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The three hour layover on the way to digital journalism

Attending the A.N. Smith lecture in Journalism at Melbourne University last night, Fairfax Media Chief executive and General Manager Greg Hywood outlined the digital media strategy for Fairfax in a "post-classified ad" revenue present and of course, future. Apart from the oh-so humble reminders that the Age and Sydney Morning Herald embraced the internet long before their competitors, his subtle investor pitch demonstrating the media convergence that Fairfax employs to derive its revenue was finally indicative of a media ecological approach to journalism and content communication across a mass yet still fragmented (in terms of point of access) audience. Print in the morning, smartphones on the go and accessing the web during the day, etc.

Mr. Hywood made a salient point in terms of devising a business model to ensure not only survival, but growth in quality journalism and content creation. Leaving the privileged curatorship vs. citizen engagement debate aside; he struck at the core of the problem for lumbering giants resistant to changes in their once robust classified ad "rivers of gold." The journalism, he said, was a solution to the fundamental problem of people trying to "make sense of the world around them." The media can no longer sit idle and react to changes in the consumption of their products, they must now find "solutions" in the skein of Postman and the Media Ecologists.

For example, Neil Postman only months prior to his passing remarked in a lecture that an airline wished to spend a substantial sum to improve the speed of their aeroplanes. Researchers found that they could cut at least three hours from the Los Angeles to New York trip utilizing new engine technologies. But then engineers wondered; what did passengers do with their three hour surplus of time?

Go back to their hotels and watch television.

Thus money was saved by installing televisions into the backs of their seats - the solution was much more ingenious than attempting to appeal to the abstraction of "progress." Just like News Ltd. recognizing that the medium in the afternoon was in fact the train platform and bus and tailored its message accordingly in the form of free, portable and "light" newspapers that can be read while waiting to arrive at one's destination.

Just because journalism can be uploaded and broadcast to smartphones and tablets doesn't mean it always, in every case should; if the problem is not knowing when or where rock gigs are and the solution is a weekly street press to guide you, why force change when it isn't required? Perhaps pondering this question will write the next chapter of journalism; whether in print or online or something unheard of.


Tried, Tested, Success-ted

Apart from the brilliant riposte given by a Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts to a ill-informed town hall protester with a reality tunnel so narrow the light of day seldom enters through, many people are confusing the "public option" - namely setting up a government run enterprise to compete against private insurance companies to cover uninsured Americans - with "nationalized" medicine directly owned and administered by a government agency much like Medicare Australia or the UK National Health Service.

What many people aren't aware of is that what Mr. Obama terms the "public option" has been tried and works rather successfully in Australia under the guise of Medibank Private, the government-owned public health insurer. Originally a not-for-profit entity, it was recently incorporated and thus required to pay tax on its earnings; therefore wholly funding itself (through users subscribing to its service and reinvesting profits into the business) and contributing toward the upkeep of the public health system through the 10% GST (as well as the other taxes it will now be required to pay as an incorporated entity.)

As a beneficiary of Medibank Private* rather than one of the myriad other private insurers on the Australian market, it works rather well if you can afford to pay, as well as taking up the 30% government rebate and the waiver of the Medicare levy surcharge if one earns over AU$73,000. Of course people still point to the public health system as inherently inefficient despite the private sector attempting "relieving the burden" on it. In my view, pundits from both sides should be looking at the other side of the coin: in reality Australians that are covered with private health insurance experience little to no waiting times for care in the private sector - which is the only option most people in the US have. Although the fallacious "USPS does well against privately run mail carriers" argument may fall through, an extensional and largely functional example could prove more compelling for policymakers and those who matter the most in this debate - the 46,000,000 uninsured.

*in July 2007 I underwent a hernia operation and could pick my doctor, time of surgery and hospital I was admitted to, all with a private room via my coverage (at the time) with Medibank Private.


A Tripartite Travelogue

1. Never watch Casshern. It is the most convoluted, plotless and obfuscatory movie I've ever half watched. I had to get up and walk away because it made so little sense. Thanks to Rae and Kris for this weekends' short escape from reality. Souvlaki Pizza is so win.

2. Snuff Box is just like a fine wine - it just gets better with age. I can't be in love if its plastic. To live on my own just seems tragic. I'll raise myself high when my day comes. You thought it was gold but it was bronze...just like Australia at the Olympics. Someone, please test Phelps.

3. This one is thanks to Ace. The dude in the video also shares the same name with my mate Shai, unless he was bullshitting. Enjoy!