In which Sydney seeks more friends, more allies!

Matthew Moore in the SMH:

A 10-YEAR fall in the percentage of migrants settling in NSW and the lowest rate of economic growth of all mainland states has Melbourne on track to overtake Sydney as Australia’s biggest city, a report predicts.

The Going Nowhere report, produced by the economic forecasters BIS Shrapnel for a property developer lobby group, says lower developer levies on new housing land in Melbourne have allowed construction of homes at twice the rate of Sydney. This is fuelling a population and economic growth in the Victorian capital that means it will become the country’s biggest city by 2037.

This is some ridiculous reporting. A bunch of lobbyists cajole some economists into releasing a report saying their crystal ball has figured out Melbourne will be bigger than Sydney in 27 years time, and the Herald reports this as news? And regurgitates the assertion that the only way to avoid a fate Sydneysiders would understandably be horrified by is to implement the tax policies the lobbyists want? Thumbs fucking up, Matthew Moore; you’re all over this one.

I particularly like the way Moore inserts this at the end of the piece:

While the NSW Department of Planning has recently upgraded its population forecasts, predicting Sydney will reach 6 million by 2036, [Lobbyist] Mr Gadiel dismissed those projections and said they ”won’t happen” without radical changes to the planning system to make it easier and cheaper for developers to build more homes.

Thank god we’ve got experts like Aaron Gadiel there to offer incisive critiques of Department of Planning projections like “won’t happen.” And thank god we’ve got Matthew Moore, who’s willing to regurgitate facts like this —

The report, commissioned by the Urban Taskforce, says NSW’s share of national migration has fallen from about 42 per cent 10 years ago to about 30 per cent due to the ”extremely challenging conditions” in the residential property market when prices leapt after the Olympics.

— without considering that Sydney’s share of migration has reduced not because of Melbourne or the local housing market, but because of the booming resource economies in Western Australia and Queensland. In this case, growth is dependent on demand, not supply.


In which we understand why words mean so much to you; they’ll never be about you

There was an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald Thursday. It wasn’t by a Herald writer; it was sourced from the L.A. Times. Whatever — I sure would have preferred to have seen an Australian writer get the space, but I’m not a protectionist when it comes to other things, so I sure shouldn’t be when it comes to my own industry. Evidently the editor thought the Herald’s readers would enjoy this piece.

It wasn’t that great a piece; just some woman called Amy Alkon making the perfectly fine argument that kicking an excessively disruptive child off a plane is a good idea, then using it as a battering ram to say all kinds of preposterous things. You know, opinion journalism. But I’ll show you the quotes that interested me.

Unbelievably, Root demanded the apology she eventually got from the airline (shame, shame) and hit it up for the cost of nappies and the portable cot she says she had to buy for the overnight stay.

Except Alkon didn’t say “nappies.” She’s American! It says as much right at the bottom of the op-ed! And sure enough, the original article used the word “diapers.” It also described a “portable crib,” not a “cot,” an edit I find astonishing, because I had no idea “crib” was an Americanism us Australians must be prevented from seeing for the sake of our national dignity*.

Likewise, in the Herald, Alkon is printed referring to the “Mummy Mafia,” when, of course, she wrote “Mommy Mafia.” This is an even more egregious edit; a “mummy” is quite different to a “mommy.” The images conjured up are entirely different and the notion that a mafia of one kind is identical to a mafia of the other kind makes me want to give these copy-editors nap-time with the fishes. Let me make it clear: Australians have mums. Americans have moms. American moms should be “moms,” even if an Australian is referring to them, and vice-versa. Would we really call Carmela Soprano or Marge Simpson or Peggy Bundy a “mum”? Should an American really think of Maggie Beare or Kath Day-Knight or Sal Kerrigan as “moms”? It’s preposterous!

It is time we all learned to accept that those of us around the Anglosphere speak different kinds of English. Unless that kind of English causes problems with comprehension (and sometimes even then; American publishers should not change “jumper” to “sweater”) we should retain the writer’s original voice. If the Herald thinks a woman in Los Angeles is worth publishing, it shouldn’t patronise its readers by assuming their precious cultural sensitivities will be shocked if they read that woman communicating in her natural voice.

*Come to think of it, “cot” sounds like a Britishism we should have jettisoned along with the Monarchy when we became an independent nation.

Cross-posted at my Tumblr

In which I name names, all shots.

Jason Wilson at The New Matilda:

on the internet, no one knows you’re a broadsheet.

Well, true: a quick look at the garbage ass Web site of the actually respectable Sydney Morning Herald confirms that. The article itself is about the cutely named “trollumnists”; opinion writers who are more concerned with attracting attention than adding to public debate.

The article seems to be written from a viewpoint I basically hold; that it pays to produce quality material. Yet I’m convinced by its argument. Even broadsheet journalism is a business, and if the Herald or another such paper gets people reading by publishing people like Miranda Devine or Janet Albrechtsen, then they should publish them. It’s only a problem when these “trollumnists” become the norm. Fortunately, Australia still has people like Peter Hartcher, Paul Kelly, Annabel Crabb, David Marr — even Greg Sheridan — who are concerned with advancing debate and do so constructively. My beef is with writers like Paul Sheehan, who claim to be intelligent commentators, but in reality add nothing to public discourse. Sheehan, unlike Devine et. al., cannot even write well. He can’t construct an argument and he can’t construct a sentence. It is people like him we should be defending Australian media against, not the populist shit stirrers.

Cross-posted at my Tumblr

In which America’s billionaire tyrant ruins journalism with his Australianity.

Or not.

In the midst of a perfectly reasonable article, Jacob Weisberg drops this inflammatory, obnoxious and ignorant bomb:

What’s most distinctive about the American press is not its freedom but its tradition of independence—that it serves the public interest rather than those of parties, persuasions, or pressure groups. Media independence is a 20th-century innovation that has never fully taken root in Europe or many other countries that do have free press. The Australian-British-continental model of politicized media that Murdoch has implemented at Fox is un-American, so much so that he has little choice but go on denying what he’s doing as he does it.

I know Americans would like to blame some other land for the ills caused by American (not Australian) citizen Rupert Murdoch, but this exercise in contrasting media landscapes is glib and fails to take proper account of cultural nuance.

As Weisberg elliptically acknowledges in the same article (he refers to the “”tea parties” that Fox covered the way the Hearst press covered the Spanish-American war” — an allusion to the politically-influential press barons of the 19th century American media) bias in the American media is hardly new; it was indeed a 20th Century innovation that made American news more oriented toward the public interest.

While I can’t, and have no interest in, speaking for the British press, Australian newspapers have a strong independent and public service-inclined streak that shouldn’t be dismissed in the scurrilous way Weisberg does here. While we have undoubtedly had stronger and more enduring tabloids — of the American Hearst/Pulitzer mould — here than in the States (major cities like Adelaide and Brisbane do not have local broadsheet papers), these publications are more concerned with serving the interests of a particular working class social class than pushing a political agenda, as Fox News does. And though sadly defunct news magazines like The Bulletin were not without a political agenda — that publication once had the slogan “Australia for the White Man” emblazoned on its masthead — these had long ago moved into modernity.

Papers like Fairfax Corporation’s Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Canberra Times remain respectably independent, and Murdoch’s own national broadsheet, The Australian, is filled with the kind of respectable reporting you would never find on Fox. (Its opinion pages lean heavily rightward, however, but then again, so too do American opinion pages like the Wall Street Journal — even before it was owned by Murdoch’s News Ltd.)

There is much to admire about American journalism, and a 20th Century commitment to independence is one of those things. Its continuing resistance to tabloid sensationalism is another. But the Fox News model of journalistic political advocacy cannot be sheeted home to Rupert Murdoch’s Australian birthplace; it was created in America, for Americans, by an American — Murdoch renounced his Australian citizenship in 1985, when he became an American — and if anything, it has distinct echoes of an earlier brand of American journalism, the kind William Randolph Hearst’s papers were deploying in the Spanish-American War.

Cross-posted at my Tumblr.

In which newspapers slouch toward Bethlehem

This is a fascinating overview of the future of the news industry, and well worth a read. It’s endorsement of non-profit news delivery has me far more convinced of the potential of that model than I’d been before, and since I’d been considerably unconvinced, that’s quite an accomplishment. I disagree with its conclusion, however; while it acknowledges America will never have a BBC, its hope that something similar will arise seems to be derived too much from a Eurofetishism that fails to understand that the BBC works not only because of its government funding, but because it has a viable private sector supplementing and competing with it.

More realistic seems another possibility it offers:

The opening won’t last forever. Lurking in the wings is a potential new class of media giants. Google, Yahoo, MSNBC, and AOL, all have vast resources that could finance a new oligopolistic push on the Web.

The news industry will survive because it must, both as a necessity for a democratic society and because it offers a product with a high demand, even if that demand is currently skewed by an unsustainably low pricing structure. I would expect we’ll see a hybrid of all the models considered here: old style mastheads, niche startups and non-profit public interest publications commingly and competing in pursuit of that awkward combination of public interest and profit that has sustained the news industry since its inception.

h/t amyd; cross-posted at my Tumblr.