September 24, 2004

Defused

MediaCow writes (hopefully for the last time about student media for the next decade)...

Thank God for that. Thursday will be the last scheduled 2004 issue of Fuse, the New Zealand Herald’s “tertiary student publication”.

Editor Paola Ghirelli has signaled to her bosses that she will not be back. Word around APN is that Ghirelli’s decision was prompted by negative reaction from students towards the publication. This included poor reviews in the predictably hostile student press, and a mass defection of volunteer contributors after the publication’s second issue.

That second issue had seen the wannabe students promise investigative journalism over whether Auckland student politician Greg Langton had been funded by the Maxim Institute (Russell Brown put the story together nicely) and had lied about his National Party roots. Ghirelli even boldly stated in her editorial, “we ask… the hard question: are you a member of the National Party?” Stuart Dye (a grown up reporter) asked the hard question, and dutifully printed the scamp’s answer: he had never been seriously involved. It took campus magazine Craccum to hunt out the awfully-difficult-to-obtain information that the lad’s name was still on the Young National website as Tertiary Council representative.

Worse, by my reckoning, a record reviewer in the same issue stated that on her “new” album, British singer Joss Stone covered all the “soul standards like… Fell in Love With A Boy”, which was originally a White Stripes song released in 2000. Not quite a soul standard.

After its first issue the publication was already flagging a possible change to being a more general “youth” supplement, rather than being dedicated to Tertiary Students.

Traditional newspaper mores dictate writing for a reading age of between 12 and 14, which only stands to reason for a mass circulation organ. However, Fuse is a specialist publication aimed at a population defined by its high level of education. Where the editorial team should have been providing if not more beef in its news then at least more wit than the average Spleen contribution, it was persevering with processed production line newspaper fare. An apologetic admission to writing for Fuse can be found online on Simon Pound's website, and complaints can be found in the letters pages of many traditional student publications.

The repositioning of Fuse for “yoof” may be less of a make-over and more of a post-factum rationalization of its standard of content.

The $30,000 question is: who will replace Ghirelli?

Fighting Talk's Matt Nippert has suggested the Herald hire someone with student media experience. A number of Nippert’s FT cohorts are looking for work, and of course the recently announced ASPA honour roll (covered sensationally by Mister Neil Falloon in these pages) could act as a ready-made shortlist for the Herald (with the added bonus that Craccum, whose editors Ghirelli has described as “thuggish”, would be ruled out of contention).


Taking a chance on a kid, however, doesn't quite seem the Herald’s style. APN also owns New Zealand Listener, a haven for student rag editors made good such as Tim Watkin and Alistair Bone.

Media Cow and his friend Mister Neil Falloon like to think outside the square, so we want freelancer Greg Dixon to apply for the job. Dixon is writer of the creatively-titled "Greg Dixon’s Weekend" in the Weekend Herald. He seems to have finally been given more latitude since Granny’s weekend makeover, such that some of his vitriol actually approaches the level of the better student magazines. Moreover, despite being a professional who has been around the game a long time, he seems to have the appropriate maturity level. The fact that he’s actually an old fart is something we can live with.




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