Celebrating 20 years as The Muffy Report is born for a day

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Well I called back home and talked to that brain quack
I said, “Doc, I’ve got to have my old brain back”
He said, I’m sorry there Mr. Moodie, but I can’t do that”
He said, “I put your brain in a chicken last Monday
“He writing your stories and making lots of money
“And I got him signed to a ten-year publishing contract”

–  With apologies to Johnny Cash and The Chicken in Black,

It’s just coming on 5.45am and all is still, dark and sublimely beautiful over Discovery Bay, Hong Kong. A single star shines in a sky pregnant with cloud and the early morning air is clammy in its humidity.

It’s another early start for me on the 1st day of my 21st year publishing The Moodie Davitt Report. Sometime late on Monday night we will complete the special edition of our digital & print magazine that we publish for TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes (2-6 October) and The Trinity Forum in Singapore (1-2 November).

It’s a monster of an issue, and at this point while staring down the barrel of a gun loaded with something like nine unstarted full-length features to be completed by Monday, it’s doesn’t appear a very friendly monster.

We like to dub our title ‘The website that never sleeps’, a moniker that certainly will apply these next few days to me and my business partner Dermot Davitt, desperate to wrest our heads out of the stocks before the guillotine blade of final deadline comes down. It is unusual for both the owners of a publishing house to be journalists but it offers us a crucial advantage in terms of content quality, volume and speed. The sleep can wait.

Yesterday, as you will have gathered by my opening salvo, marked our 20th anniversary. The pdf you see below was our first edition – then known as The Moodie Report, Dermot Davitt was still heading my former title Duty-Free News International – and ran to all of six pages. Frills? About as many as a sackcloth outfit. Photographs? Couldn’t afford a camera back then. Advertising? Are you kidding? Even if we’d had any, I didn’t have the wherewithal or the knowledge to place it in a pdf. Subscription fee? Heck no. If we were going to attract any readers to what was then, believe it or not, a radical publishing model, it had to be free. If the model was to work I had to take the water to the horse.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Challenges, always challenges. The likely invasion of Iraq was the big story in issue 1 (click on the image to expand). “No question about it, war is in the air and many travel retailers are preparing for yet another drastic downturn in business,” I wrote.

And then… in the blink of an eye we are 20 years old. How did that happen? Two decades of chronicling an industry. I was a comparative ‘spring chicken’ as my dear old ma used to say when I set off on this journey, 46 years old with most of my faculties, all of my hair (only kidding) and the energy of a solar park. I refuse to do the math for you so let’s just say that spring has long passed for that young chicken, who now finds itself well into the late autumn of a career and fearing a different kind of chopping block to the one referred to earlier.

Google ‘Oldest living chicken’ (as one does) and you come up with some wonderful results. For many years, a 14oz, 16-year hen from Alabama called Matilda (RIP – remembered in poultryland and now with the angels up in henven) held the title (do you believe Guinness World Records actually has such a category?).

Matilda’s name (and I’m not making this up) was taken from Australia’s beloved folk song ‘Waltzing Matilda’, a result of her penchent, sorry penchant, for stepping waltz-like from side to side. And here’s the thing, a key factor in Matilda’s longevity was that she lived the majority of her life inside a large indoors wire cage, where she enjoyed a safe year-round environment vainly rehearsing in a rather lonely hen party for a spot on Strictly Come Dancing.

Heck, if I’d given Matilda a laptop (“Just remember to type side to side Matilda”) she could have been my twin, given how much of the past 20 years I have spent locked up in my own working cage. However Matilda has danced her last waltz as Queen of the aging chickens. For in the diligent research I undertook for this Blog I discovered Muffy, a Red Quill Muffed American Game from Maryland, who lived to the ripe (or perhaps unripe) age of 22.

Muffy you are my new heroine and 22 my new target. If I make it, I’ll rename our title The Muffy Report for a day in your honour. You will be Managing Eggitor and all the stories will be in appropriate pecking order.

Age cannot feather her: Rest in poultryland Muffy {Photo: Shutterstock licensed}

Besides countless stories, zillions of words, enough air miles to fund a lifetime of free travel, our first 20 years brought an ever-bubbling cassoulet of challenges. Economic slumps; wars; terrorism; LAGs, STEBs, SARS and just about any other crisis-driven acronym you could think of. On a Moodie Davitt team level it brought marriages; children; break-ups; illness; terrible personal losses. The many joys and occasional sadnesses of any family company. On a personal level stomach cancer and heart surgery came a calling. And of course there was the mother of all crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, which should have wrecked a free to air, advertising-reliant, single sector publisher. But didn’t.

And so we waltz Matilda-like into our third decade. Or perhaps sail is a better choice of verb, the spinnaker starting to fill with wind again after the becalming of the past two years. The destination? There’s only one answer to that. Regular readers of this Blog will recall an earlier reference to Moodie Island, a small offshore island that forms part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. It has an area of just 90 square miles, each of them uninhabited.

Given that Moodie Island is 10,345 kilometres away from Discovery Bay and my pandemic-ravaged reserves now just run to a windsurfer, it will take me two years to reach there. By the time I land, we will be a Muffy-matching 22. And I will have reached a place where even pensioned-off chickens can roam free.

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  • Hi Martin,

    As always love the musical references (J Cash this time but previously L Cohen and Dylan have been mentioned).

    Can vividly remember the start up as you kindly let me use my logo free of charge on the first on-line pages for several months and as I remember persuaded Peter Marshall to give me a discount at the first Trinity Forum!

    Finally, can always recall meeting with yourself and Malcolm Davies at Paddington to discuss our next steps in the wonderful world of Duty Free!

    Regards