Bit of a sad walk down the driveway this morning to pick up the weekend paper.
For some eight years of Saturdays, lying close together on our cul-de-sac have been our Saturday edition of The Sydney Morning Herald and our neighbours’ Northern Star.
Not any more, of course. The Lismore-based Northern Star was one of more than one hundred historic rural and regional mastheads around Australia that ceased their lives in printed form over the past week or so.
Last Saturday, as I’ve done for eight years, I’ve grabbed that rolled-up copy of the Northern Star and shoved – make that squeezed – it under the cowling – well that’s my word for it – on top of our neighbours’ letterbox. We do that sort of thing for each other in the country.
The Saturday Star has always been a tight fit: it has always been as thick as a donkey’s dick; the COVID-ravaged SMH the width of granny’s rolling pin.
My cowling coefficient has for years been my totally unreliable way of calculating how each paper has been faring, before and during COVID-19.
And take it from me. The Saturday Star has always been at twice as thick as the Saturday SMH, supposedly the edition keeping that Nine Entertainment masthead alive in printed form six days a week.
The Star remained a tight fit on top of that letter box all through COVID-19 while I took the precaution of getting down there early in case the SMH blew away, even when rolled-up.
Everything about the SMH shrunk alarmingly as the virus hit, except the $4.60 cover price, of course. Funny how the publishers never offered a discount as various magazines and the travel section disappeared completely.
There are more scientific ways of measuring a paper’s financial viability, of course.
Take that final print edition of the Star (pictured).
The rivers of gold – the classifieds – that once had some newspapers at a mouth-watering 70 per cent ad content have long gone, but the main 72-page book had a very healthy 36 pages of paid display and classified ads.
Fifty bloody per cent!
And that’s ignoring various house ads plugging how great the net-only version of the paper is supposedly going to be for advertisers from now on.
The glossy real estate magazine ran to 60 pages, almost entirely paid advertising. Lots of luck, News Corpse, in getting that ad revenue transferred in full to the paper’s website or on realestate.com.au!
That final issue might have had some “farewell” style ads but take it from my cowling calculator, last week’s final issue wasn’t any bigger than others over recent months.
My CC – or is that CCC? – told me that if any paper should have ceased publication last Saturday, it should have been the Herald.
Instead, as the Star‘s farewell front-page tells us, the people of the Northern Rivers have lost a printed paper that had served them very, very well for 144 years.
The Dirty Digger’s boast across many of his mastheads – We’re for You – has been proven to count for nothing. Murdoch is for him. He couldn’t give a fuck about you. That’s the truth.
As someone who for 15 or so years tried to keep Murdoch less dishonest in the inner-Brisbane community newspaper marketplace, I think the loss of the Northern Star and so many other great mastheads in print form is a national disgrace and a terrible loss of journos, printers and general newspaper office staff.
Murdoch’s bean-counting buffoons have won, but I think they’ve got it terribly wrong.
From what I squeezed under that cowling these past eight years, I simply do not believe that the Star could not have continued as a very profitable printed paper, albeit maybe with a mid-week and Saturday editions.
I have four greats hopes.
That those who subscribed to the hardcopy Northern Star reject Murdoch’s bullshit claim that somehow the Sydney-centric Daily Telegraph is now their print-media voice for the state’s north. Tell him to shove it up his decrepit clacker.
That those subscribers reluctantly support the paper’s online edition, if that’s the only way forward to keep the fourth estate alive if not thriving in Australia.
That all the paper’s print media advertisers of years past treat the online paper with disdain; and
Some entrepreneurial souls step forward and fill this shameful void with a new local community voice that the residents of the Northern Rivers can get their hands on.
Ditto for all those other printed mastheads shafted by this vile, self-centred, flaccid-arsed, ethically bereft, anti-journalism American who has absolutely no interest in what’s best for the people of Australia.
POSTSCRIPT ONE: Well, fark me!!!! My neighbours have just told me that for all those years, the Gold Coast Bulletin was wrapped inside their copy of the Northern Star. Does that change the general trust of all my arguments above? Not really. Last week’s final Star was still the width of one of those fancy energy-drink cans. Recent Saturday SMHs and Sun-Heralds have been broom-handle width. The final Star as stated had a 60-page main book chokers with ads. Last Saturday’s SMH had just over 25 per cent advertising in roughly the same number of pages if you add to a 44-page main book, a 12-page business liftout, real estate pages and a traveller section not large enough to wipe any respectable arse totally clean.
POSTSCRIPT TWO: I really should have mentioned the Byron Bay Echo, the respected weekly independent that will continue to provide real journalism in hardcopy form. May all the ads that used to be in the now axed Byron Bay News flow to the Echo and help keep it with us for a long. long time.