A bricklayer’s quality journalism

fairfax chartIt’s a funny thing, how the most confident expectations are sometimes put pay by the unexpected twist. Take Fairfax Media, for example, which has been quietly informing contributor columnists that their insights are no longer required. A matter of money, you see, and a manifestation of the board’s policy of cutting overhead costs at a faster rate than the declines in the publisher’s Three Rs: Reporting, Revenue and Readers. Also factor in the consultants’ advice that paid journalism can be replaced by unpaid missives from no-cost outsiders, and if you have been wondering why plaintiffs’ lawyers now get the run of the opinion pages to lament how their clients have been mistreated and deserve large payouts, that might explain it.

Then you open today’s Age and, well, the jaw drops to the floor. There it is, a column by a bricklayer (!), a certain Mitchell Browne,  lamenting the rubbish the ABC puts to air (!!!).

“…Here is my own efficiency review of the ABC: If you are broadcasting four ABC TV channels, when you barely have enough quality material for one, that is not efficient. If you’re using taxpayers’ money to distribute soft porn, you are duplicating a service the private sector willingly provides for free.

And if you are doing all this in the honest belief there are no possible cost savings to be found, you should be out on your arse.

Sorry. You’ll have to excuse my language. Must have picked it up from my dirty Aunty.”

It is inconceivable any standard-issue Fairfax hack could or would have written those words. With the company circling the drain, no semi-intelligent keyboard-tickler is going to risk alienating the national broadcaster, a potential employer where those with mates and spouses on the payroll have already found sanctuary. There can’t be too many ABC slots left to fill, so why make enemies? 

But positions for bricklayers are not likely to figure in Aunty’s next wave of recruitments, so bricklayer Browne is free to speak his mind and, because Chairman Roger Corbett’s company is the addled, rudderless and impecunious mess that it is, those very un-Fairfax thoughts get published. 

The potential in this new approach is limitless. If one bricklayer can make so much sense, do so much better than a professional journalist, just imagine what untapped legions of plumbers, taxi drivers, manicurists and chicken-sexers might achieve.

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