Once excellent, now mediocre

For about 20 yeas I subscribed to the weekend editions of The Age. It was ritual for me to get out of bed, fire up the coffee machine, then trot down to the front of the house where the plastic wrapped Age was there waiting for me. A good many of those years Rigby would scamper ahead of me and with tail wagging leap upon the newspaper and clutch it in his mouth. He would turn to me triumphant, and together we would return inside for an hour or so extra in bed with a mug of good coffee and a newspaper to consume.

A few years back I stopped that. There were two reasons for it, the most being that I could no longer afford it. I was disaffected with Fairfax Media though also. Since the heyday of the eighties and nineties, when I first really read the paper, the quality has trailed off drastically. Once regularly touted as one of the best 10 newspapers in the world I wonder now if it would make the top 70. As someone with an interest in fine writing and in-depth analysis, the decline was something very sad.

There was another reason too, related to the previous. As an Essendon supporter I was utterly dismayed by the coverage of the supplements saga. Rather than conducting a thorough and impartial investigation into the murky events they very early on picked a side and rode it like a jockey in the cup. I suspect it was a commercial reason, though there are suggestions that the editor had a hatred of Essendon – footy being such a tribal sport that might be more likely than it seems. Whatever the reason they were hard on the case but prosecuted only the one side of it. Facts contradicting their preferred narrative were omitted from their reports and ignored in general, making for a very unbalanced and biased perspective. Over time it became more entrenched and more violent.

As a lifelong Essendon fan I was outraged by this. As an Age loyalist, I was terribly disappointed that once high standards had fallen prey to the cynical, subjective and partisan. And as an Australian seeking an honest and true investigation into what had really happened I was left in the dark.

All I wanted was the objective truth, ugly if it must be, but something at least I could read, understand and accept. To all those wondering why the likes of me can’t ‘move on’ then there’s a large part of your reason – almost all the reporting on this saga from day one has been skewed or partisan or mired in the murk, and much of it by design. We have suspected much more than we’ve been told, and while the so-called wheels of justice have rolled on we’ve been left without a satisfactory explanation.

This has come to a head this week, and a month or so ago when James Hird was admitted into hospital, and will continue to do so as long there are people unhappy with the conduct of this case. That is to say, it won’t disappear for years to come because there are many thousands still unwilling to accept the pup we’ve been sold. Count me among them. I believe eventually the truth will out because there remains such an active appetite for it, and because things always leak eventually – as we see now. I know I cannot accept anything less.

Regardless of this, I made a decision about a month ago to re-commence my weekend deliveries of The Age. I eased my conscience by reminding myself that the toxic editor had left. And for me, it was something more than getting a weekend paper delivered. It was a symbolic gesture, a re-connection to an earlier and much less troubled existence. It was another step towards being normal again.

It’s been two weekends now and it’s been pleasantly nostalgic to return to previous routines. Unfortunately, the newspaper is a very thin read today. I got through it in less than an hour today, and little more yesterday. Once upon a time they had iconic, respected journo’s across all facets of their coverage – now there are less than a handful I could name, and not all for the right reasons. As someone old enough to remember, truly sad.

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