"Something is fundamentally broken in the relationship between government and citizens,” writes Gabrielle Chan in her new book, Rusted Off: Why Country Australia Is Fed Up. Chan, a former political correspondent for the Guardian who has moved to the small town of Harden Murrumburrah in southern New South Wales, writes with knowledge of both sides of the divide. “There is Australia,” she says, “and there is the land of Parliamentalia… a castle surrounded by a moat.”
Recent events in Parliamentalia, which Chan could hardly have anticipated at the time of writing, provided a grotesque illustration of her theme. Amid the voices that dominate the airwaves, striving to shout each other down and cut each other off, how are we to hear the voices of the people they are supposed to represent? For Hugh Martin, head of distribution for the ABC’s regional and local division, this is a question of central importance.
Martin was an early convert to the digital revolution in news media. From the mid nineties, he was convinced of its “phenomenal” potential as a means of promoting audience engagement and gathering stories from regional and remote locations. Before joining the ABC, he had worked as an online editor for the Age and then spent six years setting up the digital arm of APN News and Media in regional New South Wales and Queensland.
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