@NoFibs new directions, by Margo Kingston


by Margo Kingston

June 08, 2013

Looking back on my first six months on Twitter, two Tweeps gave me excellent insights. George Megalogenis said ‘Twitter is what you want it to be’ and Asher Wolf said that ‘any activity, repeated frequently enough, is habit-forming’.

I got addicted. So many rabbit warrens to run down, a little thrill each time I was retweeted, like pressing the button on the pokies. So much passion spent inside the echo chamber.

Now, after a few days disconnected from the drug, I have considered George’s question – what do I want Twitter to be for me?

After seven years with back turned to the mainstream media, of course I was shocked when I had a good look. But one must accept what is. What’s the point of maintaining the rage?

Yes, the MSM chorus says the election is over nearly 100 days out. But they tread water, saying it over and over, not taking the next, very obvious, news step. On Sunday, after Insiders, I tweeted:

Nope. Yesterday I got a call from a senior political journalist asking for my prediction on how many seats the Coalition would win by for his 100 days out story. Why? How would I know? Why waste precious time and space on a meaningless bookies call? Why is politics now just sport?

This week every TV news, ABC included, reported a cameraman falling into a pot plant while trying to film a media scrum following Joel Fitzgibbon, and a media scrum fleeing Scott Morrison to swarm on Fitzgibbon getting into his car, incidents which in my time would have been saved for the annual Press Gallery goof tape. They also featured the remarks of several Rudd destabilisers without telling viewers that’s what they were. And the so-called political reporters dare call Oz politics a farce!

It is new that asbestos is embedded in our infrastructure? History deleted. It is not newsworthy, except to The Guardian, that the incoming foreign affairs minister calls the Indonesian ambassador a liar with respect to a core Coalition policy – turning back the boats? Truth irrelevant.

Sorry, I do not believe that the next 98 days will exist in this vacuum. Yes, the mainstream media is in crisis. I don’t want to despair any more. Anger, no. Acceptance, yes. Now what?

Four snippets contributed to my decision:

  1. Pauline Hanson joined Clive Palmer, Bob Katter, Julian Assange and many others to take on the big parties.
  2. Michelle Grattan reported an email from ALP national secretary George Wright to the party’s mailing list: “With 100 days to do until the election, Tony Abbott and the Coalition are peddling a lot of crap… Every dollar you give right now will go into a rapid response advertising blitz on social media to counter their lies with truth.”
  3. Kevin Rudd challenged his invisible challenger in Griffith, Bill Glasson, to a series of debates. The MSM calls the total censorship of Coalition candidates good politics. Bullshit. Both big parties have a history of endorsing crooks. Thanks to impeccable old-school reporting by The Courier Mail, Liberal MP Scott Driscoll was exposed in Queensland. Then there’s Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald in NSW (I note in passing that Doug Cameron, one of Rudd’s oft-quoted sound-biters, insisted Macdonald stay in politics after stern warnings from ALP insiders that he was becoming corrupt – because he was a mate). I’m sure Glasson is a good bloke, but for the Coalition to tell candidates and backbenchers to shut up is to cut democracy off at the knees.
  4. A report by Mathew Ingram argued that the Turkish people’s protests are due to a social media backlash against the Turkish mainstream media refusing to report what is really going on:

In the end, social media and networked systems of all kinds accomplished in Turkey what the traditional media is supposed to but didn’t: namely, informing Turks about what was happening in their country, and at the same time letting those involved know that their voices were being heard by the government. And that is the real power of networked media.

So, how can I, through Twitter and No Fibs, attempt to add value? My answer:

  1. Seeking contributions from citizens on issues and on politics on the ground in local electorates, and highlighting citizen activism, right and left.
  2. Documenting, with reader support, the social media election – how the major and minor parties and indies use it and how social media seeks to find truth and meaning amid the mainstream media game.
  3. Publishing, in strict confidence, anonymous contributions of mainstream media journalists who want to report what is really happening on the election campaign trail and what they really think is the truth on policy and why that truth is not being revealed.
  4. Publishing and tweeting fresh information, news and analysis on the future of the mainstream media and tweeting good work by MSM journos.

I believe that the media, and journalism, are in existential crisis. All of us are in transition, and all of us are lost. We know what our job is supposed to be, as so eloquently described recently by the standout television interviewer in Australia, Emma Alberici, in The Hoopla:

As journalists, we’re a naturally cynical bunch. If there is one thing that binds us, it’s an intolerance for lies. We don’t congregate in the office and talk about our political persuasions. We discuss individuals, their performances in their portfolios and the strength of their policy proposals. Job satisfaction for me comes from asking the right questions to establish fact from fiction.

I didn’t become a journalist so I could tell people what to think. As clichéd as it might sound, I became a journalist to uncover the truth. Media advisers are employed to help politicians evade uncomfortable questions. It’s up to me to make sure the opposite happens when the little red light on the camera comes on.

This is the first of what I plan to be a weekly column, which will include a review of No Fibs’ week.

This week began with a piece from Tony Fitzgerald, who inspired me at the beginning of my career when I reported the Fitzgerald inquiry for the Fairfax weekly the Times on Sunday, successor to the National Times. Tony made the point for the first time that the failed LibLab money grab was intended to entrench the power of their cartel.

On Monday, after many Australians, including me, had relived the high emotion of the Whitlam experiment, we published Part 2 of our series on new political activists, Why I’ll letter-box my suburb to keep Abbott out by Ilija Luke Mancev.

We published a blast from Webdiary’s past to remind voters that Abbott has resurrected the boat people policy John Howard stole from Pauline Hanson, and The Geeks’ Storify of my attempt, with lots of help from Tweeps, to unearth the truth on whether or not the Coalition had obtained assurances from the Indonesia government that it would accept boats turned back under its boat people policy.

Yesterday former webdiarist Sarah Capper, now editor of new media feminist publication Sheilas, mused upon the recent racism debate.

I’m looking forward to next week and hope you are too. I also look forward to your comments and will respond here.


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  1. Totally confused, understand who you are, where does no fibs & no fibs geek fit in please?

  2. Paul O'Driscoll says

    Thanks Margo

  3. Ah, Margo, a lovely piece! I will follow u with much interest! Best regards, Alison.

  4. Matthew D says

    I’m on board and looking forward to it Margo. Any way I can help I will.

    You probably know I am just as let down given my background in journalism.

    I’m fuming at MSM. Hard to control my seething anger.

    This is my “mad as hell” moment!

  5. Margo, this is going to be interesting! Thanks for all your hard work. It’s really appreciated.

  6. Joy Cooper says

    Thank you Margo for jumping back into the arena & giving us some hope there may be some REAL journalism on offer. This is a vital necessity.

    The fact that many others only get their information from media, with vested interests in controlling such information. scares me. More so when people say they are too busy to take any interest in politics. As if none of it has any bearing on their & their family’s lives. Have news for them because it does have a huge bearing on their & our lives. The mindless quoting of shock jock mantras by many is also terrifying. Propaganda by repetition of trite slogans at work.

  7. See how depressing our media has become margo when ‘annual Press Gallery goof tape’ is now top news.

  8. ken waite says

    Thanks Margo, you’ve really summarised well what we need to focus on in making the msm more accountable.

    I’d like to give an example of the msm’s tunnel vision that your readers might want to follow up.

    I watched Greg Combet’s press club speech last week as he gave a powerful demonstration of the effectiveness of the carbon price. Emissions are down 7.4% since its introduction 11 months ago. He also illustrated the lies of the coalition in trying to terrify the public.

    As I watched the journos in various states of boredom, denial, – some with hands over their eyes – trying to block out the awful truth, I thought that Combet was on a hiding to nothing. And nothing was the result in the papers the next day.

    They had shot the messenger. He didn’t fit in with the preconceived ideas of their editors so he must be silenced.

    Surely some of these poor souls still have a bit of decency left in them. I hope they drop a few articles to Margo written with a fair and proper analysis.

    To watch the address just google greg combet press club.

    • Joy Cooper says

      That should be unbelievable, Ken, but unfortunately, it is only too true of the alleged media these days. They have been prone to a massive dose of torpor & lazy thinking for three years now which has become their modus operandi. Think they have forgotten how to be a journalist & the reasons why they took that career path in the first place. They have sold their souls.

      When people say that ALP MPs should be out there selling their message of how much this Labor government has achieved, I can only say that they are but the media will not co-operate by giving them fair coverage.

      The current herd mentality of the MSM is disgraceful..

    • The Researcher says

      “I watched Greg Combet’s press club speech last week as he gave a powerful demonstration of the effectiveness of the carbon price. Emissions are down 7.4% since its introduction 11 months ago.” – Ken Waite

      Numbers in isolation can be just as much a lie as falsifying the facts.

      Step back a little and think about what has been happening. Remember the bad joke, “How do you create a medium size business in Australia? Start with a big one”.

      The biggest users of electricity in Australia are Aluminum smelters followed by the rapidly diminishing other heavy industry. Aluminum is commonly called solid electricity. Australia’s aluminum output has fallen sharply as China and elsewhere have opened newer and by definition more efficient operations.

      Think more recently the dismal numbers of cars being produced within Australia – every car uses up a large amount of energy in its production. The lost production in tens of thousands of cars = large slabs of electricity savings. The multiplier effect, so often lauded by the pollies, works on the way down just as well. All the component suppliers have been cutting production as well as importing more in place.

      The Federal Gov has claimed the carbon tax has not cost a single job in Australia and had nothing to do with the loss of all the manufacturing and other jobs – therefore they cannot claim a fall in electricity use as that is where a large chunk (close to 85%) of the reduction is tied to.

      Similarly the massive price rises seen in electricity prices due to the need for the various states to pay for the too-generous Solar feed-in-tariffs (think NSW at 60 cents per kwh) have seen households at or below the poverty line have to choose between their mobile phones, pay TV, mortgage payments or air conditioner in making their limited funds cover the rise in costs.

      Since 2008 (from memory) polling has shown that pay TV subscriptions and mobile phone charges are paid in preference to home mortgage, personal loan and credit card repayments.
      Unsaid but probably somewhere in between would come electricity bills given the declared rise in numbers of power, gas and water disconnections due to unpaid bills. Admittedly it would seem pointless to continue the pay-TV without electricity but….

      Housing and construction are also oft reported to be suffering (non-mining construction mostly until the last 6 months) – they are also large users of energy, predominantly electricity & gas to some extent. Cement production = huge energy user, brick production etc.

      James Hardie’s results tell a dismal story for energy use.

      Then look at how much of each additional dollar spent in Australia these days is imported. What is more alarming is that when domestic consumption (use in Australia) falls the bulk of the adjustment has been cut back in use of Australian made goods (& more recently services – think call centers, sub-editors for Fairfax media).

      So unfortunately the 7.4% fall in electricity use is just another example of a failed Federal policy (or rather collection of policies). Falling interest rates are only a success story when they are starting at a level well in excess of REAL GDP.

      When they are below the level of real GDP (as in Japan, Europe, UK, US and AUSTRALIA) it is a sign of very bad news.

      Japan has had a ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy) since the mid 1990s and has seen its residential property prices fall over 80% from the peaks, total population is now millions below its peak, its Govt Debt levels are worse than any Eurozone country and now its nuclear power plants are mostly out of use it is running trade deficits with an ever deteriorating Govt Budget balance. They cannot afford interest rates at 2% for 10 year bonds let alone going back to their historical levels of 5 to 6% as the interest bill would become the 2nd largest component of Govt spending and rapidly head to number 1.

      Japan’s Govt debt levels used to considered exemplary (1980s) – just shows what can go wrong to an export power house with a crack pot national government, at least they had a trade surplus that allowed paying off foreign debt. Australia even at its best in the mining boom did not generate a big enough trade surplus to pay off the interest on our foreign debt let alone any of the actual foreign debt principal.

      So 7.4% fall in electricity use without looking at how it was made up DOES NOT EQUAL GOOD NEWS.

      That’s what 457 spin doctors are for.

  9. Yes we of a certain age are grumpy and have had enough of the spin, the B.S, and the indifference. I might say not just in politics and journalism. The workplace has a lot of style over substance as well. Surely truth is not just in the eye of the beholder.

    BTW. The link to Emma Alberici’s article in The Hoopla is broken. Should be ‘spottheindifference’, not ‘spotindifference’

  10. Ron Watt says

    Always good to read what you write Margo, will be a regular reader.

  11. The ‘boat people policy’ was not the only thing that Tony Abbott stole from Pauline Hanson. Whilst I have no brief with him targeting One Nation, crucifying Hanson was about suppression of free speech and with one million people supporting her this was an attack on the their rights to decide. The Abbott/Oldfield/Liberal hierarchy episode has never been investigated for it was ‘swept under the carpet’ to bury what I consider the truth. Margo I wish you would talk to me. Abbott has got to be put under the microscope before the country goes to the election. Forget Citizen’s journalism, Citizen’s involvement is what changes the course of history.

    I would not write this here if I did not believe that you are one of the few fearless investigative journalists around.

    Look at what you suggested at 1. above, take the time to read what I wrote in Destiny Aborted and then judge for yourself.

  12. Margo, with what Emma said about getting the truth, very inspiring. But in the end, with what we are seeing from the MSM and also the ABC, where the action of broad-scope united manufacturing of consent, awe inspiring is it is to behold the power behind it all, how do those Journalists that are redefining the whole role of the Journalism, into manufacturing consent, see their actions to the legacy of the art of Journalism and the impact on it?
    How does it look from the Journalists who refuse this to do this homogenization of News for Vested Interest’s desired outcomes?
    Is the profession fragmenting into multiple camps? How do Journalists feel about how the Public is now viewing their profession because of it?

  13. Good to see you back Margo, I used to read Webdiary, and learned so much from it, it’s good to have you back in the chair. I’m a grey nomad and I must say I despair that most of the people I meet on my travels hate Julia, they believe everything the MSM tells them. My only consolation is that mostly they are older and not switched on to the net except for Skype to talk to their grandchildren. My hope lies with the young and those of us who tweet and blog and look online for the real news. Your contribution is invaluable. Thank you.

  14. Margo, the lies are getting me into blogging too. I am happy to report for the electorate of Canberra

  15. Fantastic Margo. I believe the MSM bias and the reaction to this by ordinary’ people through social media is amazing and would make for some interesting analysis. Like many others, I too have turned off MSM and seek alternative opinions and views.

    I appreciate there are some fine journalists out there doing their best under trying circumstances but there are also other who cross the line into acceptable. An option piece this week urging the keys of the lodge be handed over to Abbott prompted this response from

    Democracy Under Threat http://t.co/Q0W16IjThz via @wordpressdotcom

  16. Yeah! It’s exciting to witness all this historic change – including the final (useless) raging spasms of the old print industry…

    I’ve always been an info junkie but I’d come to feel disgusted buying all that paper.
    Since facebook, and recently twitter – I’m devouring more news, info and opinions than ever in my life.

    It’s a great time to record the thoughts of journos through this amazing transition away from paper.
    & I love how there are so many ex MSM journos, free to really write now. (hope they don’t starve tho …)

    Thanks Margo :)

  17. “Citizen’s involvement is what changes the course of history…”

    Bruce Whiteside has nailed it for me Margo, and I so applaud what you are doing.
    What can we innocent bystanders do apart from sharing sharing and sharing again?

    • Bruce Whiteside says

      vfmarky, I say this from practical experience and nobody more than Margo Kingston would know this better. I have battled for 17 years to have this Hanson/Abbott/Liberal Party involvement exposed but neither the msm nor the on-line advocates of independence want to go within miles of it. Margo has written on the Australian For Honest Politics and that has been universally accepted as the /bible’ on the issue. Not in my book it is not.

      Investigative journalism should be precisely that.. Margo wrote a lot about Hanson but she never consulted the man who put together the Support Movement and created the membership list that lead to the downfall of Hanson and One Nation at the hands of supposedly sole destroyer Tony Abbott. Apparently one does not encroach on the sacrosanct ground of journalists and authors of which I am neither, which according to one of Margo’s old colleagues Marian Wilkinson (now with Four Corners) was an old eccentric. Many abrasive bastards like Oldfield referred to me as a ‘nutter’In my opinion ,Ettridge and Oldfield, should both have gone to jail and Hanson should have been wrapped over the knuckles for using their ‘expertise’ to rape her million supporters. That might have happened if the material witness had not been excised from the trial. .

      Applaud Margo if you will but until she uses her undoubted skills and ‘investigate what I have at my disposal, then she is only providing like so many on-line blog sheets ‘opinion’. Perhaps vfmarky you might read what I have related from hard and bitter experience if you follow the link to my website.


  18. PS If you want to know what’s happening in my seat, then you got me…

  19. victoria moore says

    Victorian Politicians have brought in Mandatory sentencing and in some circumstances taken away the powers of discretion from our magistrates. This is an intrusion into the separation of powers and against the Westminster system which is one of the basic components of our democracy. I have contacted our past federal Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, our state Attorney General Robert Clark our Minister for Police, Kim Wells and had a meeting with Terence Mulder Mp Minister for Transport,, my local representative in the electorate of Polwarth with absolutely no result whatsoever.
    If Queensland can stand up and shout at the proposed introduction of Mandatory sentencing why can’t Victoria.
    If in the Northern Territory it is now finally beginning to be understand that Aboriginal Australians are disadvantaged before the law and hence state’, quote: ‘A system that treats all people the same is an unjust system.’ why can’t Victoria? To quote one magistrate, ‘This was a knee jerk response by some politician.’