Dougal Tsakalos-Stewart completes a news case study examining the popular and controversial YouTube channel, Friendlyjordies, raising key questions around what it truly means to be an investigative journalist.
One of my earliest memories as a teen was binge watching YouTube after a day of grueling school work. Forget English comprehension sheets, math chapters and science reports. The only thing that mattered was getting home, responding to my parents complimentary “how was school” questions with a constant “great”. From there I, and I assume every other teenager who wasn't studious, grabbed whatever snack they smuggled in their backpack on the way home and brought out their school provided laptop.
As an Australian teen growing up there were a niche few YouTubers that really grabbed my attention. Friendlyjordies was a popular one that had videos which I could really relate to as a schoolkid. These videos included personal favorites such as “School Athletics Carnivals” which stands at 412k views,  “School Swimming Carnivals” standing at 256k views,  and many other videos which had me in stitches from a wacky sense of humor and relatability.
Fast forward about five years and Friendlyjordies, otherwise known as Jordan Shanks, is one of the most popular figures in Australian political journalism, nationally and globally. He still mixes in his videos about the wrongdoings of the Liberal government with an occasional video rating Woolworths frozen meals. However his channel and personality are very much known for getting him into some hot trouble, especially with powerful political figures.
The beginning of his reputation as a fearless, truth speaking and concise journalist all began with his attacks on the Liberal Party for a multitude of reasons. Whether it be their irresponsibility of handling the Murray Darling Crisis or their love of sterile plastics, Jordan will always be reporting on the dangers of the Liberal government's choices.
Around late 2019 to early 2020 began a new era for Friendlyjordies. The bushfires took a toll on over 3 billion native animals including 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds, and 51 million frogs.  Jordan decided to call out certain members of the Liberal Party for their part in this, such as Gladys Berejiklian the former premier of NSW and John Barilaro who was the previous deputy premier of NSW.
The emergence of Jordan's response to this issue began with an initial video titled “The Worst Leader in Australia”. This video encapsulated the issues with Gladys as a leader, focusing on the Sydney Light Rail, plans for a high speed style “bullet train”, and her part in the NSW bushfires.  Jordan described clearly how the plan Gladys had put for the light rail was 1.3 billion over budget and could have been used for other important uses. 
From that point on, following videos from Jordan displayed more issues of Gladys’s leadership, and it was gaining traction and understanding from viewers. So much so, that Jordan developed a meme that is highly well known today by #KoalaKiller. There were memes from a wide array of Facebook groups such as “The Simpsons against the Liberals” and a plethora of t-shirts still available on the Friendlyjordies website. In fact it got so viral that the traction it gained launched an investigation into Liberal koala legislation policies, which were found to have been breached, under Gladys’s parliament as well.
Gladys eventually resigned from her post on the 30th of September in 2021. Her reasons given were that her position was made difficult by the visit of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).  This was in response to a possible breach of public trust as a result of her relationship with Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire from 2012 to 2018. It was suspected that Jordan's videos added to this resignation as the onslaught of Koala Killer memes and remonstration of poor leadership most likely didn't help.
In between Jordan’s videos on Gladys as well as after her resignation, the channel also focused on John Barilaro. Barilaro and Shank’s feud carried on much longer and had heavier consequences than his videos on Gladys. His vocal opinions of Barilaro’s job performance and the impacts that came as a result have definitely made him a highly known figure.
Jordan’s feud with Barilaro all began with an interview with former opposition leader Jodi Mckay. The interview with Jodi highlighted many of the Liberal government's faults including decisions made by Barilaro and Berejiklian such as cutting freezing public sector wages, and their role in the bushfire crisis. 
Following this interview, 7News and 2GB reacted to this interview by calling out Jodi for reporting on these events. In response to this, Jordan posted a video titled “7News HUMILIATES ME”, where he once again called out Barilaro.  To this, Barilaro and Berejikilian both responded saying that Jordan had made “racist remarks” when he simply called them out for their actions.
After this initial feud Jordan made several other videos calling out Barilaro for his actions in parliament. These supposed actions included water theft from the Murray-Darling basin, his role in damaging Mount Kosciuszko and its wildlife species, and “pork barreling” which in other words are policies introduced to win voters.
With these videos spanning on for around two months, Barilaro eventually caught wind of what was being said about him and escalated the situation. John Barilaro and his lawyers decided to sue Jordan and his YouTube team for defamation. He also, in tandem with the Fixated Persons Investigative Unit, arrested Friendlyjordies editor Kristo Langker for four counts of stalking. 
It was an interesting scenario, however, Shanks mentions how he found out about the lawsuit from online sources rather than Barilaro’s lawyers themselves. Once Jordan received the documents from the lawyers and raised fees via an online fund, the state was unfortunately plunged into lockdown. Jordan then accused the NSW Police of being involved with Barilaro which resulted in a $20,000 payment from the police force after they attempted to charge Jordan with a suppression which they then withdrew.
The trials for both Kristo’s stalking case and Jordan’s defamation case were riddled with bias, abuse of power and lack of care. Kristo’s trial began in April last year and there were seemingly already issues with the trial. Kristo’s lawyers issued a subpoena to Barilaro’s chief of staff, Siobhan Hamlin, who not only dodged the subpoenas but removed certain documents in the trial and was never held accountable for them.  Kristo did manage to plead free of all counts of stalking.
The big fish however was the defamation case. Jordan applied for a jury to hear out his case but Barilaro’s team fought against his request saying it would be too difficult with the pandemic. Ironically however, Barilaro was still deputy premier at the time and was in charge of Covid procedures.  Further laying the seed of power abuse, Barilaro then enacted the parliamentary privilege act which did not allow Jordan to bring forth a transcript that would let him prove a point against the defamation case.
As Jordan was unable to defend himself in court due to the act, he was ordered to pay an amount to Barilaro’s lawyers for requesting a jury and strike out on parliamentary privilege, to stop designing “slanderous” merch and to apologize. The defamation case was then dropped as a fair trade.
Following this ordeal and additional trial where eventually Google had to pay $715,000 as a result of Jordans comments and their slanderous implications to Barilaro, it only got worse for the YouTuber.  Despite Barilaro resigning, Jordan had his worst to come with his home in Bondi being firebombed and suspects still aplenty and unknown. While Jordan’s courage and persistence has led him to keep reporting on matters of national interest, it demonstrates to everyone the danger that comes with being political and investigative journalists in Australia.
 Friendlyjordies. “School Swimming Carnival.” YouTube, 18 May 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL5l2BRqbXM&t=197s.
 Friendlyjordies. “School Athletics Carnival.” YouTube, 16 Mar. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bvPEIDgTtU.
 “New WWF Report: 3 Billion Animals Impacted by Australia’s Bushfire Crisis.” WWF Australia, 28 Jul. 2020, https://wwf.org.au/news/2020/3-billion-animals-impacted-by-australia-bushfire-crisis/.
 Friendlyjordies. “The Worst Leader in Australia.” YouTube,14 Feb. 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSg5vHzlxxc&t=126s.
 O’Keefe, Chris. “NSW Premier Announces High-Speed Rail Options Ahead of Election.” 9News, 4 Dec. 2018, https://www.9news.com.au/national/nsw-premier-gladys-berejiklian-announces-high-speed-rail-options/2b034b6f-a596-4331-9724-6ccdd9a84df.
 O’Keefe, Chris. “NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian Resigns After ICAC Announces Investigation.” The Guardian, 1 Oct. 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/oct/01/nsw-premier-gladys-berejiklian-resigns-after-icac-announces-investigation.
 Friendlyjordies. “Friendly With Jodi Mckay.” YouTube, 10 Jun. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2de6NgFL44A.
 Friendlyjordies. “7News HUMILIATES ME.” YouTube, 19 Jun. 2020,
 McGowan, Michael. “Friendlyjordies Producer Kristo Langker Considers Civil Action Over NSW Arrest.” The Guardian, 17 Mar. 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/mar/17/friendlyjordies-producer-kristo-langker-considers-civil-action-over-nsw-arrest.
 Friendlyjordies. “Who Firebombed Friendlyjordies?.” YouTube, 15 Feb. 2023,
 McGowan, Michael. “Friendlyjordies: John Barilaro To Be Paid $715,000 by Google Over YouTube Videos.” The Guardian, 6 Jun. 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jun/06/google-ordered-to-pay-john-barilaro-715000-over-friendlyjordies-youtube-videos.