There really do seem to be two election campaigns going on in Australia at the moment. Or, rather, there are two vantage points from which the ordinary punter can view what is happening.
There is the campaign you see via the mainstream media: on radio news and talkback; on television, still dominated by free-to-air channels; and in “legacy” newspapers, now commonly consulted via the web unless you’re taking a flight and have picked up a freebie. Through this lens, the campaign is a familiar-enough beast: indeed, in outward appearance, it hasn’t changed all that much in recent decades.
The candidates, along with a kind of mobile press gallery, travel here and there on buses and planes. Press conferences are held, high-vis vests are donned, streets are walked, hospitals, schools, pubs and shopping malls are visited. The selfies are a gesture to modern times, but the essential rituals would be recognisable to, say, a party leader from the 1970s. Having come back from a desert island, they might wonder what happened to Kerry Packer and the Bulletin, but the outlines would be more or less recognisable.
The second vantage point intersects with the mainstream media in all kinds of ways, but it also has a more or less independent existence. This is the campaign on social media. I don’t mean the formal campaigning that parties and other groups run via Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. Rather, I mean the more informal exchanges between journalists, politicians and ordinary citizens. I am thinking especially of Twitter.
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