Media Unmade

Media UnmadeIf you work in, have taken notice of or know much about the fortunes of the Australian media industry over the last decade or more you’d think this would be a very simple story – a graph with a constantly downward-pointing arrow indicating lost sales, profit, jobs and companies.

But Burrowes, who founded the media blog Mumbrella and ran it for years, tells the story with far more nuance. There’s no escaping it, most of the arrows do point downwards – especially while talking about newspapers, magazines and other pre-digital media.

But there are success stories both large and small as persoanlities, executives and models rise, fall and rise again, everyone from the Murdochs and Kyle Sandilands to Australian streaming service Stan.

It’s a weighty tome and you’ll be surprised there’s so much to talk about, but Burrowes structures it all wonderfully. Every chapter concentrates on a different sector (TV, radio, print publishing, etc) and picks up in rough chronological order on what came last time, although every one is a short story in itself.

One might be the way Lachlan Murdoch made a play for the Ten TV network with buddy James Packer. Another might be the awful few weeks early in the decade when several thousand journalists were retrenched from both the country’s biggest news publishers, New Ltd and Fairfax – many of them top-tier names who’d been with respective papers for decades.

It’s all done with verve and colour, often written as if Burrowes was in the room listening to the secret conversations, meeting or press briefings as they were given. His prose enlivens the story into what might in different hands be a fairly dry rendition of overarching facts, actions and consequences.

Above all it’s a welcome sliver of rare good news about the continued painful contractions of the media sector as we all abandon it in ever-increasing rates for digital services like Google and Facebook. Though many are losing their jobs and more doors are closing on hallowed names in the business, others have been more enterprising, and the industry as a whole isn’t quite dead yet.