Savvy Gillard nets the influential
If ever the case needed to be made for why the Prime Minister is circumventing the mainstream media and reaching out directly to key groups in the community, you only had to look at the reaction to her hosting 20 women to late afternoon drinks at Kirribilli House last Monday.
If ever the case needed to be made for why the Prime Minister is circumventing the mainstream media and reaching out directly to key groups in the community, you only had to look at the reaction to her hosting 20 women to late afternoon drinks at Kirribilli House last Monday. If ever the case needed to be made for why the Prime Minister is circumventing the mainstream media and reaching out directly to key groups in the community, you only had to look at the reaction to her hosting 20 women to late afternoon drinks at Kirribilli House last Monday.This was one of just dozens of drinks functions Julia Gillard is hosting this holiday season, but it is the only one to have attracted media attention, and scornful or patronising attention at that.''PM cosies up to mummy bloggers'', said one headline.A News Ltd columnist referred to the gathering as ''a coven of female bloggers''.''Isn't the Prime Minister displaying signs of misogyny ? by not inviting men to the blogger drinks?'' a commercial radio host asked one of the women who'd been there.The guests were indeed all women who produce digital publications but not all of them are bloggers or even mummies. Indeed the media coverage totally underscored the ignorance of so many mainstreamers as to what is actually going on on the internet.The world of digital publishing is far more diverse and innovative than they seem to realise - and its reach is enormous.Those present at the drinks included Kim Berry, who writes an idiosyncratic and widely read blog, allconsuming.com.au, about having four children, one of whom has special needs; Eden Riley, whose personal ruminations on Edenland attract 20,000 visitors a month; Nicky Champ, from iVillage a US community site for women franchised locally by Mia Friedman's wildly popular Mamamia website; as well as Amber Robinson, who runs Fairfax's million-visitors-a-month EssentialBaby site; and Alex Brooks, managing editor of Kidspot, the competitor in the baby blogging space over at News Ltd.Angela Priestley edits Women's Agenda, a daily news and opinion site within the Crikey online stable that is devoted to politics, careers and other serious stuff.And while some of its writers, and many of its readers, are undoubtedly mothers, I don't think I have ever seen a baby on the site. Some, like me, are producing digital publications that are not single gender in focus, but most of those present are involved in publications directed pretty much entirely to women.It was not the first time.In July, Gillard had hosted a morning function - dubbed ''PM Tea'' by one wag who was there - for many of these women and in the past few months she, and her media team, have assiduously cultivated these publishers and their audiences.She has visited the offices of iVillage and Mamamia, done live Google and Facebook chats with a range of online audiences.Between them, Priestley wrote the next day, the 20 women at Monday's drinks have a combined audience estimated by the market research company Nielsen to be 3? million.''It's easy to dismiss 'mummy bloggers' as hobbyist writers bemoaning parenthood over a glass of wine and a keyboard, but the numbers signify something: we're no longer niche,'' wrote Amber Robinson last Tuesday.''We represent sizeable online communities whose needs are not entirely served by the mainstream media, which has traditionally not been female-friendly, and which has stifled criticism and vigorous debate.''Those present on Monday were fully aware they were part of a Gillard media strategy and several wrote they hoped the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, would similarly reach out to women. No doubt Abbott's people are pondering just how to do this, but it will be difficult for Abbott to do it with the same authenticity as Gillard. And not just because he is a man.It is probably impossible to over-estimate the admiration and affection for Gillard among women, especially young women, after her ''sexism and misogyny'' speech on October 9. All of the websites represented on Monday plugged the speech approvingly.''So yesterday this happened,'' was how allconsuming.com.au presented the video of the speech. ''Game On''.There are still some, including in the media, who don't appreciate the game-changing nature of that speech. Gillard herself did not understand its impact right away. She has said after she sat down she was about to call for some correspondence to sign when the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said to her, ''You don't just sign letters after you've given a j'accuse speech''.Even so, it took 2 million-plus YouTube views, congratulations from the US President and other world leaders, and hundreds of letters from Australian women to convince Gillard she had taken command of a whole new political terrain.Now she has no choice but to champion women, and she is doing it with gusto.She has followed the lead of Hillary Clinton who has integrated women's issues into US foreign policy goals and who mentions women in every speech. Gillard is starting to do the same. She recently made reference at the BCA dinner to the absence of women at most business meetings she attends, she denounced the unfair treatment of Australia's women basketballers at the Olympics, and, on Tuesday, lent unprecedented prime ministerial authority to a campaign to end female genital mutilation in Australia.All this will be mocked, of course, by the misogynists and Neanderthals who don't get what has happened.''There was very little of the hard-nosed scepticism you'd encounter if a group of professional journalists were asked to Kirribilli House,'' Jonathan Holmes said on the ABC's Media Watch in October of the July ''PM Tea'' meeting.Holmes clearly wasn't at the prime minister's press gallery drinks at The Lodge on November 29 where, I am reliably informed, hard-nosed Canberra journos who just two days earlier had been yelling borderline abusive questions at the PM about her past with Slater & Gordon, lined up to have their photos taken with her.The iPhones were out in force on Monday as the women snapped each other with the PM. Virtually all those present wrote about the event the next day, and all included friendly photos of themselves with the Prime Minister. Great for their publications and gold for Gillard.