A mate who was sitting one seat away from me – who spends his working life as a food critic – noted there was something special on the menu for me, The entree at this year’s “Andrew Olle Media Lecture” was gravad lax, a typically Swedish meal, though the descriptor in the menu had this particular version as “Norwegian style”. Accompanied by herring in a teppan’yaki style batter, it was a very lovely entree. The main was good too – I had the chicken – and so was the desert and other parts of the night. Given the scale of it all, I’m constantly amazed at how they can dish up 300+ meals simultaneously without any obvious stuff-ups.
The venue was the Shangri La, by the way, or the old ANA, as many older people still refer to it. On my annual calendar, this is my annual “big night out”. Most of the time for the last five or six years, though, I’ve been working, as I’ve always had some involvement in the planning and implementation of the night. But this year I’ve had no involvement, and for me it was just a night to relax, have a great meal, chat, and generally enjoy life and just to experience the event as a “punter”.
I wasn’t around for the first one, but I’ve been going regularly to the “Olle Lecture” since the second was delivered in 1997 by Jana Wendt. As I recall, she and Channel 9 had just parted ways, and there was a “story to tell”. Along the way, there have been various journalists, media owners, and media players most of whom were on “their way up”, though some have some “made their way down” again.
2009 Andrew Olle Media Lecture – Julian Morrow
2008 Andrew Olle Media Lecture – Ray Martin
2007 Andrew Olle Lecture – John Hartigan
2006 Andrew Olle Lecture – Helen Coonan
2005 Andrew Olle Media Lecture – John Doyle
2004 Andrew Olle Media Lecture – Chris Anderson
2003 Andrew Olle Media Lecture – Harold Mitchell
2002 Andrew Olle Media Lecture – Lachlan Murdoch
2001 Andrew Olle Lecture – Kerry Stokes
2000 Andrew Olle Lecture – Eric Beecher
1999 Andrew Olle Lecture – Steve Vizard
1998 Andrew Olle Lecture – John Alexander
And this year it was the Editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger who
has overseen the newspaper’s website being voted best newspaper website in the world, while he has been named Editor of the Year three times and he is also noted for fighting, and winning, a number of high-profile legal cases involving free speech issues and corruption in government.
His central thesis concerned the The Splintering of the Fourth Estate, which he observed in these terms
Digital is biting most fiercely on the press, if only because we have somehow to earn our own living (I will qualify that in a moment) and don’t enjoy the sheltered protection of licence fees or government funding. As digital eats into the press, so the press has turned its fire on public broadcasters, imagining that if only they went away everything in the garden would once more come out in bloom. And so the balance between these three separate ideas of journalism begins to teeter.
A highlight of the speech was his 15-point – very good summary – of how important Twitter is, and how it’s often under-estimated by many working in traditional media.
I’ve lost count of the times people – including a surprising number of colleagues in media companies – roll their eyes at the mention of Twitter. “No time for it,” they say, “Inane stuff about what twits are having for breakfast. Nothing to do with the news business.” Well, yes and no. Inanity – yes, sure, plenty of it. But saying that Twitter has got nothing to do with the news business is about as misguided as you could be.
“I’ve never heard Twitter intellectualized in such a manner before”, a colleague said to me as we chatted after the speech.
As the official part of the evening came to an end, a few of us made our way to the Horizon Bar on the 36-th floor, I think. I’d only ever been there once before, but remembered the view in particular. With cocktails starting at $20 each, it’s not the kind of place you chuck em down with gay abandon. But with such a great view, you’re hardly inclined to.
Very memorable night. The only downside was arriving home at about 2.00am, and discovering it was more difficult to take off my bow-tie than it was to put it on. Nothing to do with the cocktails of course