Switched On: Conversations with influential women in the Australian media
John Wiley, $29.95 pb, 247 pp
Switched On showcases the careers of twenty-nine ‘influential’ women who work in the media. Catherine Hanger, interviewer and former editor of Vogue Australia, believes that Switched On ‘connects two major spheres of influence in our society – the media and the women who work in it’ – and argues that the influence of these women is ‘very powerful indeed’. While the title promises ‘conversations’, Hanger, strangely, omits her questions. Perhaps she asked just one: ‘How did you become editor of Australian Women’s Weekly/an SBS news presenter/a film reviewer/a PR adviser to PBL/host of Media Watch?’
While mentors and networks clearly maketh the woman, ‘conversations’ can become reminiscent of gushing acceptance speeches and lists of names quickly become tedious. One significant name that pops up throughout the book is ‘Packer’. A story by the Australian Women’s Weekly editor-at-large, Lisa Wilkinson, illustrates the ease with which Kerry Packer wielded his power. Wilkinson initially preferred the ‘safety’ of the ‘cardigan-wearing Fairfax board’ to the editorship of Cleo, but agreed to meet the media mogul. Whisked away in a helicopter (flown by a future organ donor), she was delivered onto a helipad covered in a foot of bird-droppings and told she wouldn’t get lunch until she agreed to the job. The deal was done.