The Rise of the Fifth Estate is the first book to examine the emergence of social media as a new force in the coverage of Australian politics.
Using original research, Greg Jericho reveals who makes up the Australian political blogosphere, and tackles head-on some of its key developments — the way that Australia’s journalists and federal politicians use social media and digital news, the motivations of bloggers and tweeters, the treatment of female participants, and the eruption of Twitter wars.
The mainstream media’s reaction to all this tends to be defensive and dismissive. As Jericho found to his own cost when he was outed by The Australian as the blogger Grog’s Gamut, hell hath no fury like a criticised newspaper. And although journalists welcome Twitter as a work tool and platform, they have to deal with vitriolic online comments, and face competition from bloggers who are experts in their fields and who, for the most part, write for free.
Politicians, meanwhile, are finding it hard to engage genuinely with the new media. They tend to pay lip service to the connectedness offered by modern technology, while using it primarily for self-promotion.
The new social media are here to stay, and their political role and influence are bound to increase. The real question they pose is whether the old structures of the political world will absorb this new force or be changed by it.