|Issue No 4||12 March 1999|
Piers Gets A New Boss
By Peter Lewis
The news of the week was the departure of the Daily Telegraph's long-serving editor Col Allen to a more senior position in the News Ltd empire. The man who provided Piers with a platform for five long years has moved upstairs.
But those hoping to celebrate the end of an era for the once working person's paper should not break out the champagne yet. Col will still be overseeing the show from upstairs and new editor Steve Howard is straight out of the News Ltd mould.
I worked for the Telegraph while Steve was running the "back bench"; the main filter between the journalists and their stories getting into the paper. My main memory is his reaction to a story I did on a group of LHMU delegates from sheltered workshops.
In my naivety I thought a story on a group of intellectually and physically disabled workers standing up for themselves could be an interesting read that would promote positive role models. I spent an afternoon with them and was personally inspired by their courage and commitment. As they gathered for a group photo, I was confident this would be a solid Tele picture story.
That was until Steve saw the photos "We can't print this," he railed at me, "they're all wearing bloody tracksuits!" It was then I realised that my days at the Telegraph were numbered.
The early indications are that the new Telegraph will continue Col's formula: provocative front page pushing a political agenda; a good-looking chick with a tenuous link to a news story on page 3 and Piers' bile on page 11.
And this week's offerings have been straight out of the Tele textbook.
Piers' nasty personal attack on Sue Simpson for having the temerity to represent her members begs a full response in a future issue of Workers Online.
Meanwhile, Wednesday's front page resurrected a device not seen since Piers' stint as editor of Melbourne's Herald-Sun -- the page one editorial which was a double-punch -- supporting youth wages and attacking unions for allegedly not supporting a work for the dole scheme.
The youth wages piece was dressed up around a photo of an attractive teenager who said she'd do anything to get a job. Journalists who contacted her later in the day confirm the youngster had no idea her image was going to be used to run a political agenda.
Meanwhile, unions were under the gun for having the gall to question whether they should support work-for-the-dole schemes, the result of Howard's wedge-politics attempt to cast unemployed people as users, rather than victims of a system which has rejected them.
The arguments of the unions that these Mickey Mouse training courses were taking real jobs and diverting resources from other areas was disregarded in the face of the unsubstantiated assertions that work for the dole is good for young people.
Moreover, the union targeted for criticism, the Australian Workers Union, denied any involvement in the veto. Pity no-one from the Tele managed to contact them before running the piece.
And editorials aren't the only things on page one of the Telegraph in the post-Col era.
Earlier in the week the Terror's "exclusive" preview of the Olympic torch, represented a further blurring of the lines between promotion, advertising and news.
Under attack for leaking the torch to the Tele, Olympics Minister Michael Knight claimed it was a "promotion" not a news story, so journos should not be complaining. News Ltd has paid money to get drops on torch and ticketing stories, something SOCOG chief Sandy Holloway says is essential for ensuring the Games make budget.
My question is that if we accept that the torch preview was indeed a promotion, is the Telegraph which ran it on its front-page still a "news" paper? Or has it become something different, a promotional publication: which "promotes" its commercial, sporting and political interests with equal zeal.
If it has, perhaps the Telegraph has positioned itself at the forefront of the new media without even realising it. It has thrown off the cloak of objectivity and has constructed a truth to fit its own interests. Greedy and self-interested? Sure. But perhaps we have before us the nation's first truly post-modern publication.
Interview: Jennie George - Eyeing 2000
The ACTU President looks to the future and erects a few new signposts for her last 12 months in office and beyond.
Unions: Trade Unions Thinking Globally
How do you put people first in a global economy? That's the question for an international trade union conference in Sydney this week.
History: The Pioneers: Trade Unions Before 1850
Labour historian Greg Patmore looks at the early days of unions in Australia
Review: Opening Spaces For a New Labor
A new book by Sydney academic McKenzie Wark looks at how Labor must adapt to the popular culture.
Campaign Diary: On The Bus - A Tale Of Two Campaigns
As the State election campaign moves into full swing, Workers Online looks at how the management of the media by the two main parties is reflecting their strategies.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005