The Sunday Age‘s entertainment section – “M: Melbourne Inside Out” – has a section titled “8 Days: Your One-Stop Guide To The Week Ahead”. The second listing in today’s edition is this:
“Comedy Writer, comedian and poet Ben Pobjie is talking rage at this year’s Comedy Festival. His show, Trigger Warning, takes to task the sheer amount of anger and offence that exists in our modern world, and tries to figure out why people enjoy outrage so much. Trigger Warning is running six nights a week [we’ve left out the booking details because this isn’t an ad for his show]”
Hmm. Why is there so much anger in the world? Here’s a suggestion: maybe people become angry when they read a prominent listing like this in The Age that somehow fails to mention anywhere that Ben Pobjie is an Age employee? Maybe they’re outraged at a supposed “guide to the week ahead” that – in the middle of a flood of comedians performing in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival – puts a three-star, “lukewarm” outing by someone who works for the paper as the second item on their long list of things they’re promoting?
This isn’t a swipe at Pobjie or his show. Fairfax’s business model, relying as it does more on freelancers and part-timers than News Corp, all but guarantees that many of its writers will have other gigs, some of which will be the kind of thing that the Fairfax papers usually promote. The problem is that no-one seems to be telling the people who work at Fairfax that promoting your mates, while a nice thing in theory, is crap journalism in practice.
If you think The Age shouldn’t have to reveal that Pobjie works for them in a listing like this, you’re wrong. If you think it’s fair enough for them to promote his act even though it’s during a period when a comedy festival brings literally dozens of more interesting comedy performers to town, you’re wrong. It makes the paper look bad if you’re a reader who knows the connection, and it’s treating the readers who don’t like suckers.
And to think, The Age hasn’t run a puff piece on Marieke Hardy in months…