21/10/2010 - 00:00

On tweets, twits and toughness

21/10/2010 - 00:00


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The real gem in the prime minister’s economic reform speech was her commentary on social media.

When the prime minister delivers a scheduled speech, teams of advisers spend many hours poring over every word to ensure the right message is conveyed.

So it was last week when Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a speech to the Queensland Media Club titled ‘Reform is not easy, but it works’.

As the title implied, Ms Gillard was trying hard to position herself as a bold leader with a focus on the nation’s long-term development.

“We must build a new legacy of reform for the future,” she said.

Most of the speech was predictable rhetoric; the answers to questions were generally more enlightening.

Ms Gillard acknowledged at one point that prosecuting the case for change is a tough ask, when many people in the wider electorate take comfort in familiarity.

“We are going to have to have some very tough reform conversations with the Australian community and persuade people about the benefits of reform.

“Now, that puts an onus on us and I don't shy away from that onus - that's what leadership’s about.”

The prime minister also took the high moral ground on fiscal management, asserting that, unlike previous governments, her administration would not throw money at the Australian people to try and buy their support for reform. That’s a big change from recent years.

Like a good politician, she then deflected the focus onto the assembled media, although in this case there was some merit in her argument.

She introduced the topic of the “new media environment”, and the apparently insatiable demand for instant news to the detriment of meaningful analysis.

“Not everything can be reduced to a tweet,” she said.

“We are in a media environment now where you could make a blockbuster announcement.

“As you're doing the press conference, someone is tweeting about it. Whilst you’re doing the press conference a journalist is doing a stand up using you as a backdrop.

“By the time you’ve walked back to your office, journalists are interviewing journalists about what the announcement may or may not mean, and two hours later someone is ringing my press secretary saying, ‘Have you got a story for us?’.”

There was slight exaggeration in her depiction of the modern media, but only slight.

At WA Business News we closely watch the changing environment, wary of being at the bleeding edge but determined to stay in tune with our subscribers.

This publication started as a fortnightly newspaper, before going weekly. We added a web site that carried breaking news, commenced a daily 4pm email service, and followed that with a morning email service.

Many of our subscribers tell us that packaging the day’s news into a single email delivers just what they need, especially if they get a special email alert when there is a major news event.

Would sending out multiple tweets during the day provide useful illumination, or create information overload?

One school of thought is that Twitter and other social media have been unfairly tarred by the Hollywood twits who were quick to use the new media, and that in reality they can be useful business tools (see page 36).

Whatever the media, the focus needs to stay on the message, which takes me back to the prime minister’s speech, and her warning about economic success.

“Commodity exporters have served our country tremendously well, raising the living standards of every Australian, but an economy that becomes too dependent on any one sector takes too big a risk,” she said.

That was followed by what were meant to be reassuring words about spreading prosperity across all sectors.

“We will only remain strong if we have ensured that our economic growth is broadly based: growth across all sectors … across the whole country … through our whole society.”

That may be reassuring to some, but it also sounds like a warning that prosperous industries like mining and prosperous regions like Western Australia will be expected to continue subsidising others. Taken too far, that risks damaging the prosperous, to the detriment of all.



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