What a Time to be Alive: That and other lies in the 2016 campaign is the ugly and un-sanitised diary behind the curtain of the double dissolution election campaign. A poll fought between two wildly ambitious men who want to win their first election, whatever it takes. Mark Di Stefano finds out what is happening behind the scenes and how the two campaigns manufacture, massage and manipulate their parties, policies and principles. What a time to be alive documents the daily ride of an historic election campaign, week by long week, taking you into the bizarre world of staged photo ops, booze-drenched regrets and dirty direct messages. The exposure of the unscripted moments with political leaders, their over-worked staff and secretive minders, shows how the sausage that is this Australian election, is made and reveals what is really inside.I wouldn’t expect anyone but a political nerd or journalist to enjoy this book as much as I did. It was an even better read for me because I covered the election at a regional level for the majority of the campaign, including 12-hour shifts I pulled writing about visits by both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten to our electorate.
Di Stefano had me hooked right from the start. I was fascinated not only by his frank and witty political analysis, but his commentary on the media coverage of the campaign and Australian politics in general. Di Stefano is a skilled journalist, whose work I really admire. Buzzfeed does some brilliant work in Australia and indeed worldwide, but is still seemingly stuck with the reputation of only writing listicles about cats. They’re doing much more and often beating the major traditional publishers to breaking stories. Of course this doesn’t always make them popular with other media, something Di Stefano also explores in the book.
For me, it was also intriguing to get an insight into the other side of the campaign. Working for a regional newspaper, we cover the election from a local perspective. That is until the big guns (or Bill’s campaign buses) roll into town. My job on these days was to get the story my editor and our readers wanted, something with real local significance. That requires yelling over the travelling press pack to get anything relevant to my story. This comes much to the annoyance of the national media, whose publications pay big bucks to send them on the campaign trail. Either way, it was certainly a new experience.
What a Time to be Alive is exactly what is says on the packet; a diary of Di Stefano’s time covering the campaign. It was compelling and so easy to read, but with plenty of depth. As a journalist, I know this is a book I’ll be returning to (even if only to remind myself it’s not my job to please media advisors after I’ve been yelled at for a provocative article). I’m already looking forward to the books Di Stefano will no doubt write in the future.