There’s something weird and creepy about the way journalists and other media tragics have been fawning gape-jawed over this morning’s official announcement that The Guardian is launching an Australian edition. Mummy England will save us from the evil Mr Murdoch!
What, like some weird hybrid lefty combat nanny droid, constructed in the UK’s finest media laboratories out of the Queen, Sigourney Weaver (as Ripley) and Brooke Vandenberg, strapping itself into the drop ship to bring quality journalism back to the colony planet?
I even saw one highly-experienced media professional say it was great to see people trying new things. “New”? Which bit about this is “new”, exactly? Words and a few pictures on a website, written by the same kinds of people that have always written them?
It’s all being spun as a positive thing, of course, and the reporting so far seems to be swallowing the party line. The Guardian expands, challenges existing operators, media diversity quality journalism democracy commitment innovation groundbreaking unique take blah blah effing blah fuck it kill me now.
Knowing nothing more than what’s in the media release, let’s do a bit of old-fashioned follow-the-money…
So another way to spin this is that Wood, having pissed off everyone at The Global Mail, as m’colleagues at Crikey and elsewhere have reported, is now putting his money into a brand with better street cred, and a better chance of giving him the influence he’s presumably wanting to buy.
Put that way, it really doesn’t sound a whole lot different from the way Mr Murdoch operates his media empire. Wood, despite his philanthropy to various fashionable left-wing causes, isn’t Mother Teresa — though there’s obviously a belief by some that a Teresa-like saviour figure has strapped herself into the drop ship too.
When I expressed these… doubts on Twitter today, the response was sad and predictable.
“Providing non-Liberal Party dictated news? Well overdue,” was how one pseudonymous political tweeter explained the perceived advantages of our new Brit-Oz masthead. Yes, because until now there’s been nothing in the Australian media that isn’t a Liberal Party media release. Obviously.
(I think I’ll skip my usual rant directed at the arsehats who still imagine that everything is explained by dividing the world into two pre-defined political tribes.)
“It is the coverage of politics that is the problem. Bring on The Guardian for some much-needed progressive perspective,” tweeted another. And I suppose they’re right, given the serried ranks of media investors already quick-marching to Australia to satisfy this vast untapped demand for media written from a progressive perspective. Oh wait.
Look, it’s great that someone is investing money in Australian journalism during a time of doubt and uncertainty. And the gods know someone needs to pick up the ball that Fairfax has dropped so many times.
But really, there’s only so much that Australian audiences and advertisers will spend on media, and Guardian Australia will have the burden of having to ship a good proportion of its profits back to the motherland. I’m happy to be proven wrong. I’d love to be proven wrong. But I really don’t think this is the droid you’re looking for.
[Update 1815 AEDT: If you’re here for the first time, welcome. Feel free to look around at what else I do, including written work elsewhere, radio and TV spots, and indeed stuff I’ve written about journalism. If you’ve got time for a long read, well, I just rediscovered my Sunday Thoughts about Journalism from 2008. Or you can just keep selecting random stuff from the “Random Flashbacks” thingo in the left-hand sidebar. Please also comment. Enjoy.]