will colvin sneaky magazine

All the ways I wasted Rupert Murdoch’s money

WILL COLVIN used to “work” at Murdoch’s News.com.au site. He’s on Twitter as @woblord. Here’s all the ways he might have wasted Rupert’s cash…

When I started working at the Rupert Murdoch-owned News.com.au in 2011, it was actually a pretty cool website.

My first six months working for them were exciting: I was typing words and money was going into my bank account. It was edited by a team of two excellent journalists named David Penberthy and Paul Colgan, both of whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for. 

Back then, News.com.au was arguably the most moderate and balanced of the properties in the Murdoch empire. I got in before Rupert started to really understand the whole online thing, so it was a small part of his kingdom that didn’t seem to be forced to toe the party line at all times. 

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There was a commitment there to actual journalism. It was an online tabloid, but I didn’t feel the shame I would have felt if I’d been at the Daily Telegraph. 

I learnt a lot about writing at News.com.au; how to write in an instinctive, unbiased way and how to find a natural tone as a writer without jamming a voice into everything the way most young writers do.

And in those early days, I mainly just got to write about fun stuff like video games, USB dildos, and rock stars. I even flew to Los Angeles and London to play video games and write about them.

But eventually Murdoch must have noticed that his flagship Australian website wasn’t making him enough money and wasn’t injecting enough shittiness into planet Earth to satisfy the reptilian overlords he probably reports to.

A guy I’ll call Jeff McIlstein was installed as the website’s editor, a man who as far as I can tell had spent his entire life writing really detailed op-eds about how important Rugby Union was. I really didn’t like that guy.

As the staff changed and every decent journalist in the house slowly left and moved on to better and bigger things, the website shifted to a model best known as churnalism. Rather than making phone calls and interviewing people and finding out facts and writing articles about real things happening, I was moderating comments (there is no worse hell anywhere on the internet than the cesspit of the News.com.au comments section) and doing endless re-writes of other website’s content about totally sensationalist shit. I started to feel a sense of deep moral shame about the organisation I was contributing to.

Jeff brought with him a new entertainment editor, we’ll call her Lisa Odenkirk. I really, really didn’t like Lisa Odenkirk. Especially after she mistook me – someone who had produced over 89 features and done three overseas press junkets – for an unpaid intern, after I sent her an article for subbing that I’d done with the guitarist of the Beach Boys and she replied with “Oh wow! You produced some content! Good on you! I’m not really a fan of the Beach Boys but I’m sure we can find somewhere to put it!”

That was the day I decided my job at News.com.au could change from ‘writing things, sub-editing things and doing website production’ to ‘doing absolutely no work at all and seeing how long I could get away with it.’

I’D LIKE TO SHARE with you some of my experiences in this new field, in the hopes that you may too become a professional not-doer of anything, and as a way to gloat in the faces of all the people in that office who I did not, did not, did not, did not like.

One of my roles was as a cross-section producer. When I was rostered on to a production shift, people from all the sections – Entertainment, News, Travel, Tech – could ask me to do things for them and I’d have to do it.

Except I figured out that if I copy and pasted a bunch of articles that I wanted to read into a text file, it looked like I was writing stuff.

So someone from Entertainment could come over and be like “hey, can you ‘re-write’ this story from another website about Kim Kardashian’s butt,” and I could be like “sorry dude, as you can see from all these text files I’m far too busy doing re-writes about useless garbage for the News section, or the Tech section.”

I “could have” done that day in and day out, every day, for months.

Another thing I got really good at is what I like to call the “interview face.”

I’d take my phone out, grab a piece of paper and a voice recorder, and I’d make this sort of weird serious face and frantically scribble some stuff down and mutter something like “oh god late for this fucking interview” and go into one of the glass rooms and sit there doing a phone interview.

Except actually, I “could have” been having two hour Skype conversations with my friend Mislav while he was overseas in Brighton.

One time I convinced the News desk that it was really important that we do rolling live stream coverage of E3, an annual video game event that happens in Los Angeles, and just spent the entire shift posting launch trailers of video games and writing pithy comments about nerd stuff. To be fair though, that was sort of just… doing my job. But in amusingly self-beneficial way.

News.com.au was on the same floor as the games website IGN. IGN had a massive TV and a Playstation and an XBOX and gaming computers and all of these great digital toys.

I’d often be rostered on as weekend night editor, a shift that would start at 6pm and finish at 2am on Friday and Saturdaynights.

What you were supposed to do as night editor was monitor the website and make sure that the best stories were at the top of the page, and then compile a list of new stories taken from other sites around the network and update the front page with them at 11.30, and then monitor those until 2am – at which point you did a handover saying which stories were doing well and basically describing what you’d done for the last few hours.

I realised that, instead of doing any of that, I “could” spend about half an hour compiling that list at the start of the evening, then  go over to IGN’s section and play video games and watch movies until 11.30, switch over the list, write a made up handover email which I would email to my phone in a way that formatted it so it would look like it was from my company Outlook account if I forwarded it.

This is the best bit. This is the bit where I realised Rupert Murdoch literally “could have” paid me to go to parties and do MDMA.

I “could have” left the office, go up the road to Surry Hills, eat drugs and get wasted, and check my phone and the website every 10 minutes to make sure nothing really, really bad had happened in the world like a terrorist attack or something, and then at 2am send the handover from my phone, formatted as if it was from Outlook in the office. I “could have” done that.

But did I?

“No”.

One time I even just went out into the park next to the building during a night shift and ran around chasing pigeons for an hour to get some exercise. Anything to avoid actually working.

Also, somehow, no one seemed to notice at the end of every one of my night shifts, the front page story would always be one of my interviews with a musician or a video game designer or a film maker. 

I made an interview that I did with French electronic band Justice the front page story of Australia’s biggest national news website and somehow didn’t get in trouble. I did stuff like that on a weekly basis.

THIS STORY doesn’t really have a point, or a moral, or a grounding in current events. I just want to give my former employers a giant fuck you. Fuck you, News Corp. Fuck you Rupert Murdoch. Fuck you in your dessicated old sausage of a head.

Update: Our editor, James, spoke to Will about the whole kerfuffle…

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