Thursday, June 21, 2012

not the six o’clock news

Until "terminated" recently, I did a spot of work at the old Age building in Spencer St.

The whispers, at the time I left, included the following:
  • There are plans for a massive apartment complex on the site.
  • All the original letterpress machines still occupy the basement, as they are so big they cannot be removed until the building is demolished.

The press is now reporting that the Age is to go tabloid. No, tabloid is not a portmanteau word for “tablet + Android operating system”. Well, not yet, at least. Well, not necessarily on the cards at all, as major publishers are still flogging iPad as the newspaper of the future.

[For the benefit of this blog’s international readers, tabloid is simply a smaller and more manageable size for a newspaper – e.g. the Herald Sun.]

In the lift lobby on the floor where I worked, there was a carpet square which had an image [more recent version] of this chap.


Taking photos inside the building was strictly forbidden, and more than one staff member had been instantly dismissed for breaking this rule. I’m quite bummed out that I can’t find a similar image on the net.

[For the benefit of this blog’s international readers, ICPOTA was an acronym for It’s The Classified Pages Of The Age – quite a clever marketing ploy really, to anthropomorphise a service].
[***late edit... as per Windsmoke's comment below the acronym really stands for IN the classified etc]

This was the yard at which trucks congregated sometime around midnight when copies of the “doorstep” started spewing down the chutes for distribution. It was quite common for people to hang around outside at the same time, waiting to buy the first copies so they could read the accommodation/job and other ads before anyone else.

With all of the ad supplements the Age was once referred to as ‘the doorstep’ – quite reasonable at the time because after buying a copy at the local Milk Bar it usually took three trips to carry the whole thing home - unless one hired a moving van.

Few people ever bothered with the ads in the Sun. In marketing terms, the Age had positioned itself successfully as the place to go for ads.
Today, the classified/jobs link on the Age website simply transfers one to the My Career website. Fairfax missed the boat with this one, because the SEEK website has positioned itself more successfully as the place to go for job ads.

Until now I’d no idea that the Age was a broadsheet [double the size of a tabloid] simply because broadsheet was better for laying out classified ads.

I don’t like either job website. I don’t want some software program limiting my search to parameters someone else has decided are appropriate. Whatever happened to browsing?

But, back to the tabloid topic: For the benefit of international readers, ‘tabloid’ has always been a pejorative term, [any tabloid sized publication was assumed to have the same high journalistic standards of something like the National Enquirer.]
By extension, the most effective and subtle way to position oneself as an intellectual [pseudo, self-deluded, tosser or wotever] was to sit on a tram or train and turn the broadsheet pages of the Age [casually but competently] with a ho hum air of nonchalance.

The tabloid decision is an assault on my self-identity which I intend to take personally.

Apart from the classified problem, the Age is sinking because the rest of its content has developed a bit of a pong. Some of the opinion pieces are full of opinions that are just plain stupid. A more recent one was so badly written that after three attempts I gave up trying to work out what the premise was.

The content is increasingly ‘generic’, much of it written to satisfy both the NSW and Victorian customers of Fairfax. [I only mention this for the benefit of those of the international readers of this blog who are amused by the Sydney/ Melbourne rivalry.]

The literary supplement is so crappy I almost yearn for the days of the outdoor dunny.
Why, even “our” Germs has had pride of place directly under the Leunig cartoon for the last few weeks. [Admittedly I’ve no right to comment on her articles, because I couldn’t be bothered reading them.]

And now for the news: What news? The Herald Sun, god bless it, actually provided a clear and detailed breakdown of cuts to TAFE funding, and the colleges and courses affected. Not so the Age.
Further cuts to the Age reporting and editorial staff are unlikely to restore the paper to its former informative glory.

Where are the sub editors of old, who could be trusted to entertain us with witty headlines like “I fell on man, 18 stone detective says.”?

The Age website does have one gem of a headline tonight:

“Labor weighs in on media control” has been placed directly below a particularly unflattering picture of La Gina. Wit or just downright desperation?

The Labor Party is frightened of the idea Gina Rinehart might exert some editorial influence over the Age. I don’t understand their concern – if they can abandon their own ever so slightly left of centre philosophy, why not have another newspaper that stands for what they stand for? Assuming they still stand for anything.

The only thing I shall seriously miss is the Age Quiz. Sometimes I manage to score at least 50%  [for the benefit of any readers who can’t see the bleeding obvious, this is obviously because the quiz is written for Australian clever-dicks.]

The quiz in the Herald Sun seems to be a mixture of questions from syndicated American quizzes, Wisden’s Cricket Almanac, and AFL records. My score in that quiz usually ranges somewhere between “Hit the books” and “Hit the books”.

It pains me that a mere tabloid can make me feel so stupid.


  1. I always thought ICPOTA stood for In The Classified Pages Of The Age?? :-).

    1. Thanks Windsmoke, confirms it was indeed "IN" the classifieds. At least it's never likely to be a quiz question in the Hun.

      Of course, it's only a hop skip and a jump from here to all the song lyrics I got muddled for years.
      Perhaps we could have our own version of the game show 'name that tune', e.g. who sang the lyrics 'overtree in motion' ?


  2. As Windsmoke said. I am confident of that, less so of it being doorstop rather than doorstep, but then it was rather like a a step. ICPOTA was kinda cute. Irregular readers of The Age get their papers into a terrible mess on public transport. They can be comical to watch. You need at least one decade's practice of broadsheet page turning to do it with aplomb. Experience also teaches you not to even try if it is windy.

    1. Perhaps the doorstop/step thing was "colloquial" i.e. depending on who one "hung" with.
      Even when it's not windy... if only we had a butler at home here to iron the Hun and Age after messy people have got to it before me.

  3. A person could run The Age up the mast and sail to England on one issue!
    I miss The Age - no, I miss transparent, investigative journalism that presents the facts sans any political bias, which seems to be a pre-requisite with anything regurgitated under a headline these days :(

    1. I love the description of the Age as a sail! And I like the way you say you miss the Age - present tense. The horse has already bolted, so who cares who stands at the stable door?