Mark Day perpetuates Internet us-and-them

Once upon a time Mark Day (pictured) was relevant. As publisher of The Australian from 1977 and then its Editor-in-Chief, he ran what is still Australia’s only true national newspaper and didn’t fuck it up.

But today his column Net-gen forces state-sanctioned double standard tries to perpetuate the divide between old and new media, casting it as a generation gap using last week’s kerfuffle over South Australia’s electoral laws as a hook.

(As it happens, I wrote about that kerfuffle in a opinion piece, SA’s Govt 2.0 became mob rule. I’m rather pleased that‘s Phil Sim called it “a smart, thought-provoking column”. It generated a few good comments too. Thanks.)

Mark Day can be a bit of a fossil, says meta-journalist Margaret Simons. I agree, and in this case I reckon he’s got it wrong.

Since there’s no guarantee The Australian will post my comments, I’ve written him this open letter…

Dear Mark Day…

“A decade and a half into what the older generation still sees as a new-fangled thing called the internet, the net generation sees the world of cyberspace as its preserve”, Mr Day? Which “generation” is this, exactly?

I turn 50 this year. I’ve been using the internet for 25 years, and other online environments half a decade before that. I know of Holocaust survivors happily coordinating their business, philanthropic and three generations of family activities using this “new-fangled” thing.

Far more people in Australia use the internet than don’t. Or didn’t you get that telegram?

There’s nothing generational about it, or at least nothing to do with age. Not any more.

It’s about attitude. It’s about whether you choose to pick up the new tools and opportunities available to you, taking advantage of their strengths, or carp about their perceived weaknesses.

It’s about whether you choose to participate in the present and make the internet your own, or sit on your arse and stagnate in the past.

For someone with a column in the media section of the country’s only national broadsheet you seem remarkably unfamiliar with how our current biggest media development, the internet, actually works.

You make the basic error of confusing the data channel (“newspaper” or “internet”, atoms or bits) with the activities conducted through it (“investigative journalism” or “gossip”).

You laughably imagine that online a mistake “disappears into the ether”, claiming “this is not so for newspapers or other print media”. Anyone who actually works online knows it’s exactly the opposite. Yesterday’s fish-wrap is discarded or lost on dusty shelves and soon forgotten. But once online, archived and indexed, a mistake lasts forever and is easily found.

You talk about double standards, Mr Day? How about the double standards of the Murdoch media?

The Advertiser and AdelaideNow whipped up that storm of anger about South Australia’s electoral laws with inflammatory editorials screeching “censorship” and “draconian” and “China”. The Australian followed through with much the same message but using longer, more old-fashioned words.

Of course no-one had the spine to put their name to either of those pieces.

But when this artificial campaign of furore succeeded — well, five days after it was all over, actually — out you totter to moan about how terrible it was.

Quite frankly, your column today seems little more than a whinge that things were different in your day — I half expected you to start complaining about kids talking too loudly on buses — and an excuse to have a dig at your competitors over at Fairfax.

I do understand that part of a columnist’s role is to build a rapport with the audience. Which audience are you building a rapport with here, Mr Day? The tired, moaning old-fart demographic that has lost the motivation to change?

2 Replies to “Mark Day perpetuates Internet us-and-them”

  1. There is a slight sense of irony here, that Mark Day’s piece, being a blog posting, is only available online and thus beyond the reach of the “tired, moaning old-fart demographic that has lost the motivation to change.” 😉

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