A QUARTER of a century. It's a long time to be stuck in the same place, unless of course it is exactly where you always wanted to be.
Unfashionable though it may these days, longevity in the workplace does have its rewards. It may not deliver the fabulous salary increases that those with a more mercenary mindset achieve. But it affords one the luxury of taking the longer view, a more considered appreciation of history: of a company, an industry, an economy, a nation and the individuals that live and work there.
Newspapers globally are under threat as they desperately and belatedly attempt to adapt to a digital world that has decimated their revenue base. Some will survive, many will not. Those that do will endure a great deal of pain amid drastically altered circumstances and with far fewer staff.
In itself, that shouldn't be any reason for alarm. A great many industries are undergoing radical change and large numbers of workers are facing the painful adjustments that result.
But a menacing danger quietly lurks behind the technological changes within the media, one that has the potential to debase one of the foundations necessary for a healthy democracy. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the way in which business news is presented, where the interests of a free press and commercial imperatives collide, often with devastating effects.
The more vulnerable media companies become, the less capable they are of withstanding the pressure of vested interests and the more susceptible they will be to attack. Many will adopt the easy way out, that it is best to simply not cause trouble.
Unlike politics, sport, industrial relations or crime, where journalists zealously pursue their quarry, when it comes to business, the Australian media generally has opted for a soft and fawning relationship. It has always been thus. And it comes back to bite.
In the mid-1980s, one of Kerry Packer's magazines, Australian Business, came up with the brilliant idea of handing out awards to our best and brightest in the high-octane world of commerce. The idea was that it would generate readership and whip up interest among the big swingers downtown.
One of the judges on the inaugural panel was budding bizoid Christopher Skase, who later found infamy and misfortune as a fugitive on Majorca after the collapse of his Qintex group of companies. But the man selected back then as Entrepreneur of the Year, Ian Johns of Tricontinental, became even more notorious after his financial institution hit the skids a few years later and nearly took Victoria down with it.
A royal commission, blackmail and insider trading charges and jail time forever tarnished the glittering awards night and it later took on the mantle of ''kiss of death'' when the companies of several subsequent winners ended up in receivership within a year of picking up the trophy. The magazine's competitor, Business Review Weekly, did not fare much better. It handed out awards to the likes of Bruce Judge and Garry Carter, whose business empires collapsed spectacularly.
Apart from isolated episodes such as the Poseidon boom of the 1970s, business became front-page news only after deregulation in 1983. Gyrations in the dollar, fortunes being won and lost on the stockmarket and the emergence of a new and brash kind of businessman dedicated to toppling the old guard captured the public imagination.
But the heroic tales of corporate conquest, the kind of soft, promotional stories that pop up every time a market is on the upswing, have an insidious side-effect. They attract the hard-earned savings of ordinary folk who end up losing everything in the ensuing firestorm while the hero turned villain saunters off with a bagful of cash. The media rarely questions its role in these events. Consider the great bull run between 2000 and and 2008. Acres of glossy profiles of the entrepreneurs of the day but nary a question, hardly any stories about the complexity and opaque nature of the financial engineering that no one could explain or understand. It wasn't just here, either. In the US, where freedom of the press is written into the constitution, business reporters failed to pick up the greatest scam ever perpetrated on the global financial system.
No one seemed to twig that vast numbers of people with barely any income were buying new houses on borrowed money or questioned the unholy alliance between Wall Street and Capitol Hill that funnelled trillions of dollars into the coffers of investment banks, forcing capitalism to the brink.
Why? It's all a little too difficult. Because, unlike politics or sport, those running big business have a great deal of power. Veer too far from the press release, question a little too aggressively and the mighty weight of a corporation suddenly is hovering above, threatening litigation, demanding your dismissal. The chief executive probably knows a few people on the newspaper company's board.
Little wonder then that most business reporters default to the easy option. And many begin to believe they are part of the business world, that the reason they are being squired to upmarket restaurants, to corporate boxes and offered trips to exotic places is that they are part of the team.
The stories become ever more technical to impress their contacts. Every sentence is littered with impenetrable jargon. In the end, there's so much wood, they forget a forest is even in the vicinity.
Eventually, the industry starts leaking ''scoops''. It's a mutually beneficial relationship, a wonderful symbiosis, where the bankers boost their deal-making prowess and bonuses and their pet reporters become gun news breakers.
It speaks volumes that one of the best pieces of journalism about the events of this decade came, not from The Wall Street Journal, but from Rolling Stone.
Matt Taibbi's expose on the investment bank Goldman Sachs, The Great American Bubble Machine was met with howls of protest from almost all on Wall Street even as they read and revelled in every one of those thousands of words that perfectly captured the noughties.
Taibbi was an outsider. No one even thought of buying his soul. He wasn't even on the radar.
This is the final column I'll pen for BusinessDay. It is an emotional parting but after 25 years, it is time to move on. There have been good times. There have been great times. And the ethos that was drilled into us all those years ago - that we work for the readers, for you - is something that remains true today and hopefully in the future, in whatever form The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald take.
So this is it. Time to clean up the desk. Then again, there is so much clutter and rubbish here, maybe I'll leave it for whoever comes next. You need a legacy, after all.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.