The problem with Fairfax

? Quadrant Magazine

David Flint finds where the problems lie with Fairfax:

For two decades now, successive Fairfax boards have hidden behind the charter. To them it has not been a charter of independence ? it has been an abdication of responsibility. The board has abandoned the running of newspapers to the journalists while they have concentrated on ?growing? the company business.

Instead, the business declined, exacerbated by the drying up of those famous rivers of gold, classified advertising. Roger Corbett?s Canute like defiance of the advertising drought, as recounted by Eric Beecher, would be funny if it were not so tragic. That the classified drought was coming was obvious. But successive boards and management were unable to rise to the challenge in the way any capable media mogul would have.

Fairfax has been run too long by a board full of accountants and management men most of whom – with the exception of the passing appearance of John Fairfax – knew absolutely nothing about the running of newspapers. Worse, they seem to have had little interest in doing so. Contrast that with the typical media mogul who is totally obsessed with and entranced by the media. The fact is, to make any media outlet a success, you have to know the media intimately.

Fair and square the board is to blame as those ultimately responsible…but the journalists and editors do not escape unscathed:

Faced with the abdication of responsibility by the Fairfax board, the journalists went their own way. A succession of charter based editors accepted that they were at most first among equals in these cosy, politically correct collectives. They result was those once great journals of record, the?Age?and the?Herald, were converted into fey mouthpieces of the bicycling vegan inner-city elites whose lives are far removed from the mainstream.

The journalistic collectives took the papers in a direction which first irritated and then outraged their traditional readerships. For years I have been told by countless numbers of people that they have given up their subscriptions to the Fairfax papers. Invariably, they mention the letters page which they see as a forum for the inner-city left. In both papers conservative, suburban, Australians are the subject of condescension and ridicule.

Sound familiar? I suspect the board at The NZ Herald is likewise facing the same issues.