Blogger v. journalist: my election night escapades

Posted on August 25, 2010 by

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My election day was a long one that started with some unsuccessful vox popping before I moved on to slightly more effective pollie chasing. My Saturday began in hometown Wollongong at my local polling booth and before I knew it I was in the car and rolling on down to Canberra. Attempting to edit an audio piece in the car just made me feel car sick, so I had to wait till we got to the hotel before the reporting really started.

By 6.30pm, fellow Electioneer Joel Tozer and I had made it to the Tally Room. The room was full of excitement with journos, party reps and the public hustling for a prime spot. We took our places before realising it was actually easier to follow the action online than it was wandering the Tally Room, an ironically deceiving election night institution. I did kind of miss the Kerry O’Brien of the telly screen. Although I could see him from afar, the room was too noisy, so I had to forgo his and Antony Green’s always informative dissection of the rolling events.

On to twitter it was. There I heard Maxine McKew had lost her seat, and our first-timer Wyatt Roy had gained his. I also heard when Kevin Rudd was about to appear on the ABC, quickly rushing over to the ABC set to catch his surprisingly upbeat speech (which O’Brien humorously cut off at the risk of it ‘dragging on…’).

Returning to the press zone, I decided I’d go for the FM option, tuning into ABC radio for some slightly different coverage (funnily enough it was being broadcast from the desk a few rows back). Next there were cheers and a mad scramble to the entrance of the hall, where Greens Leader Bob Brown elicited the only real crowd excitement of the night. The mosh-like pack of media folk and now smiling revellers jostled to catch a glimpse.

My first press pack experience it was! And I learnt you have to be quick. With my SLR and Zoom audio recorder in tow, I was just a tad too late on the scene. While I made it over just before he started to speak, I actually couldn’t see or hear Australia’s most popular Greenie. Clambering on a chair, then onto a table, I managed to spot Brown in the centre of it all. As I stepped back to ground floor my phone started to buzz. Although I could now see the back of Brown’s head, I had unwittingly become the photo bomber in Bob Brown’s ‘Greenslide’ speech. My pocket buzzed as the messages came through – “move left!” and “get a bloody hair cut”. Feeling a little out of place I pretended to be doing something. A few photos there, a nod here…you get the picture. Bob Brown left after a while and the flash crowd again subsided.

By this stage it was becoming increasingly apparent the government had ‘hung’ itself (Hmm, I know). Joel and I put a few pieces up online as we heard from our bloggers in Melbourne in Sydney. They were also reporting a lack of anything much at their end. “Not much to see; big room with a TV” informed Fraser at the Melbourne Gillard event. “Hmm yes I’m here, but it’s a large amount of nothing”, messaged Sophie from Abbott’s do.

Feeling a little over the whole thing and struggling to get three friends into the media section with just one spare pass, it was time to give up and get out. We went back to the hotel room to watch the ongoing coverage on TV. All stations were telling us that it all still hung in the balance (yes another), and the result wouldn’t be known for days.

I was keen to go to the National Press Club on the other side of Canberra as we’d heard there was some action going on from our Twitter buds. But my friends, who were now in party mode, were more interested in hitting up the Uni Pub. We worked our way up the different floors and then back down again. Finally, after convincing my far from lucid mates it was time to head to the next nightspot, we left to decide our next stop.

One mate decided he was up for an adventure, so we went off and left the other two behind as they moved onto the next Canberra nightclub. Getting ourselves to the Press Club which is near Parliament House was proving more difficult. Thankfully some friendly strangers were keen to do a good deed and we hitched a ride with them across town. Turns out it was one of the passengers’ birthday so there was plenty of cheer, even despite the seemingly less rosy election result.

Although we’d now arrived, it was getting in that proved the next challenge. Either we’d had one too many or the front door wasn’t where it should have been. Anyway, it was looking less risky at this point to take the back entrance. Through the loading dock we went, passing a few surprised faces on the way, before emerging in true blogger style into the bar.

Turns out the dregs from the ALP’s Press Club function were still kicking on. That meant friendly faces from politics and some telly journos. There were a few “I know you!” moments and then, with gin & tonic in hand (it was the press club), we went around introducing ourselves as unqualified nobodies. It’s surprising how much Press Club types love to talk. Get them on to politics or something and you’ve got a 10 minute conversation ready and served. As long as you keep pretty quiet, we learnt you can actually avoid embarrassment too in these usually interesting exchanges of conversation.

It can’t have been that bad, I guess. We came out at the end of the night with a few business cards and a complimentary membership to the club (don’t know how we swindled that one). By 3am it was time to take my friend home, but all in all we had a pretty good night.

After a cab ride back to our Dickson hotel we met the others, who in the meantime had realised Mooseheads was called so for a reason and bailed out a few hours earlier. Bed time had come and gone by now, and it was now time for us all to hit the hay.

And so it was, in a somewhat unexpected turn of events that my election night became one of photo bombing, pollie spotting and a bit of blind networking. Like my Saturday night, I’m hoping things get better over the next few days – even if they seem a little bit lost at first.

Words – Zach Kitschke

Image – Zach photobombing in the tally room

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Posted in: Zach Kitschke