Flat White

Andrew Jaspan triumphs again

11 October 2016

6:28 PM

11 October 2016

6:28 PM

the conversation logoAndrew Jaspan – the malevolent Mancunian media marvel – has done it again. He’s set to be booted from The Conversation website for his outstanding contribution to the detriment of journalism summa cum laude.

As nothing ever became him quite like the manner of his leaving, Mr Jaspan infamously departed as editor of The Age newspaper in 2008 when 235 of its journalists unanimously passed a motion accused him of “degrading their ability to produce independent journalism.”

Journalists are unlikely unanimous voters on any topic but the diminutive, peripatetic Jaspan elicits such universal opprobrium among the ink-stained angels of the chattering classes whenever and wherever he deems to descend from the Fourth Estate’s Elysium to scatter editorial fairy dust among lesser practitioners of the art

His journalistic walk of shame so far includes The Observer, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald, The Times and Sunday Times and The Big Issue.

The Conversation is a not-for-profit academic thought bubble that Jaspan created with $9 million of other peoples’ money when he was finally ejected from The Age cockpit. It now operates in five markets – Australia, Africa, the US, the UK and France – and employs more than 100 people.

The website is based on the idea of sharing the expertise of academia directly with the public and thus turning the university sector into a giant newsroom. Content is written by academics working in collaboration with professional editors using a custom built collaborative publishing platform.

Quadrant’s Tony Thomas wrote an amusing critique of the rather one-sided “Conversation” in 2014:

Andrew Jaspan invites personal questions, so last December I wrote to him,

Hi Andrew,  Does your organisation publish a public annual report and annual accounts? Have any of the 27 university members disclosed how much funding they are contributing to your group? If you are not legally obliged to make the accounts public, would it not be good to do so voluntarily?”

I still await his reply.

Key sponsors of The Conversation are founders CSIRO, and the universities Melbourne, WA, Monash and UTS. Strategic partners include toffy law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth, CBA and the Victorian Department of Business (eh? I thought we had a Liberal-led government in Victoria?).

Jaspan says the Australian site gets 1.4m unique visitors a month, thanks to content “which is curated by professional editors while together we make every effort to adhere to high standards and ethics.”

A swathe of The Conversation’s output (motto: Academic rigour, journalistic flair) is non-contentious – academics writing ‘pop’ pieces on their research into Pacific Islanders, maths education, beetle behavior, whatever.

But on climate, The Conversation is an exclusive playground for left and green authors. Skeptics, including myself, enjoy giving the authors and authors’ fans an occasional poke by reminding them about the halt to warming. This drives the site’s warmists berserk, such that even middle-of-the-road readers are appalled at the abuse levels and drop The Conversation from their reading list. (Some skeptic commenters – not me – can be rude too, although most try to be gentlefolk).

All the editors from Jaspan down, raise their hands in horror at the suggestion that their site has any Green/left tilt…

A retired geologist/engineer Peter Lang recently submitted this comment:

“It cannot be good for the country or for academia to have such Left ideological bias in our academic institutions. It would be very wise for politically impartial universities to not support The Conversation until it can demonstrate it is truly balanced and impartial.  I would also urge the remainder of our publicly funded universities to withdraw or reduce their level of funding until the Conversation cleans up its act.”

The Guardian Australia’s hit rate in Melbourne leapt today when it reported:

Andrew Jaspan, the co-founder and editor of the Conversation, is on enforced leave after complaints from senior staff about his management style and the global direction of the group.

The chairman of the Conversation, Robert Johansen, confirmed the board was working on a new management structure and an announcement would be made soon.

He declined to comment on the tension between Jaspan and staff but said the not-for-profit media group had grown rapidly through Jaspan’s entrepreneurship and needed to be reorganised.

“The organisation has grown incredibly quickly,” Johansen told Guardian Australia. “There are a lot of issues as a result of its success and it’s now a very large complicated, international organisation.”

Ah, Jaspan and issues. Again.

Terence Maher is a former editor of The Melbourne Times

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