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by Paul Walter on June 25, 2012 - 4:29pm

So we need a sugar daddy. This could  be American style philanthropist involvement, after a Stephen Mayne or  Ted Turner sort.. In better times you would have laughed it off, but with News Ltd style braggarts now ruling the roost, what hope much truth about the real world percolating through. 

In better times public broadcasting was the masthead for broadsheet, combining with the Age, Canberra Times and others to anchor truth based journalism, but these days all seems downmarket; the resources for good journalism perhaps are not there and what is witnessed instead, is a fight for the spoils of defeat.

Beggars can't be choosers and it's true the Crikey option did work well for a while, perhaps another stab at this style of things is one of the better options left in straightened times. 

Who'd have imagined once, that the likes of a Paul Whittaker would prosper while a Peter Fray ended on the scrap heap.  it does appear conventional media and press is dead.

Haven't bought a paper for years and no longer bother with the slanted, trivia- laden propaganda that passes for news on SBS and ABC ( Sara Ferguson for the likes of Ticky Fullarton or Liz Jackson is not  my idea of a joke, but then the ABC demographic is worse than it was ten years ago) and we have computers, so it's easy to go somewhere online.

But it isn't what bothers Margo, I guess. The problem is more the problem of properly funded established reportage networks and adequate resources to produce considered work . The big problem is that the Murdoch types seem to have captured these networks.

by Margo Kingston on June 25, 2012 - 11:42am

So, you're still at that hotel I blew into a few years ago? So much has changed since I retired - Facebook, twitter, iphone.... The barriers to entry have collapsed, so many, many people can set themselves up as media. This makes obvious the issue I banged on about throughout Webdiary's first five years -  ethics. A transparent, enforced code of ethics is all that distinguishes professional journalists from amateurs, apart from getting paid - and getting paid is a happening thing for fewer and fewer people these days.  

So that's a foundation point for a new Fairfax.  It's also crucial to get a strong reader base, and this is why I'm attracted to a joint venture of existing small groups and independent bloggers.  Thirdly, since Fairfax has trashed its biggest assets - its mastheads - a joint venture should coopt the values of those brands. 

Anyway, I'm training to be a nurse now. The official death of Fairfax - I hear there's a strong push to abandon the hard copy papers completely quite soon - spurred me to an opinion piece.  

Great to ehar from you and if I'm out your way I will drop in.

love margo 

by Margo Kingston on June 25, 2012 - 11:32am

As usual, your remarks on this subject are extremely interesting. So sad the Fairfax song. I submitted a version of this piece to The Drum and they published today at http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4086900.html

The usual comments.... What do you think of the ABC site?  

Anyway, how are you personally and where do you live? Maybe you could email fiona or Richard and they could send you my new email address.

Great to hear from you David. I type this on an oldApple MacBook that's goin' strong.  




by Scott Dunmore on June 25, 2012 - 11:05am

Just to let you know Margo you're not a voice crying in the wilderness.

I'm a bit like Paul, you've given us food for thought and I agree with everything you say, This is important and requires careful consideration. It's good to see you involved, count on my (limited ) input and you should know where you're always welcome.

by Scott Dunmore on June 24, 2012 - 5:42pm

So Solomon, what concentrates your mind on any form of religion?

All belief systems are stultifying. Whether it be religion or mathematics people become blinkered. Accept that beyond the conceit that consumes mankind our thought proceesses are no more than passages of relatively massive particles, electrons between our neurons. If we try to divine anything it's analagous to repairing clockwork with a cold chisel and hammer. People take from religion that which suits them and there are as many gods as those that believe. Especially the control freaks.

As to mathematics, just another belief system ( very useful at that,) but it is incomplete. It can't explain transcendental irationals and is based on "number line" theory. Oh, it works fine but it is only a model, there is no line as such, only a continuum. Infinity exists between zero and one. Everything is infinitily divisible.

Take heed from one of the finest polymath minds of medieaval times, a pisshead and formidable thinker.

an! well , come put me to the test-
a lovely old book in hideous errors drest-
Believe me, I can quote the Koran too.
The unbeliever knows his Koran best

'And do you think that unto such as you
A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew
God gave the secret, and denied it me ?
Well, well, what matters it! believe that too. "

Omar Khayyám, Rubaiyat (1048–1123)

I'm not trying to convert anyone; shit that's the last thing on my mind. You wouldn't want to be in my head for quids. I just want to convey an alternative perspective, It's lonely in here, nothing is certain and I have all sympathy for Hamlet..

You're right about Webdiary, it is a wasteland, hopefully it will change and hat's off to Richard who has singlehandedly kept it going. His fortitude is exemplary with only Paul to respond (to whom he talks to over the bar anyway,) and occassionally Justin. More of which later.

Michael, I know where you're coming from but what's in it for the average Joe? I came to computing in my early fifties. Finally I had found something that could focus my grasshoper/butterfly mind.. Something (programming) that could keep me totally focused, sometimes 'til 3-4 in the morning. Data access looped programs that took as much effort to read as write, but all beome boring, write one algorithm and you've written them all . I don't know how to send a text message and don't intend to learn. Twitter is for twits and anyone who does, goes down in my estimation including Annabelle Crabb (the thinking man's totty). What one can say in limited characters apart from "have a nice day" and "fuck off" isn't worth saying.

Never mind me, I'm a grumpy old man.

by David Davis on June 23, 2012 - 8:45pm

Hi Margo.  A funny thing happened on the way to the supermarket.  Richard said you were back. He told me via Facebook.  The message flashed up on my iPhone in front of yoghurts and non-dairy (you know, soy and suchlike).  The fact that you are back is certainly not inconsequential but the way I found out is.  I found out via my iPhone.  That is how I find out about anything. It is inconsequential that more of us seem to be solely accessing the Internet via our smartphones and apps on iPads and the like. That's just how it is now.  

When Webdiary started, the future became very clear very quickly, don't you think?  In substance we knew the future. We didn't know about apps, iPhone, iPad or Facebook but we sure knew what was happening with media in Australia. Those of us who were engaged in the topic did not see ourselves as being particularly perceptive but what we see now is exactly what we could see coming.  More surprising is that it took so long.  You are so right when you say it has been over a long time.  

As we know it is more a story of revenue than circulation.  They can do paywalls and stuff like that but they simply don't have the ad revenue.  Working at eBay in Europe starting ten years ago I saw the business go from a handful of people into a phenomena.  It became the most accessed site on the internet in Germany, Europe's largest and richest market.  It was rivers of gold.  eBay was profitable from day one. It disrupted old business models and never went away. I was so happy to be part of the disruption. To be fair, some of the trade was newly created but also much of it was robbing trade from elsewhere.  Newspaper classifieds were a big part of the "elsewhere".  Rivers of gold were diverted and it happened a long time ago.  I am nostalgic about it all now as it was so long ago. I am nostalgic about a disruptive industry that has killed newspapers. Ooops, confused feelings. Warm and fuzzy but also feelings of "mmm, funny how that one turned out".

Even when you left Fairfax, that was a long time ago. We could already see a rapid decline in quality such that the website became so focused on fluff like entertainment news.  Now it seems obsessed also with Apple. 

So yeah, it is all a long time ago and we all knew what was to come.  Then again we seem to be trapped in some time-space chaos-platz.  Like it's all about asylum seekers and threats to diversity in media.  The topics are the same but as a country we've actually gone backwards.

What about Gina?  In a way I think she's quite cool. I like the cut of her jib.  The point has been made repeatedly this week that if she were to make the Sydney Morning Herald a mouthpiece for her views that would only further destroy commercial value and therefore influence.  Equally if the much wished for online "independent" media becomes a Gina-not or a Murdoch-not, I think then it also loses value. The problem say with some thing like New Matilda was that it seemed to be a leftie collective.  That's fine if you just want Gina-not but some of us want a wider view.  Pro business views, pro development views, truly liberal views.

Maybe it is time to look again at the Webdiary model. If truly diverse voices could be heard on one platform that would be great. Opinion is not enough though as we know. We sort of saw the blogging era come and go. I was listening to ABC Sydney Drive this week and they were interviewing a guy from Pro Publica.  I suppose you know the story of Pro Publica.  It is what you refer to - a foundation.  Serious money is needed but we have no tradition of philanthropy in this country.  I don't know where the money comes from in the Australian context.  It is not advertising (SMH can't even win that game) and it is not subscription.

I was just thinking, "mmm, what about Twiggy Forest". He is rich and I happen to think loaded with integrity. He also cares about social matters if anyone cares to look at his work with aborigines.  That highlights a dichotomy and while it is a false one, it is one that is at the root of the issue.  Aborigines vs journalists. Who do you want to donate to?  Yes, false dichotomy but it highlights a key issue I see.  Few seem to value journalists. The public at large rate journalists as having less integrity than politicians. I don't think journalists get this. As a profession they are not introspective.  One of the questions is how do we get a wider audience to appreciate and understand the importance of independent journalism?   It is one of the pillars of democracy but the care factor seems near zero.  Then again it has always shocked me how little the average Australian cares about free speech in general.

It's a devil of a problem. Mmm, just thought of another person.  My local member, Malcolm Turnbull.  Probably a conflict of interest (ha) with his current role but he has been outspoken on this issue and he has the odd dollar or two.

I am not sure that is the right way to go either. Go scouring the countryside for a benefactor in a country bereft of benefactors?  Sounds like a fool's errand and I am so unfond of fool's errands. 

You're not the only internet refugee.  I never comment politcally online and haven't done so for years. I don't include Facebook as that is just throwaway lines to friends who are more than acquaintances.  I don't have people as friends on Facebook I do not actually know and most of them think like me anyway.  I do not enjoy online "debates" and avoid them like the plague. I am sure many people from the blogging era feel like refugees even if they still remain online. Politically though they are now mute.

One of the things Webdiary did, one of the things you did, was to unearth different voices and new talent.  There was a lot to be said for the model. I thought it dead many years ago but current events make it worth opening up the discussion again.

I do think if there was money and people were paid a decent wage Pro Publica style, it is possible ego and politics could be more easily left at the door. People would become less proprietorial and territorial as you sometimes find in volunteer organisations.  Payment of a decent wage to a professional allows them to pursue a professional mission in an environment filled with integrity. At least that possibility would be there.

No solutions but I do like the idea of the discussion starting again.  I think. 

I just thought of another thing. Wikipedia is a foundation.  I see someone I used to work with at eBay has become General Counsel for Wikipedia. eBay is a business model that could never have come from a business school. Much of it is implausable but it works. Wikipedia was once implausable.  My former colleague has made a career as a polished professonal in the implausable.

Beware the fool that goes scoffing at the implausible, for one day the implausible may become true! 

Do we dare to dream about something that appears implausible? Are we brave enough?  We should be as we are always told democracy is worth dying for. If the stakes are that high, then you'd think it's high time we became innovative again.  For all of us indeed. 

by Michael Talbot-... on June 23, 2012 - 4:22pm

It was very stupid of me to write offhandedly as I did.  It there is anyone out there with any inclination to take my suggestion seriously, DON'T format your hard disk.  It'd probably work fine as described, but there is a risk.

Instead, while running the Linux setup program, delete the disk partitions that the other system was installed on.

But do things experimentally, alertly, not blindly.

Of course, I don't need to say that to you, but ...


by Scott Dunmore on June 23, 2012 - 2:29pm

So, did anyone think the GFC had gone away? Fess up folks; Geoff Pahoff, any comment?

I guess I'm probably like a lot of other former Webdiarists in that I occasionally clock in to see what is or isn't happening and on this occasion was delighted to see  Margo back; hence my input; in order.

Now Richard, in answer to your question, which I'll give you sufficient credit to assume is rhetorical, (sorry about the cheap shot but times are tough and I simply can't afford the other variety, gentle dig in the ribs with a wink, I'm not that mean, just a pathological smart arse of which you'd be well aware by now,)

bugger all.

Well, that's a simple answer to a simple question but the devil, (as ever,) lies in the detail.

I have a problem, or more realistically other people have a problem with the way I think. Nothing is simple in my mind, All things are interconnected but in this case I'll get straight to the point. Nothing has changed since  before  the GFC. Countries across the globe are all in debt. This isn't rocket science, double entry bookkkeeping tells you the ledger has to be balanced so who are the creditors?

 A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to call one of my cousins in the UK, a retired school ma'am, comfortably middle class, living in what is called the "stock broker belt" married to a former banker. Our conversation turned to finance and I realised I had given no  thought to the question I latterly posed.

This is where my abstract thought processes kick in. Norman Mailer made the statement that Fascism is the natural order of things. I've come to the conclusion he only got it half way right; it's not about Fascism but hierarchy and thus wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of the few. There is however a limit and it is my belief that it has been reached. It has become top heavy to an unstainable level and a correction will happen.

The creditors are private individuals, those that buy bonds as a "safe haven".

The Greek election result and the so called bailouts will only delay the inevitable. Default.

Countries are no different to individuals; can't pay your bills, declare bankruptcy and start afresh. Your creditors take a haircut and there is a redistribution of wealth. The super rich wil (most of'em,) stay just that but not to the same extent.

by Michael Talbot-... on June 22, 2012 - 5:50pm

Okay, I support Solomon Wakeling 110% in his recommendation,especially the first ten minutes, which is the key part.  The speaker begins to take questions at 41:38 and I didn't find them interesting.

I sympathize with Solomon Wakeling's failure to say what it's all about because it's impossible for me to make the subject other than devoid of all interest if I attempt to express it in my own words.  Rushkoff can make it interesting as I could not.  But it's basically that growing up in a computer-driven digital world you couldn't afford to be computer illiterate, yet almost everyone is.  For all the enthusiasm of the enthusiasts for social media they have never learnt to use computers, they have only learnt to use applications that use computers.

The key problem is that for all the centrality of computers in the modern world they have never learnt to write computer programs, and so control and properly use computers.

So, listen to it, please, at least that first part.  Then, if you were listening to it on a computer whose operating system (do you even know what that is?) is named after holes in the wall of a certain kind, or even if it is named after a carnivorous mammal with a strange connection to the fruit of the apple tree, do these things:

 1.  Download a bootable Slackware Linux DVD (or CD series) from here or here;

2. Make sure it's bootable.

3. Back up anything that's your own creation.

4. Format your hard disk.

5. Boot and install Slackware GNU/Linux.

6. Spend a couple of months getting used to the new world you are in.

7. Download (also after a couple of months: what's there now is obsolete), compile and install the GNU Sather compiler, read the accompanying manuals, and get programming.

(I actually listened on Slackware 13.0 - current version 13.37 untried.) 

by Solomon Wakeling on June 22, 2012 - 3:15pm

Michael, thank you for your response. My comment sounds patronising and I'm sorry. I just had this feeling that Webdiary had become a wasteland and no-one would be listening. Perhaps it's not so bad as I imagined. I'll do better than write a summary; I'll review Rushkoff's "Program or be programmed", mentioned in the above piece, as my next webdiary project. His essential thesis is that without some understanding (or better yet, skill) at computer programming, then people will lose track of the way in which their reality is programmed by others. You don't have to listen to all of it, just 2 minutes, and see if it grabs you.

The original piece "Confronting Islam" is here and was published on webdiary in 2006. (I ask the moderators nicely to hyperlink it in the above piece to avoid further confusion).

The above piece is still a critique of Islam, it just doesn't aspire to the depths of vilification. Originally I compared the Hijab to graffiti and said they ought to be banned in schools, as expressions of the indoctrination of young muslim girls into a repressive religion.

It's less that I love islam than that I love Muslim people and it is a religion that will be with us en masse for a long time to come. I thought it worthwhile to be more specific about my criticisms, to point to a source, to accept that I don't and never will speak Arabic or be an expert in Qur'anic studies, and leave a gateway open to repair the fracture between Muslims and non-Muslims in my own country. Viewed in terms of a broken relationship I wanted to extend a hand and then re-define where that goodwill stops. The correct response to dogma is education and discussion; the correct response to actual repressive behaviour like domestic violence, religious or secular, is to engage the law. These are not difficult concepts to grasp but in my confusion, anger and mixed up state at 23 yrs old, I mangled these concepts in a way I should not have, and probably would not have when I was nineteen.

I'm not familiar with the passages you mention in any detail. I am glad I didn't grow up having to grapple with that kind of a heritage.

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