Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 13:03 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 13:03 | SYDNEY

The media, the blogs, the election


Sam Roggeveen


20 September 2010 14:53

Felix Salmon argues (h/t The Browser) that journalism is becoming more conversational, and therefore needs to value reading as much as writing:

Think about it this way: reading is to writing as listening is to talking — and someone who talks without listening is both a boor and a bore. If you can’t read, I don’t want you in my newsroom. Because you aren’t taking part in the conversation which is all around you.

When journalists apply for jobs today, they’re usually given some kind of writing test. Certainly the people hiring them will look at their clips. Everybody cares about how good a writer you are. So long as you write well, it seems, that’s all that matters.

But if I were hiring, the first thing I’d look at would be the prospective employee’s Twitter feed. What are they linking to' What are they reading' If they’re linking to great stuff from a disparate range of sources, if they’re following smart people on Twitter, if they’re engaged in the conversation — that’s hugely valuable. More valuable, in fact, than being able to put together an artfully-constructed lede.

In the last week of the election campaign, I was complaining to a colleague about the hopelessly inadequate Liberal Party defence policy paper. It really was a scandal that the party traditionally known as having strong credentials on defence and security could produce such an anodyne document. As far as I'm aware, no one picked up on the story, and it's interesting to think about why.

My colleague argued that, if the Liberal Party had produced a hefty, substantive document, their leader would have been obliged to talk about it. And since defence and foreign policy are not Abbott's strengths, it was smarter for the Liberals to put out something thin in the last week of the campaign. To have done otherwise would have been to invite another 'tech-head moment'.

If this analysis is right, it reveals something important about the way the Liberal Party calculated the media environment. In effect, the Liberals judged that, until the leader talks about it, it isn't a story — the written document could be safely released, because it would be ignored anyway.

Blogs were supposed to change that, but they haven't yet, at least in Australia. Which brings me to a mea culpa: The Interpreter didn't subject the formal policy documents produced by the major parties to enough scrutiny. As Felix Salmon says, 'the biggest thing that’s missing in the journalistic establishment is people who are good at finding all that great material, and collating it, curating it, adding value to it, linking to it, presenting it to their readers.' That's The Interpreter's niche, and we failed to fill it adequately in this case.