Friday, March 23, 2007

A Tale Of Two Tabloids

Sorry, I have to go into more detail here. Okay, so the Australian mainstream press decided to cover the Australian PS3 launch last night, right? Apparently the "big event" was held at the Sydney Myer store. The first customer to get their Aussie PS3 from the store was 31-year old Mr Danny Zarka, who from his name I adjudge to be a second-rate galactic despot, possibly slumming at the launch as part of a master plan to subjugate humanity.

Reputable news outlet AAP, always quick to cover a story, apparently interviewed High Warlord Zarka. According to national newspaper The Australian:

"I feel very privileged to be the first to buy a PlayStation 3 here tonight," Mr Zarka said.
Wow. It's like he's just been awarded a shiny, black, overpriced Key To The City. We're told it was given to him personally by Michael Ephraim (Managing Director Sony Computer Entertainment Australia) and Bernie Brooks (Myer CEO). I think possibly the console comes with an honorary knighthood, or suchlike.

But His Ruthlessness, Lord Zarka, apparently had more to say to the plebian masses. The Age reports:

The advertising executive from Pyrmont was shocked because he had arrived after 9pm, yet still found himself at the front of the queue.

"I'm surprised there aren't more people here, I thought the place would be packed," he said.

Which tells a somewhat different story of the event. The Age goes on:

Over 500 retailers around the country threw open their doors as the clock struck 12:00am, expecting the frenzy that accompanied the games console's overseas debuts.

But most stores were virtually deserted, despite the 20,000 pre-orders Sony said it had received.

Even at the official launch event held at Myer's Pitt Street store in Sydney's CBD and attended by Sony's local managing director, Michael Ephraim, media and security outnumbered PS3 fans until at least 11:00pm.

At midnight, about 40 PS3 buyers had arrived to collect their consoles, causing distress for the army of camera crews who turned up expecting to capture launch mayhem.

Desperate producers unashamedly asked the crowd to fake excitement when the cameras were rolling, while a team from 2Day FM let out bogus cheers to convince their radio listeners that a launch extravaganza was underway.

Ouch. Poor Sony. But what's really distressing here is the difference in the articles. If you read The Australian or you'll find they both just swallowed the AAP story, that the launch was a roaring success. somewhat distressingly tarted it up and passed it off as their own work despite using many of the same phrases. Was someone paid by Sony to make the bad launch look good? This isn't news - it's thinly disguised advertising.

I don't often have reason to give credit to the Age, but I'm glad at least one mainstream news service actually presented the full story here. Possibly when they're just so tired of punching nuns and kicking puppies that they need to take a break, they exhale quality journalism. Stranger things have happened. (Someone let Jhonen Vasquez make children's TV, for one.)

As for those other outlets - shame. I can only hope that after the inevitable bloody revolution, when Dark Lord Zarka calmly and majestically assumes his rightful throne, they'll be first against the wall.

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