Two more thoughts on Fairfax


 At The Conversation:
The Fairfax Charter of Editorial Independence.
The Board at Fairfax has always hired and fired its editors. Nothing will change once Gina Rinehart takes effective control. And once appointed, as the Charter states, “full editorial control of the newspapers is vested with the editors”.

The appointment procedure is the only one that matters. Let’s say, a Gina-dominated Board wants Andrew Bolt. He would be interviewed and appointed by the Board and then given “full editorial control” as specified in the Charter. The editorial staff would have to abide by the Charter and take his instructions. There would be no reason for Gina to intervene. The Charter would be upheld. And that’s why signing (or not) would not make any difference.

Conrad Black signed up to the Charter and soon after appointed his own editors. Similarly when Rupert Murdoch took over The Times and Sunday Times in the UK in 1981 he too signed up to demands for editorial independence and appointed independent directors to the Board.
But as a proprietor, he had the right to hire and fire his editors. So he found new editors who shared his world view, and left them to get on with it. There is no need for him to intervene. They keep their jobs if they do his bidding.
Agreed. As I said last week, the signing of the charter or otherwise can make minimal difference to the effect Gina Rinehart has on the company. Looking at it this way, her refusal to do so looks like an easily-avoided PR catastrophe, but from somebody who advertises herself in shopping centres like this that's not too surprising. ("Our nation needs special economic zones and wiser government, before it is too late" ? Really!?) Anyway, the irony of this comment appearing on a site which proudly headlines itself as independent is difficult to miss. And my contention that journalistic independence doesn't really exist is, I think, strengthened by The Conversation which nobly aspires to it. No article which includes "it's about time" in the headline, other than as a quote, is independent by any measure.

(By the way, The Conversation's piece is really excellent and you should read it!)

Second, there's a trope that's been annoying me which is people picking out something they personally don't like about The Age or the Sydney Morning Herald, and declaring that this thing is the reason people don't read those papers. It's a delicious twist on the pundit's fallacy. But quite aside from the point of that fallacy - that there's no reason to believe the thing you don't like is the thing everybody dislikes - it's just plain old-fashioned wrong. People do read those newspapers! The problem is that newspapers have effectively never been paid for by their end-users, and their actual revenue stream (advertising) is drying up. Even if everybody in the country agrees with your opinion, decline in readership is not the problem at Fairfax.

And scene.

Comments