Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sweetness on Saturdays

BECAUSE I exist on a limited budget allocating what financial resources I command always involves a tough choice. Disability payments only go so far, you understand, and there are all the bills that must be paid -- water, electricity, gas, Foxtel and ISP fees (to keep informed), food, cat supplies, a little chocolate now and then and a Boston bun once a week for that little taste of luxury. My neighbour (the nice one) brings around the supplies and I have carers who pop in to make sure that I am doing OK. When I need to see my therapist, a windowless van is on hand to keep the risk of an agoraphobic panic attack to a minimum. I couldn't say life is wonderful but it is OK and I am reasonably happy, especially when financial help comes from surprising places.

This brings me to why I love The Age, a question that I could begin to answer by saying that its editorial approach is as close as a corporatist publication can get to placing the best interests of readers  and society as a whole at the forefront of its daily miracle. You won't find the vile rantings of an an Andrew Bolt in the Age, nor do Age reporters allow themselves to be blinded by the smokescreens that Big Carbon emits via its legion of paid hacks and liars and industry-funded deniers to obscure the fever that is progressively reducing our planet to a steamy, uninhabitable sphere of barren rock. We get a little rain and the low-life likes of Bolt and Tim Blair begin scoffing about Al Gore and the scientific consensus getting it wrong. In the Age that doesn't happen because its environmental coverage is written by fine journalists like Adam Morton who write from the heart and the brain, not from the wallet or because Rupert Murdoch gets on the phone and orders his trained monkeys to spew lies and fling their venomous droppings on command..

That said, about a year ago I made the tough decision to cancel my subscription to the Age. It was a tight time, economically, for me. Sparkles, my little cat and best friend, fell ill with round worms, my electricity bills jumped (can we start investing in bringing cheap, sustainable green power online now, pretty please!!!!) and, well, something had to go. Sadly, that turned out to be the Age. So, with regret, I cancelled my subscription.

And here is the other reason I love the Age: They have kept delivering the paper without charging a penny for 11 months. I don't know if it is because I told the subscription people that I was homebound or because they value me as a reader, but seven days a week it arrives on my doorstep and a bill never does. Last Saturday also brought the "new" edition of the paper, which I awaited with a feeling of muted anxiety. There had been advance publicity that the Saturday edition was to be revamped and I feared the bean-counters might have ordered the editor to make the paper more appealing to the sort of people who, quite frankly, aren't intellectually worthy of appreciating Leunig and one of the world's great newspapers.

Well, I need not have worried. It is the same old, reliable Age, but with nice little design touches to present the quality journalism that wins so many Walkey Awards. The best article, in my opinion, was Michael Gordon's explanation of Julia's strategy and his argument that she is the real deal.

JULIA Gillard has a message for those who have lost faith in her leadership in recent months (and those who never had it in the first place): she has a plan to win their confidence and a newfound determination to deliver.
Michael has been one of Gillard's most ardent and astute observers, but seeing his familiar theme in a nice, new-look page was one of the weekend's highlights. I made a cup of tea, treated myself to a slice of Boston bun (with extra butter) and purred along with Sparkles. If you can believe the Australian, and you cannot, Fairfax is not travelling well financially. I think Michael's analysis and all the others like it are Exhibit A for initiating a federal subsidy for the maintenance of quality journalism in this country.

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