Home' Aurora : Aurora August 2012 Contents 15
www.mn.catholic.org.au Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
THE SKY IS falling, the sky is falling,"
screeched Chicken Little to Henny Penny,
as the panicked chook rushed from her
garden to tell the king, the centre of all
wisdom and authority in this fairy tale world.
This well known and popular story has its
roots in the fables of a storytelling slave
of ancient Greece by the name of Aesop
who is said to have lived between 620
and 560 BC.
A first century Pythagorean philosopher,
Apollonius of Tyana, is believed to have
said of Aesop, "like those who dine off
the plainest dishes, he made use of the
humble incidents to teach great truths,
and after serving up a story he adds to
Then, too, he was really more attached to
truth than the poets are; for the latter do
violence to their own stories in order to
make them probable; but he, by announcing
a story which everyone knows not to be
true, told the truth by the very fact that he
did not claim to be relating real events."
This gem of an insight into the human
condition was recorded some time in the
first century by Philostratus in his Life of
Apollonius of Tyana.
Chicken Little's moment of panic occurred
not because the sky is falling, but because
an unseen acorn struck her head while she
was working in the garden.
But such is the chook's shock that she
sets out on a course of action that sweeps
up all and sundry until they meet Foxy Loxy,
who, on learning that they are on their way
to their king, asks the question:
"Do you know the way to the king's house?"
to which they respond, "No."
"Then come with me and I will show you."
A simple child's tale it may be, but the
story of Chicken Little has entered into
the human narrative in profound ways;
the name "Chicken Little" has become
shorthand for a person or group panicking
at the slightest movement or perceived
disaster and spreading that fear.
The phrase "the sky is falling" is ascribed
to those who react to the mere mention of
uncertainty or potential disaster, without
challenging the notion in the first place.
And what are we to make of Foxy Loxy?
Well, perhaps the answer lies in his
response to their uncertainty: "Then come
with me and I will show you the way."
But should we be so sure?
As for the sky, well, it hasn't yet
fallen, the sun keeps rising
and the Newcastle Herald
continues to hit pavements
and front lawns - for the time
Whether a printed daily edition of
the newspaper will continue remains
a moot point, but that can also be said for
the future of newspapers across the globe,
particularly in the United States.
Printed newspapers are also competing
for 'eyeballs' as other screen platforms
demand our attention and time.
Publishers of Australian newspapers
are only just now starting to react to the
impact of the digital tsunami that has been
washing across the media landscape for
the last decade.
Last year the metropolitan division of
Fairfax Media -- publisher of The Sydney
Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne
-- flagged that it was planning to move its
editorial production offshore but at the
same time bolster its online presence.
There had been much talk in media circles
that something similar would happen with
its regional newspapers, like the Newcastle
Herald and other mastheads.
That news came in late May when Fairfax
Regional Media, the Newcastle Herald's
publisher -- proposed to shift offshore
its editorial production arm (sub-editing
and preparation for print production of its
major regional newspapers), a move seen
by many as the first step in the eventual
demise of local journalism.
Both decisions have meant significant job
losses, not just for production journalists
like sub-editors but for an array of people
who form an integral part of any print
newspaper's ecology. In Fairfax's case,
1900 positions over three years throughout
Australia. For its opposition, News
Limited, some 1500.
Here in Newcastle, the change
currently would mean the
immediate loss of 36 full-time
jobs among the journalists, but no
loss of reporting or photographic
positions, and thus Fairfax would
continue to run the largest newsroom in
Despite an eleventh hour bid by
the journalists' union, the Media,
Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) to
stave off the job cuts with an alternative
plan, Fairfax management remained
So how does the community respond
to this news? It goes social, galvanises
around one large gathering where an
estimated 1500 people come along to add
their voices to the collective angst over the
news and then....dissipates.
How odd that the very thing that has
contributed to the demise of printed
newspapers -- digital communication - is
the key choice of weapon to protest and
rally others to ensure that it will not go
unnoticed among a group of predominantly
And to this point, we turn to late 20th
century scriptwriter, dramatist and novelist,
William Goldman, (1930- ) who in his
1983 memoir (considered a bible by many
budding screenwriters) Adventures in
the Screen Trade wrote, "Nobody knows
anything" when reflecting on his experience
of the entertainment industry.
It is a phrase oft repeated to describe
much that is claimed to be true in this
tumultuous world beyond the dream factory.
So is local journalism poorer for the demise
of embedded sub-editors? Frankly, the jury
is still out. But change in the way we all
consume our media has been of tectonic
proportions and it has not stopped yet.
Such has been the shift that many of us
have become de facto journalists in our
desire to tell the story of our community.
It is clear that our relationship with the
Fourth Estate has always been problematic
and while a few of us have "liked" the
Facebook banner, the unwritten contract
between the people and the media is still
But what of our hapless fable-folk who
stood in front of Foxy Loxy?
Well before the fox was able to lead them
into his den to eat his neighbours, the sky
did fall in on him!
In shock, Chicken Little said, "Oh dear,"
while her companions exclaimed, "We're
too late," while Ducky Daddles remarked,
"Poor Foxy Loxy", followed by Goosey Loosey
with, "No sense in going to the king."
"Nothing to do now but to go home,"
concluded Turkey Lurkey, which they all did.
Greg Hall is the Chair of the Hunter Writers
Centre, a documentary filmmaker and
journalist. He was a producer on the
documentary film Lockout -- Australia's
Most Violent Industrial Dispute. He's been a
member of the MEAA since he started as a
cadet at News Ltd in 1985.
By GREG HALL
the shift that
many of us
Publishers of Australian newspapers are only beginning to react to the impact of the
digital tsunami that has been washing across the media landscape for the last decade.
In late May the Newcastle Herald's publisher, Fairfax Regional Media, announced its
decision to shift its editorial production arm offshore. The move has been seen by
many as the first step in the eventual demise of local journalism. Is the sky falling,
or have reports of the death of local journalism been greatly exaggerated? Local
journalist Greg Hall muses on questions arising.
The Newcastle Herald 4 June 2012
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