The Bulletin

This isn’t really a reaction to the Bulletin folding, because apart from the centenary issue which I hope my parents still have around somewhere, and which I found fascinating when I was ten, the magazine didn’t matter that much to me. I guess most people my age associate it with doctors’ waiting rooms: not a good sign. It’s more a reaction to this passage from Gideon Haigh’s article about its death in the Monthly:

To Trevor Kennedy, now ACP’s managing director, the Bulletin‘s makeover was too clever, too cute, rather effete. “There’s only one thing you need to save this magazine,” he lectured. “Fucking good stories.”

The makeover referred to was when David Dale nicked a lot of ideas from Spy and a few from Esquire in the late 80s and briefly turned the Bulletin into an entertaining magazine.

The idea that all Australian media bosses are swaggering cowboys has become such a cliché that I have no idea how much credence to place in it, but reading this passage made me wonder why, given the reported style of these blokes they don’t try to make a quid in stockbroking or real estate, rather than journalism. I guess the reason I found the article depressing is that it made me aware of a sort of background level of macho bullshit – not so much anti-intellectual as anti-cognitive – which I’d just gotten used to, and which, when you think about it, makes it surprising we get any entertaining journalism at all.

Is this related to the earnestness of the Monthly itself? I really enjoy Robert Forster’s music criticism and the long articles are usually OK, but the whole magazine lacks pizzazz, as if being entertaining were somehow beneath it. The cover photo of Patrick White on the current issue is a good example: he looks like death warmed up.

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