Covering elections

Further to my post from the previous weekend, featuring Michael Gawenda (and me) bemoaning the nature of election campaigns and coverage, Margaret Simons has some suggestions in today’s Crikey on “what might be some more useful ways of covering an election campaign”.

• Boycott the staged, and boycott the campaign bus – or at least send only AAP. Certainly this would take courage. There is always the risk (increasingly slight) that you might miss something important. But by devoting the bulk of journalistic talent to stage managed events, we are, I think, in any case missing something bigger and more important.
• Report politics as though it actually matters, and citizens have a stake in the issues and the result. Shun cynicism (but retain scepticism). Shun reporting that suggests politics is only a spectator sport. Be extremely sparing with reporting that treats the election as a horse race, and concerns itself only with who is ahead, who is up who and why, and who “won” rhetorical points.
• Go hyper-local. Only in the last couple of weeks of the campaign did the mainstream media begin to pay serious attention to the marginal seats where the election will be decided. But rather than interviewing a few residents who may or may not be representative, what if serious journalistic talent actually based itself in the electorate long term, and covered the issues of the suburbs and regions with the same seriousness of journalistic purpose devoted to the nation – never forgetting (indeed, striving to illuminate) the connection between the local and the national.
• Go pro-am. A larger topic than can be covered here, but there are some good thoughts about when citizen journalism is and isn’t useful in this blog post by Mark Bahnisch.

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  1. so, we should pretend we are citizens, when we are not.

    why not advise to press for democracy?

    can it be mere ignorance, or are we being encouraged to admire the emperor’s latest ensemble, to pretend once again that ozzies aren’t sheep in a triennial mustering?

    whether ignorance or hypocrisy, this kind of advice is anti-democratic.

  2. I did release a polcy during this campaign that pressed for much more democracy Al – and your response was just to slag it off (and misrepresent my policy along the way).

    Bit of a pity really, as it makes me much less interested in considering your ideas – which I had thought had some merit – and more likely to assume your main interest is just in being able to enjoy taking pompous potshots at everyone else from your (percevied) moral high ground.

  3. ab, participation in westminster parliaments requires people to believe they know what’s best for the nation, know better than the collective wisdom of the electorate expressed in referenda. it also requires that people in parliament are of such high character that they will put the good of the nation ahead of any consideration of their personal careers.

    neither is true, and evidence to the contrary can be had by reading a newspaper.

    the only rational defense of parliament that i can see, is that it exists as an artifact of conquest, an expression of power of the winners at hastings over the losers, known to this day as ‘subjects’.

    my belief in the need for political equality among human beings has several strands of objective reason, not least a necessary condition for racial survival.

    i have some sympathy for people who, through cultural conditioning, accept the ‘two class’ structure of society inherited from britain, but if you’re going to profit from being in the upper(parliamentarian) class, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    ted mack, a very fine man, tried to show that ozzies could enter parliament as an independent, and direct the nation as proxy citizens. all he proved was, while a virgin can get in a whore-house, she can’t make a living there.

    in any event, it’s even money you’ll be at leisure soon. i hope you’ll take your practical experience and some reputation over to getup! and convince them to press for democracy. like al gore, you can do more good by losing than you ever will by winning.

    finally, if you can’t stand what i have to say, lock me out. i think humanity can’t afford rule by special interest groups anymore, environmental disaster is imminent and real democracy may help save us. so i’m going to go on making people uncomfortable with the status quo for as long as i think i might be doing some good.

  4. Al
    your arguments are extremely tangled. You seem to be agreeing with Andrew about direct democracy being worthwhile but then go on to slag him off anyway.
    You said “my belief in the need for political equality among human beings has several strands of objective reason, not least a necessary condition for racial survival”.
    How can you talk about political equality and racial survival in the same sentence? And pretend it makes sense.
    There are possibly two ‘classes’ of people in the world, those that find a problem and do something about it and those that find a problem and do nothing but complain.
    You and Andrew are in seperate ‘classes’ he is in the first ‘class’, you are second ‘class’.
    The great thing is, all of us can move between these two ‘classes’, you’ve just got to get off your bum and help solve those problems.

  5. Perhaps al, you might like to enlighten us as to what a democratic solution might be?

    Call people to the agora every morning to decide on how to conduct the day’s affairs before heading off into the fields to work?

    Sorry if I’m sounding cynical, but it seems you’re continually attacking our Westminster democracy (which I’ll grant has many faults) without really providing any alternatives or solutions.

  6. al loomis:

    Gee, that’s a bit rough.

    I’d like further clarification of this sentence:

    “My belief in the need for political equality among human beings has several strands of objective reason, not least a necessary condition for racial survival.”

    Please explain in detail.

    I don’t see how being in the parliament necessarily makes someone “part of the problem, not the solution”.

    When you have a dictatorship in control of the Senate, both the problem and the solution are largely out of the hands of large party, small party or independent politicians.

    If 60% of the voters want a certain change to occur as per Andrew’s link at post #2, it would still need to be considered by the parliament, in view of the fact that the general voting public is too unintelligent, ill-informed or SELFISH to know or care what is best.

    The will of the majority may not be backed by a sound knowledge base or humanitarian, community-based considerations.

    Here’s an example. Some time ago I went head to head in the local newspaper with the leader of a group trying to limit the size of a new aged care facility in the north-western suburbs.

    This selfish group of people were only interested in themselves – but cited environmental reasons as their main concern, along with rezoning.

    The new facility would have provided a medical centre, child care centre for nurses, and plenty of aged care beds to service the local community – brilliant “one stop shopping” to meet the needs of frail elderly people.

    After petitioning and various heated arguments and publicity, the facility has now been downsized and will go nowhere near providing sufficient aged care places for the local residents.

    The will of the people is sometimes wrong.

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