Peter Hartcher and Mark Kenny hysterically going for PM JG’s throat make it impossible for me to contribute another cent to their coffers.

  13. Heather

    Well that Tony Wright guy is a nasty piece of work. Right wing to the core, and totally up himself. Know him personally from my childhood. I noticed just recently that the editor of The Age Holden was giving him loving support. So SMH and The Age have gone across the devil in my books.

    At the moment all I have to read is Google News as my homepage, but I must ask them to put up an app so I can turn off all News Ltd/Corp papers, plus the football specifically rugby, the sport of drongos.

    I might go peek at Guardian AU and get ready for a fight.
    I cruise around the overseas papers, however Canberra Times seems to be okay. ABC News Online is quite good.

    Also these days I hardly look at anything on SMH or The Age since they always throw that popup out that I’ve read 25 or 30 articles in a month, which is plain wrong. But it’s probably that nasty Tony twigging whatever they have in there to stop me being vocal about their hopeless journalism.

    What can you do? No newspapers to read in Australia, so one heads overseas for it.
    And that is good. It’s a lot more interesting in fact.

    I hope that Kevin Rudd gets back in and screws the media ownership in this country right down to around 33% no more. Let’s get Murdoch where it hurts him the most.

  14. Nerrilyn Diefenbach

    Oh I so enjoyed reading that. I guess we can live in hope.

  15. Sally

    I stopped reading Fairfax a while ago because it is just boring ( most of it) and basically a Murdoch follower.
    Head online now. What concerns me most now is lack of scrutiny after the elections.
    Maybe some decent msm/fairfax/abc journos will come back out of the woodwork. But I seriously doubt it.
    LNP doing what they like!! What a nightmare scenario.
    I guess if the conservatives are as radical as I suspect they will be some analysis will occur but will probably be too late.
    What a time to go backwards!

  16. bundysmum

    For as long as I can remember I was an avid reader of fewfacts. No more, the drivel and opinion dressed up as news , the glossy junk they use to “tempt” readers and the lack of any journalistic integrity from the likes of hartcher,maley and Kenny have ensured that I will never support any media organisation that treats its readers as if they are halfwits.

    Thanks Dan, we will all read this type of article because it respects us as an audience.

  17. David

    Well written Dan, a pity it is a waste of your talent and reasoning. They don’t want to know. Fairfax are as guilty as Murdochs criminals in their pursuit of bringing down this Govt. I am utterly ashamed of the MSM in this country, just as I will be ashamed of the gullible majority if they vote the lying, misogynist, homophobic, racist, bullying, religious freak Abbott and his conservatives into power.
    The words of our National Anthem will take on the cries of despair from middle and low income families and earners over the next 3 years, as there lives are turned into survival of the strongest.
    God help the pensioners who have been sucked in by the shock jocks, Jones, Hadlee and co because Abbott wont, he has already declared their destruction.

  18. Dan Rowden

    Dear Fairfax,

    Forget everything I said. With a boss that stupid, you don’t stand a chance.

  19. Michael Taylor

    That about sums it up, Dan. 😉

  20. cornlegend

    if you’ve got some spare time, what about one on Gina, suggesting her supporting that we nationalise the mines 😀

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