Today, Australia’s progressive intellectuals are grieving a loss.
No. Don’t worry. As far as I’m aware, David Marr is still alive, well and blaming John Howard for everything from the dwindling of the arts to the quality of bread.
It’s something even more precious than an aesthete they’re mourning. To wit: a possible blow to their income.
In the case you hadn’t heard and might give one eighth of a fuck, local progressive opinion site New Matilda is shutting up shop. And, lordy, is it being lamented.
Reporting consensus squares with the sentiment of editor, Marni Cordell. In short: it’s so very, very sad that an unfeeling landscape can no longer nourish a sensitive progressive.
I am not certain who this fellow is but I certainly admire his balls. He uses both of them to point to the bleeding obvious. Viz. the failure of the forum had less to do with an aggressive market and more to do with being shit at math.
He has some insight. How on earth they remunerated anyone for anything is a mystery. For a little while, I worked for the publication and was agreeably shocked when my paycheck showed up. Things always felt a little doomed.
I had a dim feeling that few people actually visited the site. I had a dim feeling that the management team weren’t particularly troubled by the “elite” nature of their readership. I had a fairly clear feeling that the only acceptable reflex for contributors was to the orthodox Left. And, for the most part, that’s exactly what I provided.
This is not to say that I custom-fit my views to the organisation. I just selected from my views those that would suit the organisation. Which means I was shit boring. Once or twice, I didn’t fit and my stuff was returned to me. This is one of the offcuts. A piece on media treatment of hot girl-on-girl action following Lindsay Lohan’s “outing”. Not my finest comic moment, sure. But I think the use of the phrases “vagatarian”, “kettle of fist” and “box luncheon” were sufficient to warrant publication of the piece in full.
The point is, even though that’s a silly piece of writing, the Matildas rarely waltzed free-form. A piece, for example, about hotted-up homophobia in the mainstream press was outside their remit. With few exceptions, most provided by my talented associates Ben Pobjie and Shakira Hussein, the range of expression on the site was terribly narrow. If it wasn’t cookie-cutter progressivism, it wasn’t getting published.
Of course, the team was perfectly entitled to publish what they would. But, a Leninist approach to both copy and contractor relations ensured I wasn’t the only one who pissed off. I think readers did, too.
The talk today is about how difficult it is to find a place in such an odd market. And, certainly, it is difficult. The economic futurists of the past didn’t get it completely right. Certainly, after years of over-investment, it turns out that portions of the New Economy has more negative equity than Detroit. There ain’t much money to be made providing written content online. But, there is a little.
I think it might be more useful to look not at how the market failed an organisation like New Matilda but how an organisation like New Matilda failed the left. And, goodness knows, we need some new, engaging voices in Australia. We need to be provoked and challenged out of our malaise.
Perhaps the end of New Matilda cannot be attributed to bad bookkeeping, lazy SEO or challenging economic conditions. But its end wasn’t written in the stars either; it was written in the articles.