Coal seam gas wells near Tara, in Queensland (Photo courtesy Moira McDade)

Coal seam gas wells near Tara, in Queensland (Photo courtesy Moira McDade)

By Stephanie Dale
No Fibs CSG editor

The pilot No Fibs CSG citizen journalism project is winding up.

It’s been an absolutely wonderful project to be involved in – in just four weeks we’ve harnessed the talents of 13 new citizen journalists and triggered the interest of many more.

We’ve introduced new writers and showcased new voices in the public news arena.

We’ve claimed news space in a highly competitive field, sparking the attention of mainstream news media with CJ Mark Anning‘s piece exposing former Workplace Relations Minister and ABC commentator Peter Reith’s conflicts of interest in the CSG debate.

We’ve inspired citizens with no prior writing experience to tap out stories into their computer and send them through to us.

Aileen Harrison, who for six years lived with the dust from the Acland coal mine, shared her experience of losing her home and her livelihood to the mining industry.

Iris Ray Nunn brought us news from the nation’s latest CSG battlefront, the Pilliga Forest; her piece on sovereignty, written from the heart and retweeted many times over, reminded us that the CSG debate is about so much more than land, air and water – it is about the law of our land and, in Iris’s case at least, an overriding allegiance to the law of life: do no harm.

Lock the Gate activists Sarah Moles and Annie Kia brought us stories from the campaign, while LTG’s national campaigner Phil Laird questioned our right to say ‘no’ to CSG.

CJ Jason Egbars picked up our call for someone to respond to the misleading ad blitz by the CSG industry.

Sarah Buchanan praised the white fellas of Byron Shire who, for once, stood for country by declaring Byron CSG-free. Melinda Wilson brought us news from frontline rallies in Sydney. Penny Blatchford questioned different laws for different folks in NSW. Rob Rimmer examined the issue of black rain in Queensland’s CSG hotspot, the town of Tara.

Katherine Marchment questioned the CSG industry’s claim that there are no baseline studies from which to measure changes to health and landscape.

And Errol Brandt stepped forward with regular snapshot pieces on issues ranging from the status of women in Australian boardrooms to tax avoidance to the return of neo-liberalism to questioning the shortage of CSG facts, not gas.

No Fibs is experimental. We covered the 2013 federal election, with 25 citizen journalists reporting on the division in which they lived. We introduced the CSG project and amplified the voices and concerns of people along the eastern seaboard.

We met our goals for quality, high standard journalism from people with no previous journalistic experience.

Many of our CJs had no idea they had they ability to write or formulate structured news or features. We – and they – have been  delighted with the results of their online publishing endeavours, and the vote of confidence they’ve received from public comment on and engagement with their stories.

The CSG pilot project demonstrated that No Fibs is a viable, credible platform for exploring new ways to merge traditional concepts of news media with focused, journalistically untrained, politically and socially engaged citizens.

No Fibs is a Twitter project as much as an online news platform. And even though most of our new CJs did not have Twitter handles, for now that was okay, as we were able to harness those 140 characters on their behalf.

The pilot CSG citizen journalism project was visionary – being entrusted as its editor was akin to being charged with planting a forest, and in four weeks tilling a small patch of ground and planting a dozen saplings.

I have no doubt those saplings will grow, for the CSG issue has great mainstream traction and widespread community support.

There are many online forums for CSG activism, reporting and news dissemination – Twitter, Facebook pages and Coal Seam Gas News.

Dean Draper from Coal Seam Gas News has agreed to open his website to receiving stories from No Fibs’ citizen journalists. Stories can be submitted by emailing it through to him at [email protected]

As for No Fibs – we’re still open to thoughtful, well-researched pieces by people who want to work with us to disseminate important news and information, especially that which breaks new ground.

For the time being, we are working with a basic philosophy: journalist, edit thyself. All pieces submitted must be backgrounded, sourced and well-presented with pic/s.

And in the meantime, we are planning and preparing and paving the way for our next project to emerge.

It will be dictated not by us, but by the democratic, political, social, environmental landscape that is 21st century Australia.

Thank you to all our CJs, for your commitment both to the project and the discipline of the craft. Thanks also to our readers, supporters and Twitter followers.

These are exciting media times.