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
- 10 hours ago
Margo Kingston

In part 1 of #ReportingIndi Margo recounts the momentum building around the Indi campaign and how “citizen journos on the ground were producing the most comprehensive, innovative national Indi coverage in Australia”.
Intro1234

WAYNE PICKS ME up early the next morning for a drive to Benalla for Voice for Indi’s ‘open day’ to discuss the movement’s future. We reminisce about election day.

Cam Klose, Cathy’s media advisor, had emailed asking whether I was coming to Indi on September 7. Hmmm. I rang my friend Julie Lambert in Sydney, who’d rescued Tony Yegles and I during the campaign when we’d been overwhelmed by the volume of citizen journalist reports. (She’d just been made redundant as AAP’s chief sub-editor when she read my piece in the Walkleys magazine about my accidental return to journalism in December 2012, and rang to volunteer her help while she looked for work. Lucky me, lucky writers.)

Julie couldn’t think of a place she’d rather be on election day.

Cam offered to pick us up and find us a place to stay. OK, I’ll relax, enjoy the day, meet the writers, celebrate the end of non-stop work. Macquarie University’s seed funding for the No Fibs experiment with Twitter-based citizen journalism would end on election day, so Indi would mark my transition back to post-journalism life after my brief return.

Plastic wrapped negativity

Flights were booked for election morning, but the on election eve the #IndiVotes hashtag was full of reports about the blanket smothering of polling booths by the Liberal party.

For the past two to three weeks, Indi has been bombarded by a campaign aimed squarely at trying to convince voters not to vote for independents. Most of the advertisements, flyers and letters told voters only the Liberals could deliver stable government and independents equalled instability. In what can only be seen as a desperate act, Sophie Mirabella’s early Friday night took almost all available space at polling booths for Liberal posters. The Mirabella team then posted security guards at booths in Wangaratta, Wodonga and Benalla. Citizens took to Twitter to voice their concerns.

Wayne Jansson – Election eve

We published Wayne’s piece Sophie’s desperate choice: Indi booths blanketed with negative ads, heavies on guard at 2am on election day, after Indi tweeps posted photos of the operation on Friday evening.

The result was overwhelming in Wodonga, my first stop with the indie film makers who’d collected us from the Albury airport.

Long continuous strips of plastic posters on endless repeat wrapped around polling buildings.

“The failed record of independents DIVISION CHAOS INSTABILITY. Don’t risk it.”

Blue posters:

“ONLY THE LIBERALS CAN REPAY THE DEBT’

Red posters :

‘AN INDEPENDENT CAN’T SCRAP THE CARBON TAX’.

Orange posters:

“THE LABOR GREEN INDEPENDENT GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED – WITH SO MUCH CHAOS DON’T RISK YOUR VOTE ON AN INDEPENDENT”.

McGowan’s advertising was orange balloons and lots of smiling orange-clad volunteers – she fielded 650 local volunteers that day.

Twitter connected Indi

I couldn’t resist Twitter reporting. Maybe it was work, but I thought, how lucky am I to be here as a citizen journalist, no-one telling me what to do or when to file, free to tell my story of Indi’s election day as I wished when I wished for anyone on Twitter who wished to see it.

And I was one of so many – No Fibs Indi CJs, Wayne and Tom, and I joined local journos, candidates, supporters and voters to fill #IndiVotes with real time colour and photos from all over the electorate. Sophie’s campaign boycott of Twitter meant that even on election day, she was absent from the news feed, save for the odd photo taken by Cathy supporters.

I tweeted: “Sophie to Cathy volunteer ‘Democracy a good thing, a playwright from Melbourne funds your campaign’, (Volunteer to Sophie) ‘And big tobacco funds yours’.

The Border Mail ran a live updates page “for all your #IndiVotes election news and pictures” telling the story in selected #IndiVotes tweets until 11pm.

Twitter connected Indi reported democracy’s dance in real time for itself and for Australia. Magic.

The only input I saw from outside Indi came from ABC press gallery journalist Latika Bourke, who tweeted she was hearing that Greens were bussed to Indi to support McGowan at the polling booths. Huh? McGowan had volunteers to burn and any spare Greens would be in Adam Bandt’s seat of Melbourne – wonder where she’d heard that silliness?

I replied: “False – no Greens bussed to Indi for indie. Many Libs bussed from Melbourne for Sophie – your source confused.”

Greens candidate Jenny O’Connor tweeted: “Total lie – retract this”. No reply.

It’s gunna be close

The film crew who’d picked us up from Albury airport criss-crossed Indi in search of Cathy, and I met her for the first time at Rutherglen polling booth.

“Hello Margo,” she said with a radiant smile. “I remember you as a high flying journalist in Canberra. You didn’t know me – I was working for a Liberal MP” (the former member for Indi Ewen Cameron).

I tweeted her quote with a photo:

“It’s gunna be close. We’re celebrating democracy in Indi today. Flags are flying.”

I hitched a ride in her car to the next booth. She said her biggest fear was that the campaign might get dirty, and she was grateful Sophie had run a clean campaign. ‘Well she had no choice, given her history,’ I replied. ‘She ran a clean campaign, and I give her credit for that.

Reflections

The Orange campaign is a blueprint for doing things better. And it had to come out of Victoria. There’s been a lot of Melbourne money behind this, it’s been a movement that’s tapped into social media. The #IndiVotes hashtag – the Twitter newsfeed – has gone off during this campaign. Cathy’s campaign has run sessions on how to do Twitter. 

The local media has been extraordinarily vibrant here, and they’ve really collaborated with social media. It was a test of social media – social media has failed in large measure in this election, but there is interest around Australia in Indi. A Melbourne playwright called Van Badham ran a Twitter ‘could everyone donate 5 bucks’ campaign and Cathy got donations from around Australia of more than $100,000.

We’re just starting to see the power of social media and grassroots democracy coming together. It’s been an interesting election in a jaded, cynical sort of way but here in Indi something special is happening.

Green shoots maybe.

In part 3 of #ReportingIndi It’s election night and a celebration has been planned no matter the result. Orange adorned people gathered in the entertainment area of the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre to enjoy the evening. Everyone was waiting for Cathy. It was too close to call the mood was buoyant.

The series #ReportingIndi is adapted from Margo Kingston’s original report detailing No Fibs’ community coverage of the Indi community campaignAdaption by Lesley Howard @adropex. Feature image: Photo: Wayne Jansson

In case you missed the earlier parts of this series you can read the intro here and part 1 here.