Gareth Powell arrives at Blorge

By Tiffany Blatchford in Media News on
Tech journalism pioneer Gareth Powell may be knocking on the door of his 75th birthday, but that hasn't stopped him picking up a new gig writing for emerging Australian-based tech blog

 Powell will manage the photography and image section at Blorge, and also contribute to the site's general tech section.

During his colourful and controversial career, Powell has worked as a book and magazine publisher in both the UK and Australia. He simultaneously performed the roles of travel editor, computer editor and supplements editor at the Sydney Morning Herald in the early 90s. And made an appearance on Media Watch, where he was roasted by then-host Stuart Littlemore for plagiarism in 1995.

Powell, as he is the first to admit, has done the rounds.

"Let us just get some things straight. I'm not young. I'm 74 and I've been working on this earth since 1955. I started out at the Wallasey & Will Chronicle near Liverpool in the UK, and then went to London to publish books. I was pretty successful because I was outrageous. Around 1964, about the time when Lady Chatterley's lover was released, I published 'Fanny Hill' and spent eight hours in gaol for publishing obscenity."

Asked why he wanted to take on the role at Blorge, Powell said he's been keeping a close eye on the news blog and its publisher John Pospisil, since the site's launch.

"I've been watching Blorge ever since it started. To be honest, I didn't think the site would make it. But John Pospisil is a very impressive character and I watched Blorge gather speed. I took the job because I'm very competitive and I'm interested in hammering away and trying to punch my way to the top. John's is an amazing idea. He doesn't even know many of the writers that work for him, as a lot of them are based in America, but the result is website that is vibrant, where everybody's sort of mucking in and contributing their own styles," said Powell.

According to Pospisil, the editorial strategy at Blorge over the past few months has been to attract a few more mature writers with experience to help improve the quality of the site.

"When Blorge started out, we relied upon a lot of junior writers. We were basically a hybrid between a news site and a blog. As time passed, it became apparent that we needed to broaden our writing expertise to include both junior and more experienced journos," explained Pospisil.

"We hired Gareth because he has vast experience in the IT industry and he has interesting opinions, interesting perspectives and maturity. One of the things we find with online journalism is that audiences like writers who have some kind of flair and can write in an interesting or unique way. As a new voice at Blorge, Gareth will provide those qualities."

Powell said that one positive aspect about his role at Blorge is that it will keep him young and "charging around doing silly things."

"It's a bit like working at the SMH when it was still a good paper - it's not now because the world has changed. These days everyone uses SMS, emails and all that other stuff to communicate, and the role of newspapers has changed. I'm just trying to keep ahead of it all and not turn into a grumpy old man, so I use SMS and Skype and those kinds of things to keep up," he said.

"One thing I've noticed about tech journalism these days is if you write about gaming, you're going to be number one. I've never played World of Warcraft. I'm not going to start now. But if you take out the games, then I'm doing OK".

Powell, a Welsh Australian, moved to Australia in the late 1960s where he published the best-selling novel "Now You'll Think I'm Awful" by Sue Rhodes and a few magazines like Chance and Pol.

A copy of Chance was seized by Australian customs officials in 1968 for containing offensive material, including the comic strip Barbarella which was eventually made into the Jane Fonda film.

The judge presiding over the case in the Equity Court ruled against Powell, ordering that issue of the magazine to be destroyed, stating: "I am not sure what Barbarella was about but I suspect lesbianism."

Powell sold off his magazine publications in the early 1970s and moved his business to Hong Kong.

These days, in addition to Blorge, Powell also writes several blogs for the China Economic Review, based in Shanghai and covers housing, travel and a variety of other topics. Powell also continues to spend much of his time in Asia.

His daughter, Sian Powell, has followed in her fathers footsteps, and is currently a journo for the London Times. Previously, she was the Indonesian correspondent for The Australian.

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