Insights from Quadrant

A poor impression

A recent title from Ms Adler’s Melbourne University Press. Others can be viewed here. It cannot be just a coincidence that so many — indeed, almost all — carry the bylines of the Left’s leading stalwarts.

Before The Australian did columnist Jack the Insider, aka Peter Hoysted, a huge favour by bringing to an abrupt close the barrage of scathing comments beneath his addled column defending Melbourne University Press under departed chief Louise Adler, a poster by name of “Katy” had this to say:

As an academic and Professor at Melbourne University, I object to this article in the strongest terms. Far from showing that academics are out of touch, this piece shows me that the world of political journalism and politics is entitled and arrogant. In my opinion, the previous MUP board prioritised political memoirs which are of no or little interest to anyone outside the cloistered political-journalistic circle of which you are part.

Several other points:

(1) I think patients who have rectal cancer would be glad that their doctor has access to an up-to-date Australian text when they’re being treated. This was a cheap and inappropriate shot. Just because YOU don’t care about a particular kind of knowledge doesn’t mean it’s worthless or shouldn’t be heard in some way.

(2) Politicians have plenty of options for publishers and plenty of platforms to put their ideas to the public. Academics have far more limited options, and a more limited audience, but again, this does not mean that their work is worthless: some knowledge may be specialised, but it can still be important (refer to point (1) above).

(3) You seem to think that MUP will swing back to publishing dry-as-dust texts. Personally, I hope that a revamped MUP will publish high academic works, textbooks and accessible, popular works which can be read by the public. There is a middle way in between only publishing political memoirs and publishing only high academic texts. In my opinion, MUP had swung too far in the former direction. I hope the pendulum settles in the middle.

(4) Indeed, related to (3), an option was given to the MUP board to have a separate imprint for its more popular titles but to refocus the main publishing business to academia. This was turned down, even though it seems to be an eminently sensible solution. A case of cutting off your nose to spite your face, in my view.

(5) Your slur that academics are incapable of writing accessibly is stereotyped and out of date.

Long ago, in its glory years, MUP was headed by Quadrant‘s Peter Ryan. His memoir of those days can be ordered here.


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