There are many places where the “future of newspapers” is debated. It happens in the New York Times, on Twitter, on Crikey.com.au and on blogs, broadsheets and in back rooms. For the most part, I stay out of these conversations – clearly the publishing industry is under pressure and undergoing significant structural change (as it has been for well over 20 years), and we all have vested interests somewhere here.
My media consumption these days is mostly digital. This includes a large variety of online sources of news and information – but it also includes the Sydney Morning Herald’s website – where today, I stumbled upon this piece from Miranda Devine.
I was surprised at the tone and at the argument. At a time where the forest fires are still burning in Victoria, and containment lines being threatened, it not only seems too early to begin pointing fingers, it seems astounding that anyone would absolve any arsonist from responsibility. Miranda Devine begins her article, Green ideas must take blame for deaths as follows:
It wasn't climate change which killed as many as 300 people in Victoria last weekend. It wasn't arsonists …
So many people need not have died so horribly. The warnings have been there for a decade. If politicians are intent on whipping up a lynch mob to divert attention from their own culpability, it is not arsonists who should be hanging from lamp-posts but greenies.
Kieran Bennett has written a response, that is well worth reading.
Over the years I have enjoyed reading the Sydney Morning Herald, but have watched it become increasingly focused on lifestyle and opinion over the news and reportage that most interests me. I still have the weekend papers delivered to my door but find that I am leaving large sections wholly untouched every weekend. But after this article, I am cancelling my subscription. If this is where the future of newspapers is going, then they can go there without my interest or patronage.
Of course, I may end up being scornfully quoted on the Herald site in response. But by then, I will have been long disconnected from the Sydney Morning Herald and all who write for it.
UPDATE: Frank Sting writes an open letter to the Sydney Morning Herald Editor. You can read it here.