Transcript : Zoe Daniel
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ZOE DANIEL: I think it’s worth laying some context about my history in the US particularly as MAria said, I arrived in the states at the end of 2015, so I was lucky enough to be an eyewitness to the 2016 election campaign and the election of Donald Trump. Also to cover his first 3 years in office. I think the first thing I would say, and it’s not a particularly revealing or illuminating, but quite obvious, but when i got the job as US bureau chief in 2015, the expectation was that Hilary Clinton would win the election, that Donald Trump was effectively a novelty candidate and that once the election had happened everything would revert to normal in inverted commas. Obviously once I arrived things unfolded very differently and it became apparent to me very quickly that the election probably wouldn’t play out as everyone had assumed. I arrived before christmas in 2015 and in the new year of 2016 effectively launched straight into covering the caucuses and primaries around the country. I lived in the US for 4 years and i’m back in Melbourne now. I’ve been to roughly 45 states during that 4 year period. Much of that was during 2016 although obviously I traveled extensively throughout the posting. I think the thing that Maria said that’s important is that my history in reporting began in rural Australia. I was a presenter of the country hour, rural affairs program on the ABC, i’ve lived in every state except Queensland, i’ve spent a lot of time as a field reporter and my basic interest and focus in reporting is getting out. Talking to ordinary people and trying to delve into their perspective to understand their thinking. Then, in a political context, that goes to what their various decision making might be.
In terms of covering the 2016 campaign and then the Trump presidency, I think that approach was extremely helpful. Particularly in the sense that the level of division, political division in the US, economic division, social division, perhaps means that frequently people of different backgrounds don’t necessarily interact with each other. There is a socio economic, but also geographic divide to some degree, where there is a more progressive perspective in many of the major cities, but people who are living in the inland states, the less populated states, the more rural and agricultural and industrial states have quite a different view on how their country should be run. I think in that sense I learnt a lot. Spending most of my time outside DC during 2016. The thing that was weird about that was that what I was hearing from people in the places that I was traveling to was very different to what I was hearing when I was in Washington. It was a case of trying to navigate what was true and then trying to get a sense of how that might play into the way that people would vote. It was quite a conflicted time for me because the places that I was traveling to, places like Ohio, Kentucky, the Carolinas, particularly North Carolina, Western Pennsylvania, a lot of the places that we spent most of our time during the election campaign, most people that I spoke to, and i’m not generalising, most people that I spoke to, we’re voting for Donald Trump. They were very clear about that. I’ve told many stories about the fact that even a couple of weeks before the election we did a road trip through western pennsylvania, and obviously it was a state that was expected to go to the democrats because of the large population in the major cities, but driving through western pennsylvania, we barely saw a Hillary Clinton yard sign, just about every yard that we passed by had a Trump Pence, Make America Great Again, sign in it’s yard.
The general view of people we spoke to across those states was that firstly, they didn’t trust Hilary Clinton, there was a very personal set of issues about her that people objected to in regard to her time as Secretary of State particularly, but also just being a member of the Washington Establishment. There was also a deeper sense of wanting to elect the anti-politician, someone who was going to bring something fresh to Washington. Even though many of Donald Trump supporters that i spent time with objected to his various retorique, particularly around treatment of women, racial issues, immigration perhaps, they were prepared to tolerate some of that and also his behaviour on Twitter for the sake of getting a President who was going to be direct, blunt, not controlled by the establishment, and essentially take his open path in terms of leadership. Obviously here we are and I could go on about what it was like covering Donald Trump once he got elected. It’s interesting that 2016 was a crazy election campaign year for us in Beuro in Washington. But 2017 was actually the year that was really off the wall in terms of news in that just about every day something completely wild happened. Whether it was Donald Trump withdrawing from international agreements, sacking staff, staff resigning, constant turnover of people in the whitehouse administration and those kinds of things. But just to fast forward to where we are now. I think there’s a couple of things to point out before we go to questions, one is, that the people that i’m speaking to who voted for DOnald Trump in 2016 and i’m still in touch with them now because i’m writing a book, many of them are still going to vote for him in 2020. I think that one thing that I learned covering the 2016 election and also the first few years of the administration was that the way that the administration and Donald Trump’s behaviour is perceived internationally is quite different to how it’s perceived domestically. I think in a domestic context, from my perspective, and plainly, i’m not an American so it’s just an expat’s view, but the country is politically very divided, people have a very set view politically, and they tend to watch, listen to, and read things that feed into their existing perspective. IKt’s very different to an Australian environment where although our media is becoming increasingly polarised, we don;t have this big media market, our media can’t be quite so narrow in the way it delivers news and perspective. You tend to get a slightly broader perspective on things than you would in the US if you’re watching and listening to particular things.
I think to make an assumption now, a couple of months out from the election, that it will be a landslide in favour of Joe Biden is something I would not subscribe to. That said, I know all the polls look that way and it would have to be a much bigger correction this year than it was in 2016 in regard to how that polling is looking. I think that, having been in part burnt by the polls at that time, where i thought I was going crazy because I thought Donald Trump was going to win the election because of people I was speaking to, but every time i came back to DC saying, the polls say Hillary’s got it, even the day before the election, according to everyone, Hilary had it, I really didn’t believe that. I have a very healthy scepticism about the polls. I also would say that Donald Trump has an exceptional capacity to control the narrative and conversation, and that the way that we’ve seen news move and information flow in that intervening period between 2016 and 2020 demonstrates how quickly that narrative can change. We’re in a 24 hour fast news cycle and the only trying that’s really caused the president to lose control of that has been COVID 19. So we’d say that we’re 10 weeks out from the election now, my view is that a lot can still change in that time because the news narrative tends to move very quickly. So yeah, just from those preliminary remarks, I’m keen to take questions. I think we’ll get to what you’d like to know from me, so back to you Maria.
MARIA MACNAMARA: Thank you very much, and there are so many questions. We’ve had people send them through. I might just kick off with a couple of my own. When you look at the US, it’s a country that for a nation that has an irrepressible energy, and it reinvents itself every time it needs to, it pulls itself out of whatever hole, it redirects as it needs to, it’s ingenuity and innovation is just a hallmark. And capitalism in the way it’s expressed in the US is something that’s quite confronting to Australians because our understanding of Capitalism and what you see in the US is so different. My question sits on a very personal, human level, when will the American people be tired. When will all the agitation and the sense of constant aggression and crisis, when will it wear them down, if ever?
ZOE DANIEL: I agree with you that it’s an incredibly vibrant, just, complete wow of a place as far as i’m concerned. The thing that fascinates me most is that you’ve essentially got a series of small countries within one country. I certainly wouldn’t say each state is a different country, but you very much have regions that operate in culturally very different ways in terms of the language, the food, their approach to life, their outlook. So from that perspective you have a lot of differing views, no sense of nationalised culture, even in the way that a country like Australia has. The state’s rights are so much stronger, that sense of state and regional independence is so much stronger. In a way that breeds conflict, but also creativity, because you end up with a whole lot of different sparks coming together and that’s what creates the fantastic place that the US is. In terms of people being tired, I think a lot of people are tired. Particularly in areas that have seen huge industrial change in fairly recent history. A lot of what’s happening politically is generated by fear. Fear of change, but also fear of what the future holds. A sense of will my children be able to have as good a life or a better life than me in a country that offers so much promise. People have great expectations of themselves and the country to deliver them a particular kind of life. One thing that struck me, particularly during 2016 was that at the end of the day, no matter what was going on within the political narrative that was interesting to people like me and other insiders in Washington or people who have a political perspective. Many of those who I was speaking to on the ground really just cared about their job, how much money they were earning, how secure their employment is or was, their capacity to send their children to college or enable their children’s education and what the future for their children might look like. Also, what their local community or part of their city or state might look like going forward. That comes back to people being capable of tolerating some of Donald Trump’s more negative qualities for the sake of what they thought he could deliver to them. Circling that back around to 2020, that plays in quite a lot I think to what happens over the next couple of months. To me, at the beginning of this year, back in February, Donald Trump was just walking straight back into reelection. I had no question whatsoever that he would be reelected back in early March. Corona Virus has thrown a complete unreadable spanner into that. It also poses a whole lot of questions, the economy was looking pretty good, those who voted for Donald Trump believe that he had ticked a lot of boxes in terms of what he had promised them in terms of tax cuts and productivity and rolling back regulation, delivering supreme court justices, judges in the lower courts and various other things like that, will they blame him for an uncontrollable global event that has crashed the economy. And to what degree do they delve into the White House’s management of that. Then … that home to him at the election. I think that if you assume that many people vote based on their economic situation, that’s very central to how that result might look at the end of the year.
MARIA MACNAMARA: I guess picking up on that, when you’re looking at the US economy in the comment, you have the COVID triggering rising unemployment, the stout with China, you have the enormous gap and the hollowing out of the middle, the question of hope comes through. What they have to look forward to, and picking up your point is, is there enough of a belief amongst Americans that by retaining the status quo, it will get better, they will see it through, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a million dollar question for most leaders. I guess the only other thing is, you ‘re in the states during a spate of a lot of school yard shootings. The power of the NRA at the time was very strong, I note that the leadership is currently dealing with fraud issues. Give us a sense of what it is like to be in that environment where, yet another school shooting, there’s 20, 30 children who are no longer with us. How does the American psyche deal with that, and as an expat in that environment, how do you deal with that?
ZOE DANIEL: Yeah, 2 things, one very quickly before I move onto that. I think going to your question around the status quo and hope and how that figures into decision making. I think the question around that becomes, That’s a point I’d make about that.
In regard to school shootings, well, it’s very difficult to be, particularly an expat parent in the US, with children of school age. We almost didn’t go because we were concerned about how safe our kids would be in school. Obviously once we got there, school operated much the same way as it does here. The kids get up and go to school, they come home and that’s all just the way the days pass by. I think as a journalist it’s quite different, when not only school shootings, but mass shootings happen around the country, we’re very focused on those. All of us in bueros have spent substantial time on scene after mass shootings at schools and other places. The Orlando Nightclub Massacre is probably the one that comes most to mind. I was beuro chief through a period of several worst ever mass shootings in Orlando, in Vegas. Three were several school shootings through that period. It’s incredibly fighting. However, kids have to go to school. So this is just an anxiety that parents learn to live with. Every time, if i could paint a picture of what it’s like working in an international news bureau, we’re all sitting at our desks as you would expect in an office, with banks of television screens with boxes of different channels. We have the squawk box, we’re someone from the White House or associated press in NY would speak and say, attention to all stations, we have an alert for a shooting at a school in Florida. Then suddenly, all of those banks of television would turn to an aerial shot over that school. There’s an instant feeling of just feeling sick. As bureau chief, i often say my job is 90% logistics and 10% journalism in that role, because you instantly have to start thinking, how bad is it, how bad is it going to be, how do we get there, who do I send, how do I get them there, and so while we’re trying to monitor an unfolding situation of the extent of what’s happened, we’re also working on logistics of having to move people. It can be very difficult to move, it’s kind of easier to move yourself than to tell someone else to go and cover a mass shooting which is quite possibly one of the most traumatic things that you’ll ever witness in terms of covering the aftermath of a news event. Particularly as a parent, you see all of the parents descend on the school and they’re waiting outside the school to see if their children come out. It’s incredibly distressing to be on the site watching that.
MARIA MACNAMARA: So when the black lives matter movement started just recently with all of the demonstrations, that was almost like, we saw the tipping point being reached, we saw the reaction to it. To see it through Australian eyes, and experience it through Australian eyes, I don’t know that Ayusralians have a sense of just how America relied on the Black Population to build it. So what do you see when you see the Black Lives Matter conversation unfolding in America at the moment, and it’s role in the upcoming election?
ZOE DANIEL: Well, look, I view it with some frustration as I think a lot of Americans do. In the sense that this got more attention this time round in a way. But this is something that happens on repeat. The situation of African American men getting shot or killed by police. The extraordinary gun violence outweighs the deaths in the African American community in places like Chicago. The fact that it’s such an intractable problem. I think more deeply that sense of trying to understand what it would be like to have that hanging over you for your whole life, and over your children for their whole life. If you’re stopped in a car, you’re at risk of being hurt by the people who are employed to protect you by society. That’s what runs very deep. This latest iteration of the black lives matter protest situation, I think it’s fantastic that it got that much attention globally. It seems to have moved things forward perhaps in all sorts of different ways. Even in Australia now, there’s a focus on diversity in media for example. Having more voices in our media landscape. Perhaps in our business landscape, our board landscape, and all those sports. To me that’s the shift that we need to see because that’s when the change will hap-pen. It is a little frustrating to see it come up as a big story, and i’m a journalist but i don’t like that word because i feel like it boxes something into a particular position and then it passes. Getting back to the way the news wheel turns, that wheel has turned again. It’s kind of like, you need to wait for it to come back up, and how many timers does it have to come up before it actually results in something.
MARIA MACNAMARA: Thankyou, with that i’m going to take a question from Melanie Brock, Melanie is the Advance ambassador in Japan, she’s a live wire and we love the fact that she comes to our round tables because she gives us such a unique perspective. Melanie.
MELANIE BROCK: I’m set up as a live wire, means i need to be sprightly at 7:15 or whatever it is. I just thought id let everyone on the screen know that Zoe gets the connect Australia awards for a very specific reason, when I took a brief break from the immediate times in the Tsunami, I was in Thailand and Zoe bought me a beer and chicken rice with her family and i’ve never forgotten that because she really extended the hand to people in the region. Even without a US election you know that Australian media organisations, well broadly speaking, global organisations, spend a lot of resources on and in the US. Not so the case in Asia as you know, it’s a struggle to get stories uncovered, the reduction in the number of correspondence, even with the ABC, over the region, means that we don’t get the stories out. I know it’s an important year, and forgive me, ambassador , for saying that the US might be anything but important because I know it is, but the relationship that the US has with countries in Asia, even if you looked at it from that angl;e, is important for Australia. I wonder, in these times of pandemic, with us being a little more insular, and understandably so, focusing on our domestic markets, what do media organisations, particularly in this case the ABC, and I know i don’t want to put you on the spot, some of the commercial organisations might not have that commitment or view. What do we do to make sure that it’s not just a string of state premiers that there were 3 people with coronavirus, which i understand, for that particular area, is a difficult thing, how do we make sure we don’t go that way and broaden our views to understand and get a collective approach.
ZOE DANIEL: I think the one thing i’d say is, when I was in Bangkok and I was the South East Asia correspondent and lived in South East Asia for 5 years. The engagement with the audience was higher than it was when I was US bureau chief. Perhaps that’s to do with the time difference in that when something’s happening in Asia people can engage with you directly while it’s unfolding. Whereas often with the time difference in the US, the way that we’re reporting is that things are happening in the night or morning for the next day. I do think that people’s news organisations undervalue the level of interest in the region. I think that a lot of people in Australia, because they’ve traveled to various parts of Asia, even as tourists, or perhaps had business interests or family living in some parts of SouthEast asia, or other parts of Asia, that they do feel a connection. Also to the pacific, which I think is a huge black spot for us in terms of new coverage. Not only for the ABC but just generally. I think that there are various organisations trying to facilitate more coverage in Asia that is relevant to Australians. I think that it’s the way in which that coverage is done to try and engage the audience and to make them feel that it resonated with them in some way. I think that for example, looking at Japan, 15-20 years ago, around the time that I first became a correspondent, I feel like there was a lot more coverage of Australian Business in Japan, the economic relationship with Japan, that’s kind of gone away. I think that’s a failure. I think perhaps news organisations undervalue the fact that the audience is really interested in that. We tend to focus on China now, and it kind of outweighs a lot of our other Asia coverage when it comes to the economic and business stories we could be doing. So I really take your point. I would say that the Judith Neilson institute is doing quite a bit of work on trying to facilitate more coverage in Asia. I know the Asia Society is trying to do the same. So i definitely think that there is a gap there that could be filled. Unfortunately we’re also in an era of ever decreasing new budgets and when it comes to commercial media organisations, they hardly have any correspondence any more.
MARIA MACNAMARA: Thanks so much, and Tom Finnigan, you have a question that you’d like to ask.
TOM FINNIGAN: Hello Zoe. I’m very interested in your opinion from the last election to now about the effect of the digital impact on the American election. We saw the Mercers switching, Kelly Ann Conway being behind … to Trump. Then by Cambridge Analytica’s own admission that they felt that they swung the election by maybe 1-2%. We’ve seen a move with people online to draw themselves towards conversations that reinforce their one world views. A tribalism of the online conversation. America is really split now. Did you notice the impact of that social media targeting while you ‘re going around and talking to people, what impact do you think it will have on this year’s election?
ZOE DANIEL: I don’t think we paid it enough attention. One thing I would say, breaking out the Russian influence aspect, that when that first became a story in mid to late 2016, it hardly got any attention. When the DNC was hacked and that Russia story started developing, no one paid much attention to it. I remember saying a couple of times in live crosses that I was really surp[rised that it wasn’t getting more interest because it seemed to me that it was completely bizarre, but also quite important. I mean, as history will show, it ended up being quite a major part of the Trump presidency in terms of Muller report investigations and those sorts of things. So we’re talking about a couple of different things. I think we’re talking about social media and the internet being used as a deliberate tool by those who want to influence in some way, or control what’s going on. That’s obviously very strategic. And then, I think you’re also talking about the social media companies, the power of what they have and the way that those algorithms work and the way people are drawn to particular content. I was talking to someone who’s quite an expert in this the other day around negative, or false information in regard to COVID-19. The whole conspiracy theory, this is a hoax kind of issue. And I was posing a question of, well, could you as a social media organisation, or government, flood that social media platform with correct information in order to try to push the algorithm back the other way and get people away from this viral, false muse. The thing is, and he’s an expert, he said well, the problem is that the negative, incorrect stuff, is always the stuff that will go viral because people don’t want to read the boring truthful stuff. There’s a couple of things there. One is that perhaps governments could work better with the social media organisations to try and correct their algorithms to prevent that viral response. I know the likes of Facebook are working on this. In the leadup to elections, whether they toned down that viral capacity so that things aren’t as shareable so that incorrect information doesn’t spread so easily. But also, perhaps we need to think about how we better deliver factual information to make it more interesting to people. If you look at Facebook in regards to the COVID-19 situation, there’s a button you can press on that takes you to a whole bunch of information from the WHO which is fine. But is the average person going to be interested in sitting down and reading that. We have to find better ways of delivering information so people will be interested in it, even if it’s factual information as opposed to incorrect information that’s designed to send them down a rabbit hole.
MARIA MACNAMARA:Thank you, we have Jaclyn Lee-Joe who’s just returned to Australia, she was the global marketing director at Netflix until recently, picking up on that point, Jackie i’d be interested in your perspective on the marketing of good news and the influence of social media in relation.
GUEST: Sorry I’ve just come into it, but I was going to build on what you said Zoe because in Taiwan in fact, part of the factor behind the success of the ability for the government to go out and message has been to use more visually oriented tactics and strategies around communicating the news. They’ve been able to do that to the point where there is more talkability about the news they are sharing and populating out to the community, and all the other negative news that’s coming out. So there’s a real value in what you talk about, and I wonder about that actually as related to the Biden campaign. In terms of how they can better utilise those etactics in a world where physical campaigning will not be a reality in the next few months. The notion of the importance of COVID and maybe the aspects of economic hardship. Hitting people for real, driving home that alongside what is a very conceptual tactic around democracy which is the lead message that they come out to roost on, so maybe they have a broader spread of tools and tactics that they dispose of potential messages and they would have had pre-covid to look through.
Yeah I think it’s a real challenge Maria to get positive messaging out. What we have found in the time of COVID at Netflix has been an unbelievable of intensity around global conversations. They tend to … up with a level of accelerant that we have never seen before. And then they dissipate, and the need to continue to innovate and change that editorial format in order to feed the veracity and hunger with the audiences we have right now has been quite a challenge for people like us. What we’re finding as well, MAria, is that shows we thought we’re small shows, that probably really we’re only going to in the purview of a polish audience for example, in the case of 365 days which was really a 50 shades of gray tatty piece that we bought on license, that the algorithm had started to pick up trends on it and because you have audiences going deeper into our catalogue than ever before, you’re finding that conversations and titles that you thought we’re just isolated to Poland have then picked up a pace around the world, then of course our 10 ten algorithms feed it through and then it adds to a whole other level of viewership. That’s made it difficult. Certainly on the marketing side. To be able to straddle and manage global conversations because the interpretation of that piece in Poland was very much, we know it’s 50 shades of gray, we know what we’re getting when we click in, but when you see that piece reflected back into viewing in audiences in Latin America, where there is a lot more misogyny, a lot less tolerance for that type of content, and a misinterpretation of what that could look like, then that spreads into 15-16 year old girls on tik tok actually picking up those. It has a whole different level of meaning and implication and we certainly have been trying to deal with that. The implication on Black Lives Matters has meant that we’ve taken down black face content, and what we’re finding is that the audiences are picking that up faster across the catalogue than we can get through the catalogue ourselves. So there’s been some pretty unbelievable implications that we’re unanticipated, coming into COVID, that we are trying to deal with. We are fostering a lot of positive relief conversations on the other end of the spectrum as well. At the moment when people just want, truely, relief, extreme escape content, which could be anything as crazy as my floor is lava. There was a moment when everyone wanted that type of content, Tiger King is an example of true escapist content. We’re seeing some quite surprising viewing patterns as well.
MARIA MACNAMARA: Thank you, that’s phenomenal. It goes to the question of culture and I guess that’s what Zoe was sharing. I know Michael Cannon Brooked, that certainly with Atlassian, culture is everything, you and I we’re having a conversation recently about the impact of culture within that organisation. When you think about these companies within the digital world, the influence the rest of the world, I always find it odd that you have a narrative within Silicon Valley, you have a narrative within fundamental christin communities, then you have a completely different narrative in Washington. This perhaps goes to that question, or statement, that you made earlier, different countries within one, different tribes within one. Reconciling that is something that I still haven’t been able to manage. The influence that culture has, American culture has, on everyone has been so substantial over such a long period of time. Do you think that it’s waning?
ZOE DANIEL: Well, I think there’s a school of thought that the American exceptionalism is waning which I think goes to one of your earlier questions around hope, the great American dream. I still have that paused on the self for the moment. I think the degree of resilience and the capacity of communities to bounce back, reinvent, is something that is very hard to predict. Some of those communities in the US, as I was alluding to, exist not in isolation but they exist within their own cultural paradigm. They don’t, they’re not necessarily intimately connected with each other. People who live in rural areas of Ohio don’t necessarily care less what’s happening on Broadway. People exist where they live. I think that from a social media web based perspective, that’s an important point too in terms of communicating to people that communication has to happen where people exist. I think we’ve seen that in the COVID 19 communication in Australia for example. Where particular multicultural communities have totally missed out on the messaging because the way it’s being communicated is not the way they receive information. Young people, i’m amazed that there’s not some massive blanket government information campaign on tik tok or snap chat, because that’s where people are. You have to deliver the information where people will receive it. The other point about the large social media companies, and really we’re talking about facebook. There’s a very fine balance between controlling the information that people are receiving and making sure that information is true. Propaganda as information for people, or overly controlling the information they receive. People have to be given a capacity to receive, filter and analyse that information themselves. From that perspective I can understand some of the push back from those social media companies around control. I still feel that in terms of, and it’s interesting how recently coined the term fake news is, but what a ubiquitous term that is now, how many different manifestations of that are, that we need to find a way through being able to make sure that the information that people are receiving is right so it doesn’t screw people’s viewpoints, and people’s voting intentions.
MARIA MACNAMARA: On the point in terms of Australia and COVID. Glenda Corporal asks, what are the views on living in lockdown in Australia, and how has Australia coped with COVID-19 compared to other countries?
ZOE DANIEL: Well, having been in lockdown in stage 4 in Melbourne now for several weeks, I’d love to be able to go more than 5 kms from my house, especially having traveled around the world pretty much non-stop for the last 15 years. However, from a personal perspective I understand and agree with that approach. I think, reflecting on this, that perhaps it says something about the cultural differences between the two countries. In the US, where there is much more of an expectation of small government, a desire for less government influence and interference, perhaps it would be more difficult to implement a really tight lockdown because of the degree of pushback that you’d get from some people about that. Also in Australia, clearly we have a much smaller population, although we’re spread all over vast areas. Perhaps that makes it a bit more manageable. I think that unfortunately, we’ve seen that political partisan chip come out during the process. I don’t mean from the politicians themselves, I mean from people and community. Again, that in part goes to the way that it’s discussed on social media and the level of polarisation among people that unfortunately conversations tend to go from one to 100 very quickly these days. There’s not a lot of capacity to have a considered conversation with someone that you disagree with. From that perspective it’s become quite combative. But, obviously i’m in touch with a lot of friends in the US who have been enduring some degree of lockdown for some time. In a way, i feel like the lockdown that we’re seeing now in Victoria is more enforced with fines and those sorts of things, and for whatever reason, the majority of people are tolerating that. I think that perhaps goes to some cultural differences within us.
MARIA MACNAMARA: Thank you, we have a question from Nikila Ivanti, the executive director of the women’s working group in Indonesia, do you want to ask your question?
GUEST: Hello, it’s early in the morning in Jakarta. I just want to know what is the gender perspective on news when you deliver the message to the community?
MARIA MACNAMARA: So the question is, when you’re delivering stories, the lens you put on it. The gender lens you put on it.
ZOE DANIEL: The ABC particularly has introduced a project in fairly recent history called 50/50 which aims to make sure that within the ABC stories there is a 50/50 gender balance in terms of who is speaking. However, I think it goes further than that because it’s to do with, and this is my personal view, it’s to do with how women and men are portrayed within the coverage. We need to get a gender balance in terms of the experts that we’re using, the business leaders that we’re using rather than portraying the genders in particular stereotypical roles. I think that’s the first thing. From my perspective, as a female field reporter who’s spent a lot of time out in the field talking to people, I tend to gravitate to talking to women a lot anyway. Therefore, that tends to illuminate a female perspective on things. That’s just a factor of being a woman working in those sorts of environments. I’ve done a lot of work in the developing world, and often as you would know, the women are more prominent in families for example than men in some ways. The ones who will speak up. So that’s something to capitalise on in those sorts of environments as a journalist. Often it can be more illuminating and sometimes women will give more in an interview to another woman than perhaps in some of those patriarchal environments than a man would. So, it’s kind of an organic thing from that perspective, something that i’m aware of and I think a lot of international journalists are aware of. Trying to get more women into our coverage, certainly in DC. We would often go looking for female experts in various fields because they’re there. Sometimes you just need to think in that way before you approach setting out the story.
MARIA MACNAMARA: Hannah Gee, a Masters student at the University of Sydney, Hannah you had a question as well.
HANNAH GEE: Thanks Zoe, I was just wondering, do you think there are any issues in Journalism that are issues but are not getting attention. We see things like fake news and media ownership and media monopolies, there are a lot of other issues in journalism that do get a lot of discussion time, but do you think there are any issues from your perspective, either internationally, or domestically here in Australia, that just aren’t getting the attention they need or deserve.
ZOE DANIEL: I think there’s one really big one, it’s getting some attention but it needs more, and that is the world over the gradual reduction of local coverage in favour of national coverage. What that feeds and what it has fed in the US and is feeding in Australia is a much more partisan, much more streamed delivery of news. It creates that situation where if you’re a fox news viewer, you watch fox and you consume most of your news from that kind of outlet. If you’re a viewer of MSNBC, you probably read the New York Times, and that’s all you receive. It’s probably unlikely that you would be receiving any rigorous or cohesive local coverage that’s relevant just to your community. Perhaps your city might still have a decent paper, for example, but the reduction in staffing in regional and state based News Outlets in the US is a real problem. I think that in Australia we’re starting to see it as well, well not starting to see it, we’re seeing it in a really negative way too. There’s no rigorous lens applied to what’s happening in small towns. Or even, larger regional cities. Who’s going to the courts in those cities for the day to day court cases? Who’s covering council meetings? Who’s giving an opportunity for the local member in Mudgee to get their say on something. Even back when I was working for the country hour in victoria in the mid 90s. We would routinely have the member for shepperdan or goulburn murray on the program for example. We would routinely talk to those local politicians, council members, police, whoever, to figure out what stories were happening in that town or region because we had reporters there who we’re connected with. The ABC still has that which is great, but you can’t have a dynamic environment where you only have one media organisation operating in a space. It means that not only are we missing important stories that are in the public interest in regard to things like the behaviour of local councils and those sorts of things. We’re also missing telling the stories about daily life, highlighting the importance of the differences within us and the way that people live in different places. I think that’s a huge loss for the cultural fabric of countries. It’s very worrying to me, I think that there are opportunities around, certainly using the internet to create those spaces, so that people can access their local news in different ways. But it still requires money and profitability, so this is like an intractable problem. We become worse every day as a society as that tapers off. When the only news that you’re getting is national news. The only story that you’re going to hear is one that is big enough that you hear it on a national bulletin or reward it in a national newspaper. That’s gonna be a shark attack, some terrible corruption, a huge horrible domestic violence murder, what about all the pother things that are hapopening in those places. That’s our big challenge I think.
MARIA MACNAMARA: Do you think that, is it possible that those conversations, thoise smaller local conversations have been taken over by citizen journalists telling their own stories, sharing their own conversations via social media, via twitter. Twitter in itself, we haven’t touched on that at all, we have a President that communicates directly with his audience via Twitter and it’s the source of breaking news in many regards. Is it because people are telling their own stories, and not having them filtered by journalists?
ZOE DANIEL: I think people use Twitter, there’s a particular kind of person on Twitter. A lot of journalists, academics, politicians, a particular stream of society that’s all talking to each other. I find Twitter very useful as a news feed, if you follow the right people or organisations you can jump on twitter and very quickly figure out what’s happening in the world. When there’s a fast breaking news event, you can certainly use it to curate content to see what’s happening on the ground. So if there’s a natural disaster, a mass shooting, you can quickly start to get a sense of the picture. But it’s very hard to gage the accuracy of some of that information. I think that Facebook groups, for example, have also played a part in this. Communities pull together their group so they can talk to each other about what’s happening in their local area. It tends to be a little bit too small. It’s kind of like, well where can I get x for my pet, or whatever rather than the sort of actual stories of what’s happening in a community. So I think those two things are quite different. People telling you what’s happening on Twitter as something happens in front of them is quite different to a crafted story telling approach.
MARIA MACNAMARA: Now if you do want to ask a question please raise your hand and my team will pick it up and let me know. We have Holly Ransom with us and she’ll take us back into American Politics. Holly did you want to ask your question?
HOLLY RANSOM: Good morning everyone, and Zoe, thank you for your time this morning, always great to hear your insights. So much I want to ask you about with regards to the US right now. I’m intrigued to find out how you see this playing out post November, particularly one of the things im hearing more and more from classmates from the US, observing and listening, really irrespective of what fork in the road that the US goes down, the likelihood of them returning to a taste of calm, or the disappearance of the civil unrest we’ve been seeing on the streets is highly unlikely. You have a president that is unlikely to exit off it gracefully, probably going to continue to linger in the republican party should it be that America picks Biden. I’m intrigued by your commentary of what you see are the ramifications at a more community level across the country. You’ve obviously been on the front line of these conversations, met and unfolded a lot of these stories, meeting Trump supporters and tracking the journey for so long. I’m interested in your commentary just around the level of tension and how America emerges from this election with regards to the community unrest, and the level of disunity and disconnection that;’s pervading in a way we haven’t seen before.
ZOE DANIEL: I think one thing that’s really interesting, and it kind of evolved for me as a perspective, and i realised it around the midterms, one of the things that was feeding that anger and division was the fact that people who vote, voted for Trump felt that their decision wasn’t respected by democrats. That they were treated as if their democratic decision making was wrong or illegitimate. That makes people really angry. That whole sense of the democrats trying to get Trump out of office by some sort of shady means via the Muller report of impeachment or whatever was read by a lot of his base as, you didn’t accept the decision we made, we won the election fair and square, ok Hilary won the popular vote but the electoral … is what it is, we won it, so get over it, and let us move on. From that perspective there’s a lot of simmering anger. I think that if Trump gets voted out then obviously those people will remain very angry, and probably going to feel like he’s been done over in some way. So then it creates a couple of questions. Does Trump go quietly, well no. I don’t subscribe to the he won’t leave office view, I think that’s a bit of a longbow. But i think hanging around, fostering some simmering dissent within the party is quite likely. I also think that the republicans have an interesting conundrum now because having been pretty doubtful about Trump in the early stages and then in the end accepting him. In effect embraced that 35% that represents his base. They’re going to want to let those people go. So what do you do after the election if Trump doesn’t win,a dn his kicking around, pulling strings within the innards of the party. Do you as a republican party so, no we want a clean break from this we want to move on, then you further disenfranchise these people who elected trump, making them more angry, you also lose that 35% voting base. And then your next question is, where do you go as a repulican party. A lot of those people who opposed Trump in the early stages and then gave up opposing him went away. The Paul Ryans, the Bob Cawkers, obviously John McCaine is gone. A lot of those people are no longer in the picture. Where do you go? Where do you go for leadership, which of those potential leaders will be acceptable to both Trump’s base and the more middle ground of the Repbulican party.
And then there’s always the potential that Trump will try to get the nomination again in 2024. There’s a whole lot of variables in that. The counterpoint to everything i’ve just said is. What if Donal Trump wins? Then you have 8 years of Donald Trump. You essentially consolidated his power over the party. Just in the context of this book I’m writing, I’m actually in a section around the never Trumpers of 2015-16 who we’re all against Donald Trump. There was a lot of push back initially around his rhetoric around things like imigration, gender and stuff like that, but one by one they fell into line because in the end they either got steamrolled by Trump, humiliated out of the race by Trump, or just realised that he was going to win. Then embraced him based on the fact that he could deliver them to the whitehouse. So if you fast forward to now, and you say, well he loses in 2020, im at a bit of a loss as to who actually steps up, who can kind of put that party back together, retain trump’s base and lead them out in any cohesive way. I think it’s a very interesting set of questions because the republicans, in the end, those who stayed embraced someone who’s not really a republican and now that what they’ve created is something quite different to what they were before.
MARIA MACNAMARA: what’s really interesting has been Trump’s position in terms of immigrants, talent base immigrants. So with the H1B Visa changes, you can’t imagine the impact that has had on different [parts of the US. Obviously it’s something that has been important to the party, the base is something that’s important to him. If he does win again, those sort of policies that his reaction to silicon valley, his reaction to China, his relationship with the Middle East, they’re all still waiting there. What’s going to be interesting is what takes priority and what promises he makes during the election. What’s your sense, other than what it takes to win, what’s your sense of where his priorities might lie given what he’s been talking about recently.
ZOE DANIEL: He’s very into ticking boxes. So he kind of, and this is my read, but he kind of benchmarks his performance based on having delivered things having said that he would do., So in terms of the 2016 campaign, there were things like tax reform, there were things like pulling out of the Iran Nuclear deal, pulling out of the Paris agreement, moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, rolling back environmental regulation, getting right wing judges onto the supreme court and into the lower courts. He’s managed to tick those things. The things that he has failed to tick will be, he’ll either have to bench those things or put them back up again for this is unfinished business. The things are, the ongoing China trade situation, that plays really well with his base by the way. While, as global people we all requell from the idea of a global trade war, the people that i’ve spoken to who back Donald Trump, farmers and the like, even if their businesses are in the short term negatively affected, broadly they back that, because they think China i9s too powerful, has been for too long, we need to take that power back. There’s also the Mexican wall general immigration situation. He’s had some spectacular fails around the Muslim ban for example, it’s hard to even remember back to these things now, right at the beginning of 2017, but if you reall, this is what i mean about how fast ther news cycle is, we’ve been like spinning tops for the past 4 years. But do you remember, the airports shut down, there were protests all over the US about the idea of stopping people from particular countries coming in. Then as you mentioned Maria, that was very much, a high skilled visa thing was something he pulled from the Australian context and he’s said that. He likes the idea to foster high skilled immigratyion and push back low skilled immigration. I think he thinks that’s a reasonable compromise. The the other problem I think he has, and we talked earlier about jobs, he promised to deliver jobs to come back, and some of these deindustrialised communities, particularly those who we’re reliant on steel, automobile manufacturing, general things like white goods, stuff like that, he hasn’t been able to deliver that. That’s really core to his thinking, he’ll see that as a real fail. Again if we talk about the fact that most people vote based on pockets in the so called flow of the states, to me that’s where he’s going to be putting his promises around this is what I can do for you over the next term.
MARIA MACNAMARA: it’s been an absolutely fascinating conversation, we’ve covered Trump, what’s happening globally, the pandemic, your return to Australia, we had a chat about Japan, it’s a reflection of the rich and diverse life that you have led and the incredible stories that you have shared and brought back to Australia and that’s the power of foreign correspondent, being able to see these stories with the perspective and lens of an Australian. And for that we are very grateful for the incredible body of work that is associated with you. With that I would like to offer you our sincere thanks, and before we all go my team is going to put up a poll, and it’s just one question, so if you wouldn’t mind taking a minute and just clicking the button. Zoe, you’re always welcome at Advance, we are all about Australians who work and live overseas, come and go at different times of their life, and we are very grateful for the perspectives that you shared today. I thank every one of you for joining us today and for the rich narrative, the questions you’ve put to us, if there are any others, send them through and we’ll make sure Zoe gets then, and see if we can’t integrate them into the summary. After the session today we will take the recording and tidy it up a bit, we’ll also do a summary and send that out to you. Thank you again for joining Advance, and I hope you have a really lovely day and I look forward to seeing you again next time.