Allan Takes Aim Blog

Have you tried the duck test?

Posted on: 4 March 2013


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To make direct contact e-mail me at: dca@netspeed.com.au

 

Read on.

Have you tried the duck test?

The duck test is a humorous term for a form of inductive reasoning usually expressed as:

‘If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then probably it is a duck.’ The assumption in this saying is that a person can identify an unknown subject by observing its habitual characteristics. It is an assumption sometimes used to counter abstruse arguments that something is not what it appears to be. Being named Donald, this is a subject of interest to me as I would not take kindly to someone claiming to be a duck without having legitimate right.

I mention this because today two venerable Australian newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have set out to reinvent themselves in the digital age by changing their size. For more than a hundred years each has been a broadsheet but from today, their owner, Australia’s Fairfax Press, has decided the only way for them to survive in the digital age was for them to become to become ‘compacts,’ a snobbish description of tabloids.

The description is snobbish and the hangover of bygone days in newspaper publishing. In fact the great newspapers of the world today, with but few exceptions, are tabloids. There has been much prating about broadsheets being the home of quality journalism something that makes me think of the old TV comedy, ‘never mind the quality feel the width’ which leads me to ask: do their other tabloid/ compacts lack quality journalism?

That apart what makes a quality journalist? There seems to be a view among many in Canberra that the only journalists of quality are those who write or comment about politics, industrial matters, science, education and a few other disciplines. At the same other journalists are frequent seen on TV or heard on radio talking to each other and offering opinions about issues they write about that usually are the same. The problem is the public really only get the journalist’s view not the wider view of the public. But that’s a subject for another day.

The fact is that I’m of the opinion that the decision makers at Fairfax couldn’t see the wood for the trees. For example: before they made the ‘compact’ decision did they take a look at the shelves in a newsagent’s? If they did how many broadsheet magazines, trade publications not to mention sporting publications and community newspapers did they see?

What has happened in newspapers is the same as has happened in the world of computers. Like the pamphlets that gave birth to newspapers the first computer screens were small. Then gradually they grew so much so that they have started to overwhelm the home scene as people try to keep up with the Jones’s and outdo each other.

But big as TVs are the smaller tablets and Iphones are rapidly replacing them as peoples’ preferred means of reading and viewing.  And much as they might not like it, older people long used to a menu of broadsheet newspapers will have to get used to the new menu of tabloid/compacts. Of course, in time these too, will disappear.

That said, I am consoled by the fact that Fairfax is keeping the Canberra Times as a broadsheet. But broadsheet or I can but say that the promises made by politicians aren’t any truer or any better when published in the Canberra Times or a compact Sydney Morning Herald or Age, Melbourne or even in a News Ltd tabloid.

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14 Responses to "Have you tried the duck test?"

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