Bridget Griffen Foley

This impressive collection of knowledge ranges from the history of newspapers and the biographies of radio and television stars to the rise of media owners (the first of whom, Andrew Bent, arrived as a convict in 1812). It covers war reporting, food and sports coverage, children’s radio, blogging and podcasting, and even the life of the radio serial Blue Hills, which ran from 1949 to 1976.

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Fairfax Media, which has churned out millions of words since its beginnings in Sydney in the 1830s, has itself inspired hundreds of thousands of words in the last year or so. First came Colleen Ryan’s Fairfax: The Rise and Fall (June 2013), followed by Pamela Williams’ Killing Fairfax (July 2013). Now comes Stop the Presses! by Ben Hills, a veteran investigative journalist who would no doubt self-identify as a ‘Fairfax lifer’, like many characters in his book. Just in case the theme of these tomes isn’t clear, we have Hills’s subtitle: How Greed, Incompetence (and the Internet) Wrecked Fairfax.

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Margaret Simons is a writer familiar to her readers. There she was in Fit to Print: Inside the Canberra press gallery (1999), first driving with her husband and young children to the national capital, then following Michelle Grattan’s blue dress around Parliament House. Here she is again in The Content Makers: Understanding the media in Australia, telling us about her experiences in daily journalism, her move into freelance journalism, writing for the e-mail news service Crikey, and attending last year’s infamous 2006 Walkley Awards dinner.

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Rupert Murdoch certainly attracts a good class of biographer. There was George Munster, who contributed so much to Australian politics and culture by helping to establish and edit Nation, and William Shawcross, one of Britain’s most prominent journalists. There were other biographies, too, before the efforts of Bruce Page ...

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If Gerald Stone had gone to a publisher with a proposal for a book about Channel Seven or Channel Ten, it is doubtful whether it would ever have seen the light of day. But Stone – who would have endured more than a few pitches in his time as a television executive – had the sense to propose a book about his former employer, Channel Nine, and Compulsive Viewing is the result.

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On the day of the last Federal election, I became engaged in an unlikely conversation with a helper for the ‘Call-to-Australia’ cause at my local polling booth. When I revealed that I had recently completed a research project on Dr H.V. Evatt, my elderly companion asserted that Evatt should not be hailed as the hero of the labour movement. Australia’s greatest politician, this former member of the Australian Labor Party informed me, was ‘Edward Granville Theodore’.

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In his foreword to Doc Evatt, Jim Hagan claims that this is the fourth full-length biography of Dr. H.V. Evatt and suggests that only one other Australian politician has scored as many. Leaving aside the fact that Allan Dalziel never pretended that his book, Evatt the Enigma, was anything more than a profile of the man he worked with for twenty years, these assertions create the misleading impression that a substantial body of literature on Evatt exists. Academics have long lamented the lack of a comprehensive and scholarly biography of one of Australia’s most important and complex judicial and political figures. The very recent appearance of Peter Crockett’s Evatt: A life, characterised by wide-ranging research but a crude psychoanalytical approach, chronic disorganisation, a weakness in the analysis of international affairs, and a lack of historical perspective, disappointed in many ways.

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