Where’s Bob Brown? He’s campaigning, just on the web

Originally posted on http://www.thepunch.com.au

I sent a rather indignant email to Bob Brown the other day. I followed it up with an equally frustrated voicemail.

Essentially, I berated him for not being the inspirational and credible figurehead that he has been for the environmental movement for decades. I questioned his lack of visibility in an election that arguably presents one of the most monumental and significant chances the Greens have had of becoming a very powerful political force.

Senator Christine Milne’s media spokesperson Tim Hollo replied to my accusations (charitably also acknowledging that he understood my frustrations) with the simple question: “Why is the media complaining about the fluff and nonsense and policy vacuum of this election campaign, talking about the Greens having the potential to hold balance of power but completely ignoring the Greens’ policy launches?”

Indeed. Why has the mainstream media seemingly developed a united front in ignoring the third party contender this election?

Erin Farley (Brown’s media spokesperson) offered an interesting perspective. She suggested that perhaps what has the media running scared is the public shift away from the limited news we can find in mainstream media and a turn towards online and social media where people can get the news they want, on the issues that they are interested in.

Possibly very true.

According to comscore certainly our Twitter, Facebook and online media consumption has soared since 2008. Similarly, mUmbRELLA concluded from Neilsen data that as of January 2010 Australians are the most prolific users of social-media globally. The Greens have seized this trend and have an active online presence.

There are a number of questions, though, that remain unanswered.

How many of these social media-users are using these forms of media to get information about news and politics?

How is this going to affect election-campaigning in the future if the mainstream media no longer has an iron-fist hold on what types of information we can access?

And, is this shift really as dramatic as perhaps it seems on first glance? Or are these different forms of media merely catering to already established (and politically aligned) audiences?

We know that voters in the 18 – 35 bracket tend to vote more progressively than the older brackets. We also know that they are the biggest users of social media. So perhaps rather than speaking to new audiences, this shift in information-dispersal is merely talking to the same audience in a different form?

It’s hard to know, but if the use of online and social media continues to escalate and permeate other age brackets then under-represented parties and views have a much better chance at reaching their target audience.

And that can only be a good thing.

So I guess I’ll lay off the Greens and let them get back to tweeting and Facebook-stalking their constituents, and hope that one day soon the mainstream media hops on the bandwagon that’s rapidly realising there is a whole lot more information out there than they’re making out.

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