By Kim Berry
March 5, 2013
EDITOR’S NOTE: Monday night dummy spit:
Next morning I see this:
I check out the dinner guests and find that I follow @allconsuming and she follows me so I DM and here’s a piece by her for us.
On Monday night I dined with the Prime Minister. This followed last year’s morning tea and then Christmas drinks with her at Kirribilli House, as part of a select group of ‘influential women in digital media’. I totally acknowledge this is a very big deal, a privilege, and pretty darn cool. But let’s back up for a moment.
I started blogging 10 years ago when I was at home with two small children, one with a disability, and in the grip of the clichéd ‘What have I done with my life’ period of angst every 30-year-old is prone to roll around in.
The early stuff is atrocious, akin to teenage diaries of misery, woe, and inexplicable vitriol. I persisted because I’m stubborn and a writer by trade. I learned pretty quickly that writing about yourself in an engaging way is actually quite difficult. See also: white, middle-class whinger.
There were a few stops and starts in those early days of dial-up, a fun year blogging with a friend, and then the last six or so at allconsuming.com.au, my own corner on the interwebs. Anne Summers called my blog ‘idiosyncratic’. Someone on Twitter said it was “peculiarly fascinating” which pandered nicely to my ego.
I am a personal blogger. I write about my life and all aspects of it which can include a LOT of baking, a fair smattering of swearing, the occasional indignation or insight, and a bit of froth and bubble.
Because I am a woman and a mother and occasionally blog about my children I am often labelled a ‘mummy blogger’. It doesn’t rile me as much as it used because the bigger blogging becomes, the more using that term to patronise or dismiss reflects on the labeller rather than the labelled.
I adore the online space. Blogging gave me a voice when I felt isolated and alone. It built a community, an international force of friendship that buoys me through the dark days and rejoices at the good. The arrival of Facebook, then Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest has only served to grow that community and I think that is pretty awesome.
Did I ever imagine blogging would see me having dinner with the Prime Minister? Absolutely not. Sure, I’m a current affairs addict and passionate about people educating themselves on the issues which form the fabric of our society – but to be in this position? To talk directly to the PM? Never in a million years.
There’s been a steady amount of sniping in mainstream and digital media forums about how we were chosen, that we weren’t from Western Sydney, and that the PM was snubbing women from the very area she was trying to win over, scoring a “Let them eat cake” kicker. Honestly, I don’t know why we were chosen.
Nothing was off the table, and it was a night of conversations about asylum seekers, foreign aid, the NDIS, feminism and everything in between. It was relaxed and there was a lot of laughter. Maybe, just maybe, the PM wanted a night just like that, and flowing from the first two gatherings at Kirribilli House she knew we’d be perfect tablemates.
Oh stop it, I can hear the chortling about my naivety from here. I am fully cognisant of the Prime Minister’s goal in connecting with people in the online space, in particular women, but I truly believe there was no agenda on Monday night.
Then there is the curious relationship that stems from people like me having access to people like the PM and traditional media. There has been a fair whack of patronising tones, criticism and derision of the strategy to engage with women in the online media, and yet traditional media outlets are then very keen to talk to us about what went down. We hear cries of ‘STUNT’ followed quickly by, ‘So what did she say?’ It is a fascinating time to be on the playing field.
I was asked by a journalist this morning what my reaction was to people questioning my right to have such access to the Prime Minister. Wow. If we follow that logic what right has anyone got to have access to the Prime Minister?
She has recognised the power of the online voice. I have an audience who trusts me and reads what I have to say. They are engaged, they are educated, they are predominantly women, and they vote. Just because I also write about the minutiae of my life doesn’t make my voice and what I’ve got to say less valid.
I completed my degree in journalism 20 years ago, and even then there was hand-wringing over the demise of in-depth stories and investigative reporting. In the last year we have seen the workplace equivalent of Agent Orange sweep through our print and broadcast media, denuding it of writers with a wealth of talent, experience and insight.
It’s taken a while but there is now a vehicle for that reporting to take place in an unfettered manner. I’m certainly not saying the answer to all our media woes is the rise of online media and blogging, far from it, but it is reassuring that voices, opinions and issues now have a vehicle to be heard and recognised as part of the landscape.
There was an awesome exchange between the Federal member for Parramatta Julie Owens and a journalist on February 18 where she told him to ‘get real’.
‘Do you honestly thing the people out there that are going to watch your bulletins tonight care more about me than the health of their children. And you’re going to ask about me instead of their children?’ Owens said.
He then said if there was an end to leadership speculation they could focus on what they were talking about. ‘You’re speculating on leadership, we’re actually talking about the health of children and people. You’re talking about leadership, we’re not, we’re here talking about health.’
I’m not going to write about polls or leadership speculation because it’s not my thing – but there are blogs that do. I’m going to write about what it means to be the parent of a teenager with a disability and how something like the NDIS would change my son’s (and indeed our) life. I’m going to explore just what the Gonski reforms would mean to education and then ask how we fund such critically important projects.
But be prepared for recipes and tales of my family’s penchant for hospital stays as well.