Michael Burge

Michael Burge

Journalist at No Fibs
Michael is an author and Guardian Australia journalist who lives on Ngarabal country in the NSW Northern Tablelands. He was was born at Inverell into a farming family with New England roots deeper than most. His debut novel Tank Water is out now from MidnightSun Publishing.
Michael Burge
- 2 days ago
Michael Burge
Michael's articles about writers, performers, artists, creative rebels and the writing process are available at his website.

The role: citizen journalist who can write more than a tweet thread and occasionally get out from behind their keyboard to bear witness to the green shoots of democracy in their electorate. Must have strong journalistic ethics and ideally WordPress skills. Sub-editing chops preferred.

I never answered a job advertisement for No Fibs. None of the citizen journalists who write for this site ever do. What usually happens is that editor-in-chief Margo Kingston catches your eye on Twitter and asks you to write up a story about a campaign launch in your federal electorate, or to live-tweet it at least.

If you’re anything like me you’ll feel a slight imposter syndrome at first, before it gradually dawns on you that it’s an opportunity like no other.

If you’re a wordsmith of any kind, you’ll be wise enough to see this invitation as a green light and hit the accelerator of your writing career. 

Perennial home

For me, the call was marriage equality. In 2013, the campaign for this human rights issue was in the doldrums. The Rudd-Gillard regime had gone as far as it wanted, without delivering much more than financial protections to same sex-attracted couples. Frustration levels were at boiling point and Rudd was yet to have his Damascene conversion ahead of the 2013 election. Working as a sub-editor for the old Fairfax rural mastheads, I considered my hours casual enough to moonlight as a reporter, and there was nothing about marriage equality in No Fibs pages, so I embarked on getting stuff off my chest.

It wasn’t clear then that there’d be a five-year battle to get the Marriage Act amended, and No Fibs had its eyes on other matters. But I didn’t care, I had been green-lit to write.

And write I did. This year marks my ninth as a No Fibs citizen journalist, a period during which I have worked for the country’s largest mainstream media organisations in a range of roles, from sub-editor to deputy and acting editor, senior journalist and reporter. I’ve made a career out of slightly problematic roles: parental and sick leave positions, casual, full- and part-time.

I’ve also spent much time as a political activist, since anyone in the marriage equality campaign was really required to fill such a role.

The perennial home of my reports and ruminations through the years has been No Fibs. It’s been a delight to fill its pages with reports and analysis on the arts, politics, equality and more. I created a style guide and contributor guidelines for the site, regularly participated in its redesigns, and subbed others’ work late into the night on many occasions. 

The process has come full circle enough now that my early reports on Andrew Laming MP became some of the earliest documents of his social media techniques. The current ongoing debate into the religious discrimination bill also appeared on some of my marriage quality reporting from 2016.

This year, I landed a job writing and editing for Guardian Australia. This was unexpected and very welcome, but it was my decade on No Fibs between mainstream media contracts that kept me match-fit enough to make this leap. 

Which is why I commend the ongoing opportunity to others. When they say volunteering open doors, it’s very true. You could basically create your own internship with No Fibs, and the experience would be pretty close to any modern newsroom, with all the mentoring, cajoling, expectation and encouragement.

It gets frantic at election time, you’ll need to step up and cover your corner when required – and listen – but you’ll pick up skills and get your work widely read.

That’s better than a few likes on a tweet, right?

Why you should write for No Fibs

Your partner, family and/or flatmates will be relieved that you finally have an outlet for your long rants. Put it in writing, publish it and ride the wave of comments on social media. 

Your CV will start filling up and there’s nothing like a few election campaigns on your resume (plus Margo gives great references).

You’ll gain employable skills in content management systems, reporting, social media and more. One job I landed with Australian Community Media in 2017 was a direct result of mentioning my No Fibs style guide in my application.

There’s nothing like learning on the job because political reporting is some of the hardest work for reporters, and it’s confronting when you’re out there to get the story about local candidates in a federal electorate, but the satisfaction of getting coverage is priceless. 

You’ll meet others across the country because No Fibs has a network of citizen journalists in most corners of the nation. 

Go on, dive inget in touch with us here.