Bye, bye beloved Age broadsheet: now only The Oz is left

 

Tomorrow will be a miserable one for many old journos, lamenting the down-sizing of a beloved daily broadsheet into a humdrum tabloid.
Okay, so The Age hierarchy might label their new newspaper a ‘compact’, but for those of us who have toiled in the industry a tabloid it will be.
Yes, I know we have read many well-thumbed Saturday sections in the smaller format for some time: Sport, Life and Style, Travel and Business.
[In our household the tabloid form guide is straight away pulled out and consigned to the re-cycling bin.]
We’re too old to pore over the Jobs section and we already have a dwelling, thanks very much, so Domain isn’t really needed, either.
Same with a number of Sunday Age sections: Sport, the M magazine (for film and TV listings) and Money. All well read in our household and once again, in the ‘compact’ format.
But from Monday the whole lot will appear as a tabloid. Will there be enough room in the main section of next Saturday’s Rage for Johnny Silvester’s Naked City column?
It’s not a minute offering by any stretch, so maybe a spill from its accustomed back page slot to the inside will be needed.
And the Letters section. Where will the readers’ one or two sentence rejoinders in What’s More be placed?
There won’t be room to run them alongside lengthier offerings in the Letters section.
It’s just too much.

For my money, the die was cast for broadsheets when Rupert Murdoch and his minions decided that the Thunderer (The Times of London) would be down-sized.
On regular trips to the Old Dart in recent years we’ve noted the shrinking number of available broadsheets. And this in a capital city where in the mid-2000s no less than 14 national dailies — yes, The Evening Standard until recently, too — had been published.
I don’t think anyone apart from employees -– maybe, shareholders — shed too many tears when the News Of The World bit the dust. It was a shocker, but our London-born son-in-law used to buy it to bring home on Sundays, along with a quality broadsheet, just for a laugh.
My favourite Page 1 lead story from the old News was: World War 2 bomber found on the moon. No, not a fabrication.
They actually ran with it.
In my own career the central Victorian daily the Bendigo Advertiser morphed from broadsheet to tabloid in the Nineties.
It had been published as a broadsheet on the goldfields since December, 1853 and survived through the 1890s and 1930s Depressions, plus two World Wars.
It was a skinny paper, it’s true, in the Forties and Fifties and had survived a merger or two with other Bendigo papers straight after World War 1.
But survive it managed to do did the Bendigo Addy.
In the late 1970s and into the 1980s the Saturday editions were crammed with real estate, jobs, car and retail advertisements along with the Hatches, Matches and Dispatches columns.
That’s the births, deaths and marriages columns for anyone not from the industry!
Multitudes of punters used to wait for the Saturday Advertiser to place their birth notices, for example, because that’s when everyone would get the paper.
Passed over the back fence from one family to another, quite regularly too, our research showed.
And on Wednesdays, with all the rural news including pictures, reports and boxed information about livestock sales of sheep, pigs and cattle, the paper’s sales stretched past the NSW border into the southern Riverina.
It didn’t seem the same when the Addy went to the smaller format. A couple of my colleagues said: “Well, the Financial Review is a tabloid. Can’t be that bad.”
Yes, it was. It never felt the same and the ageing populations of readers, the lifeblood of any regional or rural newspaper, weren’t happy either.

Still, with the way we access our news nowadays — and I’m no different to anyone else with instant news available on the iPhone, tablet or laptop —Fairfax executives will argue the change to The Age was needed just to survive.

A number of friends, and even more acquaintances, have taken packages from The Age and sister publications in recent times.
Had lunch with one couple just the other day.
But to see such a great newspaper brought down to tabloid size is very sad. I suppose I should have been ready for it.
After Melbourne’s afternoon daily, the time-honored Herald broadsheet bit the dust because it was unable to compete with television news, changes were inevitable.
And then when my own Bendigo Advertiser down-sized, The Age was bound to follow suit.
Let’s hope the final chapter – closure – is still a long, long way from being written.

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    Not a huge fan of the Jimmy Page or of the Padraig.

    And then there’s the issue of print when wiping your bum.

  2. Andrew Starkie says:

    Warrnambool Standard – oldest daily in Australia?

    It’s not the size of the dog in the fight it’s the size of the fight in the dog. Or something like that.

    The shape of the Age isn’t important but the content is. Easy to say from my less than expert, armchair position, but as time goes by there is less and less content and even less that’s local in the Age these days. I know it’s all about dollars and cents in the end, but the quality and relevance of what’s reported is dropping. Look on any page of the front section of the Saturday Age and you’ll see a heap of ads in amongst articles lifted from papers from other countries before you see local journos’ work. And with ‘…govt insiders informed the Age…’ replaced with ‘…govt insiders informed Fairfax Media…’ doesn’t ease the sense that Melbourne’s newspaper is slipping away.

    As someone said on the radio the other day, two Melbourne institutions, the Age and the AFL aren’t the same these days.

  3. Skip of Skipton says:

    A better fit for the bottom of the budgies cage, but not so good for wrapping fish.

  4. aussie80s says:

    As a traditionalist who laments the loss of analogue TV and refuses to own a mobile phone I would normally back the loss of an institution that I have had all my life and links me to my better rose coloured days of yore….but the loss of the broadsheet is not one of them.

    Remember getting the Herald on the way home and trying to read that on a packed red rattler train was just the same as buying the Age going to work and finding it impossible to read on a windy day or you were left holding what looked like packing material.

    The content is the important matter, the broadsheet will not be missed by me.

  5. Just clinging to there still being an Age newspaper. The alternative is far more tragic than the downsizing of what is still a far better quality publication, imo.

  6. Richard – they had no choice but to shrink The Age. It was too big for the iPad screens.

  7. Hard to imagine Melbourne (or Sydney) as a one-paper town… actually, I don’t want to imagine that.

    From a sports perspective, I’ll read Baum, Hanlon, Hinds, Niall et al (and the under-rated Emma Quayle) before the shouty heads at News Ltd. who try and make the news rather than analyse and report it.

    The Age needed a ‘game changer’, I’m not sure this is it, but here’s hoping. Dips’ last comment makes a salient point — and that is the battle is likely to be won online.

    Footnote: Did anyone see the new glossy ‘Sunday Style’ in the Sunday Herald Sun? It’s glossy stock eliminates the solitary thing it would be useful for.

  8. One thing I reckon they haven’t counted on – wifey wanted the news section at breakfast and I wanted the sports section. No separate lift-outs makes for a disgruntled couple.

    I didn’t think I’d care what format it was but when I saw the tabloid (sorry, compact) I was genuinely saddened. I miss the old broadsheet already.

  9. LITZA: what about old Flannets? Martin Flanagan, that is.
    Great yarn-spinner, even when writing about taking a granddaughter and the pooch for a walk.

    Is Robbo one of the shouty heads at the Current Bun? Used to work for me on the sports pages of the Bgo Addy. He’s a Bendigo boy, born and bred.
    Won the Reserves medal in the Bendy F.L. while playing for Sandhurst in the 80s.

    And, yep, Dips. I’m an iPad convert. Typing this one now, on the aforesaid gadget. With a little rubber-tipped gizmo.
    Reminiscent of a stylus, actually.

  10. Robbo’s become a bit more circumspect as he’s got older. John Ralph on the other hand…

  11. Yeah, what’s happened there with JR? Used to think he was the best of motley bunch.

  12. NOT a Bun reader myself, lads, but doesn’t JR appear at half-time on Sat nite telecasts ?
    Gives a rundown on wot’s coming up in the Sunday Bun.

    Maybe it was on the now-discontinued Ch. 10 telecasts. Can’t recall exactly.

  13. Peter_B says:

    Dear Melbourne and Sydney ‘Nackers,
    Welcome to the new tabloid, digital, diposable era. Tabloid in style – drama, confrontation and sensationalism – not paper size.
    You have presumably been so engrossed in your broadsheets for the last decade that you have stubbornly refused to acknowledge that this was happening all across society.
    News Flash – there will be no daily print newspapers in a few years time. Dailies will be subscription, digital editions – with weekend hard copy supported by the glossy magazine advertising and the residue of the classified ads market.
    Paper is too expensive, clumsy to make and difficult to distribute. It has lost the ‘rivers of gold’ ads that once supported these massive overheads.
    And we are all too time poor to consume much of it during the week, given the many competing media/info/entertainment alternatives.
    Print newspapers are to media as button up boots are to footwear.
    Here’s A Thought – Just a guess but we probably need pre-commitment subscriptions to the Almanac Book if we want to have it in the near future. The quality and breadth of the free on-line version is just too good for most people (except egotistical middle aged writers like myself) to put much value on a printed edition that represents games now mostly forgotten.
    Maybe what we all save on not buying daily newspapers (I haven’t for 2 years) could going into a 12 book Almanac Book subscription by June of each year?
    I don’t want to see the Handicapper on the streets and Theo down the coal mines (or Tom Waterhouse banner ads) to support my ego demands.

  14. Andrew Else says:

    Still get the broadsheet on Sat/Sun for a little while (probably less than a year) yet. That means the seperate Sport section can still be taken to the throne. Enjoy that while it lasts.

    Those who complain about T Waterhouse (or other betting agencies) and their ads and the lack of a form guide should note that you can’t have one without the other.

  15. IAs a commuter, I hated the Age bcause it was too big and awkward, but at teh same time I envied other commuters who read it because they were obviously of a high intellect.

    I wish the Truth was still around. Best Form Guide in history.

  16. In response to my earlier comment, I disagree. I read the compact last night and think they’ve done a good job. I agree with the callers to Jon Faine yesterday, who said they loved it but want a sport lift-out.
    They layouts, particularly, the double spreads, really set it apart from the Herald Sun.
    Well done team

  17. Mark Doyle says:

    I think it unfortunate that the Age has implemented the tabloid format, but the real issue is the lack of quality journalism especially concerning politcs and sport. Most of the sports writing in the Age is illinformed, self indulgent and meaningless opinion and speculation by mickey mouse journalists such as Caroline Wilson, Greg Baum, Jake Niall, Michael Gleeson and Samantha Lane. Rohan Connolly is the only credible AFL journo.
    The best aspects of the Age are the cartoons, especially the Michael Leunig and Bruce Petty cartoons, plus the foreign correspondent reports by Paul McGeogh, plus occasional articles by Ken Davidson and Dennis Altman and the information supplements such as Epicure, Travel, Life and Style, Money and the TV Green Guide.
    In my opinion the best daily newspaper is the German ‘Sud Deutsche Zeitung’ and the best source of analytical and informed opinion is found in magazines such as ‘The New York Review of Books’ and ‘Arena’.

  18. Mark – I have to disagree about Rohan Connolly.

    Also, there is no “best” paper when it comes to getting a balanced political or social view. The secret is to read widely. Can I suggest a diet of “Newsweekly” with the communist “Tribune” and/or “The Monthly”

  19. MD, have you penned a few letters to the Green Guide over the years by any chance?

  20. I’ve tried the Süddeutsche Zeitung, but couldn’t get past the umlauts…

  21. Litza

    Once you get past the umlauts, if you cook it and serve it properly, it’s very tasty for a german sausage

    (Unless of course, Suddeutsche Zeitung is a German trash metal band, in which case, colour me embarassed!)

    Sean

  22. Andrew Else says:

    Cookie,

    As someone who sits alongside the person who fields the Green Guide calls, your comment generated a large guffaw

  23. Richard Jones says:

    WELL it’s all come to pass, dear fellow Knackers.
    As from March 1st our weekend Ages will be published in the manky compact (read tabloid) format.
    Last Saturday we learned our Life & Style lift out will be re-branded Spectrum on March 1st. Today I saw a release from Fairfax Media informing us that the weekend broadsheet is on its last legs.
    March 1st was listed as the start date for the new format for the Saturday and Sunday Age.
    Enjoy your last broadsheet Rages this coming Saturday and Sunday!!

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