Jan Bowman

Jan Bowman

Citizen journalist at No Fibs
Jan lives in Brisbane's West End. She began writing as a citizen journalist for No Fibs during the 2013 federal election, covering her electorate of Griffith. She has been a regular writer for The Westender for ten years and was editor from 2019 until January 2024. She has been active with local community groups and with her trade union.
Jan Bowman

A word from Margo: Jan Bowman, then a veterans affairs public servant, dipped her toe into citizen journalism at the 2013 federal election in response to my request for volunteers to report on the seat where they lived. She set the scene in the Brisbane seat of Griffith before Kevin Rudd won back the leadership, then polling showed he might be in danger of losing a la John Howard. 

She covered the 2014 by-election when Rudd resigned from Parliament, then became a community reporter for Brisbane ABC radio’s experiment in the No Fibs outsider-in tradition while occasionally writing for us and for the local paper the Westender, before editing the paper until her recent retirement. Jan wrote a piece for us last election correctly predicting a Greens win by Max Chandler-Mather.

So I’m thrilled to republish Jan’s retirement piece for Westender and I look forward to interviewing her on her CJ journey for No Fibs’ first 2024 podcast.  


WITH A MIX of sadness and a sense of anticipation for what comes next, I have decided to step away from the role of editor at the Westender. It’s a role I have loved over the past four years since giving up paid work and taking over from publisher Kerrod Trott. It has been satisfying to see the Westender grow significantly in readership and community participation.

I came to citizen journalism when volunteering for Margo Kingston’s No Fibs during the 2013 federal election. The project led me to doing some writing for the Westender, and eventually to taking part in a community correspondent project with ABC Radio in Brisbane.

I learned a lot about hyper-local independent media from those experiences. Margo Kingston told me that the idea that journalists are not participants “is ludicrous”. The idea of objectivity, she said, is a lie, and the way to get trust is to acknowledge that you are personally involved and are subjective.

“You are not detached. You’re in it. You’re part of the community. And it’s one of the reasons people give you an interview.”

Margo was right; being local is important. The Westender has been a local print and later online journal since 1992. Kerrod says the Westender is the oldest community news site in Brisbane. Yet, it has never employed a journalist and has always been happy to accept stories from local members and journalism students. So, I am grateful for the opportunity.

In recent years, we’ve seen an erosion of independent media across the country. Increasingly, mainstream media sites are behind paywalls or are subscription-based. It’s difficult now to read a story about our own community in any of the mainstream media in Brisbane unless you pay for it.

The Westender, over the last four years at least, has been ad free, and has always been freely available.

As enjoyable as it is, writing for independent media has its challenges. You have to do your research, find your contacts, find your images or take your own, and often upload your stories and post to social media. People may have noticed the odd typo – some are kind enough to alert me. But knowing when to press the publish button can be a test of confidence, even now.

Westender stories over the past four years have covered such topics as development proposals, especially the controversial Temporary Local Planning Instrument for the Kurilpa sustainable growth precinct (TLPI), green space, green bridges, climate change and the environment, and community responses to the housing affordability crisis. There have also been profiles of community services and West End identities, and, of course, local politics.

West End has experienced significant impacts and changes, not least climate change and floods. We have lived through COVID-19 and all that meant for residents and our businesses. We have experienced ongoing development and a burgeoning population and we are seeing the direct results of a nationwide housing crisis. Over the same period, we have seen a shift in voter allegiances from Labor across all three levels of government to the Greens as people look for solutions for housing affordability, over-development, and climate impacts.

We have celebrated with Westenders recognised for their contributions to the community; Jo-Anne (Jo) Bragg, General Counsel at the Environmental Defenders Office, was awarded a medal in the General Division of the Order of Australia in 2022. Last year, Fiona Stager of the much-loved Avid Reader, and Mark McDonnell, the founder of West End’s Community Friends, were both awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

And we mourned the passing of notables, Uncle Sam WatsonNorma Morgan and Donnie ‘Blind Dog’ Burke.

The strength of the Westender model has been enabling collaboration between experienced writers and community-based contributors. As I move on to a new venture, I would like to thank our readers for your support, and all those who have written for the Westender over the last four years. They have included journalism students who now have jobs with mainstream media, including the ABC. Thanks especially to Ned Hammond and Jade MacBeth, who contributed ideas and stories, also to Brooklyn SelfScout Wallen and Emily Lowe.

I would also like to thank our local schools, community groups and services for their engagement with the Westender. Members of Kurilpa Futures, and West End Community Association president Seleanah More, have always been available for comment on issues that matter to the community.

Writers over the past four years have included experienced journalists and local community members, some doing one-off stories, others writing a series.

Arts writer Ian Were has entertained us with his arts and film reviews. Kery McGovern and local journalist Rose Lane have also supplied local stories and theatre reviews.

Phil Vanderzeil penned a series of delightful profiles of prominent Westenders and our iconic businesses, from Peter Marinelli’s Swiss Deli, to Shay Shoes, and King Ahiram café, which was lost to fire in 2022.

Mary Maher contributed news on climate and the environment, and Rachel Gallagher recently provided a wonderful series on housing and planning, and why zoning matters.

Award winning filmmaker Christine Schindler started a segment on independent documentaries before she left to expand her journalism career. It was lovely to work with Brisbane State High student Austin Chen who told stories from the perspective of younger people in our community. West End local Ben Powell, who works in the renewable energy sector published a series of stories about adapting his Queenslander home to be more energy efficient.

Amongst other contributors have been Maeve Cunnington, sociologist Peter Walters, Dick Bennett of Brisbane Seniors Online, former Mayor, Tim Quinn, business owner Kaz Kelly, the wonderful, Kylie Deen and other staff from West End Community House, and urban planners, Phil Heywood and Laurel Johnson. Thanks also to Anna Campbell of Queensland Walks, historian Anne Monsour, and Elizabeth Handley of Brisbane Residents United. Dr Bronwyn Fredericks wrote a personal plea to us to support the Uluru Statement from the heart. I am grateful for contributions from Dave Copeman of QCC, David Carberry of Shock Therapy Productions, local history blogger Paul Granville, writers Stephanie Dale and Steve CapelinSebastian Vanderzeil of Resilient Kurilpa and WECA, planning and environmental law expert Philippa EnglandBelinda McCartneyVikki UhlmannHannah SchuchJohn MongardEmma BaconMichael Tansky, John Jiggens, Sally DillonJess Wallis and Paul King.

Apologies to anyone I have missed.

Of course, none of this could happen without people agreeing to comment and to be interviewed; it is a testament of trust that they have agreed to sit down with us.

Thank you to our elected representatives for their availability over the years: Terry Butler, Helen Abrahams, Jackie Trad, Jonathan Sriranganathan, Amy McMahon, Max Chandler-Mather and Trina Massey. I have always enjoyed our conversations and I continue to hope for a local politics characterised by the contest of ideas, rather than by party tribalism.

This year, I embark on a new venture, a work in progress. Keep an eye on your socials for updates.

The Westender’s legacy is an archive of our shared community experiences, so I am excited to watch its continued growth from the sidelines.

Kerrod Trott will resume the editor role, and you can contact him at [email protected].


For more on No Fibs CJ project for the 2013 election see Immersion journalism for democracy, Ready to go on @NoFibs Election13 citizen journo seat reports and our list of our reporters at Ready to go on @NoFibs Election13 citizen journo seat reports. My report to Macquarie University on the project’s highlight – comprehensive coverage of Cathy McGowan’s shock win in Indi, see Reporting Indi: A reflection by Margo Kingston.

Jan Bowman’s No Fibs posts

June 2013
RuddWatch: @JanBowQLD sets the scene in Griffith
July 2013
The Greens and Katter Party candidates in Rudd’s Griffith Kingdom: @JanBowQLD
August 2013
Griffith Candidate Forum: @JanBowQLD reports
September 2013
Bad press, poll shock cloud Rudd’s bid for Griffith
December 2013
Greens Griffith candidate on what’s gone wrong @GriffithElects reports
Working mum takes on Tony Abbott’s report card: meet the ALP’s Terri Butler @GriffithElects reports
Shaking pressies in Griffith: a by-election Christmas wrap from @GriffithElects
January 2014
Dr Glasson’s New Year’s Medicare resolutions: @GriffithElects reports
Griffith grudge match: Glasson’s Gladiators vs Butler’s Battlers @GriffithElects reports
Candidates fronting-up again: @GriffithElects meets two familiar faces
Independents, pirates, and a bullet train: new faces in #GriffithVotes @GriffithElects reports
February 2014
Population, family and more new faces join the #GriffithVotes party @GriffithElects reports
Ain’t nothing like the real thing: #GriffithVotes candidates’ forum @GriffithElects reports
April 2014
Climate change civil disobedience and the law: @GriffithElects reports
May 2014
Terri Butler three months after #GriffithVotes: interview by @GriffithElects
June 2014
DIY learning at Brisbane Free University by @griffithelects
September 2014
The Brisbane #PeoplesClimate Rally – @JanB_QLD reports for #NoFibs
October 2014
Pacific #ClimateWarriors in Queensland, “Where will I bury my next loved one who dies?”: @JanB_QLD reports
February 2015
A citizen journalist begins to find her voice… @JanB_QLD reflects – PART 1 NoFibs and the Westender
A citizen journalist on finding her voice…@JanB_QLD reflects – PART 2 ABC 612
July 3, 2015
Meeting David Marler: #NoFibs Twitter Activist by @GriffithElects
January 1, 2017
Who do we seek to persuade? Climate change and right-wing populism – @JanB_QLD
April 11, 2019
Putting the voice of youth first: @JanB_QLD reports on #GriffithVotes #ClimateElection forum
May 18, 2022
Will #GriffithVotes go Green? Seat report by Jan Bowman

Note: Jan wrote several live Twitter reports on Griffith events in 2014 now lost due to our use of Storify, which went out of business. Lesson learned.