Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Astonisher gets a new editor, just when News Ltd admits print is pretty well buggered, the pommy boo-boo brigade goes gaga (again) and our Wayne declared a little treasure.

Well a national one, actually.
More on that, as well as a couple of language traps that were sprung during the week, the dark night of the nanny state gets worse in England, and how Typo's last hurrah became more of an harumph. All here in this week's Nest at
The boss of brewers Fosters (soon to be sold off overseas) has told us that profits were down 'because of weak beer sales'. If this was frank admission of business practice, he can't be too surprised, who wants to buy watered-down beer? Which reminds The 'Pie of the old jibe about Watney's beer in London: What's the difference between making love in a rowboat and Watney's beer? Nothing much, they're both f....g close to water. Boom bloody boom. No, no, sorry, sorry, please keep reading, it can only get better. Obviously.

And in the same vein, believe it or not, there was at least one time in the last week when The Magpie felt sorry for Julia Gillard; her verbal guffaw was not her fault.

On a news bulletin, there was an item about union officials ripping off millions from their members, and about the legal tin snips awaiting them. The very next item was the PM on a quest to stop the slide in ALP membership. She said her aim was 'to offer Labor Party members a richer experience'. Which is undoubtedly the reason those union rorters joined up.

Then there's ... gasp, gurgle ... the news that Wayne The Goose Swan is - apparently -  the Best Treasurer in the World - snurffle, wheeze.

While it is true that The Goose helped us weather the Global Financial Crisis better than anyone else, it completely ignores the fact that he did so because of the overflowing piggy bank left him by Peter Costello and John Howard. Even Emmanuel and Julie Cassimatias could've successfully managed the crisis with that sort of loot - well, maybe. 

But the best bit in this thigh-slapper is seen in the people who awarded this accolade: a mob closely associated with Euro bankers. Bankers rhymes with ....? When not busy giving New York hotel maids a bit of a seeing-to, this is the sort of crowd who have mired themselves so deeply in the leaky greed bucket that even if they could be hosed down, they still couldn't find their own arses with a mirror, two hands and a torch. But then, they did find Wayne Swan.

While up that end of the planet, in the world's leading nanny state England, the boo-hoo brigade has really sunk into the twilight zone. Now, kids as young as three have had permanent records made of their schoolyard jibes that will travel through them entire lives with them - branding them racists and even possibly terrorists. One instance had a pre-schooler calling another a 'broccoli head', and has thus been noted as a racist and a bigot. In years to come, what they did and said between the ages of three and eleven could come back to haunt them as adults, when school references are sought when applying for jobs. See it here.

Now onto the big environmental story of the week.

The journalistic oil slick that has despoiled the Townsville and North Queensland news landscape for the past three years has finally drifted south.

Yes, the Keep Townsville Beautiful Campaign took a major step yesterday, when 'The bully of the Bully' Peter Typo Gleeson was replaced as editor of the Daily Astonisher by one Lachlan Heywood, late of the Courier Mail. 

The 'Pie is told that Heywood is a nice bloke with a bit of nous and experience, but as the old bird said yesterday, the proof of this particular pudding will be in the proof reading. 

He doesn't take over until November 7, so ironically, the straight arrow who The 'Pie reckons should have got the gig anyway, local bloke Ray Anderson, will probably fill the chair until then. Maybe it's possible Ray didn't want the job, but hiring a level-headed local who knows the scene would be too much of a stretch for The Bulletin's southern masters anyway.

Typo Gleeson lost the plot completely in the last week, with final-shot, incoherent, foam-flecked rants against his favourite target, the Townsville City Council. This extended even to refusing to publish - the next day - a well-reasoned and unemotional letter of rebuttal from the TCC's acting CEO against his perniciously wrong editorial (only 180 degrees wrong) of the water take-up choice offered by the council. (So much for fair and balanced.)    

A question: Typo, mate, if you care for the place so much, and obviously feel that we so sorely need your political guidance, why are you deserting us in our apparent hour of need? (But, kerrrist, please don't change your mind!) 

Maybe Bentley's opinion has something to do with it.

While we're in this neck of the woods, the circulation folk at The Astonisher recently had another reason to hold their heads in their hands. 

Here's a pic taken at the recent weekend triathalon staging area on The Strand. These soggy bundles of the Townsville Bulletin were supposed to be handed out to anyone who wanted them, but it seems at least these couple of thousand copies would have to be pulped - just like it is rumoured that a similar number met a similar fate after the V8 SuperPests weekend. 

That's a significant blow to the circulation figures on which the Astonisher's advertising rate card depends. Because no one has read them, surely these copies cannot be counted as circulation, can they? Nahhh, the paper wouldn't make that sort of questionable claim. Would they?   

But in the broader picture, Mr Heywood is going to have his work cut out for him, because News Ltd in Australia is facing somewhat more pressing challenges other than worrying about North Queensland. Neverthless, as with all national and global companies, the effects of that concern looks set to have a major impact up here.
Have a look at this:  headed Staff Hiring Freeze And Cost Reduction Targets, it was written by a senior bean counter at News to all bosses in Australia. It was dropped into the Nest this week by a fellow blogger. It is longish - sorry - and slightly edited, but it is important because it will in all likelihood affect the quality of news gathered and delivered in this community.

It is clear from the last few months of trading, trends over the last 3 years, and ongoing economic uncertainty and volatility that we need to significantly reduce our cost base. This was the unanimous view of senior management that attended a two day business review led by John Hartigan. It is also the view of the NewsCorp Office of the Chairman.
Furthermore, it is important that we reduce our cost base as part of our overall business strategy to maximise cash flow in our print business to enable us to invest heavily in a new digital business whilst generating satisfactory shareholder return.
We need to set group wide cost reduction targets of 15% - 20% over a 3 year period.
To that end, John Hartigan has asked me to immediately execute two initiatives across the business -
1. Staff Hiring Freeze:
Effective immediately, all staff hires, permanent or temporary, will need approval from Head Office. This approval is required for replacement or new staff regardless of prior budget approval. 
2. Cost Reduction Targets:
Each division and group function is to formulate plans to reduce costs by 5% against full year budget. In formulating your plans, you should assume that group recharges reduce by 5%. I will confirm this or otherwise once I have received the cost reduction plans from group executives. All cost reduction plans should be sent to Stephen Rue and Karin Chan by Wednesday 31 August. It is important to note that although we should all look at marketing costs, we should be careful tonot underspend on marketing unnecessarily given the poor circulation sales of late.
In order to assist with further cost reduction, over and beyond the divisional and group 5% targets, I will be coordinating benchmarking and cross divisional meetings for key areas, including Prepress, Finance, Production, Distribution, Sales and Marketing.
I will also be coordinating a group wide review of travel and accommodation costs. In the meantime, however, you should all review travel and accommodation costs with a view to significantly reducing expenditure.
I expect to announce further cost initiatives in coming weeks and months.
I am very conscious that cost reduction requires difficult decision making and involves assessing tradeoffs. However, it is an essential piece of work we must all support unreservedly as we need to both react to falls in revenue and the need to generate cash flow to invest in our digital business and to provide a satisfactory return to our shareholders.

The News Ltd directive, written by one of the corporation's senior say-so's, is straightforward enough to get two things clear. 

News Ltd agrees with what everyone else has known for a while, that print is, if not caputzo finito then certainly a rapidly waning arm of the information industry, and digital is the only way to go. 

The second thing is that the razor gang is up and running with a vengeance. 

Now, all this is straight business and understandable - and as Shrek has so often said, he has the right and responsibility to look after his shareholders interests first and foremost, certainly well ahead of local jobs. OK, that's sort of fair enough in this free market world of centralisation and greed.

So this memo makes it almost certain that the 22 or so sub-editors jobs at the Townsville Bulletin - which yonks ago The 'Pie signaled were in danger despite Shrek's smarmy denials - could go at any time. Like the 34 other employees sacked en masse late last year, some of these positions will be transferred 1500 kms south to a Brisbane sweatshop sub-editing hub. If recent history is any guide, none of the sacked people will be given any assistance to uproot themselves and apply for positions down there.

One would hope that when this unhappily comes to pass - probably sooner rather than later this financial year - at least we will spared the mealy-mouthed and sanctimonious intonation of Shrek the Undertaker and his previous editor, who deigned to lecture the likes of Ergon that it wasn't so much the bottom line that mattered, but community responsibility and community social considerations that should be first and foremost.  At least, that's what they told Ergon about where it should locate its headquarters. Ha!

As Bette Davis so famously said, 'Fasten your seats-belts, it's going to be a bumpy night'.

Enough now, it is away to Poseurs' Bar, where the old bird will circulate strongly, avoiding watered-down beer but ever ready to take a suitable companion for a bit of a row in the moonlight.

1 comment:

  1. Seems to me that the definition of an optimist would be a Bully-Tin sub-editor ironing five shirts on Monday night...