MSM to blogger: ‘Stunt – so what did she say?’


By Kim Berry
March 5, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: Monday night dummy spit:

Next morning I see this:

I check out the dinner guests and find that I follow @allconsuming and she follows me so I DM and here’s a piece by her for us.

On Monday night I dined with the Prime Minister. This followed last year’s morning tea and then Christmas drinks with her at Kirribilli House, as part of a select group of ‘influential women in digital media’. I totally acknowledge this is a very big deal, a privilege, and pretty darn cool. But let’s back up for a moment.

I started blogging 10 years ago when I was at home with two small children, one with a disability, and in the grip of the clichéd ‘What have I done with my life’ period of angst every 30-year-old is prone to roll around in.

The early stuff is atrocious, akin to teenage diaries of misery, woe, and inexplicable vitriol. I persisted because I’m stubborn and a writer by trade. I learned pretty quickly that writing about yourself in an engaging way is actually quite difficult. See also: white, middle-class whinger.

There were a few stops and starts in those early days of dial-up, a fun year blogging with a friend, and then the last six or so at, my own corner on the interwebs. Anne Summers called my blog  ‘idiosyncratic’. Someone on Twitter said it was “peculiarly fascinating” which pandered nicely to my ego.

I am a personal blogger. I write about my life and all aspects of it which can include a LOT of baking, a fair smattering of swearing, the occasional indignation or insight, and a bit of froth and bubble.

Because I am a woman and a mother and occasionally blog about my children I am often labelled a ‘mummy blogger’. It doesn’t rile me as much as it used because the bigger blogging becomes, the more using that term to patronise or dismiss reflects on the labeller rather than the labelled.

I adore the online space. Blogging gave me a voice when I felt isolated and alone. It built a community, an international force of friendship that buoys me through the dark days and rejoices at the good. The arrival of Facebook, then Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest has only served to grow that community and I think that is pretty awesome.

Did I ever imagine blogging would see me having dinner with the Prime Minister? Absolutely not. Sure, I’m a current affairs addict and passionate about people educating themselves on the issues which form the fabric of our society – but to be in this position? To talk directly to the PM? Never in a million years.

There’s been a steady amount of sniping in mainstream and digital media forums about how we were chosen, that we weren’t from Western Sydney, and that the PM was snubbing women from the very area she was trying to win over, scoring a “Let them eat cake” kicker. Honestly, I don’t know why we were chosen.

Nothing was off the table, and it was a night of conversations about asylum seekers, foreign aid, the NDIS, feminism and everything in between. It was relaxed and there was a lot of laughter. Maybe, just maybe, the PM wanted a night just like that, and flowing from the first two gatherings at Kirribilli House she knew we’d be perfect tablemates.

Oh stop it, I can hear the chortling about my naivety from here. I am fully cognisant of the Prime Minister’s goal in connecting with people in the online space, in particular women, but I truly believe there was no agenda on Monday night.

Then there is the curious relationship that stems from people like me having access to people like the PM and traditional media. There has been a fair whack of patronising tones, criticism and derision of the strategy to engage with women in the online media, and yet traditional media outlets are then very keen to talk to us about what went down. We hear cries of ‘STUNT’ followed quickly by, ‘So what did she say?’ It is a fascinating time to be on the playing field.

I was asked by a journalist this morning what my reaction was to people questioning my right to have such access to the Prime Minister. Wow. If we follow that logic what right has anyone got to have access to the Prime Minister?

She has recognised the power of the online voice. I have an audience who trusts me and reads what I have to say. They are engaged, they are educated, they are predominantly women, and they vote. Just because I also write about the minutiae of my life doesn’t make my voice and what I’ve got to say less valid.

I completed my degree in journalism 20 years ago, and even then there was hand-wringing over the demise of in-depth stories and investigative reporting. In the last year we have seen the workplace equivalent of Agent Orange sweep through our print and broadcast media, denuding it of writers with a wealth of talent, experience and insight.

It’s taken a while but there is now a vehicle for that reporting to take place in an unfettered manner. I’m certainly not saying the answer to all our media woes is the rise of online media and blogging, far from it, but it is reassuring that voices, opinions and issues now have a vehicle to be heard and recognised as part of the landscape.

There was an awesome exchange between the Federal member for Parramatta Julie Owens and a journalist on February 18 where she told him to ‘get real’.

‘Do you honestly thing the people out there that are going to watch your bulletins tonight care more about me than the health of their children. And you’re going to ask about me instead of their children?’ Owens said.

He then said if there was an end to leadership speculation they could focus on what they were talking about. ‘You’re speculating on leadership, we’re actually talking about the health of children and people. You’re talking about leadership, we’re not, we’re here talking about health.’

I’m not going to write about polls or leadership speculation because it’s not my thing – but there are blogs that do. I’m going to write about what it means to be the parent of a teenager with a disability and how something like the NDIS would change my son’s (and indeed our) life. I’m going to explore just what the Gonski reforms would mean to education and then ask how we fund such critically important projects.

But be prepared for recipes and tales of my family’s penchant for hospital stays as well.

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  1. Great insight thank you :)

    I would say it is considered a stunt due to bloggers not being ‘real’ journalists. As you mentioned many journos have lost their jobs in recent times and many more are wondering if they will have a job in the future. The press gallery in particular are used to being the only people who have access to politicians and then they will tell us, the masses, what the deal is, with of course their ‘experienced’ take on it.

    Prime Ministers meet with all sorts of industry groups, chambers of commerce, charity groups, sporting groups, political groups etc., etc., yet these are rarely called stunts. Guess a lot of bloggers are starting to threaten the Press Gallery? I sometimes wonder if the animosity towards the PM comes from this sort of insecurity that the press gallery has in relation to her? From what I have been told, she does not really play favourites with them, doesn’t leak, and is open to other forms of media interaction obviously. Maybe this unorthodox approach to dealing with the media is why they, in general, are so scathing about her?

    I feel this to be a shame, as working in tandem would be more beneficial for all. A wider audience for journalists gives them a higher profile. We see them on guest spots on Sky News, ABC, Sunrise etc., so why not maybe a guest blogger on a subject he or she is personally passionate about would be good for them and for the relationship between social media and mainstream media.

    I am glad you had the chance to meet the PM in this instance and look forward to your further musings on these types of meetings :)

  2. Great piece. I think from PR perspective the PM did leave herself open to criticism for not taking the chance to dine with Western Sydney locals. That aside, I am amazed at the attention it attracts every time the PM meets with bloggers. God forbid the number of meet ‘n greets, dinners, drinks, lunches, meetings she has with different organisations, individuals, lobby groups etc. Why is it such a big deal when she meets with bloggers? I think blogging is in an interesting stage of development at the moment and has a freedom unavailable to mainstream media. It creates a weird and wonderful mix that sometimes comes at current affairs from a surprising angle.I would hate to see a world without the mainstream media but I am also excited by the opportunities and scope of the developing online world.

  3. Woodypear says

    You’ve just scored another follower. I think we all need to back up though. It seems that no matter what the PM does, she’ll be criticized for it. I think the concept of sitting down with the group she chose could be far more rewarding (in terms of reach) than talking with a similar amount of locals

  4. I liken the PM’s meeting with bloggers and other community groups as the door-knocking of politics past. Not that I want a return to local pollies knocking on my door at wine time but in an era of social media, doesn’t it make sense to “talk” to constituents through people who have the ear of so many more?

  5. An excellent explanation of why Julia keeps inviting you guys to events. I do think Julia has more reach dining with you guys than a subset of Western Sydney locals, unfortunately for her, it may do the bloggers’ stats a service, but I doubt it is helping Julia’s numbers any.

  6. iwhisperloudly says

    I say good on you Kim Berry… You must feel chuffed to know your determination to have your voice heard in the public domain has been rewarded by way of having dinner with the PM. Lets hope her guest list grows to include a diversity of women bloggers from all walks of life.