An Old Newspaperman’s Lament

Another guest post – today from The Pub’s special correspondent Scringler. Many thanks, sir!

FOR my sins, I found myself many moons ago as Deputy Features Editor on a major daily tabloid rag.

(I began in newspapers as a cadet then staff photographer on a major broadsheet daily in the mid 1960s. Yep, Leicas!)

Jumping forward. The then editor of the tabloid was a good bloke, steeped in the ethics and craft of journalism. He was the last of the breed.

The next editor was a notorious piss-pot. As an editor, he had the makings of a half-suitable, down-table sub. He knew his commas. (Years later, he reappeared on another newspaper – as a down-table sub. It was a sorry sight.)


This was a time when newspapers were fiddling with computers. As a youngish stick-in-the mud I, along with my colleagues, poured shit on the concept of computers replacing linotype machines. Hardly decent.

However, in my “responsible” position, I became a guinea pig. There was this computer guru who believed that newspapers could be produced – on a computer! What a dickhead!

Then I was given a tour of the inner sanctum – the computer room. Two massive units, both with cosy names … bloody scary. Shit. Welcome to future shock.

Later, the guru presented me with some yarn or other for the next edition. It was on a disc, or something. I peered at the words on a tiny computer screen – and recklessly pressed the tit.

This is a big claim, and open to correction, but I think I might have been responsible for the first-ever, computer-produced page published in a major metropolitan newspaper. Sorry.

It looked like shit. A great wodge of daunting type. Dense. Like a Paul Kelly or a Michelle Grattan special – with extra fog.

But what I failed to realise was that it was an omen of things to come. When the time-honoured checks and balances would be phased out.

That night, when the organ was printed, during a special committee meeting after midnight at the pub, upstairs in the Press Bar, I copped sustained, heavy flak.

Details are somewhat vague. Suffice to say that the ultimate view was: This shit won’t work.

It all went downhill from there. As was our wont, we had several for the road. One or two for the New Guinea Potoroo, poor little endangered bastard.

Then … various threatened birds.

We were prize dills.


Years earlier, I found myself subbing on a regional daily. One hazy afternoon, subbing stuff, half asleep … the chief sub fell on the floor. And went, sort of, pink. This was unusual.

Of course, we were somewhat concerned. We did notice that he had a slip of copy paper clutched tightly in his hand.

The paper, at that time, retained a dear old soul who wrote the wedding notes. Marg was a product of a sheltered life, not a nasty bone in her body. She saw, she reported.

Marg regarded sub-editors as a form of low life, cockroach level, and would not allow changes to her copy.


Moving on … Editors came and went. Not your normal run of piss-pots. Rather, hard-edged arseholes with an agenda. One, I believe, fled west.

Several years earlier, along with about six others, I was declared “redundant” by a Murdoch publication.

Out of the blue. Whack.

My colleagues transported me to the Celtic Club for calming ales. We were, I now realise, in shock.

The act was brief and brutal. I was given no time to clear my desk.

I could not collect my belongings. The front door was secured by … guards. Yes. Possibly armed.

Get fucked, said my colleagues: suffice to say, my meagre possessions were, in due course, returned. Thanks for that experience Rupert, you prick.

My late partner, Jo Anne, picked me up after this episode.

Jo Anne seethed for many years about this and never forgave. Jo Anne was a champion hater, blessed with a long memory. She loathed Abbott. “A poor excuse for a man.”


Anyway, much later, I joined the mob up the road. The chief sub, an honourable bloke with more than a passing interest in quality journalism, shouted me a beer or two in the Bog Bar. It was good and pleasant company.

Then, a tour of the premises. At this point, it must be admitted, your correspondent was nudging non-walking mode.

I bought a linotype machine. For 50 bucks. They were lined up in a loading bay, ready for collection by a scrap-metal merchant.


Then came years of hard slog. Wading through great gobs of text, written by ego-besotted wankers.

This was the era of the “downsizing” fad. Anyone aged 30 was considered old and smelly.

Part of a sub’s job is to check the use of foreign words, in this case French.

Forget the word but, upon checking, it was not only wrong, it contradicted the author’s premise.

I had a friendly chat with the author, and she said: “Yes. I know. But I like the look of the word.”

At this point, I gave up. What is the point?

Not long after, I resigned and, after more hard slog, became an archaeologist/specialist photographer.

As someone famously said: “The answer lies in the soil.”


Looking back, I’m grateful I saw true craftsmen in action. (Sorry, very few women about in those days). The linotype operators, the bloke operating the Ludlow machine, the dedicated readers, the whole system of checks and balances.

Oh, and … I never did get my linotype machine. Never trust a journalist.


Oh, before I forget. On the slip of copy paper, neatly typed, Marg wrote: “Beryl walked down the aisle with her hands in her furry muff.”

This taught me a lesson about subbing. READ. EVERY. WORD.

We revived the chief sub and took beer in order to work out a strategy to tackle Marg and the necessary change to her copy.

You see, subs were human.

(Photo credit: Weddingbee)

TGIF!!! After a rollercoaster of a week, IT’S TIME FOR THE RAFFLE

It’s also time to

… kick up our heels,

… enjoy a few drinks,

… start the jukebox … and party like it’s 1926 …

All brought to you by your bar staff extraordinaires, the elegant C@tmomma and the suave Bushfire Bill:

(Photo credit: Time Out Chicago)

Moi iz fixing ahem, looking after the Raffle, and will join you in the festivities when moi’s work here is done.

Have a good evening, everyone!

Our choice: Fate or Future

Whether Australia is a cork on the water, floating around dependent on economic tides and political wave action is the single most important question facing the nation today.

Electric Broadband Postcard New stamp

Our two-speed economy is not working.

We must find alternatives to manufacturing cars that motorists do not want, ships that never get off the drawing board, making appliances and gizmos that are made better and cheaper in low-cost labour economies… and the “Fly-In/Fly-Out” mentality that tells us digging up dirt is the only way to national prosperity.

One thing that cannot be brokered, dismantled or diluted is our ability to think: our native “smarts”.

We have very good educational standards, high literacy skills and a skilled, adaptable workforce. Yet our main economic preoccupation is digging holes in the ground and flogging off the dirt to nations willing to add value to it, where we are not. Mining has caused our economy to become “two-speed” – one part of it is booming and the other is declining.

We seem to have applied little thought to the following question: “What do we do to bring our economy fully up to speed?”

Mining sucks skills and resources from other segments of our industry. It forces our dollar higher and makes exporting manufactured goods un-competitive with the rest of the world.

We need to find a way of reconciling the undoubted good fortune that we have stumbled upon by being located above some of the world’s greatest mineral riches, and the desperate plight of our old standby industries struggling to make a quid where our goods and services are simply too expensive for other nations to purchase.

We need to find a future, not just settle for a fate based on doing what we have always done, even after it becomes unrewarding and un-competitive.

Abbott & Costello (Turnbull)

With these thoughts in mind I turned to the ABC web site to read an article by Kevin Morgan, on the NBN v. the Coalition’s #Fraudband copper rehash.

Morgan, who styles himself as a “commentator” on telecommunications policy and regulation, disappointed me. Greatly.

As I read through the column my eyes opened wider with shock that someone so supposedly well-informed could come up with the relentlessly negative commentary that he had presented.

It almost sounded as if he was personally offended by the NBN.

For example, what a stupid thing to write:

It’s now demonstrable that the Government’s all-fibre NBN, with its nominal price tag of $37.4 billion, cannot be built within either its promised budget or timeframe. In the first 10 weeks of this year, NBN Co, the company charged with the fibre rollout, passed only an additional 28 households a day. At that rate it would take 1,200 years to build the NBN.

And from a supposed “expert” too. A slow start is extrapolated out to the run of the project and becomes “1,200 years”. Does Morgan sincerely believe the NBN will take 1,200 years to build? I doubt it. It’s such an idiotic, misguided thing to write that it leads his readers to question his sincerity and his motives for writing it. And this too:

Indeed, it seems the only issue in play is the differing speeds promised by the Labor Government’s fibre to every home policy (FTTH) and those offered under the Coalition’s fibre to the node (FTTN) proposal…

What rock do they drag these people from under? And why is the ABC publishing such arrant nonsense?

OF COURSE, when it comes to the internet and telecommunications in general, speed is everything, absolutely everything.

Speed is fundamental to the very nature of any telecommunications system. Speed defines telecommunications.

It’s not 100mbps v. 25mbps we need to consider. It’s the almost limitless potential speed of FTTP (Fibre To the Premises) v. the Brick Wall that FTTN (Fibre To The Node) is going to run into in a few short years.

Abbott And Turnbull Space Guns

You don’t have to rebuild the NBN to get the mega and giga speeds our country is going to need in the very near future. There’s no need to roll out new cable or dig new ditches nationwide to upgrade the NBN.

You simply upgrade the switching equipment at the exchange, as better and faster technology becomes available. That way great leaps in technology can be applied efficiently to data distribution centres, and rolled out through existing infrastructure painlessly, without having to literally start again from the ground up.

After the upgrade, the new speeds and data flows roll out through the already built and commissioned pipeline, built at 2013 prices, not the inflated prices of some future decade.

The pipeline stays in the ground ready for gigabits per second any time the switch gear catches up.

To upgrade FTTN you have to pull out all the old, power-hungry cabinets – 60,000 of them – and build what Labor is building now anyway, with all the added up front extra costs to FTTN that building it right first via the NBN time avoids. By the time he’s half-way through his article, Morgan has characterized the NBN as a…

train wreck that the Coalition has been obliged to frame their policy {around}. …

… thats right, a “train wreck”. Total destruction, complete disarray, mass deaths and suffering. A train wreck. What a spirit of adventure Kevin Morgan has! He can only see the past:

The reality is FTTN is by far and away the most commonly used technology to take fibre close to the consumer.

So if it was alright yesterday… then it must be alright for tomorrow.


Australia is a country that relies for its economic success on digging holes in the ground.

But it cannot rely forever on selling dirt to other, more enterprising economies, nor should it.

Morgan’s thesis (if you can call it that) is effectively that we should just continue doing what we have always done, that we should, by implication, continue to rely on mining, and when that peters out, we’ll have to find something else to do.

Gee what would that be?

This whole attitude that we must always accept second-best, that we don’t “do” high tech, that we should never set ourselves up for anything in the future, that we should only go by what other countries are doing (and do no more) is a death knell for Australia’s competitiveness in the not so distant future.

We are already running a “two-speed” economy. Exporters and manufacturers can’t compete with the dollar being so high. We will continue to run two-speed if we don’t get off our political arses and stop justifying outdated junk copper technology, worth not much more than its scrap value, by labelling ourselves as not good enough for the best.

This is when even this “best” is almost not enough to surmount the hurdles our economy needs to become competitive in the world, in more ways than just digging holes in the ground.

We need to become a one-speed, NOT two-speed economy.

The NBN will do that, or at least will help, but the cultural and technological cringers in the Coalition and in their fans like Henry Morgan will doom us to always being one step behind, while the rest of the world gets on with coping with the 21st century.

The question we must all ask ourselves is do we want a fate, or do we want a future?

To deliberately pick a second best option in telecommunications, like #Fraudband, when the best is underway and being built as the NBN, is vandalism of the highest order against the Australian people and the economy.

As Nick Ross of the ABC put it so tellingly, it’s like evaluating the viability of Sydney Harbour Bridge simply in terms of how much profit collecting tolls will generate.

It’s not about tolls, contracts, internet plans, a few dollars here and there spent laying cable (I know its billions, but judged against potential returns – real returns – it’s peanuts), or whether we could better spend the money paying for subsidized nannies, funding well-off retirees who use superannuation as a tax dodge or propping up expensive, exclusive private schools that sustain networks not of intelligence or enterprise, but of mates who throw easy business opportunities to each other.

Point Piper Fraudband Node 2

It’s about looking forward to a way where we can bust the future of Australia right open and become not only a lucky country, but a leading nation in this competitive world, relying on intelligence and not the dumb luck that’s got us by so far.

We’re going to lose our car industry soon, with all the economic death and destruction for the manufacturing sector that loss will entail. What fools we will look like if, faced with having to re-skill our country, we need to rely on the technology of the early 1900s, as Morgan advocates, not just to talk to each other, but to talk to and participate in the future world.