minutes into the digital future
new Sydney Morning Herald is mostly a lightweight thing. It's
full of lifestyle stories, moral homilies culled from old Christian
Brothers readers, and pages of little snippets -- print FM radio, really
-- but on Saturday I was pleased to see that my weeks of investigating
the affairs of The Hon Eddie Obeid, MP had payed off in a fine expose
by Kate McClymont.
went down to clear the letterbox in case my cheque had come through.
I have one of those Wilderness Society stickers that say "No Junk
Mail", but it makes no difference. It is always stuffed full of
crap and on Saturday morning much of it was trying to sell me a clear
mind and body.
was a handout on cheap paper from the Falun Gong people which promised
to "elevate and purify mind and body" and a pamphlet entitled
"CLEAR BODY CLEAR MIND" bearing the signature of the Scientology
founder, L Ron Hubbard. Which was a curious thing. The old science fiction
hack died many years ago, and here he was, still apparently writing
books and signing brochures.
was pondering this on Monday morning when Anton rang from the Media,
Arts and Entertainment Alliance.
been hearing this rumour for a few months now. We dismissed it at first,
but it's persisting and getting stronger. The story is that Murdoch
and Fairfax are going to start replacing journalists with software.
We'd like you to get to the bottom of it".
that's scary stuff", I replied. "One moment you see the first
virtual newsreader and now this. A lot of jobs are going to disappear".
worried about the professional implications too. Already, there's not
much about what's new in the news. The TV and radio bods stopped looking
for what's new years ago ... they just shoehorn everything into a few
well-understood cliches ... now it's spreading to the prints. The media
is getting like one of those streets with mirror-glass buildings on
both sides reflecting each other."
always easier to tell people what they think they know", I said,
promising to do my best for $250 a day plus expenses.
enough I could see the proprietors' point. It costs a motza to keep
a handful of pundits and star journalists in the manner to which they
have become accustomed and 'market forces' don't seem capable of controlling
the problem. Paul McGeough, the Herald editor, might be costing Fairfax
as much as $250,000 a year. He owns a fine place overlooking Elizabeth
Bay with his partner, Pam Williams, a senior journalist with the Financial
Review, who couldn't possibly be earning less than $100,000. There had
to be a cheaper way.
it came to me like a flash: the software thing would explain why Jonathan
Shier, John Howard's new ABC chief, keeps insisting that his senior
staff must pass through "psychological testing" before they
can stay in their jobs. I had thought of this as a civil liberties issue
-- like the mania for random drug-testing in the private schools --
or a dumb insult designed to secure resignations, but maybe I was wrong.
if this was part of the software solution? It made sense. Pick their
brains and get it down in code ... digital journalists managed by virtual
programmers, plugged into ratings monitors or circulation figures or
even directly into McKenzie Wark's subconscious.
picked up the Scientology leaflet and squinted at the fine print. "Services
relating to Scientology religious philosophy are delivered throughout
the world exclusively by licencees of the Church of Scientology with
the permission of Religious Technology Centre ..." who also owned
the rights to the L Ron Hubbard signature. Maybe it's the wave of the