Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston

Co-publisher and editor-in-chief at No Fibs
Margo Kingston is a retired Australian journalist and climate change activist. She is best known for her work at The Sydney Morning Herald and her weblog, Webdiary. Since 2012, Kingston has been a citizen journalist, reporting and commenting on Australian politics via Twitter and No Fibs.
Margo Kingston
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Margo Kingston

weeklycolumn

by Margo Kingston

June 08, 2013

Looking back on my first six months on Twitter, two Tweeps gave me excellent insights. George Megalogenis said ‘Twitter is what you want it to be’ and Asher Wolf said that ‘any activity, repeated frequently enough, is habit-forming’.

I got addicted. So many rabbit warrens to run down, a little thrill each time I was retweeted, like pressing the button on the pokies. So much passion spent inside the echo chamber.

Now, after a few days disconnected from the drug, I have considered George’s question – what do I want Twitter to be for me?

After seven years with back turned to the mainstream media, of course I was shocked when I had a good look. But one must accept what is. What’s the point of maintaining the rage?

Yes, the MSM chorus says the election is over nearly 100 days out. But they tread water, saying it over and over, not taking the next, very obvious, news step. On Sunday, after Insiders, I tweeted:

Nope. Yesterday I got a call from a senior political journalist asking for my prediction on how many seats the Coalition would win by for his 100 days out story. Why? How would I know? Why waste precious time and space on a meaningless bookies call? Why is politics now just sport?

This week every TV news, ABC included, reported a cameraman falling into a pot plant while trying to film a media scrum following Joel Fitzgibbon, and a media scrum fleeing Scott Morrison to swarm on Fitzgibbon getting into his car, incidents which in my time would have been saved for the annual Press Gallery goof tape. They also featured the remarks of several Rudd destabilisers without telling viewers that’s what they were. And the so-called political reporters dare call Oz politics a farce!

It is new that asbestos is embedded in our infrastructure? History deleted. It is not newsworthy, except to The Guardian, that the incoming foreign affairs minister calls the Indonesian ambassador a liar with respect to a core Coalition policy – turning back the boats? Truth irrelevant.

Sorry, I do not believe that the next 98 days will exist in this vacuum. Yes, the mainstream media is in crisis. I don’t want to despair any more. Anger, no. Acceptance, yes. Now what?

Four snippets contributed to my decision:

  1. Pauline Hanson joined Clive Palmer, Bob Katter, Julian Assange and many others to take on the big parties.
  2. Michelle Grattan reported an email from ALP national secretary George Wright to the party’s mailing list: “With 100 days to do until the election, Tony Abbott and the Coalition are peddling a lot of crap… Every dollar you give right now will go into a rapid response advertising blitz on social media to counter their lies with truth.”
  3. Kevin Rudd challenged his invisible challenger in Griffith, Bill Glasson, to a series of debates. The MSM calls the total censorship of Coalition candidates good politics. Bullshit. Both big parties have a history of endorsing crooks. Thanks to impeccable old-school reporting by The Courier Mail, Liberal MP Scott Driscoll was exposed in Queensland. Then there’s Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald in NSW (I note in passing that Doug Cameron, one of Rudd’s oft-quoted sound-biters, insisted Macdonald stay in politics after stern warnings from ALP insiders that he was becoming corrupt – because he was a mate). I’m sure Glasson is a good bloke, but for the Coalition to tell candidates and backbenchers to shut up is to cut democracy off at the knees.
  4. A report by Mathew Ingram argued that the Turkish people’s protests are due to a social media backlash against the Turkish mainstream media refusing to report what is really going on:

In the end, social media and networked systems of all kinds accomplished in Turkey what the traditional media is supposed to but didn’t: namely, informing Turks about what was happening in their country, and at the same time letting those involved know that their voices were being heard by the government. And that is the real power of networked media.

So, how can I, through Twitter and No Fibs, attempt to add value? My answer:

  1. Seeking contributions from citizens on issues and on politics on the ground in local electorates, and highlighting citizen activism, right and left.
  2. Documenting, with reader support, the social media election – how the major and minor parties and indies use it and how social media seeks to find truth and meaning amid the mainstream media game.
  3. Publishing, in strict confidence, anonymous contributions of mainstream media journalists who want to report what is really happening on the election campaign trail and what they really think is the truth on policy and why that truth is not being revealed.
  4. Publishing and tweeting fresh information, news and analysis on the future of the mainstream media and tweeting good work by MSM journos.

I believe that the media, and journalism, are in existential crisis. All of us are in transition, and all of us are lost. We know what our job is supposed to be, as so eloquently described recently by the standout television interviewer in Australia, Emma Alberici, in The Hoopla:

As journalists, we’re a naturally cynical bunch. If there is one thing that binds us, it’s an intolerance for lies. We don’t congregate in the office and talk about our political persuasions. We discuss individuals, their performances in their portfolios and the strength of their policy proposals. Job satisfaction for me comes from asking the right questions to establish fact from fiction.

I didn’t become a journalist so I could tell people what to think. As clichéd as it might sound, I became a journalist to uncover the truth. Media advisers are employed to help politicians evade uncomfortable questions. It’s up to me to make sure the opposite happens when the little red light on the camera comes on.

This is the first of what I plan to be a weekly column, which will include a review of No Fibs’ week.

This week began with a piece from Tony Fitzgerald, who inspired me at the beginning of my career when I reported the Fitzgerald inquiry for the Fairfax weekly the Times on Sunday, successor to the National Times. Tony made the point for the first time that the failed LibLab money grab was intended to entrench the power of their cartel.

On Monday, after many Australians, including me, had relived the high emotion of the Whitlam experiment, we published Part 2 of our series on new political activists, Why I’ll letter-box my suburb to keep Abbott out by Ilija Luke Mancev.

We published a blast from Webdiary’s past to remind voters that Abbott has resurrected the boat people policy John Howard stole from Pauline Hanson, and The Geeks’ Storify of my attempt, with lots of help from Tweeps, to unearth the truth on whether or not the Coalition had obtained assurances from the Indonesia government that it would accept boats turned back under its boat people policy.

Yesterday former webdiarist Sarah Capper, now editor of new media feminist publication Sheilas, mused upon the recent racism debate.

I’m looking forward to next week and hope you are too. I also look forward to your comments and will respond here.

Onward.