Let the record show that I am not afraid to open my wallet and pay for good content.
This week I paid $5 of my hard earned money to buy The Guardian's iPhone application. You may say that $5 is nothing, but I say that $5 is too much to pay for contents you get for free on The Guardian's website anyway; what you're really paying for is the ability to browse through items comfortably using the iPhone as well as the ability to download articles offline (an ability that is mostly irrelevant to me).
The question to ask here is why bother with The Guardian when one can put one's hands on so many sources of free news on the internet and on the iPhone. We all know where to find news on the web, and the iPhone has nice free apps from the ABC (the Aussie ABC), Haaretz (Israel) and tailored for the iPhone website from The Age. Why The Guardian, then, a newspaper from the UK - a country that is not that relevant to me?
My answer is simple. I consider The Guardian to be the best newspaper I know. Most of the world's English speaking newspapers are owned by Murdoch, which automatically means they can't be too good; the better American newspapers seem to be all about money; Haaretz is a good paper but like anything from Israel it's all about the Arab-Israeli conflict; and Melbourne's best paper, The Age, is simply not in the same league. If anything, The Age seems to be stooping down to Murdoch's tabloid levels lately, especially since it decided to sack Catherine Deveny. In contrast too all of the above, The Guardian offers a good news overview that revolves around the English point of view but does not shy from providing a good international coverage; it has nice science, technology and environment sections; it's got interesting commentary columnists; and its sports coverage is more along the lines of what my sports preferences are (isn't it funny that both sports preferences and religious preferences are the result of the same geographical accident of birth?). Pack all these up, and in my book The Guardian's the best; after reading The Guardian, moving over to The Age seems like switching going down a few school classes (a phenomenon that does not occur when moving to, say, Haaretz).
What does it all imply? If one makes the analofy between the newspaper and the country, the conclusion is imminent. To me, the differences in the papers' qualities reads of Australia being a rather provincial place. Looking at the map one clearly sees that Australia is stuck on the earth's provincial end, but then again that does not necessirily mean Australia is provincial in its habits. However, looking at Australia's newspapers renders the conclusion obvious: the lack of a truly serious Aussie newspaper is proof. Not that The Age or the Sydney Morning Herald cannot be as good as The Guardian; I'm sure the talent is there. Where Australia is lacking is in the will to be good, simply because not enough people are interested in being good in the first place. So the really good leave to pursue their dreams elsewhere while the rest remain because leaving in this provincial outpost is comfortable.
Every place has its problems, but the realization I'm living in the provincial side of the world is a bit depressing. It implies there is not much reason to make an effort to improve things when you're surrounded by apathy. After all, Murdoch was Australian.