Published on Webdiary - Founded and Inspired by Margo Kingston (/cms)

Webdiary Turns Twelve

By Margo Kingston
Created 04/07/2012 - 14:46

Hello old friends. Richard tells me it’s Webdiary’s 12th birthday today, although I reckon it was June 4. She’s nearly a teenager. Very clunky these days. She was state of the art in late 2005. Since then Facebook has become ubiquitous, Twitter let everyone have an instant public diary, and now, just before her 12th, Fairfax threw in the towel on hard copy papers.

Webdiary is the closest experience to having a baby in my life. I fought hard to get her, keep her and nurture her growth. Then I had to walk away from her to save my own life. Many people over the years watched over her and gave their time and attention and talent and money to keep her alive. Anthony Lowenstein and Tim Dunlop started their media careers here. Many others became columnists for the first time, including the wonderful Polly Bush and Jack Robertson. So many great writers among the long list of columnists. I feel privileged to have been able, for a time, to publish their work. And such rich archives – so thankful to Roger Fedyk for making that happen. These days, Richard and Fiona tend to her. She survived. Thank you.

I’ll never forget her birth. I tossed off an opener and lo and behold, a few people responded. One of the first was the mercurial David Davis. And he still loves her too.

Below are excepts from the first Webdiarys. The archive is a history of how people came to engage with and then become part of the media. So many ideas, so many topics raised in depth outside the mainstream media script.

After my breakdown, I did seven wilderness years. Meaning of life ponderings. I’ve found I actually like being on the outside. For several years I didn’t look in – read no papers, didn’t touch the internet. Now I do look in, and am glad I’m outside. I decided this year that I will work to become a palliative care nurse.

I wonder, is anyone out there who’d take this 12 year old and update her for her 13th birthday?

For anyone who’d like to get a feel for the look and feel of Webdiary while the SMH looked after her, she’s archived by Pandora [1]. Julia Baird said once she thought that someone would do a PhD on Webdiary one day. I hope so. She was ahead of her time.

Opening remarks [1]: 4 June 2000

Welcome to my Canberra diary. I'm allowed to say what I think whenever I like, and lucky you can interact if you like. The downside for this indulgence is that all the words stay forever so I can be judged for my sins.

Excerpts of first published comments [1]: 5 June 2000

I don't know if it's just that Herald readers and listeners to Late Night Live are wonderful people, or whether only wonderful people are reading my diary, but I've got only nice emails so far. If I get a really nasty one, I'll publish a nice one with it, for balance. So here's the response to yesterday's diary:

Andrea: I think your point about political reporting has been waiting to be made for a long, long time ... because when it comes down to it, as a reader, worker, citizen, most people are really only academically interested in the manoeuvring, the Machiavellian moves and the posturing. I know I really want to know what government is doing, how this benefits most people or least, and whether it is living up to its pre-election advertising. (It's a pity that political parties aren't covered by fair trading laws).

In the absence of that sort of reporting, I want to know if the bureaucracy is doing its job I would really love to see more journalists stepping out of the PR and source machine and following up the questions that most people want answers to – or at least more information on. On that note, I'll add that I thought your work on Pauline Hanson was some of the best reporting and perspective I've seen in an Australian newspaper – keep it up. (Margo: Aren't you unusual!)

Chris: An SMH journo with a email address that the public can see. Hope you don't get inundated with too much crap.

Joan M: I agree about the need for the media to restrain from reporting political rhetoric about who is in front. There should be more coverage about what the new system says about our attitudes towards each other. Anyway, it's always nice to peek in someone's diary.

David Davis begins his love/hate affair with Webdiary [2]:

This morning I discovered your area and was delighted to see something truly different. I was particularly left in awe (no exaggeration) by your response to Tim regarding your ability to talk freely.

The part that struck me the most was where you said, 'One of the problems of political journalism is that we get obsessed with the game, the spin, and forget about "the truth" behind it'. You also mentioned an over-reliance on the peak bodies in constructing the news.

Thank you for your honesty, Margo. It is so incredibly refreshing to read the words of someone part of the 'evil political commentary scene' who is brave enough to lift the veil!! It reminds me of that scene in the Wizard of Oz when the curtain is drawn aside to reveal the old man pretending to be the great and powerful Oz. The equivalent in this case is the curtain is drawn aside to reveal a Canberra political commentator having a boozy lunch with a member of a peak body, taking away a lobbying paper and then paraphrasing it into a feature article or column! Oh it must be such hard work!

Congratulations on being different in the most positive way. I don't know your political views and this is what I like.

David Davis sent me his "kindest regards" but then withdrew his comment without reservation.

Ooops! Just read more of your area and discovered that you are just the same as the others. Part of the most irrelevant sector of the community ... the ABC/Fairfax, left leaning, Howard hating, agenda setters who the public at large ignore.

I imagine you all have shrines to Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating secretly hidden away in your closets. The disconnected baby boomer mob. I am part of the next generation and get so bored by you and your 1972 'It's Time' groupies. I was too young to remember it and have NO interest in it. Bring on the new generation!

Much to the horror of the chattering classes, Howard will win the next election and you will all spend the next three or four years whinging, whining, carping and complaining about symbolism and spin rather than substance and reality. You all live in some kind of 'la la land' filled with goblins (Howard et al) and genies (The ALP). It really is quite funny the more I think about it. Gee, life in Howard's Australia must be SO tough. Another glass of Socialist Chardonnay?

I should not be a hypocrite. A dozen Sydney Rock Oysters, a Sav Blanc and an afternoon at The Bathers Pavillion filled with meaningless banter is about as good as it gets. Still, an afternoon at Burgenstock overlooking Lake Lucerne in Switzerland isn't bad either.

Imagine the conversations in Geneva? Between stuffing themselves with caviar, the UN guys down there probably think they are so cool in forming a view on Australian mandatory sentencing. Such noble and important work to do, in such a lovely location. So pointless.

Meanwhile, back in Oz ... whoever thinks about the family with three kids, the father a truck driver and the mother perhaps working in a retail outlet ... struggling to pay off a sky high mortgage. They work incredibly hard and are producing the next generation of Australians. But does anyone care about them? Do they have a 'peak body' representing them or ever enter the chatter over a latte in East Sydney? Of course bloody not. No one gives a damn about the MILLIONS of them. They don't have the luxury of intellectualising, donating a tax cut to the Smith Family and then telling all and sundry about it. They just have small things to do like collectively creating the Australia of the future ... not in symbols but in deeds.

Of course Howard is intrinsically evil and horribly cunning to pander to people such as the above. He really should spend more of his time on the concerns of the ALP Inner East Elite. Have we ever had a such a cunning politician as Howard? A man who so brazenly addresses the majority? He ought to be ashamed!

From a disillusioned Aussie ex pat now switching off.

You know, David, what I'd really like to know is what you believe in, what you stand for? What did you read that suddenly so turned you off? Was it my view that children should not be compulsorily locked up for petty theft? I'm sorry it's so unfashionable to hold such beliefs – what are yours on the topic, and why? It's just so easy to dismiss my views as chattering class rubbish, too easy because you don't address my points but merely do the general smear and talk about the silent majority. It would be so nice if, for once, people like you addressed the issues rather than raving about the so-called "elites". It might even help bridge the generation gap you describe. By the way, it's OK to agree with me on some things and disagree on others. It's really fine. You don't have to think I'm great or evil. Life's not black and white, mate, even when you get to be as old as I am.

Kindest regards.

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