Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hear about the asbestos scare down at the Townsville Bulletin? You sure wouldn't have if you depend on the paper for your news.

Yes, awards galore this week, the biggy going to the Bulletin - yet again they've won the Janus Two Faced BUMM Trophy, BUMM being for Barefaced Unmitigated Mendacity. Of course, the Irony Award of the week goes to the fact that it appears that asbestos is the only fireproof thing at the paper - the staff certainly aren't.
And in the series featured in this blog before under the general heading of  'All the news that's fit to print but isn't', The Astonisher garners two other gongs, the Callous Chalice for vicious ways to sack people and the Carelessness Cup for an interesting approach to workplace health and safety when asbestos starts gently raining down - a former staffer says she raised the issue of possible asbestos dust over a year ago, but was dismissed out of hand. Now that The Magpie has got the legal eagles rubbing their hands at the possibility of some lovely Murdoch moola, we'll have more on that later. 

The ABC also gets an award - the 'Huh, Come Again Double Entendre' award, Rugby Union gets the 'Ministry of Silly Names Encouragement Bowl and Vase' and for the 132nd straight time, the Queensland Government gets the Brat McEnroe 'You Must Be Joking'  silver raquet and balls platter, with a special mention for Premier Blight, who wins the Preposterous Policy Golden Doughnut.

So first, the minutae of the week, all here in the Nest at  
Just as headline writers have to be on the lookout for double meanings, so do radio folk.

The Magpie was thrown into deep contemplation when he repeatedly heard a promo on the local ABC station for a rural womens' award of some sort. All very worthy, of course, demonstrating that Aunty is in touch with the everyday life of ladies on the land. 

Well, maybe - maybe not -  because the end of the spiel goes something along these lines  "...and you can nominate a friend - or you can enter yourself'.  Hmmm, well, one suppose it's a lonely life when the old man is out boundary riding for days on end. This could be put in the 'self-evacuation' category of Huh? awards.

While we're in this neck of the woods, here's an unfortunate headline from last year, - which is not helped by the reporter's name.

While we're on the subject of names, we are all well aware of the strange burdens some people carry courtesy of mum and dad (there is surely a special parents 'What Were They Thinking Award' - current holders are the Peacock family in Melbourne who named their boy Drew). The sports arena gives you nowhere to hide, so American race car driver Dick Trickle grins and bears it privately.  He probably drives a Chevvy Chlamydia. And unwittingly, there was a Swedish rally car driver in the '50s called Bendt Axle. 

But the name that has The 'Pie wondering right now is the All Blacks rugby player Israel Dagg. Is this bloke a bogan from the western suburbs of Tel Aviv?  Does he have an 'I Love Jerusalem' tattoo on his bum? Whatever, you can bet he'll be leading his All Blacks to the promised land of the tryline, which all Kiwis believe is their's by right and by God. Just like Israel, the country.    

Now, on the next matter, whatever you do, DON'T PANIC!!! Stay calm, The Magpie has some soothing news for you.

Look, the old bird understands that there is alarm across the community now that the Townsville City Council has decided to close down its pioneering electronic weather early warning texting system and sign up to the to state government's apparently slicker plan. The idea will save the council money, the system is free, and no one will have to sign up for the service because it is planned that everybody in a given area will receive landline and mobile messages warning of impending dangerous weather. 

It is understandable that some of you have become little nervous nelly frighty pants excreting household building blocks, given that the system is now in the hands of Premier Blight's government.

Yes, yes, we know, it's the same government which, after almost two years, still hasn't been able to sort out the technology to pay Queensland health workers their wages, and yes,  it's the government which is still unable to fix the chronically ailing hospital system, and also can't (at least according to the LNP) account for $640million missing from last year's main roads budget. OK, OK, we know it still hasn't addressed the scandal of the Bruce Highway even after 20 years on the plush, and has managed to pile up the biggest deficit of any state and lose Queensland its coveted AAA credit rating etc etc etc. 

So you might wonder how they could manage sophisticated early warning weather alerts on mobiles. 

Rest easy, here's the good news to stop your throbbing temple. The Magpie has  been privileged to receive the first warning to be issued under this government-controlled scheme. The message was clear, concise and to the point. It read: ' October, 8, 2011. Special alert: you are advised of a large violent cyclone bearing down on the coast between Cooktown and Bowen. It is a category five cyclone and very dangerous. Please take all necessary precautions. The cyclone is called Yasi.' 

By this government's standards, timely stuff. The 'Pie is now awaiting the alert for Cyclone Althea.

And Premier Blight's suggestion that a new football stadium in the Townsville CBD would 'go to the top of the radar (sic)' if the Cowboys kept winning was a 'policy formulation' revelation of the first order. If performance is the benchmark, m'dear, you have just confirmed your fate next election.

Now, the biggy of the week. Have you heard about the Astonisher's asbestos crisis shock horror danger irresponsible - the sky is falling -  tots in danger - families ready to grieve on the front page if asked to do so - for Christ's sake, can we get a pregnant mum in here somewhere? - all Cowboys players safe although club tight-lipped about one getting a torn fingernail in close shave,  for f..k's sake, IS THERE A PREGNANT MUM SOMEWHERE HERE, and sensational scenes as people dive for their lives into the street although police deplore the violent kicking, scratching and 'Scuse me, love, you preggers, darl? Hold this puppy and look a bit frightened for our pic, there's a good girl- biting rush to leave the building - - an investigation is demanded from this paper which has been here for 130 years and 'is going nowhere' -  council refuses to comment but probably their fault - however, all garden gnomes safe in asbestos evacuation.

Errr, sorry, used the style the Astonisher would use if it happened to a local school, business or - gawd have mercy - a Townsville City Council-owned building. After all, asbestos scares are one of the staples for the Astonisher, just go to the Bulletin website and search 'asbestos' and from the scores of stories - several this year - you'll see just how this subject is (occasionally quite correctly) so beloved of editors. As a colleague put it, 'If it happened to someone else, they'd be all over it like a fat kid over a doughnut'.

But when it happened  to the Astonisher's Ogden St bunker, the language was a lot more sedate - very quiet, barely a whisper, in fact, non-existent, nothing, zilch. Not a single dickybird that The 'Pie could see. Suddenly, asbestos was off the news radar.

But it happened all right, some are even making Facebook comments on it, and, albeit three days later, Mary Vernon was the only one in the paper to talk about what otherwise would normally be a front page screamer - which would no doubt be followed by a hectoring editorial demanding all sorts of things. And embarrassingly, the whole schmozzle became evident just as media union reps were in the newsroom last Wednesday or so. White dust appeared on desks, and one report said it was seen falling from the ceiling, which is perhaps not true, but hey, this is being written with all the Astonisher's style and care.

There was a 'self-evacuation' and there has been an uncomfortable relocation of some staff to avoid the most badly affected areas of the building. There are reports of computers being scrapped, camera equipment being sent away for testing and the Sunday Mail's Townsville-based reporter sent for examination and x-rays (different management, different approach?).

And this ain't a news yarn, folks?  

Interesting thing is, a former staffer tells The 'Pie she raised questions about this very subject more than a year ago. According to the staffer, the complaint was airily dismissed because she said her complaint was regarded as a pain in the arse, a fact of which asbestosis does not take into account, maybe because it is more concerned with being a fatal pain in the lungs. She said the paper was content with its annual 'air quality' check.

At least one staff member was able to maintain a sense of humour in this Facebook pic - and no you twerps, he didn't send it to The 'Pie, who, like any journo, knows how to find interesting info for himself.

But maybe the jokes aren't appropriate in this PC nanny state world, of which Shrek Wilkins is a stauchly humorless grey eminence. It certainly raises some interesting questions. If it is true that staff are now going to have to have chest x-rays (no, Lendl, unfortunately personal examinations by the Chief of Stuff cannot be made mandatory) then will it apply to former staffers who have so often taken the odd deep breath to maintain civility? The Magpie awaits his medical appointment letter.

None of this is likely to come to pass unless a possible action is in the wind. The Magpie reckons it will just be callously dismissed if Shrek reckons he can get away with it. If The 'Pie is wrong, he look forward to your selective reporting of the matter, me old ogre.

But it's odds on this will be treated in much the same way as you brutally decided to give Mary Vernon her curt marching orders.

Honestly, Mary Vernon, a Townsville institution for decades, surely deserved the opportunity for a dignified and negotiated albeit forced departure, rather than the unmerited jackboot treatment she received from you and your spiteful and vindictive henchperson. Which, by the way, this said 'redundancy' being a matter also not reported in your pages, although there are those who reckon your readers should have been afforded the courtesy. (Privacy issues, The Magpie cloaca!)

But The 'Pie won't be your judge, Ogre me old darlin' - we both in our own ways are no doubt eagerly awaiting the next round of readership and circulation figures. The old bird sincerely hopes the new editor has the guts to stand up to you and end this editorial mendacity - and thus deliver a better set of figures.

Enough now, it is away to Poseurs' Bar, perchance to be-bubble and enter into conversation with a stolid country gal whom the old bird recently met. She needs cheering up, her hubby just happens to be out boundary riding for the next few days - so maybe conversation will not be the only thing The 'Pie will enter into ere the dawn.

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