Tuesday, October 6

Back to the future for Grumpy Old Journo

Two years ago, your Grumpy Old Journo abandoned his associated blog, What, Me Grumpy. Now I plan to resurrect it.

Three things changed my mind (although I'm still wary of making my blogging life more complex). They are:
  • Last week in Sydney, Google and the Walkley Foundation hosted an exclusive presentation for journalist members of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance on new Google search tools and tricks – some still in development – to gather, sort and analyse news and data. I learned it's still an exciting world out there, and I want to remain part of it. 
  • Before I walked over to the Google offices, I had several coffees with a friend and mentor who has long urged me to make Grumpy Old Journo better focused. I've finally accepted her advice. I still want to write the occasional self-indulgent post about my family, my motor-cycle trips, or my mulberry tree – but now they'll go into What, Me Grumpy? 
  • While checking the settings and presentation of my blogs, I tried Google Blogger's new editor. It makes the insertion and editing of images much simpler, and in general allows more tweaking without having to switch to HTML editing. That should make life easier. 
Check out What, Me Grumpy as it was (along with what was then meant to be its final post). When I post again to it, I'll put a write-off and link on Grumpy Old Journo. PS: I'll still try to find excuses to run Tony Rafty's caricature of me (right), just now and again.

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Now to flick through some topics from the past week:

Fairfax's conservative Catholic columnist Miranda Devine seems to dislike the moderates of Australia's Liberal Party almost as much as she loathes pedophiles or people who believe in man-made global warming.

Last week she turned on Liberal MP Alex Hawke, once a member of the party's hard right but now associated with the moderates.

Hawke, 32, was once a protege of the upper house Liberal MP David Clarke, the putative leader of the traditional right faction. Clarke is unfairly maligned as a sinister religious extremist because he is socially conservative, a fan of John Howard, goes to Mass on Sundays and is married to a member of the Catholic organisation, Opus Dei. He and Hawke had surfed the wave of Howard conservatism, sweeping away two decades of control by the soft left wing of the party, and in 2007 he helped Hawke win the safe north-west Sydney seat of Mitchell.

But with Clarke and his supporters unpalatable to the federal and state Liberal leadership, Hawke must have seen his political future as brighter without the baggage of his former boss. So he has embarked since October on a systematic power grab to oust Clarke at his next pre-selection, say Clarke's allies.
Thanks, Miranda. You've just reinforced my views on David Clarke.

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One can understand newspapers urging readers to go to their online sites – the more clicks the better. That's why print stories often end with the lines, “Have your say on . . .” (Does anyone really care what the readers of, say, Sydney's Daily Telegraph think?)

But it's a bit rough when the Sydney Sun-Herald sets out a quiz for readers, then tells them they'll have to go online to get the answers.

What about the readers who've paid for the newspaper, and who are not connected to the internet​?

Check out David Dale's article on his Sun-Herald blog – just read down to his October 5 post about the questions in the new citizenship test. I must admit I didn't waste too much time on it, but at first I couldn't find the answers there anyway. However, if you click on “more” at the end of the post, it comes up all over again – but this time with answers.

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What was the biggest story of the past week – the death and devastation of flooding, earthquakes and tsunamis in the Philippines, Samoa and Sumatra, Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's ultimatum to his party members, or the quirky naming of a blend of cream cheese and Vegemite?

At times it was hard to tell. The blogosphere exploded into fully fledged inanity as its denizens vented their anger at the name iSnack 2.0.

Was it a stunt by the Kraft marketing people – after all, is there now anyone in Australia who doesn't know about the new product? By that measure it was a successful stunt.

Or was it a humiliating miscalculation by the Kraft marketing people. That seems more likely, but we'll never know for sure unless someone confesses.

But as the marketing writers debated this question, few reporters told us what the product was.

It's a matter of interest to your Grumpy Old Journo. After trying to extend a misspent youth well into his sixties, GOJ is now required to read food labels very carefully indeed.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Helen Greenwood had a go at describing iSnack, but she still didn't tell GOJ what he needed to know. You see, I'd already discovered Vegemite and Philadelphia cream cheese go well together. A favourite snack is a low-fat crispbread biscuit spread with cream cheese with some Vegemite smeared across the top.

But it wasn't until consumer affairs writer Kelly Burke, also in the SMH, rounded up a posse of outraged nutritionists that I learned iSnack had more than 17 per cent fat. That included 11 per cent saturated fat. For me, that's a no-no.

The Philly cream cheese variety I use has under 5 per cent fat (it's actually a blend of cream cheese and cottage cheese to achieve that low fat level). And that's what I'll be sticking to, rather than iSnack or whatever it's to be called.

The point of this item is that if newspapers are to survive, they must provide usable information to people who need it. Journalists should ask, have I included all the information readers need to know?

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