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Hallo again to all.

In a recent tour of the world of online newspapers in search of Anglican news for our News Centre, we found ourselves reading an article in The Australian about the financial woes of the Diocese of Sydney (see our News Centre for details) and noticed over at the right a teaser for an unrelated article entitled 'How Professional Boatbuilder scooped the Fairfax papers'.

Most major newspapers in Australia are owned by News Corp, whose CEO Rupert Murdoch is well known worldwide. But competitor Fairfax Media owns the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Melbourne), which are the two Australian newspapers in which we most frequently find Anglican news of international interest. So the headline 'How Professional Boatbuilder scooped the Fairfax papers' was an attack on Fairfax by News Corp.

The via mediaEach week as we sift through the global pile of news articles that are somehow related to Anglicanism, trying to find those worthy of your attention, we find ourself categorizing our finds not by content but by point of view. Some articles are 'just news', just reporting facts (or at least the subset of the facts that the editor wishes to report). Some articles are really opinion, editorial, or marketing, just masquerading as news. Sometimes there is news about news, or news about newspapers, or news about newspaper companies. It is unusual to see a 'news story' whose purpose is to attack a competing newspaper company. We can't see any other purpose to this article.

Newspapers and news magazines all around the world are having hard economic times. Yesterday the BBC reported on the declining newspaper sales and revenue in Wales, and notes that although most people seem to read the news online, only 10% of newspaper revenue comes via the internet. Newspaper companies are all scrambling to find ways to make enough money to stay in business. University of Queensland journalism lecturer Dr John Kokley, writing in Crikey, asserts that neither News Corp nor Fairfax is the future of journalism, but perhaps one of those companies will be able to transform itself into a survivor. Perhaps News Corp believes that it can become a survivor by attacking and hating its competitors, either to diminish them or to attract bloodthirsty readers.

We observe that one can attract and keep a certain number of readers by being angry, nasty, and warlike. Very few people seem to want to know the actual truth; they want to be entertained, and a mix of news and fierce attack is a formula for success. The earliest example that comes to mind of such hatemongering being so successful is documented in Mark 15:1-20, but we're quite certain that Pilate was not the first to succeed with that formula.

People who aren't reading newspapers anymore are probably still reading something. By and large, they do remember how to read. Many of them seem to be reading blogs, or blog-like 'news sources' that are not news at all, but news-ish rants. Regardless of which side you take in an argument, you can easily find an online site full of angry rants in support of your position, attacking all those who disagree with you. It's so easy to be nasty if you have the right skills, and it amuses people endlessly. Taken to extremes, it can produce something like the British National Party or the Westboro Baptist Church (we aren't going to help you find them; it might inflate their egos further).

It's so very easy to let yourself slip into a world in which you only read things that you already believe or agree with, and in which you've become habituated to the adrenalin and the smile that come along with reading hateful prose about something that you dislike. Why bother reading something bland and centrist that isn't spewing hate? Where's the fun in that?

We at Anglicans Online hope that you will continue to find fun in that. We work hard to stay on the Via Media. We're human; we have emotions and likes and dislikes, but we try very hard to keep most of them out of our publication. We're grateful to those readers who chastise us if they think we've strayed too far from the centre. On the other hand, unless we say something outrageous, we hear back from you far less often. In our recent fundraising drive we received money from more people than the number who have ever written a Letter to the Editor. We know you're out there, because you sent us money. Say something. Don't make us get nasty in order to goad you into writing, because we won't do it.

See you next week. Gently.

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Last updated: 18 October 2009


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