Wanted: citizen journalists to save democracy

Michael is an author and Guardian Australia journalist who lives in Ngarabal Country in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales. He was born in Inverell to a farming family with deeper New England roots than most. Her debut novel Tank Water is now available from MidnightSun Publishing.

Michael Burge
Michael Burge
Michael Burge
Michael’s articles on writers, performers, artists, creative rebels and the writing process are available on his website.

The role: Citizen journalist who can write more than a tweet thread and occasionally step out from behind his keyboard to report on the green shoots of democracy in his electorate. Must have strong journalistic ethics and ideally WordPress skills. Favorite sub-edition chops.

I have never responded to a job offer for No Fibs. None of the citizen journalists who write for this site ever do. What usually happens is that Editor-in-Chief Margo Kingston catches your eye on Twitter and asks you to write a story about launching a campaign in your federal constituency, or live-tweet it at least.

If you’re like me, you’ll feel a bit of impostor syndrome at first, before gradually realizing that this is an opportunity like no other.

If you’re a wordsmith, you’ll be wise enough to see this invitation as a green light and hit the accelerator in your writing career.

perennial house

For me, the call was marriage equality. In 2013, the campaign for this human rights issue was in the doldrums. The Rudd-Gillard regime had gone as far as it wanted, offering little more than financial protections for same-sex couples. Frustration levels were at boiling point and Rudd had yet to convert to Damascus before the 2013 election. working in the moonlight as a journalist, and there was nothing about marriage equality in No Fibs pages, so I got into eliminating stuff from my chest.

It was unclear then that there would be a five-year battle to get the marriage law modified, and No Fibs had his eyes on other matters. But I didn’t care, I had been given the green light to write.

And I wrote. This year marks my ninth as No Fibs citizen journalist, a period during which I worked for the nation’s largest mainstream media outlets in a range of roles, from deputy editor to deputy and acting editor, senior reporter and reporter. I’ve made a career out of somewhat problematic roles: parenting and sick leave, casual, full-time and part-time.

I also spent a lot of time as a political activist, because anyone in the campaign for marriage equality really had to fulfill such a role.

The eternal home of my reports and reflections over the years has been No Fibs. It has been a pleasure to fill its pages with reports and analysis on the arts, politics, equality and more. I created a style guide and contributor guidelines for the site, regularly participated in its redesigns, and replaced the work of others late at night on numerous occasions.

The process has come full circle enough now that my first reports on the Andrew Laming MP have become one of the first documents of his social media techniques. The ongoing debate over the Religious Discrimination Bill also surfaced in some of my Quality of Marriage Reports from 2016.

This year, I landed a job writing and editing for Guardian Australia. It was unexpected and very welcome, but it was my decade No Fibs between mainstream media deals that kept me in good enough shape to take that leap.

This is why I recommend the continuing opportunity to others. When we say that volunteering opens doors, it’s very true. You could basically create your own internship with No Fibsand the experience would be pretty close to any modern newsroom, with all the mentoring, cajoling, expectation and encouragement.

It gets frantic come election time, you’ll have to step in and cover your corner if necessary – and listen – but you’ll pick up skills and get your work read widely.

It’s better than a few likes on a tweet, right?

Why should you write for No Fibs

Your partner, family and/or roommates will be relieved that you finally have an outlet for your long rants. Write it down, post it, and ride the wave of comments on social media.

Your resume will begin to fill and there’s nothing like a few election campaigns on your CV (plus, Margo gives great references).

You will learn employable skills in content management systems, reports, social media and more. A job I landed with Australian Community Media in 2017 was a direct result of mentioning my No Fibs style guide in my application.

Nothing like learning on the job because political reporting is one of the toughest jobs for journalists, and it’s tough when you’re there to get the story of local candidates in a federal electorate, but the satisfaction of getting coverage doesn’t has no price.

You will meet others across the country because No Fibs has a network of citizen journalists in most parts of the country.

Come on, dive in…contact us here.