This morning a small media story slipped through the frenzied chatter about the fate of Australia’s media – many may have missed it.
I have been a regular listener of the ABCs Philosophers Zone for several years, a program that has greatly enriched the intellectual life of many Australians. It was hosted by Alan Saunders, a reporter for Radio National – an intelligent, erudite and engaging presenter.
Sadly Saunders passed away last Friday:
ABC Radio National’s well-known philosopher and foodie Alan Saunders has died of pneumonia in hospital on Friday.
While working on his program The Philosopher’s Zone on Thursday afternoon, Alan fell ill and was taken to hospital where his condition deteriorated overnight.
He died on Friday morning surrounded by colleagues and friends.
After joining Radio National in 1987, Dr Saunders founded The Food Program and worked as a presenter on By Design and Screen – a program about film and television.
“In his 25 years with Radio National, Alan made a substantial contribution to the intellectual discourse in Australia and certainly to the enjoyment of his audiences,” ABC director of radio Kate Dundas said.
“He had both a distinctive voice and a distinguished mind – a great combination for a presenter of engaging and thought-provoking radio.”
As Australia’s media landscape undergoes profound change I cannot but think the quality of our national debate, the vibrancy of our culture and the literacy of our citizens would be all the much better if there were more men like Alan Saunders.
Thus his passing away is very sad news – but also offered a study in contrasts.
As I grabbed my morning coffee this morning, I flicked through the pages of the Herald Sun. In doing so I had the great pleasure of finding not one, but two articles by Andrew Bolt.
If you want to know the quality of a man, then read the opening paragraphs in Bolt’s piece in today’s Herald Sun defending Gina Rinehart:
THE hysteria over billionaire Gina Rinehart is not just funny. Have you ever seen so many hypocrites, wasters and self-servers pretending to be principled?
It is also dangerous. Have you ever seen so many people reach for new laws to stifle a free media and to impose a Left-preaching government behemoth instead?
I could not help but contrast the vitriol and hate of Bolt with the intelligence and breadth of learning of Saunders.
A reader’s perspective: how reading a News Ltd publication makes “me” feel
There are many reasons to be concerned about the tone and content of News Ltd’s journalists.
For me it is the hatred of “elites” – scientists, teachers and progressives – that drips from the pages the Herald Sun, The Australian and Daily Telegraph. As a recent piece on The Conversation noted it is part of a conservative “culture war”:
For years, in the tabloid media and on talkback radio, we’ve been hearing about the domination of Australian politics by a “new class” of left-wing “cultural elites”, but the Rinehart ascendancy at Fairfax confirms quite a different trend: a new conservative elite now rules the roost. One backed by cold hard cash and reported demands for control of editorial agendas.
To see this new elite at work one only has to look across the hard-line conservative network that seeks to dominate public debate on a range of scientific, economic and social issues such as global warming, taxation, and human rights
I’ll readily admit I’m progressive in some of my politics, while also sincere in my support for a vibrant debate in which all voices are heard. I’m supportive of free markets appropriately regulated. I accept the expertise of scientists in regards to climate change, evolution and germ theory.
And yet these views are demonised, ridiculed and dismissed as “elitist”. When I pick up the Herald Sun – indeed any News Ltd publication – I feel the publication has nothing but contempt for me.
There has been much schadenfreude on the part of News Ltd journalists claiming that Fairfax is dying because it only spoke to an “inner-city-latte-sipping-tofu-munching-elite” and not to “ordinary Australians” (ignoring the fact the entire industry is in decline).
My concern for climate change is motivated by the risks associated: from health and welfare, to security concerns and the impact on the economy.
My values are those of my fellow citizens – I’m not the outlier.