My latest 'brilliant' idea is start a blog to monitor the awful stranglehold that News Corp. has over Australian news. Nearly all the major newspapers in Australia (e.g., The Australian, Sydney's Daily Telegraph, Melbourne's The Herald Sun, Brisbane's Courier-Mail) are owned by Rupert Murdoch's company, and in some cities, such as Brisbane, there is no real competitor. News Corp. also owns, of course, the UK's The Times and The Sun, as well as The New York Post (and now The Wall Street Journal). And then there are the biggest beasts of all, Fox News and Sky News. Of course, as we watch newspapers die all over the place, all this consolidation of various news outlets makes sense from a business point of view. It's clear that News Corp. makes good use of its various assets by circulating the same story in each of its papers. The stories on the international pages of the Courier-Mail, for example, are typically attributed to The Sun, The Times, and The Post. The problem, however, particularly in this country, is that one reporter can have an immense effect with one little story because it can be immediately picked up and passed along to all the News Corp. outlets worldwide.
Such was the case when Britney Spears came to Australia. In the week prior to her visit, one of the News Corp. papers ran a story about how some fans were willing to pay hundreds of dollars to watch Britney lip-sync. That story appeared in every city's paper, and the morning television stations even chatted about it. The pump was now primed, and all it took next was Britney's first concert in Perth to ignite a bigger story. A News Corp. reporter in Perth showed up to that concert (ostensibly to write a "review"), and published a story the following day about the "hundreds" of concertgoers who walked out of the concert because of all the lip-syncing. That story appeared with a big headline in all the News Corp. papers in Australia, which, in turn, was picked up by the British papers. Before Britney woke up the next morning, a worldwide controversy had erupted, dubbed by some (at News Corp.) as "Britney-gate." It didn't matter that Britney's lip-syncing had been going on for months during the tour and that everyone was well aware of it already (as evidenced by the story that appeared prior to her arrival in Oz). It also didn't matter to News Corp. that some of the people leaving early did so because they were upset about other things like their bad seats, or that it was nearly impossible to find evidence of these walkouts at other concerts. But the story got bigger and bigger, and soon the non-News Corp. outlets were reporting the story of Britney-gate (all based on the Perth reporter's article). On the basis of these stories, singers John Mayer and Michael Buble rushed to defend Britney, providing even more fodder for the News Corp. machine.
I have watched several similar news cycles come and go since I have arrived here, and I am still amazed how successful they seem to be for News Corp. For example, sixteen-year-old Jessica Watson's solo trip around the world on a yacht was initially praised by the News Corp. reporters, but then it went through a stage where they focused on how unprepared she was, and now they've gone back to a cheering role by providing regular updates of her progress (mainly by paraphrasing from her blog). I guess this is what happens when the readership is relatively tiny, the pool of "big" news stories is small, and the competition is weak. And don't even get me started on the lingerie and bikini photo galleries that feature prominently on Australian news websites.
Well, when I figure out how to clone a more energetic and youthful version of myself, perhaps I can convince him to start that new blog.