Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 12:21 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 12:21 | SYDNEY

So long, and thanks for all the blogs


Allan Gyngell

30 June 2009 12:19

I know this post is a little self-indulgent, but this is my last day as Executive Director of the Lowy Institute and therefore (although Sam will attest to my lightness of touch in the job) as Editor in Chief of this blog. 

Soon after the Institute was set up six years ago, we talked about establishing a scholarly journal. The view in some quarters was that every self-respecting think tank should have one. I was opposed. I thought there were already too many journals, with too few readers, and that we needed a more dynamic way of contributing to the international policy debate. 

A serious, well-edited blog seemed to me the best way of doing this, and of reaching a new audience for our work. Australia has some very good journalists working on international issues but they serve a broad audience and work for editors who generally do not  share our interest in, say, the latest developments in the strategic arms reduction talk or the impact of the global financial crisis on Asia’s poor. 

I was lucky to find in Sam Roggeveen a passionate believer in the contribution the new technologies can make to public debate. I persuaded him to drop out of a successful job in Canberra to enter this largely uncharted new world as one of the first paid blog editors in Australia.

Since it began in November 2007, The Interpreter has broken stories, encouraged debate, drawn attention to overlooked issues, and provided an opportunity for Lowy staff and contributors to comment on breaking events. 

It turns out to be harder than you might think to measure blog readership, but some things are clear. The Interpreter’s reach has grown steadily in the months since it was established and, to the extent we can measure these things accurately, around 4000 people read the blog over a given week. Many of these visit every day or more often.

We also know – because they have told us – that our regular readership includes influential members of the Canberra policy community, senior journalists and diplomats, as well as (and this group is just as important to us) younger readers interested in understanding the world. Internationally, some of the biggest blogs in the business, including the Huffington Post,, Andrew Sullivan, The Washington Note, James Fallows, The Weekly Standard and have linked to us.

Where The Interpreter goes next depends on others, but the opportunities offered by technology  are immense and continue to expand. We can do more in the area of public policy journalism; we can engage and draw on our specialist readers better; we can expand our international reach.

But I will be an observer of all this. I’m leaving Lowy and wonderful colleagues to return to Canberra and another great institution committed to deepening Australia’s understanding of the international environment — the Office of National Assessments.  A different audience, different inputs, but the same important, sometimes intractable and endlessly fascinating issues to contend with.

So my thanks to Sam, correctly identified by the Washington foreign policy commentator Steve Clemons as a ‘world class’ blog editor, to the deputy editor, Fergus (in his spare time when he is not managing our poll or doing his own research on war crimes or Chinese aid to the Pacific), to all the contributors to The Interpreter from the Lowy Institute and outside and – above all – to you, the readers. I’m about to join you.