Citizens’ agenda – what should the pollies be talking about?

19 August 2010

Written by: Jean Kemshal-Bell

On Tuesday, Jay Rosen – one of the leading thinkers on the future of journalism – spoke in Melbourne about the changing media landscape. The American journalist, who lectures at New York University, said that during his time in Australia people have commented on how uninspiring the Australian election campaign has been, and have asked him how the coverage might be improved.

Rosen suggested journalists use ‘the citizens’ agenda’;  a method to learn what voters want to hear from the candidates in the lead up to the election, and to use the public’s responses as a ‘master narrative’, or guide,  for election coverage. ‘Reporters assigned to cover the campaign should dig deep on the items that make up the citizens’ agenda,’ he says on his blog Press Think.

This, Rosen says, will help steer coverage away from ‘horse race journalism’ – where the media concentrates on who is going to win rather than policies.

He suggests journalists use various methods to find out what the public wants to know. ‘Send reporters out to talk to voters— a lot of voters,’ he says. ‘Allow people to fill out a web form, or send an email, or record a phone message, or put it in a blog comment thread, or communicate over Twitter and Facebook.’

With this in mind, and with only two days till the election, we asked through social networking websites: What do voters wish candidates were discussing in the lead up to the election?

The responses so far:

‘Indigenous affairs at any part of the election would have been nice,’ @ggggggreenydler says via Twitter. While @bowiejagger would also like to hear about ‘Indigenous affairs’.

Ceremony Klose-Klose wants to know about the ‘logging of old growth forests in Tasmania’. Meanwhile Tahnee Pritchard would like to find out more about ‘[her] centrelink payments! Increase, increase!’ While Nikita Vanderbyl wishes they would discuss ‘censorship!’

‘One issue that has been conveniently ignored is housing and housing affordability,’  Eugene Dolgikh says. ‘Such a massive issue yet lost in all the bullshit.’ Sarah Lawrence agrees saying, ‘They should be discussing less taxes when buying houses so it encourages young people to invest because by the looks of it, we will never be able to afford a house or it will be the lucky ones who inherit a lot!’

‘Transport. I wanna know a helluva lot more about plans for both the proposed fast rail between the major cities,’ says Luke S.H. Raggat ‘And also local public transit systems like light rail etc. How serious are both the major parties about future investment?’ Brock Mathison agrees, ‘I’m for transport also. This country should have a rail system like Europe and Japan. No wonder everyone lives on the coastline. If we VFTs between cities and major country towns we could all spread out a bit more. This would inevitably help reduce soaring housing costs among other things.’

What do you wish politicians were discussing? Leave a comment and let us know.

Jean Kemshal-Bell is an Honours Journalism student at La Trobe University and part of upstart’s editorial team.

See also: Saul Wakerman’s ‘Suspend the race and look at the track’ .

Listen to Jay Rosen‘s Melbourne conversation