WAYNE JOINED TWITTER early and became a Twitter warrior, a left-wing political junkie regular on its hard-core #auspol hashtag. I’d tweeted several times with increasing desperation for a citizen journalist to report Indi for No Fibs. I’d spoken to Wayne but had a sinking feeling when he said in his laid-back drawl:
“I sort of might give it a go but I’m hopeless with words – I’m only good with 140 characters. I’m a photographer.”
Oh well, I’d replied, that’ll be different, a photo-journalism seat report.
#IndiVotes’ first citizen journalist
Wayne’s answer to writing nerves was to take a portrait of each candidate and ask them the same questions for publication as a Q and A. He wanted to do them all before publication so no-one had an advantage, but he had a Sophie problem. Her office would not say yes or no, and when he’d asked her in person at a candidates’ forum she’d said no, loudly, in Cathy McGowan’s hearing, because SHE only had time for her constituents.
Wayne became immersed, and his writing confidence grew as he “stopped thinking how to write and started thinking what to write”. He engaged with candidates and local journos on Twitter and filed regular comprehensive updates with links, key tweets by locals and national tweeps, photos of campaign material and his assessments on the state of play, all of which proved astute. He drove hundreds of miles to file blow-by-blow accounts with photos and live-tweets of ever more well attended and passionate candidates forums in Wodonga and Wangaratta.
Wayne critiqued McGowan on her lack of policy detail and picked up early that she had significant National Party support. He pressed her hard in an interview on speculation that former National party leader Tim Fischer was advising her.
On the day of the Wodonga candidates forum, local Tom Anderson tweeted a request for details into #IndiVotes, and I suggested he live tweet the event. He did, including selfies with all the candidates (his photo with Sophie was her only contribution to No Fibs coverage). He then stayed up all night writing up his experience and his hunger to get more involved.
And then there were two
Tom became my second citizen journo in Indi. He scrambled to get to the press conference of former National Party MP Tom Jasper announcing his support for Cathy, and spent hours typing up the transcript. His campaign assessment on 2 September bubbled with enthusiasm:
“Every day in the two weeks (since my first post) has seen a forum, a press conference or an event. It’s almost a full time job just trying to stay up to date on everything happening around you. I’ve been riding the ‘sugar high’ and am addicted to the election goings on in the seat of Indi and fully engaged in the #IndiVotes Twitter discussions every day and night.”
Tom live tweeted the Wangaratta forum, asking Sophie why she boycotted the stolen generations apology, and interviewed the independent film makers who’d arrived to record the campaign ten days out from the election.
The miracle of the internet
Cathy’s media adviser Cam Klose wrote me a piece describing the mood shift in Indi and the importance of social media to Cathy’s campaign:
“With a mixture of Twitter, Facebook and Nationbuilder software we have been able to organise our 300-plus active volunteers effectively and connect our team on the ground through social media. Through Twitter we have also been able to engage with people outside the electorate. After the flurry of media attention last week, we had thousands of dollars donated to the campaign. The majority of those donations came from outside Indi and most of the calls for donations came through people on Twitter.”
Melbourne playwright Van Badham led the Tweep fundraising campaign, and I commissioned a piece from her (a friend of mine donated her fee) about why she got involved:
“The miracle of the internet is the communities it brings together. A glib ‘why not give five bucks to the independent who’s taking on Mirabella?’ tweet was shared by hundreds of people, not because I’m particularly influential but because the sentiments aroused by Mirabella’s public nastiness and Tony Windsor’s niceness were already shared by the friends I’ve made in my digital community. As the internet continues to tear down the boundaries between old and new media, old and new politics, so it has torn down the old separations between electoral communities, the city and the country.
Whether McGowan can actually win the seat is secondary to what makes the contest in Indi important. By allowing the easy acquaintance of individuals across formerly prohibitive geographical and social space, the internet is undermining the authority of political representatives to own the identities of their enemies. This inner-city girl may not have a lot in common with Cathy McGowan in terms of life experience or outlook, but I respect and admire her, and I want her to win.”
Van’s piece inspired Cathy’s nephew Ben McGowan to write a piece on how the Voice for Indi used rural networks to create the community movement backing McGowan. In How Indi got itself on the map: the blueprint he revealed that the Victorian Women’s Trust Purple Sage project in the late 1990s was the basis for its kitchen table conversation beginnings and that its CEO Mary Crooks had advised them on the process:
“We’re getting towards the end of a successful 16 month project but its origins were inauspicious, just talking about politics around the chipboard tables in the community room of the Wangaratta Library. Talking about politics around the kitchen table with friends and family. And now talking about politics across the whole electorate. With a bit of luck they could be talking about our style of rural politics in Canberra next year.”
Even candidates put their pen to the digital paper
No Fibs was seriously value-adding. We were on top of the best yarn in the election campaign and creating a valuable record for future analysis and interpretation. A Twitter-based website featuring citizen journos on the ground in Indi was producing the most comprehensive, innovative national Indi coverage in Australia. I was thrilled.
Other posts by Wayne Jansson:
- Mirabella under siege in Indi
- Coalition big guns and generic letters leave locals cold in Mirabella’s Indi
- Mirabella in front, but McGowan claims support from all camps
- Indi locals protest Mirabella’s claims on health centres – and her preferences stir bad bushfire memories
- Tactics get tough as McGowan’s orange horde surprises Mirabella in Indi