Job insecurity as the new job security



Today I went to work … for the simple reason I had a job to go to.

I will do the same on Monday and Tuesday.

And, hopefully, presumably, next Friday, too.

Given the ongoing ructions in the media in general and the newspaper lark in particular, this is not a situation I take for granted – even in a good week.

And this has not been a good week. (But perhaps it hasn’t been ruinously bad one either … read on, dear reader, read on …)

Once again, my colleagues and I have been tossed around by the winds of change.

In this case, it was announced on Thursday that the western suburbs affairs of the MMP group, for which I work, are to be merged with the western suburbs affairs of the Star group, which lives on the other side of the Ring Road from our Airport West HQ.

Details remain a little sketchy, but it seems the new set-up will be a completely separate entity from both parent companies.

Two things have surprised me about this:

1. It’s the first time I can recall in regards to similar announcements that sub-editors and production staff, of which I am one, have not been earmarked as pretty much the first to be given the boot.

2. My own reaction – which has bemused me with its sanguine outlook.

OK, in this case my own immediate work situation remains unaltered … for now.

But I wasn’t to know that when my boss called me on one of my days off to give me the news.

This rather ho-hum response couldn’t be more at odds with my feelings when faced with such potentially dire news on two previous occasions in recent years.

During both, I was teary and felt a wild, thoroughly unpleasant mixture of bleakness, anger and terror.

I know not if this equanimity is attributable to simply being too exhausted by anxiety and stress to summon up any sort of primal emotional response.

Or if it is simply down to a mature acceptance of facing the unknown and what I cannot change with whatever optimism I can summon.

Possibly, it is a combination of both.

For you, the citizens of the west, this will mean that in about three months you will get not three but two suburban papers stuffed into your mailboxes – providing they get delivered to your particular neighbourhood at all!

For myself and my colleagues, there is potential upsides to all this even as, as I have been led to believe, job losses in the MMP group alone number about 30.

Having three companies publishing community newspapers across the west has proven to be unsustainable.

So now it will be something of an old-fashioned head-to-head newspaper war between the Leader group of News Ltd and what I have been told will be called the Weekly Star publications.

It’s perhaps too easy and glib for journalists to proclaim suburban newspapers as the great hope for the future.

But I reckon they do provide some cause for optimism.

After a career mostly undertaken in metropolitan newspapers, I am thoroughly enjoying working on and with stories that have real meaning in local contexts.

Politics and sport are just two of the areas in which we seem to be providing a much-wanted service largely abandoned by the big guys.

I was told today that the circulation of the Herald Sun has slipped below 400,000 and that of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph below 300,000.

I am unsure of the accuracy of those figures, but still …

In the meantime, should Consider The Sauce continue to grow and develop in the next four years in the same manner it has for the past four, maybe by the time the whole newspaper mess goes down, I will be in a position to survive doing something I really, truly love.

PS: I wanted to use the word sanguineness … but I don’t think it IS a word!

Our suburban newspapers – the elephant in the room



My appreciation for and reliance on our suburban press for finding out what is going on in my community have both deepened significantly in recent years.

This process has been hastened by my metropolitan newspaper career fading to memory, at the very time those newspapers fight for survival and seem often to be pre-occupied with major sport, federal politics, shock/horror and click bait.

And, until recently, I was even working on either a regional newspaper (Geelong Advertiser) or its free, weekly “giveaways”, and even (more recently) for the proprietors of one of our three suburban titles.

As well, doing Consider The Sauce has really heightened my desire for information about what’s going on in the greater western suburbs. And I’m not just talking about restaurant reviews – reading the suburban press has hipped me to many festivals and community events, as well as providing information about local politics and so on.

So I am both intrigued and a little disturbed by events of recent weeks that have revealed to me a suburban press “elephant in the room” – how many, or how few, of these newspapers actually get delivered.

Here’s how it unfolded …

A few days before the Yarraville Festival, the festival Facebook page mentioned that there was a lift-out festival program going in that week’s edition of the Maribyrnong Weekly. Someone immediately replied that they hardly ever saw a copy of that publication.

On reflection, I realised this was very true for us, too! In fact, and speaking very subjectively, it seemed at that point like we’d seen any or all of our three suburban newspapers little more than a handful of times each in about six months.

So I made a phone call to register my unhappiness. You’ll be unsurprised to learn, given the way this story is headed, that the nice people I spoke to were and are well used to receiving such phone calls.

The upshot was that the following week I got a door knock from a representative of the company that distributes the Star and the Maribyrnong Weekly.

After discussing our specific non-delivery issues, I mentioned that as I’m in “full-on job-seeker mode”, perhaps I should be delivering these rags my own self.

One thing led to another, many phone calls were made and it was settled I would become a “walker” for a particular area of Yarraville.

For several reasons that I won’t address here, it all came to nowt – I pulled the plug without delivering a newspaper, let alone getting paid for it.

I will say, though, that my decision had nothing to do with the professionalism or competence of the various people with whom I dealt.

But it’s fair to say I now have insights into how and why getting these newspapers delivered is something of a logistical nightmare.

I have long assumed that non-delivery issues amounted to little more than a fraudulent scam perpetrated by the various distribution companies.

I now know that’s not the case – or not always the case.

The people I conferred with seemed to be doing their very best to deal with a complex operation that involves every neighbourhood being drawn up into sectors that are assigned to the available “walkers”.

Then there are the “walker” issues themselves.

Let’s face it – the pay is pitiful. Had I embarked on this new, um, career, I would’ve been paid at a rate unlike anything I have received since I was a pre-teenager. About $10 an hour, I estimate, and that’s if I’d been going like a bat out of hell.

So, as was said to me this morning, “this is not work that suits everyone”.

Nor, I was informed, is it viable to rely on such work for a living wage.

All this reduces dramatically the pool of potential “walkers”.

Finally, and inevitably, given all this – poor pay, hard work, the changing seasons and more – some regular “walkers” end up taking the sly, dishonest way out by simply not doing the runs for which they are claiming payment.

This is an unhappy state of affairs on several levels.

For one, my respect for the journalism and journalists of the suburban press is these days very high indeed.

They are covering – in some cases superbly – issues, people and events that simply don’t get a look in in The Age or the Herald Sun.

To cite just one example – during the recent local body election campaigns, from what I could see it was very much the suburban press that was on top of the issues and what the various candidates offered or were not offering.

For these journalists, and the sales staff who sell advertising space on the basis that their newspapers will be delivered, such non-delivery issues must be extremely frustrating.

Like many of my former colleagues, I got well used to fielding phone calls from angry and upset readers.

For many in our communities, particularly older citizens who may not have internet access or skills and for whom the daily papers are an unjustifiable expense, the suburban press is a cherished and essential part of life.

Finally, and perhaps most profoundly, it seems to me that our suburban press, and regardless of its corporate ownership, remains a vital ingredient of the glue that keeps our communities together.

And, yes, I believe that holds true even in a cyber age that includes Facebook and Twitter.

Am interested to hear about suburban newspaper delivery from Consider The Sauce visitors – good and bad both welcome!

Western suburbs food and Melbourne’s mainstream media


In Anthea Cannon’s lovely spread in the Maryrbinong Leader on Consider The Sauce and Footscray Food Blog, I was quoted as saying: “The Good Food Guide used to be my bible but not one Footscray place is in there.”

Truth is, it’s been more than a decade since I bought a copy – we may as well live a on different planets.

Of course, there’s a very good reason The Age Good Food Guide ignores Footscray completely and more or less ignores the rest of the west, too – the food styles (and prices!) it covers simply don’t exist in meaningful numbers in our part of the world.

Some years ago, the Age coverage of cheap eats was sloughed off to … Cheap Eats, which I presume has a fair number of Footscray eateries and heaps more from the greater west.

I’m ignorant on that matter, too, as it’s likewise been years since I looked at a copy. It’s worthy and no doubt valuable to those who buy it. But when you’re on the ground and regularly out on the food hunt, as we are, I’d find it very surprising if it could enlighten us on a westie food place of which we’d never before heard. Even if that does sound smug!

But these issues got me thinking about mainstream media coverage of food culture, people and places in Melbourne’s greater western suburbs in general.

The heavyweight formal reviewers for both Melbourne’s daily newspapers, Stephen Downes and Larissa Dubecki, have little or no reason to set foot in the west. Sometimes they surprise, but mostly their interests lie elsewhere – geographically, philosophically and financially.

Nina Rousseau recently covered the marvellous Los Latinos in Epicure’s Unexplored Territory column.

But even though I loathe MasterChef, I reckon The Cravat did a better job of injecting diversity and variety into that space.

Rousseau mostly seem to gravitate towards just-so cafes and the like.

More recently, Lauren/Ms Baklover has got a few good western shots into the small Under $10 section that appears on the same page each week. And good for her, too!

That leaves the weekend papers.

The Herald Sun on Saturday carries, as part of its food spread, a section in which hot-shot places are chosen to represent various parts of the city – including the west.

The Age Extra regularly carries “list” features – “Where to get the best canoli”, for instance, or “Melbourne’s best places for lizard turnovers”. The west gets a run quite often there, too.

And between them and the Sunday papers, there are various nooks and crannies, celebrity profiles and so on that provide scope for our region to get some of the limelight.

I can’t help but feel, though, that often where Melbourne’s west does rate a mention, the coverage is only for form’s sake.

And that the authors/compilers perhaps haven’t even set foot in the western places they dutifully include.

This is surprising for several reasons.

One is the rampant growth of the city’s western regions.

Another, especially in the case of the Herald Sun, is the area’s solid blue-collar credentials. You’d think the “people’s paper” would endeavour to get out and about a bit more in the west, no?

Interestingly, but perhaps not all that relevantly, the Herald Sun’s journos remain based at Southgate, but the paper is printed in the shadows of the Westgate Bridge. The Age scribes are based at Docklands and the paper is printed at Tullamarine.

In any case, I have compiled the following list of eateries that between them seem to have constituted a large slab of coverage accorded western suburbs food coverage in recent years.

Many of them are very fine indeed; one and perhaps more, though, I believe to be over-rated.

Moreover, a handful are obvious choices for the likes of Downes and Dubecki, in that they deliver fine dining – or aspire to it – and prices to match.

But I also sense a close-to-deadline “Quick, quick – I need a western suburbs place! I know – Cafe Fidama!” about it.

But the bottom line is they have all received coverage, sometimes a LOT of coverage, while rest of the west goes unnoticed, unseen and mostly unloved.

And not just in the papers, either, but also online.

Have I missed anyplace obvious?

Thien An

Hung Vuong


Delizia Cucina

Station Hotel

Café Fidama

Corner Store


Café Lalibela

Laksa King