Covering the last frenzied days of the campaign

I asked a senior editor this week: “So how are we doing in this campaign?” It’s something we all think about every day, especially during the last frenzied sprint. There is always criticism of the media during an election campaign, and no doubt some of it is justified, although “the media” is a rather pointless catch-all, as we are not one lump. There are big players, small players, partisan players, niche players, and we are not the same.

I haven’t been able to absorb much of the media coverage. I would have liked to get a sense of how FM radio is covering it, or what regional media in different parts of the country are concentrating on, for instance, but I have not had the time.

The Age takes seriously its responsibility to inform and analyse with fairness and rigour. At election time, our public interest purpose is never more obvious. At this point of the campaign, many of us are running on adrenaline while trying to cast a cool eye over how it’s going and where we should turn our focus next.

The election is about the Australian people – what we are thinking, feeling, hoping in May 2022.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

I have never understood commentators who opine that an election campaign is boring. To vote is a privilege, and to play a role in informing citizens during an election campaign is one of the most significant duties The Age performs. Perhaps the policy debate is narrower than many people would like, but there are such big themes in this election that I have found it more fascinating than many.

In the newsroom, every day, we ask that question: How are we going? What do we need to do next? Is what we are doing useful to readers? Are we offering a debate about the big issues, even if some of our readers will not agree with some opinion articles we publish?

Internally, these are lively discussions, which is one thing I appreciate about The Age. Here’s a few we had this week. Have we scrutinised the independents’ policy positions? (yes, but we could do more). Have we done enough reporting on the seat of Higgins? (Not yet, we need to revisit). What are the forgotten issues that the major parties would prefer to ignore? (Next week for that one). What about Indigenous issues? (Indigenous affairs reporter Jack Latimore is looking at that).

Have we gone deep enough? We have covered the cost of living, the economy and wages, the NDIS, housing affordability, climate change and other key issues well. We have done major profiles of Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese. Tomorrow, our political and international editor Peter Hartcher begins an outstanding two-part series on an issue that has received little attention in the campaign – the AUKUS agreement and how and why it came about. On Sunday, Bianca Hall reports in depth on the 32,000 people on temporary protection visas and how this election is a “sliding doors” moment for them.

Our election coverage is a complex beast, overseen by national editor David King and our chief political correspondent David Crowe, whose experience and knowledge is second to none. We have dozens of reporters, photographers, artists, columnists, bloggers, cartoonists, editors, producers, social media editors, graphics, video and podcast experts all working in some sort of controlled chaos to bring you what we hope is useful, impactful and informative journalism.

That’s our job, of course. But ultimately, you are Age subscribers and you tell me. We have a week to go in this campaign, so let me know what you think we must cover before polling day. What are we missing? What do you really want to know before you cast your ballot? An election on one level is indeed a horse race. A government will be formed. But I like to think an election is about the Australian people – what we are thinking, feeling, hoping in May, 2022. Do let me know what’s on your mind.

And the answer to the question, “how are we doing”? In the dying days of this campaign, the senior editor, somewhat exhausted, sighed and said: “I’m not sure at this stage, Gay, but we’re doing it!”

Gay Alcorn sends a newsletter to subscribers each week. Sign up to receive her Note from the Editor. And for essential news, views and information on the election campaign, sign up to our Australia Votes 2022 newsletter here.

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