Paul Sheehan's failure to declare his relationship with the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies marks another low point in the increasingly rapid decline of the Sydney Morning Herald
Paul Sheehan's piece in Monday's Sydney Morning Herald, "It's too easy just to blame Jews" was a rambling and largely aimless piece of writing. It showed no sympathy for the Palestinians of Gaza or the Palestinians in general and it made many odd and disconnected arguments - including a bizarre shot at my home town, Auburn here in Sydney.
Most of all though, it was remarkable that such an ordinary piece of writing could command such prime real estate in a "quality broadsheet".
Even so, the revelation by Margaret Simons in Crikey yesterday that Sheehan's referenced visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories was sponsored by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs comes as a shock. At no point in his article did Sheehan acknowledge his relationship with either the Board of Deputies or the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
It's another sign that the Sydney Morning Herald is but a shadow of its former credible self. The Herald's put in a tortured few years as it's morphed from serious newspaper to local lifestyle magazine.
Problem is, I still rate Paul McGeough, Peter Hartcher, Hamish McDonald and others as favourite writers. They seem increasingly an anomoly in the overall style of the paper now though. The conflict between management's confused daily lifestyle magazine / serious newspaper ambitions seems to have come to a head - and it's hard to believe the serious newspaper will win out. Many friends who have been longstanding supporters of the Herald have given up.
Take a look at the Sydney Morning Herald website www.smh.au. It's as downmarket tabloid as you can get. The sex scandal will always take precedence over serious news and you don't have to be a marketing graduate to know the damage that this has done to the Herald brand.
But as newspapers prepare for a year of declining advertising revenues and in some cases collapse, there doesn't seem to be much cause for hope that the Sydney Morning Herald will be any better twelve months from now.
The paper may well be carrying the overhead of a quality broadsheet with the output of a tabloid magazine. A lose lose for the bean counters and readers alike.
It's going to get much harder for those seeking quality news and current affairs. The problem for the newspapers in their race to the bottom is that the lifestyle / tabloid space is increasingly saturated.
Some crazy innovator may again see an opportunity in credible, quality news.....