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Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 09:31 | SYDNEY

The Lowy Institute and the Ozblogosphere

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7 November 2008 14:57

It's sad to see the end of one of the first and best Australian political blogs, Road to Surfdom. The retirement of Surfdom's creator, Tim Dunlop, from the Ozblogosphere (Tim also recently quit his mainstream media blogging gig, Blogocracy) puts a bit of a dent in the optimism I have lately felt about the future of Australian political blogging.

Tim's parting post about the deficiencies of Australia's mainstream media and the need for independent online media coverage of political events has raised some interesting discussion on other blogs. One thing Dunlop and at least two other bloggers discussing this issue seem to agree on is that, for such new voices to be heard, what's needed above all is money.

Not to get too crassly self-promotional here, but that is exactly what the Lowy Institute provided when it launched The Interpreter a little over a year ago. It employed a full-time blogger (that would be me), and it invested some serious money into design and features.

The Interpreter is slowly moving into the undefined space between think tank research and journalism. We've broken news stories in the past, and I regularly conduct interviews. Next week I'm going to Canberra to interview some senior MPs, and the recordings will be posted on The Interpeter. But as a think tanker rather than a journalist, there's less pressure on me to come up with newsworthy soundbites, so I'll be free to focus my questions on policy.

You might argue that as part of the Lowy Institute, The Interpreter doesn't really qualify as 'independent' media. Nor have we ever pretended to be a 'citizen journalism' outfit. But I doubt I would get a look in with senior politicians and the many other influential voices I have access to if I was an independent blogger — it's the Lowy Institute name that opens those doors.

I guess what I'm saying is that the Lowy Institute is opening up some new territory. Of course, foreign and defence policy makes up only a small part of the Australian political debate, so there's plenty of room for more. Crikey does an exceptional job, but perhaps some other think tanks could join in too. How about it, AIPP?

UPDATE: I should also add that The Interpreter features the work of one of Australia's most experienced foreign policy journalists, Graeme Dobell.

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