Journalists, particularly those in the Press Gallery, are often maligned for being out of touch with the rest of Australia (actually, it’s a criticism leveled at anyone who lives in Canberra – for the record I was born and raised there).
It’s not an unreasonable observation. Press Gallery journalists spend most of their days inside Parliament House and many live within a short distance, socialising in the nearby suburbs of Griffith and Kingston, home to many federal bureaucrats.
It’s not a reflection on the dedication or talents of the men and women who cover federal politics, more on the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne when Australia was federated in 1901, forcing the infant nation to build its capital from scratch on the banks of the Molonglo River.
Anyone working inside the Washington DC Beltway cops similar accusations of living in a fishbowl.
I recall arriving in Canberra on a January morning in 2003, having returned recently to The Australian’s Sydney bureau, to cover devastating bushfires that the afternoon before had razed more than 500 homes on the city’s western flank, injured 490 people and killed four.
Many Press Gallery reporters had no idea where the mysterious suburbs affected (Duffy, Holder, Rivett and Chapman) were in relation to the Parliamentary Triangle, let alone how to get there.
It’s against this background that I have pondered the influence of social media on political journalism and political debate more broadly.
Follow many political journalists’ tweets and one thing becomes apparent: they often respond to each other’s tweets. It’s literally a digital version of conversations I had in the pre-social media days with colleagues in the Press Gallery.
It’s hardly surprising. It’s been long-observed that we gravitate towards people who have similar interests and opinions to our own.
But what happens when our conversations are posted online for all to see (or at least those we have 'friended' and followed)?
What does it to political debate and opinion?
1. Is Social Media Stifling Political Debate?