September 22, 2015

Horse 1988 - From The East Coast Twitterati

Before the Canning by-election comments were made about the "East Coast Twitterati" being out of touch with West Australian politics and the implication was that journalists in particular were out of touch with issues which dominated the local campaign. To some degree this is schizophrenic because whilst it is true that every election is a by-election, even in a general election we still only vote for the local candidate, to some degree every by-election is a poll in the confidence that the public has in the national government.
That aside, I think that the complaint about journalism in Australia being dominated by the east coast is valid but I'll go one step further and say that it's not just the east coast cities which dominate the national political dialogue but the eastern side of the big two east coast cities.

Apart from the West-Australian, the Adelaide Advertiser and the Courier-Mail, the big newspapers in Australia are the Herald-Sun and The Age in Melbourne, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph in Sydney and whilst the Australian pegs itself as a national newspaper, its pretty well much a Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra newspaper. I didn't include the Canberra Times because let's be honest, although Canberra is the nation's capital, it really is just a big provincial centre and I think that Parramatta in Sydney's west probably contributes more to the national dialogue than Canberra does. Apart from the monkey house on the hill, Canberra is a sleepy town in which everything is permanently shut except for the cinemas which still have the sing-along version of Frozen playing on every single screen.*
I would wager a shiny shilling that of those five newspapers from Scuderia Fairfax and Team News Corp, that all of their journalists except those who have been exiled to Canberra live in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney.

Sydney which is a radial city with spokes for the arterials, is helpfully demarcated into the west and the east by either the ring of roads which Ryde Rd lies on Pennant Hills Red depending on whether you want to include places like Normanhurst or Epping. Either way, I seriously doubt whether anyone writing for the Sydney Morning Herald or the Daily Telegraph lives in Sydney's west. Even though the Daily Telegraph once proudly boasted "We're for the West" I don't think that anyone from the DT would willingly even go west of Strathfield unless they were forced to. A place like Sefton may as well be on the moon for all the journalists in Sydney know.
Likewise in Melbourne, apart from a few people who might live in the postcode of 3000, I doubt whether any journalist who writes for the Herald-Sun or The Age lives west of Sydney Rd. Docklands stadium is probably as far west as they get and the way the the trains and trams are designed, trains from the east go round the city loop and back out to the east again and so there's not even the chance of falling asleep on the train and accidentally ending up in a place like Tottenham. I bet that Spotswood according to Melbourne's journalists, should be ejected to the moon. In fact in secret documents** that Horse has obtained under the 30 year rule, the rocket tests at the Woomera site in the 1950's and 60's were about launching Spotswood and landing the whole suburb on the Sea of Tranquility. The reasoning was that according to the journalists and the politicians, that the people of Spotswood would be too thick to notice until their Centrelink payments stopped.

Even in the heyday of newspapers, journalism had barriers to entry which ensured that people from the western suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney did not get through. In those days if you couldn't read you became a tradesperson, if you could read you became and engineer and if you actually went to university then you were of no use to anyone in the west; so you moved.
Especially over the last 15 years when journalism has been reduced to the lowest possible denominator (no Huffington Post, the reason that I refused to write for you is that "exposure" doesn't pay the electric bills or the rent), journalism has started to eat itself and so the number of positions for columnists has fallen through the floor. Unless you do have a name like Johnathan Holmes, Annabel Crabb, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt or Peter Hartcher, neither Scuderia Fairfax or Team News Corp is likely to hire you. The ABC might, provided you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao or Margaret Thatcher as the corporation lurches from left to right whilst being yelled at by Team News Corp.

I was reminded of the view that the country has of the east coast Twitterati again over the weekend when I was sent some lovely abuse on Twitter. Australia unlike the United States doesn't really have the two echo chambers where the two side of politics self-affirm that they are right and the opposition is the enemy; instead we have #AusPol where both sides constantly yell at each other from the safety of lounge chairs. #AusPol is like two mad uncles roaring at each other in the attic and occasionally the odd axe gets thrown around. #AusPol apart from being the fastest political news source in the country, is also a 24-hour flame war - flame wars are great. They keep you warm at night.
Anyway apart from being labelled something distinctly Saxon in nature, I was accused of being part of the east coast Twitterati set: that mythical group of people sitting around in cafés sipping lattes and/or European beers with umlauts and lightning bolts in the letters of their name.
The truth is that I live so far in the western suburbs that I can literally see the Blue Mountains from the local railway station. Even 20 years ago, the members on the electoral roll out here would have included a few hundred cows (having won the franchise in the Bovine Electoral Act 1924) and a dog named Kevin (who votes National because he likes Barnaby Joyce's policy to keep out Pistol and Boo). The. Chinese restaurants out here still have faux 1970s wood panelling on the walls and spaghetti still mostly comes in cans.
No one who writes for either the Daily Telegraph or the Sydney Morning Herald would likely be able to find my suburb within five miles except for maybe Mark Latham who is as mad as a cut snake and probably still thinks that Paul Keating is still Prime Minister.

I suspect through that if one of the duumvirate of newspaper groups were to offer me a packet of money to write for them, I probably would accept it and maybe even move east. I don't think I'd move very far east though, maybe as far as Harris Park; good luck if the east coast Twitterati can find that on a map. If you can, there's a shiny shilling in it for you.

*This fact is made up. It might be entirely possible by now that the cinemas in Canberra now have Minions on a perpetual loop.
**So secret that these were also made up and don't actually exist.

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