I’ve been feeling overly and probably unjustifiably smug lately. This is probably nothing new, but of late it seems like it’s completely out of control. There could be any number of reasons for this, but basically I believe it is probably all Aaron Sorkin’s fault.

Explain that? You bet.

Over the past months I’ve been introducing my wife to the delights of television shows by Aaron Sorkin. We started with a campaign lasting several months to make our way through all seven series of The West Wing. That was a great time, as it’s basically my favourite TV show of all time. While the episodes shot in the nineties have dated a little bit, it’s amazing how many of the big issues are as relevant now – if not more so – than they were then. And I would just love to live in a world where everyone spoke to each other with such implausibly fast wit and rhetoric cadence. Alas, it’s not to be.

We kicked straight on into the brief flame that was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. A lot of critics were disappointed with this one since it’s not quite on the same level as WW. While that’s true, there are still some fantastic moments. I can’t imagine how self-indulgent Sorkin must have felt writing a TV show about a TV show writer who believes himself to be smarter than everyone else, but that’s fine.

All this would have been enough to generate a light to moderate amount of ambient smugness. I generally start to take on the attributes of whatever media I’ve been consuming after a few episodes. After I watch Firefly I start talking like a space cowboy. If I watch too much IT Crowd my Irish accent starts to make a comeback (You are correct. I don’t have an Irish accent. Don’t ask me what’s going on there) and if I watch too much Doctor Who… just keep the hell away from me. So if I watch seven straight series of Josh Lyman bemoaning the fact that everyone around him is preternaturally stupid and then back it up with twenty two glorious episodes worth of Matt Alby complaining that everyone around him is preternaturally stupid, a theme starts to develop.

This would have been bad enough, except that after Studio 60, we moved on the The Newsroom.

Up until this point my own smugness by osmosis had been largely abstract, since I am neither a political operative nor a television producer. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, whatever my employment history might say, I do consider myself a journalist. And as far as I’m concerned, the savage indictment on the whole news media industry that is the Newsroom is as accurate as it is… smug.

But while Will McAvoy was on a quixotic mission to civilise, I’m more on a self-righteous mission to lambaste NewsCorp. I’ve been a little reticent about doing this recently, mainly because I’ve wanted to reserve the option of applying for a job with them if I got desperate enough. That day came about a week ago, when I was once again unemployed and looking for whatever opportunities were around. A spot came up with our local paper, which I actually respect more than people might think despite their being owned by NewsCorp. I swallowed my pride and applied, believing my network of local contacts, experience in the local newsroom and tertiary education in journalism would stand me in good stead.


NewsCorp’s human resources  are all handled remotely from an office in Sydney. It’s much cheaper that way, but it also means that through a lack of information about what’s happening in a community, they basically have to pick their employees at random out of a bucket labelled “whoever”.

Sounds a bit like a bitter old grouch with sour grapes? Sure. But the last time I applied for a job with these utterly soulless clowns, I wasn’t given the courtesy of a reply, but was later introduced to the cadet they’d employed instead of me, who was from down south, needed directions from the NT News to Brownsmart (Google Maps it) and had completed half a communications degree. I'm sure the cadet has the hang of it by now, but for the love of God how does this pack of cowboys expect anyone to take it seriously?

This time around, the vacuous and wretched organisation sent me a rejection email so fast I am reasonably certain my application wasn’t actually read. Certainly there was nothing in the rejection email to suggest it hadn’t been mass produced by a computer. Either way it doesn’t matter. If an application from a tertiary qualified, well connected, experienced local news writer is being summarily rejected, it’s systematic of a decrepit and valueless organisation valuing cheap options over actually producing a product of any value whatsoever.

But don’t take my word from it. I’m probably biased. And bias is bad, right? If you think this disgraceful excuse for media organisation has something useful to offer anyone at all, just check out the media frenzy going on right now concerning the upcoming execution of convicted drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myruan Sukumaran. You can watch it here.

I'm not impressed either, Will.

I’m not in favour of the death penalty, and I believe the penalty being threatened in this case far exceeds the crime, serious as it was. However the act of killing foreign citizens for disproportionate crimes is nothing like as distasteful as sensationalising, exploiting and manipulating the pathos surrounding the issue for profit. And running it next to a “feature” article about Leonardo DiCaprio being angry about someone taking pictures of him  only heightens the denigration of all involved: NewsCorp, the Bali Nine and of course, Rhianna. The tasteless, valueless chaff being published on the optimistically titled news.com.au has on occasion caused me to throw up a little bit in my mouth.

“Whoah. Dial down the rhetoric there, mate. I think you’re taking this rejection a little too personally and you’re definitely using way too many adjectives”.

No, because that’s just it. In and of itself, I couldn’t care less about an automatically generated rejection letter. I’ve got literally hundreds of them. What makes me so livid about NewsCorp is that it has the potential to be a powerful force for good, but chooses instead to be a lazy, destructive enterprise. Sure a business needs to make money, but to make money out of systematically reducing complex and nuanced cultural and political events to sound bites, sensational conflicts and “must-see” two minute video clips of the least important but prettiest aspects of any given issue are slowly grinding what could be a great society into a callous bitchy soup of poorly but cheaply produced reality television.

We would be better off without NewsCorp. The sooner it burns down or collapses into a sea of its own click-bait the better.

Make of that what you will.

Garry with 2 Rs

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