On Sunday, British newspaper The Observer commented: “Blogs are a spin doctor’s worst nightmare come true – and then some”, but advised politicians to start blogging. Blogs offer pols “a huge opportunity to market their message without the filter of mainstream media reportage and comment.”
Blogging has an informality and immediacy that makes it very different to most political communications. Is that why pollies do it? We’ve asked a few. First in, best dressed is ACT Labor Senator Kate Lundy who blogs, podcasts, welcomes comments – and dives in and responds. Appropriately, her remarks are also up on her blog:
Communicating meaningfully with the people I represent is what my blog tries to achieve. Not everyone reads the paper or newsletters or has time to watch the news and this is not two-way communication anyway! More and more people are using the internet to get the news and information they are interested in, not what editors choose to serve up to them.
Digital media sits at its heart; growth in broadband the method, and changing patterns in media consumption its driving force. Who wants to listen to a radio station when you can program your own; who wants Rupert’s taste in news when you can select it, and the source, yourself?
This is why I think blogs are so important, particularly in politics. They provide the opportunity to have a conversation with as many or few who are willing to join in. For heaps of young people the internet is already the news and info medium of choice so I reckon it is my responsibility to use it to its maximum potential to communicate.
For me, it’s early days, but blogging is the future now. Through my blog I talk, in a literal sense, as I use the blog to podcast MP3 files of my views, together with transcripts and links to additional information. I call it voice plus text. Every post offers the opportunity to post a comment and yes, I moderate it personally.
We politicians will ignore this technology at our peril. The figures don’t lie. Radio National is recording five hundred thousand podcasts a week; there are apparently more than three hundred thousand blogs in Australia.
I reckon it is testimony to the strength of open source that I have been able to set it up using free software such as Blogger. I use Audacity to record the audio straight into my laptop with a bottom-of-the-range vocal mike and cable from the local music shop.
I have published my own website for ten years now, and have started building my new site using Joomla. Eventually, I want to integrate my blog into my new website. I think its value is getting material up fast enough to be new, interesting and on people’s minds.
By the way, the key to blogging being a meaningful form of political engagement is for it to reflect the key feature of our political system, which is universal suffrage. That means it has to be available to everyone. Because it is technology, it is more complicated than giving people the right to vote. It has to be provided. That is why achieving universal broadband is so important: far too important to be left to Sol Trujillo!
We are a long way from this thanks to Telstra’s deliberate underinvestment in their network and their pseudo-broadband of 256kbps ADSL. In most places in Australia, you need to live close enough to an exchange and be free of pair gain systems to get it at all. In addition, Telstra keeps the costs so high that many households still can’t afford the step to broadband.