Who would go to Q&A?

A favourite pastime of mine is to sit in front of the telly, especially during a current affair program and reads the tweets.  Tragic I know.  My wife thinks so too.  So the #abc730 #lateline and #quanda hashtags are permanently saved on the i.P.a.d.

Monday nights are always conflicted as Q&A clashes with The World Game on SBS.  But as a non EPL fan I switch to ABC1 once they stop talking about Australian football.  last Monday the twittersphere was particularly irked by the appearance of singer Kate Miller-Heidke on the panel.

I am guessing that Kate Miller Heidke is on the panel to appeal to a different demographic? Not sure it is working

Surely KateMiller-Heidke was meant to be on The Voice but took a wrong turn and ended up on #Qanda by mistake.

Gee, I can hardly wait for KateMiller Heidke’s insightful political commentary on#qanda tonight. #extremesarcasmalert

Why is Kate Miller Heidke on the show if she doesn’t care about anything? #qanda #wasteofpanelspace

It’s a tough world out there in twitterland.  Because we are on one side maybe in our jim jams and a cup of tea being able at taking pot shots at whoever is on the panel.  After reading all these comments I twitted as well:

I had a nightmare that I was invited on #qanda and because I wasn’t as media savvy as the other panelists I was savaged on Tweeter.

As usual there are many sides to the story.  Kate Miller Heidke has made a very good response to her critics. And while I disagree with the savaging she got on Q&A maybe she should have been a bit less naive.  In her post she writes:

I’m a fan of Q&A. Nearly everyone I follow on twitter live-tweets the show, and for that hour, it genuinely feels like I’m communing with the rest of Australia.  It’s like gathering around a television with 40 of the smartest, funniest, most articulate people in the country.

She then explains that when they approached her to be on the show they promised that issues such as the  budget would be just one component of the discussion, and that there would still be opportunities for her to talk about social issues and the arts.  They also promised her that she would take a question from an audience member about singing and a question about bullying on reality TV shows.

This shows two things.  Firstly that the producers of Q&A owes her an apology as she went there on false pretenses.  But also as a Q&A watcher she would know that it is a very formulaic show.  The topics are always those that journalists (and it seem the press gallery one) thinks are important.  So while issues which are outside the narrow world view of the mainstream media are not treated prominently.  We have seen panelists who are writers, artists, filmakers etc. who could tell us about the great world out there being forced to answer questions about the Carbon Tax and how unpopular it is, Thomson and his escorts on credit card etc.  It would be expected that just before the budget, Slipper and Thomson, and the narrative of ‘The government is doomed’ will be the predominant one and anything such as social issues and the arts would have to wait if it ever appeared.

Q&A is a tough gig.  If you are not a politician, or advocate of a group or in any way media savvy you are likely to be lamb to the slaughter.  I can understand why Q&A would ask someone who isn’t ‘the usual suspect’ to go on the panel.  Because many accuses it (with good reason) that people invited is the same ol.  I mean that’s so much of Graham Richardson we can take.  On the other hand someone who is not recognised is often criticised for not having ‘authority’.  So Kate Miller-Heidke was criticised because she was ‘only a singer’ and therefore already behind the eight ball when invited to discuss things like the budget. I bet that instead of saying that she wasn’t that into it she said something like: “Well, Tony.  I can see that tax receipts are forecast to grow by 11 per cent in 2012-13 , including company tax up nine per cent and personal tax up by eight per cent. On top of that there’s an extra $5.6 billion from resource rent taxes and $4 billion from the carbon tax. That’s quite a task” the twittersphere would have gone agog asking ‘who is she to know?’

This lack of recognition goes against anyone who is not seen as an authority because unknown.  An example was when the very articulate Clementine Ford was on Q&A. I thought her presence was a breath of fresh air.  But you could see she wasn’t as used to be on such a programs as the others on the panel (especially at the start) and some twitters were telling her to ‘get off’.  So you can’t have it both ways.  If we want to have new faces, we can’t expect them to be all really confident with being in front of a studio audience and a national TV audience amongst experts of this game on the panel. (On this topic it was interesting to see the exchange on twitter between Kate Miller-Heidke, Clementine Ford, and Jessica Rudd about the pre Q&A nerves)

So what I would do if my nightmare was to happen and I was forced at gunpoint to go on a Q&A panel?  Well, I would try to make my area of expertise (librarianship) relevant so that the audience would at least have an illusion that I had some knowledge of what I was talking about (so for instance on a budget question I would have made sure that I could comment on how it affected libraries).  And then straight afterwards terminate my twitter account.

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