February 18

What is inevitable and who is dysfunctional now?

If there are two words whose use is almost guaranteed in republican commentary,  they are “inevitable” and “dysfunctional”.

Years ago when he was leading the republican movement, Malcolm Turnbull suddenly realised their inevitability campaign was a two edged sword. 

If a politicians’ republic is inevitable, why do anything about it?

Of course it is not inevitable, but serve the republicans right for mounting such a massive campaign to persuade people that it is.

…  dysfunctional …

The other code word is “dysfunctional”. In essence this means that the marriages of a few members of the Royal Family  have been dissolved.  Unless they are hypocrites, republican writers are claiming their marriages have a higher success rate than the rest of the country.

While we may lament the fact that so many  marriages  today are not successful, this is a widespread phenomenon.  

It probably also applies to republicans, including republican journalists. 

So why do republicans isolate members of the Royal Family for this opprobrium? The answer is obvious.

…what is inevitable? ……


It was timely then to read that “the death of printed newspapers is considered an inevitability”  (James Chessell and Geoff Elliott “Papering over the Fairfax cracks”  The Australian 8 December, 2010)

I doubt that , but I suspect it is far more likely than Australia becoming a politicians’ republic.  

…and who is dysfunctional now?


What was intriguing was to see the charge of dysfunctionality cast at the publisher of the most republican newspaper in Australia, The Age and another leading republican newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald.

[Continued  below]

The publisher of the online media site Crikey, Eric Beecher, is a long-time media executive. He offered this critique on his site (7/12), declaring Fairfax "dysfunctional". He wrote:

Fairfax Media is arguably the most opportunistic company in Australia. Over the past decade, it has never lost the opportunity to shoot itself in the foot or to publicly showcase its dysfunctionality.

Yesterday it was at it again.

The announcement of the 'resignation' of its CEO, Brian McCarthy, was another occasion to prove that the publisher of two of Australia's most important papers, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, has no peer when it comes to dissembling or incompetence.

There are two key elements at the heart of what happened at Fairfax yesterday, and has been unravelling for the past 10 years.

First, no one knows the right answers to the existential threats to old media because many of the answers have yet to be invented.

And second, in order to position yourself to find the answers you need to be competent, knowledgeable, intuitive, flexible and honest about what you don’t know.

Fairfax is none of those things. It is a dysfunctional company led by an incompetent board chaired by a former retailer, Roger Corbett, whose answer to the crisis afflicting newspapers is to sprout generalities such as “revenue streams of the future are all very challenging but we will be working to ensure that we deliver the very best” and ”the really important thing is that we provide quality journalism that people actually want”.

Unlike Rupert Murdoch, whose local media arm has not just revelled in reporting Fairfax’s antics for a decade but is ruthlessly turning the commercial screws on their hapless competitor every day, the Fairfax chairmanthe de facto “proprietor” in a company without an ownerdoesn’t know what he doesn’t know and has no instinct for media at the precise moment that his company desperately needs such a person at the helm.

Beecher, of course, sold his Text Media to Fairfax for $67 million, which was a fantastic deal for him but one that did not turn out well under Fairfax management.


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