There’s an interesting post over at one of the Age’s election blogs by Jason Koutsoukis, where he looks at some of the predictions made by the pseph blogotariat (detailed here at Oz Politics) and wonders why the press gallery pundits are so shy of calling the result (aside from their presumed desire not to make an appearance in one of Gerard Henderson’s snarky columns):
Unlike those of us in the Canberra Press Gallery, they most probably don’t spend their days talking to politicians, and nor would they spend much time talking to the legions of strategists, spin doctors, and advisers that we spend so many hours a week chatting to.
Yet my prediction is that these casual observers will be a lot closer to the mark than us professionals, which gives me a slightly uncomfortable feeling.
The reason most journalists are not making a prediction is because we live in terror of offending one side or the other and of being cut off ‘the drip’. So most of us hedge our bets and don’t say what we really think.
And, as I’ve been suggesting, and as Margaret Simons argues too, coverage of the election is deeply distorted by the poll driven horse race focus as opposed to writing about politics as if it mattered. But, to continue my reflections on the online coverage of this campaign, isn’t it the case that those same pseph bloggers who’ve dominated discussions about the increasing profile of the political blogosphere have completely shared that focus on the horse race and the polls? Now, I’ve got the utmost of respect for Possum, The Poll Bludger, and the rest of the online pseph crew. They do a fabulous job. But I was wondering just before what their role would be if the mainstream commentariat actually started reporting polls properly.
There’d still be a distinct niche, no doubt, for more sophisticated analysis and commentary, and for the sorts of conversations that ensue on their threads (which have their own value), and Possum in particular has an excellent eye for political strategy, but hasn’t everyone more or less agreed that the significant contribution of the blogosphere in this election year has been to contribute to better analysis of psephological data? That’s fine, and that’s important, but it seems to me to be a little bit of a pity that, in a way, this contribution just reinforces the overly wonky and inward looking nature of Australian political journalism, even if it does contribute to an improvement in its quality. It’s at least a bit of a pity too that blogs which specialise in more qualitative political, cultural and economic analysis and policy like this one, PollieGraph, Club Troppo, and John Quiggin – to name but a few – haven’t really broken out of the blogospheric space in a big way.
One thing I do think will be important, assuming that a Rudd government is elected, will be a renewed focus on what the government is actually doing – new policy and its effects on the country and its people. I really hope that as one election cycle closes, we can move away from the almost exclusive focus on the horse race aspects of politics and begin to write more about politics as if it actually mattered to people.