This is the first installment of an occasional series by an Age watcher who has spent a goodly part of their life in and around hospices.Â
Their view is that The Age is near death.Â Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard all the claims of robust good health and trimming back the fat to save the core of the business, but even with our limited knowledge of medicine, we continue to find it hard to believe that you can repeatedly amputate a patient back to good health.
Needless to say, our professional Death Watcher reckons they’ve come to know the sight and smell of someone who’s about to shuffle off this mortal coil.Â And the odour is strong down Spencer Street way.Â Here are some of the most recently observed symptoms of the patient:
Symptom #1: Don’t know what day it is.
Did anyone else notice this? One of our eagle-eyed death watchers spent time examining the “new” Green Guide this month, and was perplexed by the fact that the November 6 edition ran program details from Thursday 6 November through to Wednesday 12 November.Â The next edition, published on Thursday 13, ran program details from Friday 14 November to Thursday 20 November.Â But no program details for Thursday 13 November, in either edition.Â Oops.Â Maybe a dog ate them.Â Or maybe they just forgot.Â Or maybe Thursday was a notable public holiday in Peru or Botswana, and Green Guide felt the need to have a day of rest.Â Or maybe the poor folk at The Aged are just going through the motions waiting for the bell to toll.
Symptom #2: Can’t concentrate for very long.
We used to think that the page numbers in the newspaper were a kind of permanent fixture, immutable, unchanging, and just “there” as a feature of the landscape.Â So, imagine our surprise to discover in the Sunday October 12 edition of The Aged, that pages 25 and 26 were simply not there. Forgotten.Â Discarded.Â Left out.Â Overlooked.Â Or maybe in the North Korean numbering system, there is no equivalent for the numbers 25 and 26?Â Or perhaps the poor put-upon sub-editor in charge of page numbers was so busy looking over his shoulder, fearing that he himself was a dead man walking, that he wasn’t concentrating.Â Perhaps this could explain some of the other inexplicable oversights happening over at the Not-The-Newspaper of the Year.
Symptom #3: Lost interest in the outside world.
Apparently Don Churchill, the Krazy Kiwi Kommandant of Fortress Spencer Street doesn’t leave his office much these days. In fact, we’re told he’s called The Ghost Who Walks by adoring staff, because his existence in the building is more rumour than fact.Â Or maybe he’s just sitting in his bomb shelter waiting for the clock to tick down to zero.Â How poignant.Â Either way, we’ve now heard from several sources that he’s not fond of striding the corridors. Prefers the cold bluish glow of his Blackberry over human contact, apparently.
Symptom #4: Giving away one’s worldly possessions.
If you’ve ever had a family member go through the experience of a terminal illness, you’ll know that they can be in the habit of handing over their treasures to special people before their actual day of departure.Â Perhaps that would explain why some of The Age’s favoured clients are getting full page advertising for virtually nothing lately.Â That’s right, nothing.Â VEXNEWS has a good friend in the car business who was recently offered a full page ad for his dealership for $1,750.Â Full retail price in better times?Â $17,000.Â But bigger clients are literally being given page after page of ads for nix. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Expensive even at that price we reckon given last week’s readership numbers. (In case you weren’t paying attention, Roy Morgan has The Age down on 3.7% weekdays, down 0.8% on Saturdays and down 1.6% on Sundays.)
Symptom #5: Critical systems starting to shut down
Our newsagency spies tell us that next week, several thousand Age subscribers who happen to live in Canberra will no longer get their Age home delivered.Â Something about a switch from air freight to road freight.Â Now, frankly, who really gives a stuff if a bunch of public servants, diplomats and pollies don’t get their daily paper, but what’s the deal?Â At the heart of a newspaper business is a distribution business, and from where we sit, it looks and sounds very much like The Age is on the verge of giving up.Â Coming hard on the heels of their “if you want a form guide you’re going to have to come and get it from your newsagent” debacle, there is a pattern emerging of a newspaper business that doesn’t seem to want to be in the newspaper business any more.
Symptom #6: Plummeting vital signs
Our forensic accountants paid a visit to intensive care the other day and came back with this intriguing (albeit slightly speculative) picture of the patient’s overall fiscal position.Â Piecing together publicly available information, it would appear that The Age was probably good for a bottom line of around $150 million five years ago.Â In fact, that number could even be conservative.Â Our boy’s best guess of The Age’s current financial position, using some of the claims coming from the mouth of the Krazy Kat Kiwi himself about classified revenues suggest that The Age’s bottom line in 2008-9 could be as low as $30 million. Those pulsing, vibrant, life-affirming rivers of gold are barely flowing these days it would seem.Â
So there you have it Doctor:Â Weak pulse.Â Non-responsive.Â Low blood pressure.Â Laboured breathing.Â Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.