Why has the ABC’s appointment of a Social Media Reporter given me the irrits?

It’s certainly nothing personal against the reporter herself, who’s shown admirable ingenuity, not to mention dexterity, in live-tweeting from doorstops and press conferences and then following up with radio news stories while regularly refreshing the content on her Facebook pages. If the ABC job was to report ON social media as well to USE it, then this journalist certainly would be the right person for the job.

But the role is to report on politics. The award-winning radio journalist will be attached to the ABC’s existing radio news and current affairs team and will be “part of a range of measures designed to explore how social media can be used to enhance and extend the ABC’s coverage of national politics”.

So in fact the ABC has appointed a new Political Reporter who will use radio and social media to file her stories. That’s not quite as sexy, is it?

And perhaps this is the nub: I am irked by the fact that the ABC sees the need to explicitly create a social media role – it is to my mind an empty gesture, a case of affirmative action gone mad.

If the ABC truly did see social media as a legitimate new way to report politics, then they would not have created a specific role for one reporter: they would have simply opened up the platform for all ABC reporters to use.

Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. Totally agree. In fact, I tweeted Latika asking if it was reporting about Social Media or about Politics, which was possibly a bit cute. It’s not her fault that the ABC given this name to the role. She should just be a new political reporter. I mean, was it the New York Times that just abolished its ‘Social Media’ director?

    The ABC’ll get 15 mins of fame for the ‘new’ position, but let’s just get on with the reporting. Thank goodness they chose a good journalist.

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  2. A social media reporter is so 2009. You’re right – if the ABC was serious about social media, then all ABC journos would be doing it. And actually, most already use social media, so how is Latika’s role going to be any different?

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  3. What rubbish that the ABC could simply ‘open up the (social media) platform for all to use’. Social media is available for all ABC staff whether they use it or not. And therein lies the best argument for Latika’s appointment: Not all journalists, political or otherwise, feel the need to tweet. Why bother trying to teach old dogs new tricks, when you can just hire someone who fits the bill perfectly?

    Your last paragraph makes it sound like Barry Cassidy and Kerry O’Brien (two noticable ABC abesentees from Twitter – although I grant Cassidy writes for The Drum) have been somehow closed off from social media by the ABC, and that a better idea than hiring Latika would have been to give them a few lessons and a set of guidelines. What rubbish. No amount of ‘opening up’ would give us Cassidy/O’Brien et al.

    This appointment is a step in the right direction for the ABC and only serves to highlight how far the ABC has come in reaching new audiences. I offer the success of Leigh Sales’ and Annabel Crabb’s tweets as examples which have probably indirectly led to this appointment.

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  4. On Latika, as i have said on twitter, this isn’t a move i would’ve made and i’m certainly no fan of her work, but i do think it’s a positive that the ABC is looking to be innovative. It’s within the realms of possibility that, in the not too distant future, “social media/internet” could be as worthy a platform for dissemination of news content as radio or tv. Not necessarily as important or as central, but worthy of having journalists specifically creating content for it. That’s also not to say that journalists not a part of any social division wouldn’t have any need or have any benefit in being in those spaces.

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  5. Latika Bourke’s appointment is a step in right direction. Reporting directly to Social Media is the future. Combining with AM/PM/World Today is just a transition.

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  6. I think it’s easy to see that the appointment of someone as young and new media savvy as Latikah Bourke is a step in the direction of regeneration. There will be more social media news measures to follow I’m sure. It doesn’t surprise me that Kerry and Barry aren’t on twitter but it does surprise me that no one at the ABC has embraced social media as a reporting tool in quite the same way Latikah has considering they’re supposed to be the leaders in reporting.

    The Old Guard of Kerry, Tony, Barry et al still have a lot to offer but their interests are changing. They’re turning to writing books based on their formidable experience and perhaps books and straight to living room television are the best mediums for them to be using to appeal to the demographics that grew up with them, are most loyal to them and share the memories with them.

    I see no reason to criticise the ABC in this instance for turning toward succession planning and no reason whatsover to criticise them for promoting women who are willing to throw themselves in the deep end to develop their craft. We should in fact be commending them for getting this far. We should, in an odd way, be glad that Latikah and Kerry are not Kerry O’Brien or Barry Cassidy, because they bring something new.

    The appointment of Latikah Bourke in my eyes, as somoene the same age as her with just as much of an affinity with social media as she (see my latest blog for the sorts of issues that preoccupy me) is just purely logical. No one else has embraced the medium in the same way she has.
    She broke convention and took her employers news brand to new depths. Is that not what we expect of the National Broadcaster?

    Her peers at the ABC while she was doing this for 2UE were less quick off the mark or more conservative in their outlook. Crabbe is the only other who comes near Bourke in the social media reporting stakes (perhaps Samantha Maiden too), but most of her tweets are actually op ed running commentary on Question Time. Not immediate reportage of quotes from doorstop interviews on the major topics of the day.

    Give Bourke herr time to get to Crabbe’s level of experience and she will be truly formidable.

    The ABC, over the course of the last year through its online venture, The Drum, has drawn in the new crowd of political wonks. I’m one of them.

    These wonks want news that pops up in front of them while they’re at work. That’s with them on their phones as the stride the streets during an election and have posters and pamphlets thrust at them. ABC News 24 is good, but that alone just doesn’t quite cut it. They want immediate explanations for things that confuse them. The first place they look is often twitter. The place I go to is often Latikah Bourke’s twitter stream.

    The ABC does not have to be this archaic identity that only restricts itself to television because that’s how it’s always done and that’s how the vast majority of their (old faithful) audience like it. All can be catered for.

    That is the purpose of a public braodcaster after all. They are given funding to do what is not necessarily possible in the business world, to bring news to people of all corners, nooks and crannies of the country.

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  7. I have deleted some posts from this thread as I felt they were unecessarily inflamatory and potentially defamatory.

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  8. […] New ABC social media role an empty gesture December 2010 7 comments […]

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About Drag0nista

Political blogger and columnist on the interwebs. Former Liberal staffer and industry lobbyist. Studying the entrails of federal politics since 1989. Otherwise known as Paula Matthewson.

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