Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ruminations with a view

However much we speculate and read speculations about Lachlan Murdoch's departure from "The Firm", we may never know the underlying frictions or causes. Lachy, as he is commonly known around the Murdoch traps, seemed a bright and refreshingly alternative presence in the newspaper world - branding himself so quite clearly with that wonderful tattoo which he tended to display with sleeves rolled up. His future seemed cemented into the family empire, so it was shocking to read that he, suddenly, had quit and was looking towards some new turn in career.
I read avidly the reports on the twists and turns of the Murdoch empire. Well, of course I do. I am a Murdoch journo.
There are many schools of Murdoch journalists these days. I am old school. I don't relate at all well to the new-wave Fox News variety, although I can understand the market ploy that they embody. I can understand it all, the machinations of the mainstream media. I am not always sure that the demographic decisions are right as the print media struggles to find its balance in a changing world. But I am fascinated by the process.
I keep reading about the "monster" Murdoch and his "paranoia" - and I think back to my one and only private encounter with the man and somehow doubt it. My meeting, a million years ago was in London when he was known as "the Dirty Digger" for his then highly controversial incursions into Fleet Street. I was all of 22 and had been hawking myself around the city and failing to find work. Finally, I took the advice of my colleagues back in Australia and made an appointment to see "the man". It was not difficult. I was slotted in promptly. Not only that, but Murdoch was welcoming and charming. My colleages in Australia had said "just tell him that you're one of his, you're bloody good and you need a job". I did just that. Murdoch laughed. To my astonishment, he knew exactly who I was and he cited several pieces of my work with praise. We sat and chatted a while in his office which was adorned with some exquisite pieces of contemporary Australian art which I identified and admired. He was like an old friend. He made me feel that I belonged. He made me feel that I was valued. And, he picked up the phone and, a minute later, I had a job on an Australian bureau in Fleet Street.
Since then, I have not run into Murdoch, although I did get a message from him saying that the columns I was writing at the time were the best of their kind in the country. The years have rolled on and my job description has changed many times since then. As is the way in newspapers. I am now a senior in culture of youth. I don't mind this. Not that it would matter if I did. But it feels a little strange when I look around and realise that my working peers would not know what I was talking about if I mentioned "hot metal", "fudge", "the stone" or even "comps". Of course one doesn't talk of such things. They'd think one was a dinosaur - and I'm not ready for that. But, as one old sage told me when, in callow youth I derided some old journo for being out of touch: "He's forgotten more about journalism than you'll ever know". I guess that's me now. Except that I have not forgotten.

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