Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The New, New Dumb

Samuel J. Fell
…On The Changing Nature Of Fairfax And The New, New Dumb.

We are the New, New Dumb.  We hanker after news of any and all the classless, jabbering whores who dominate our TV screens, famous for being famous.  We hang on every, “Like, you know, whatever”, and then tweet about it, putting it down to modern wisdom, a 2012 version of Confucius in stiletto heels and designer jeans.  We’re the ones who will sit up, when asked about the state of the world, and murmur something about how, “We don’t got no problems with things”, before going back to half-baking in front of the latest in a never-ending stream of ‘reality’ television shows.  We are the New, New Dumb, and we don’t care.

And why should we care?  And why should we know better?  This sort of thing, whether it be on the small screen, in magazines or newspapers, or on the vast, soulless space that is the internet, is shoved down our throats, so much so that it has become the Norm, it has become Accepted, and so we wallow in our own mediocrity, mistaking it for razor-sharp awareness, We know the score.  But we’re missing it all.  The important stuff, the stuff that makes the world go around, despite all its shortcomings – The Business, if you will.

The carbon tax.  Mining royalties.  The National Broadband Network.  The National Cultural Policy (arts and culture in general, no doubt).  Important things that will affect the way we live, not just in the near future, but far beyond, playing hard upon the lives of our children, their children, their children in turn.  It’s happening, but no one notices – news like this bounces and rustles across the collective national consciousness with all the impact of a Ben Affleck movie, lost without a trace.  We are the New, New Dumb, and we don’t care.

On Monday afternoon, Fairfax Media announced they were set to cut 1900 jobs over the next three years.  They announced they were to revamp the SMH and The Age into tabloid (or “compact”) format from March next year.  They announced the possible closure of both their Melbourne and Sydney printing plants, hinting at the fact the two aforementioned titles would go completely digital within two years. And they raised the idea of erecting paywalls around their news websites, as a result.

Meanwhile, the whores carry on unchecked, their antics and their rhetoric becoming more and more outrageous, so much so that we crave the hit even harder, the comments on forums and blogs and even news sites, inundated with mundane observations on what isn’t happening.  And so, as if the Real Stuff needed to be buried even deeper, we now have the threat of less journalists, which means less real news – and the New, New Dumb, the only ones with any confidence at all, grow fat on a diet of nothing substantial.  Knowledge isn’t power, Kim Kardashian is.

The fact the SMH and The Age will move to tabloid format is irrelevant.  The closure of printing plants and the ultimate demise of physical copies of these newspapers is not irrelevant, but is another story for another time.  The core issue here, the one that hits hard at the heart of a society on a Fast Train to Slow Town, is the job losses (allegedly 20% of the 1900 jobs will be in editorial at the SMH, The Age and the Australian Financial Review), the loss of hundreds of journalists, editors, subbys and what have you, who up until now have been reporting in a classy, professional manner.  There’ll still be the same amount of news, but there’ll be less people covering it, and there’s only so much a few can do.  Particularly when faced with the growing apathy of an over-indulged, under-stimulated population.

So what’s to be done?  Where can we turn?  What is the fate of democracy in this country?  Added to this is Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, a woman with a very blatant agenda of her own, looking to worm her way into a position of editorial control on the Fairfax board – what is the fate of independent journalism (given Fairfax is a large corporation, I use that term loosely…) if this is what’s Happening? 

Weep for us, I say.  Weep for us and wail and cry, flail your arms and bemoan the future, a future run by those who don’t look any deeper than the scum which continues to clog the surface, obscuring all below.  Private health cover, mineral booms and arts funding?  That’s boring, nothing, it doesn’t even register.  We are the New, New Dumb, and we don’t care.

Samuel J. Fell

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