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'New Matilda' finds its billabong - R.I.P.

The problem with blogs is that they have no editorial filter. Everything gets through, no matter how shrill, elongated or irrelevant. Newspapers have the opposite problem. Their editorial filters are increasingly clogged, nothing getting through except what already has before: the same old arguments from the same old writers. Which is why both readers and writers need access to a middle ground, to independent publications like New Matilda. And it’s why the impending demise of New Matilda should be a cause for some sadness.

New Matilda, like many of its cousins (including Eureka Street, Crikey, Business Spectator and Online Opinion) gives voice to many more writers, and therefore points of view, than the coterie of traditional newspapers allows. Like blogs, the writing is (often) freely accessible, but unlike blogs it is tempered by an editorial eye.

This has advantages.

For writers, it forces us to be a little more thoughtful about the strength of our arguments and the relevance of our message. I’ve had a couple of articles published in New Matilda but I’ve also had a couple knocked back. The rejected ones weren’t turned down for lack of space but because, frankly, I didn’t give them enough thought. I didn’t make a clear enough point.

This separation of commentarial wheat and chaff is good for readers too. It makes the endless task of sifting through the internet more manageable.

It doesn’t mean that everything published is golden - not by any means - but it does mean that readers can get access to a variety of voice without having to put up with the endless mindless rants of the web’s wide world of weirdos. (If you want to know the difference, compare any random New Matilda article with its accompanying comments. For maximum effect, choose an article on climate change).

Unfortunately none of this has anything to do with making enough money to keep an edited e-journal running, let alone generating a profit, for ever. One day, those who appreciate diversity in their quality reading material are going to have to start paying for it. The current model - in which writers work for free or close to it, advertising is thinly spread and publishers continually dish out cash without return - is unsustainable.

Who knows how it will resolve itself in the end. I just hope there won’t be too many more new-media deaths like New Matilda’s