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Monday, March 21, 2011

Bmag March 22nd 2011 - Charlie Sheen and Evan Davis

When Charlie Sheen launched himself on Twitter recently, we were immediately reminded what makes the social networking site so good. At the same time, we were reminded what makes it so bad. So good is the instant and direct access to celebrities. So bad is the instant and direct access to celebrities!

If you’re not into Twitter, then you’re probably a Facebooker instead. Not many people seem to be in both Team Facebook and Team Twitter. If you’ve listened to me on radio, you’ll know I’m firmly in the Twitter camp.

Everyone’s experience is unique, and what you get out of social networking depends on who you follow (Twitter) or befriend (Facebook), but I have to agree with this explanation (source unknown): “Twitter makes you love people you’ve never met. Facebook makes you hate the ones you know.”

I can’t think of a 12-month period where I’ve met as many new friends as I did in 2010, all thanks to Twitter. I’m looking at you @PeterJBlack, @VoodooDollSinna, @SimonBand, @Annieb25, @Taezar, @HeathC and @KatieClift!

But the Twitter friend I most want to tell you about is an unassuming 30-something bloke called Evan Davis or @EvanontheGC.

Evan’s hobby is taking his Twitter followers travelling with him. Evan doesn’t have a partner – he’d love to find the right lady – but has hundreds of companions wherever he goes. What’s unusual about Evan’s travels is that, thanks to “a few good investments”, he’s already been to most countries we’d all love to visit so now he concentrates on what he calls “event holidays”.

Last year, he went to the Canberra tally room on election night, returning to the national capital for the first day of parliament. (The poor bloke didn’t pack his good shoes and ended up wearing a pair lent to him by the Member for Moreton, Graham Perrett!)

There was the Eurovision Song Contest where Evan met and was photographed with the winner. New Year’s Eve was spent watching the crystal ball dropping at Times Square. And, naturally, his next trip is to London for the royal wedding.

Evan also has a curiosity for local events, taking his followers to the first game of the relaunched Brisbane Bandits baseball team and on an official bus tour of the Ipswich Motorway roadworks! Evan’s now part of my ABC radio show, known as “the man in the front row of history”. I can’t wait to hear his reports from William and Kate’s nuptials.

Recently, Evan and I sat down over lunch to talk about the pitfalls of travelling alone. It’s well known that hotels cost more if you’re on your own but worse, apparently, are the constant approaches from prostitutes. Evan says one night he had to fend off nine and was forced to retreat to his room! By contrast, Twitter has made travelling alone much more enjoyable. Evan’s followers back home are always with him, commenting on photos and suggesting things for him to do.

So next time you hear about Charlie Sheen, or some other reckless celebrity, giving Twitter a bad name, think about the good people for whom Twitter is truly life-improving. People like Evan Davis.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bmag March 8th 2011 - Which Opposition voice should be heard?

With just over a year until the Brisbane City Council elections, newsrooms in this city are grappling with a quadrennial dilemma – how much space or airtime to give the Opposition’s Lord Mayoral candidate? The question arises because the Opposition’s Lord Mayoral candidate is not the same as the Leader of the Opposition. Usually, for reasons I will outline, he or she is not even an elected councillor. So, who should speak for the Opposition? Its Lord Mayoral candidate or its leader? And does the answer change as we get closer to the March 2012 election?

Let me explain how we come to have this situation in Brisbane. Our Lord Mayor is directly and popularly elected – just like the US President – not chosen by the winning party’s councillors. If a councillor wants to run for Mayor, it’s sudden death. To run, they must relinquish their seat or ward. Hence, the practice is for the Opposition – currently the ALP – to put forward an outsider for the top job. Greg Rowell was Labor’s candidate in 2008. Four years earlier, Campbell Newman was brought in by the Liberals to oust sitting Labor Lord Mayor Tim Quinn. For the March 2012 poll, Labor has named businessman Ray Smith (interviewed in bmag’s last issue, 22 February).

Naturally Labor wants Mr Smith to receive maximum exposure over the next 12 months, so he is now being offered to the media to comment on council matters. At the same time, Cr Shayne Sutton is the ALP’s elected Opposition Leader in the chamber. At some point, you will want to hear from the man who aspires to wear the mayoral robes. Even today, 12 months out from the election, if Ray Smith makes a specific promise about what he would do as Lord Mayor, then you would expect the media to report that. But last month, when council was accused of misspending flood recovery money, the media release I received was full of quotes from Ray Smith and none from Shayne Sutton. Sure enough, when I sat down to watch the evening news, there was the Opposition’s Lord Mayoral candidate and not the Opposition Leader.

Now you might ask – why don’t reporters just by-pass Mr Smith and only seek the views of Cr Sutton? Let’s just say the parties are well practised at putting forward their preferred spokespeople. The Brisbane media faced this dilemma when Campbell Newman was pre-selected by the Liberal Party two years before the 2004 election. And it will inevitably surface again in the lead up to the 2016 poll, whichever side is in power at the time. Who do you think should speak for the Opposition?

In response to my column in bmag’s last issue and my proposed ad campaign encouraging children to stop their parents pirating movies and TV shows, Tim puts me in my place with this email: “Being a young adult who has downloaded many, many TV shows, most of those while still a child, children are generally the ones educating their parents, showing them the best ways to download pirated material. I showed my mother how to do it.”