Having a go at News Corporation is about as new and original as moaning about Microsoft or the weather but events last week made me more grumpy than usual about Murdoch’s ugly behemoth.
Heading down a very long escalator towards my train platform just before rush hour I noticed that people below me were being forced to jump off at the bottom. They were trying to avoid a pile of mX newspapers that were strewn all over the floor. Clearly some lazy distributor had dumped about 40 copies on the ledge between the two escalators to save time, but somehow they’d been blown or knocked over.
Rather than see some old folks lose limbs I stopped to pick them all up and put them back on the side. This is no big deal in itself (‘Man Picks Up Newspapers – No Fatalities’ is not headline news – unless you’re the editor of mX maybe…) but it did get me thinking that maybe News Corporation has responsibilities that stretch beyond the point they hand over each copy of mX to the public.
For those lucky enough not to know, mX is a tabloid rag handed out for free in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney every afternoon. Content aside (lowest common denominator shite pulled from internet articles around the world and seemingly cobbled together by high school students who’ve had too much red cordial) I’ve always hated mX because of the aggressively pushy way it is distributed. It’s impossible to walk into train stations without having to physically side-step an eager young minimum-wager in a baseball cap playing their own version of Paperboy with commuters.
Given the lengths that people will go to avoid eye contact with the ladies and gents selling the Big Issue (who, lest we forget, are selling something relatively inexpensive that actually contains journalism SO THEY CAN STAY ALIVE) it’s frustrating to note the huge number that will accept any old crap from Murdoch just because it’s free and in their face.
More galling are the double standards employed by the rail and bus authorities. It’s hard to imagine Big Issue sellers being given the liberties that mX distributors appear to enjoy. Seemingly they are allowed to block doorways, thrust their wares intrusively in your face and loiter in public areas without being moved on or arrested as others would. As we’ve seen they are also allowed to dump random piles of papers around stations for people to help themselves. In most situations this is called littering.
Clearly Newscorp has paid a lot of money for these distribution rights but this should come with some clear duty of care expectations. For example, what about helping with the litter they create? One side effect of their saturation coverage is that trains and buses are awash with used copies of mX left behind by commuters. This suits Newscorp because people travelling later will pick up and read discarded copies for hours afterwards; more readers = happy advertisers. In the meantime trains look like rubbish tips. Even copies that do make it off the trains are going straight to landfill - I saw at least three people dump their mX’s straight in the regular bin as soon as they got to my stop.
I’m sure Newscorp would say it’s up to people to do the right thing and take them home, but I think social responsibility goes both ways. If you give something away are you responsible for how it gets used? At what point in the process can you morally say that it’s no longer your responsibility, even if legally you’re in the clear? Newscorp clearly isn’t interested in these issues but I think we should be asking for more. As a minimum they could something in their paper asking people to dispose of properly after use.
Personally I’d like to see one recycling bin, paid for and emptied by Newscorp for every mX stand across Australia. As a further suggestion, why not put them both together on the platform. Not only will this spare us having to do the daily slalom through the distributors but it will also make it easier to pick up a copy and put it straight into the recycling bin until they get the message. Then we can all go back to our books, proper newspapers and heck, maybe even buy a Big Issue now and again.