In my weekend column for The New Daily, I look at the ways politicians ‘manage’ the media and ponder whether this is the election that the media starts pushing back.
OK I’m sufficiently incensed about this to write a quick post. The ABC appears to have scrapped almost all of the election blog meticulously produced by its election analyst and our national treasure, Anthony Green.
I’m pretty sure almost anyone who’s written a considered piece about Australian state or federal politics has visited and/or cited Green’s blog at some time. It’s a veritable treasure chest of authoritative posts on a broad range of election issues including electorate distributions, double dissolutions, and election timing.
It’s fair to say that through this blog Green had ensured that Australia thought, talked and wrote more intelligently about its polity than would have otherwise been the case.
However Green’s election blog – at least as we know it – has ceased to exist. I don’t know when it was taken down, but it was some time in 2017. An anaemic facsimile sits in its place, a compilation of Green’s ABC election opinion pieces, while the over-arching ABC elections website features some of his posts but there is no easy way to search them. There is also no obvious way to access Green’s other posts, which fall into around 30 psephological categories.
Sometimes a link appears, inviting the reader to visit Green’s old blog, but the link leads to a dead end (see left).
This is a travesty and an insult to anyone who wants to think intelligently about Australian politics.
Thankfully, all is not lost. We can still access Green’s old blog because some of it has been carefully archived by the National Library’s Pandora service (from 2010), and it can also be accessed through the Wayback Machine (HT @ktxby).
So if you want to tap into Australia’s finest psephological brain to inform your own thoughts on politics, please be sure to bookmark the link and keep visiting Green’s old blog as part of your research.
You’ll be doing yourself – and Australia – a very big favour.
It’s been a month since I decided to launch a daily political newsletter in 2018. At the time I thought it might be something that I could get going after the Easter break.
But I’m thrilled to announce that Despatches will be launched on the first sitting day of this year – 5 February 2018.
This will be subscriber-only newsletter that I’ll produce on parliamentary sitting days. It will be available only to my financial supporters on Patreon. So far I have almost 60 supporters, and I’m aiming for 100 by launch date to make it viable.
Despatches will provide analysis of the day’s political developments as well as links to a selection of the day’s noteworthy political news and analysis. My aim will be to reach beyond the “what” of federal politics to give readers more insight into the “why”.
This used to be the old way of reporting politics, but has become less popular (and viable) in the 24-hour news cycle. By publishing only once a day, I’ll have time to produce the quality analysis that is lacking in the mainstream media.
Another thing that I’ll be doing differently to the “MSM” is finding out what my readers/supporters think are the important political and policy issues. I’ll be surveying supporters who contribute $5 a month or more on a semi-regular basis, and the first suggestion box is already open for comments.
I’m also going to provide additional incentives for higher level subscribers. This means I will write, publish and publicise blog posts on their chosen political or policy topic. These benefits are explained in more detail in the Rewards section of my Patreon page.
I’m well aware there’s a vast array of free political news and opinion available to you and all other readers. However this is the business model that will sustain quality writing and analysis for the future. If you’d like to support that future, please become one of my First 100 supporters and a subscriber to Despatches.
P.S. For those of you on Twitter, Despatches now has a Twitter account @DespatchesDaily.
The year is not quite at an end (there’s still two weeks left till Christmas!) but I’ve started to think about what I’ll be doing differently in 2018.
No this isn’t a post about New Year’s resolutions but about the changing nature of work. As many of you know, I work for myself and until now that work has depended mostly on writing for corporate/government clients. My political writing has been the work I do on the side.
I hope to flip that arrangement in 2018 by setting up a Patreon account. The logic behind Patreon is that if a large number of people agree to sponsor me with a small amount each month, the combined total will help to pay for necessities while I focus on researching and writing.
I’ve set a stretch target of $500 each month, and if I reach that target I’ll be writing a daily newsletter for sponsors during parliamentary sitting weeks. That will supplement the income I get from writing my weekly column for The New Daily (for which I remain eternally grateful). I also have a couple of book ideas, but these are very much embryonic at this stage.
I’m going to be blogging more, and I’ll be surveying my sponsors on a regular basis to find out what political and policy topics they think should get more scrutiny. Sponsors who pitch in $10 a month (or more) over 12 months will have the right to choose topics for my blog posts.
Yes it is weird to be asking friends and supporters for money, but I do hope that you will consider pitching in a couple of dollars each month to support me in this endeavour. I’m really looking forward to a change of pace and focus, as well as the ideas that sponsors may have for new blog posts and other projects.
Thank you all for the support you’ve already given me
Analysis for Crikey [$].
Weekly column for The New Daily.
Analysis for Crikey [$].
How Peta Credlin is attempting to frame the media’s discussion of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.
The sorry reality is that lies are one variation of the myriad ways in which politicians bend the truth to scare voters away from the competition.
For better or for worse, one of the elements that may come to characterise the 2016 federal election is the “gotcha” moment during political interviews.
It’s not that gotcha journalism is a new phenomenon — Richard Carlton famously confounded and infuriated Bob Hawke by asking if he had “blood on his hands” after replacing Bill Hayden as Labor opposition leader in 1983.
Ten years later, Liberal opposition leader John Hewson was similarly confronted with a less obvious but apparently equally tricky question about the application of his proposed GST to a birthday cake.
Both interviews proved to be journalistic gold and have stood the test of time as significant moments in their respective election campaigns.
Other journalists have sought to replicate that success, resorting to questions about the price of petrol or a loaf of bread in the hope of “catching out” politicians with an ostensible measure of their connection with the concerns of everyday voters.
Since the advent of mobile phones, it has also become commonplace for competing political camps to text suggestions for curly questions to journalists travelling with leaders from other parties, or for journalists to ask questions about comments made elsewhere around the country that their interview subject would not have yet caught up with.
And then there is the relatively new gotcha tactic, subjecting naïve and unseasoned candidates to questions about the detail of their parties’ policies in the hope of finding one who can’t robotically recite their side’s manifesto like most serving parliamentarians can.
Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz was the epitome of this type of hapless candidate in 2013; he stumbled badly during the campaign when asked to list the six points of the Coalition’s plan to stop asylum seeker boats.
The Liberal Party delivered again this election with candidate Chris Jermyn, who either couldn’t or wouldn’t explain the Coalition’s Medicare rebate policy after gate-crashing one of Bill Shorten’s media events.
It’s arguable whether the media’s exposure of Diaz and Jermyn as less than knowledgeable, before being elected to Parliament, actually serves the public interest. Falling victim to a gotcha interview should not mean a candidate is not capable of being an effective parliamentarian.
Senator Ricky Muir became the poster child for hapless candidates after being subjected to a car-crash interview back in 2010 (incidentally by the same journalist who asked Hewson the birthday cake question, Mike Willesee). Yet today, Muir is widely considered as one of the more thoughtful and valuable members of federal Parliament.
It could be argued that it’s another matter when an established parliamentarian falls for a gotcha question. Attorney-General George Brandis was rightfully skewered by his interrogator, Sky’s David Speers, for not being able to explain what metadata was during an interview in 2014 about, well, the government’s metadata policy.
Speers struck again in recent weeks, catching out Labor frontbencher David Feeney on the opposition’s plans to scrap the schoolkids’ bonus.
In this year’s campaign we’ve also seen government backbencher Fiona Scott caught unprepared for a question about being a traitor to former PM Tony Abbott when she appeared at a media event with Malcolm Turnbull.
And Foreign Minister Julie Bishop not only failed to explain the transition-to-retirement element of the Coalition’s superannuation policy, but attempted to minimise the damage by protesting her interlocutor’s query was a gotcha question.
It’s arguable whether the Foreign Minister should have been across the detail of every Coalition policy, and a similar excuse could be levelled for Labor’s Feeney. Scott has no such cover; she should have anticipated the ambush.
However, beyond exposing that some candidates and MPs are not infallible policy-regurgitating automatons, the public interest value of gotcha journalism remains questionable.
It’s real purpose is to add colour and movement to campaigns and interviews that have become mind-numbingly boring due to the risk-minimisation tactics of media managers (such as this writer, in a previous life).
Somewhat ironically, gotcha journalism is, in large part, responsible for politicians being drilled in the art of (not) answering the question. And also for the tightly choreographed visits to classrooms, shop floors, and shopping centres that make it almost impossible for a party leader to meet a member of the public who hasn’t already been background-checked and briefed, or utter an unscripted word.
Gotcha journalism is an attempt to break through the bubble that risk-averse campaign teams construct around their leaders, and in this respect it could be a more legitimate form of journalism.
But only if the unexpected and unsettling questions pursue and elicit information that is of greater value to the public interest than the demonstration of an interview subject’s lack of photographic memory.
Originally published at Crikey.