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Go read Gordon Campbell

Written By: - Date published: 1:40 pm, September 18th, 2012 - 35 comments
Categories: blogs, newspapers, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , ,

Yesterday the ‘sphere was all a-twitter with reaction to John Armstrong’s rant at “parasitical bloggers”. Edwards and Campbell, the targets of Armstrong’s misguided spleen, have both replied, let’s hope that’s the end of the celebrity gossip angle.

But Campbell, who is in my opinion the best journalist / commentator in NZ by a country mile, did much more than just reply. His piece is, as usual, a long and thoughtful exploration of the issues. In particular his discussion of “objective journalism” and “evaluative journalism” is very useful, a framework which helps to organise and understand the roles of different kinds of commentary and the ongoing transition from old fashioned journalism as closed-shop clique to the citizen journalism of the Net.

One of the nice things about being an amateur parasitical blogger is that I don’t have to try and pretend to be anything I’m not. On this occasion I’m not going to quote any extracts or add my own “words of wisdom”, because I think the whole article is well worth reading, and it speaks for itself. On this, and on so many other topics, do yourself a favour, go read Gordon Campbell.

35 comments on “Go read Gordon Campbell”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Yep Campbell hit a home run with this one.

  2. captain hook 2

    I got a blog too but its too far out for politics.
    If I wante dto I could roast all these manques.
    Most of them anal retentives who think it is big time to go somewhere on a jet and stink up the world with themselves and their garbage so they can feel self important.
    A change is gonna come.
    the line it is drawn the curse it is cast.

  3. Carol 3

    An excellent piece by Campbell. He not only explains why there needed to be more critique of APEC and the TPP at the time of the conference, but gave a critical appraisal of the relationship between blogs and citizen journalism, and the MSM.

    Between the lines in Armstrong’s column, a morality play is being presented. It is a pageant in which he, the humble scribe from the mainstream media, is heroically doing the hard yards under deadline and dutifully observing the rules of good journalism – while Bryce Edwards and I are being cast as the Flash Harrys from the blogosphere who allegedly (a) reek of bias (b) feed parasitically on the fruits of his honest graft and (c) pay scant heed to the facts and to the truth. What a pair of arrant bounders we are!

    I have long noticed how the MSM has a tendency to provide a negative perspective on the internet, blogs and social media: e.g. highlighting and often exaggerating the online hoaxers, child gr00mers, etc.

    But the mainstream newspapers are struggling, and online journalists are a threat.

    It is also a threat to the likes of Granny herald, that they have less control of left wing discourse in online independent news and blogs.

    Neoliberal discourse dominates in the Herald. It’s not that there aren’t some excellent left wing slanted articles, journalists/op ed writers there, such as those by Tapu Misa – as for instance with this article:


    Everyone says they want good journalism, but how do we nurture and support serious journalism in this environment?

    Can readers really be persuaded to put their money behind quality journalistic endeavours? Or might we have to look to new models that don’t rely on the market?

    Public funding, say.

    Or a model like ProPublica, an American “non-profit, independent newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest”. Launched five years ago, it has garnered top journalism awards.

    But the front pages, headlines and the leads of articles most often slant to the right. And this is what most people read. It is more a minority us who read more deeply into articles (those hidden in the backpages), or critically note contradictions between the headlines and beginnings of articles, and alternative views tagged on at the end of articles.

  4. HG 4

    Gordon Campbell is not a journalist/commentator, he is a cheerleader!

    • Carol 4.1

      Cheerleader? I would pretty much say that describes the likes of John Armstrong, Fran O’Sullivan and Tracey Watkins – especially John Key cheerleaders.

      • HG 4.1.1

        I am not aware of Armstrong or Watkins ever being employed by the National Party – unlike Campbell who until recently was an employee of the Greens.

        [lprent: When you want to make an insinuation or smear, then be quite explicit about what you are saying. Leaving it hanging isn’t acceptable – be blunt. Otherwise I will regard it as trolling. It is a pattern that I don’t like. I thought everyone had given up on this style of stupid trolling (apart from Whale of course) long ago.

        But lets take an example in the same general vein of the 1 + 1 = 11 logic.

        I used to be employed by the Army – does that constitute some kind of conflict of interest with running a blog because I sometimes comment on defense? Why or why not. It is the exact analogy of your vested interest statement above.

        You are on indefinite auto-moderation under any alias until I receive an answer … ]

        • Campbell acknowledges his political leanings and makes them obvious, but doesn’t bludgeoon you over the head with it.

          The journationalists in the mainstream media who survive on right-wing commentary, such as Watkins or Armstrong, do not acknowledge any bias, hide behind two-sides false “objectivity” in their analyses, and try to hit you over the head with whatever they today regard as “sensible” in their writings.

          There’s nothing wrong with partisans engaging in journalism, so long as they are open about it, and acknowledge where they are providing opinion and analysis, instead of pretending that these things are facts. Facts are verifiable and do not rely on assumptions more complicated than, say, methodological naturalism.

          Even worse are the mainstream commentators who don’t even bother trying with facts, they have a complete view from nowhere, and worship at the idol of so-called “centrism” (which for them, inevitably drifts “mainstream”, also known as towards right-wing privilege) of compromise and sensibility. Listening to or reading their work reminds me of Peter Dunne: vacuous, a vain and desconnected attempt at populism, and full of circular logic.

    • Stephen Doyle 4.2

      For what, well researched and well written journalism?
      I know, I know, DNFTT

  5. K 5

    I agree, Gordon Campbell is by far the best journo/blogger.

    He supports his arguement well, and even if I don’t agree it is a thought provoking read and well worth the look in. Actually it is the only reason I ever go to scoop.co.nz.

  6. Wayne 6

    Iprent, your censure of HG is ridiculous. If Gordon Campbell was an employee of the Greens till recently, which I understand to be the case, that is a pertinent fact for this particular discourse. HG was not being insulting, he was simply expressing his view, (actually stating a fact) in a reasonable way. People can make their own judgement whether it is relevant or not to his article. Otherwise all you doing is practising censorship.

    • McFlock 6.1

      Why is it pertinent?
      All HG said was that GC was a “cheerleader”, and that he used to work for the Greens. WTF is that “view”?
      The use of “cheerleader” seems to be an allegation of bias.
      The mention of employment history – well is that supposed to tell us that GC is biased in favour of the Greens?
      Here’s a thought, if  you or anyone believes that someone is biased provide an example of their biased work. All the “bloggers” did was provide examples of the MSM “journalists'” work and point out its shortcomings as news or geopolitical analysis. With links to support their assertions. 
      Petty innuendo and vague points are not “pertinent”. It’s what morons use in place of “fact”. 

    • Colonial Viper 6.2

      If Gordon Campbell was an employee of the Greens till recently, which I understand to be the case, that is a pertinent fact for this particular discourse

      You think its pertinent? Then please explain its relevancy to Campbell’s comments on how shite John Armstrong and the NZ media’s coverage of APEC was.

      I can’t see it myself so am interested in your insight.

    • QoT 6.3

      Only if you can establish that his previous employment by the Greens materially affects his writing. Given that HG did not deign to link to any obviously Green-centric posts by Campbell, his slur was clearly not intended as a serious contribution to the debate – just a slur.

      But come on, Wayne. Put your own full employment and voting history on the table, I’m sure some part of it could be perceived as pertinent, and it would be a total double-standard for you to not mention it. Ooh, if you smoke, drink, gamble or have ever received government welfare I’m sure I could find a way to use that to discredit you without any actual proof too.

    • lprent 6.4

      If you look back to comments as far as 2008/9 you will find that I have been stomping on this particular type of trolling since then on this site.

      Why? Well comments are usually explicitly written to make some kind of point – otherwise why make the comment?

      But there are several types of comment that do not. One is the pointless insult that I routinely warn on. And another is an insinuation or whisper comment – which is what HG was doing. Both have been well known for decades in online communities because they both cause the behaviour of boring and irritating tit-for-tat flamewars. There are others which are just people blathering about nothing much (usually referred to as a variant of wanking in public), which when done outside of OpenMike will frequently earn them a warning or ban for being off-topic.

      The whisper campaigns where people don’t say what they mean, and where they try to give the impression that there is more to see are a real pain on online forums. It is a way to try and boil up a lot of talk without ever coming out and saying anything directly. It frequently spins out into discussions that require a hell of a lot of moderation and frequently put the site in danger of being quite defamatory as others speculate on what they really meant. It is also a favourite of astro-turfers from the PR firms which thankfully they are doing less these days
      than they did in 2010 and early 2011.

      We last saw a lot of whisper trolling here leading up to and after the 2008 election and in patches since. I land on it with hobnailed boots because it is a standard trolling technique. I land on the first person I see trying it and see how hard I can kick some sense into them to discourage anyone else trying it. You can’t make an implied insinuation here, you have to make it explicit. Then it is open, transparent, and unambiguous. We had enough of the robinsods and the others using the slither trolling techniques long ago, and they have either been banned or they have reformed – at least on this site.

      Sure it is censorship if you want to refer to it as that. So for that matter is having bouncers in bars, guards at rock concerts, MP’s in the armed forces, and security at courts and parliament. It is there for a reason – to limit the behaviours that prevent the purpose of the forum (outlined in the about and policy) and disrupt others use of the site. But I’m mostly uninterested in what they said. I was more interested in the behaviour about how they said it.

      If HG had gone and said why he thought the fact was relevant, then I literally wouldn’t have noticed – moderating hundreds of comments daily year after year means that you have problems actually reading them – you just notice patterns. If he’d brought it up as a fact of interest for discussion and said why he thought it was interesting then I wouldn’t have noticed. If he’d simply linked to it making the point about why people should read it then I wouldn’t have noticed. All of these things allow people to easily make a judgement about what the person was saying and why they were saying it; and will enhance debate.

      BUT when someone brings up a ‘fact’, doesn’t corroborate, link, say why they found it interesting, or offered their opinion on it then I spot it immediately as a trolling pattern. In the same way that I spot any pointless comment that doesn’t offer an opinion, spambots, people posing under the pseudonyms of others, and all of the other multifarious things that cause flamewar problems and disrupt the robust debate that this site strives to achieve.

      The basic moderating policy is to leave the site as wide open as possible. Warn when we see people drifting towards a behavioural bound. But we hammer the hell out of anyone who is deliberately trying to disrupt rather than debate. HG looked deliberate and it was clear from their previous comments that they knew what they were doing around forums – so they got a very sharp rap over the knuckles.

      I’ve been around online forums for nearly 3 decades since I first started playing with them at Waikato in the early 80’s, I’ve seen every damn tactic, done most of them myself, and probably invented a few of them. There is always a reason why I do something whilst moderating and it isn’t done for the reason of censorship. The only actual censorship I do is people directly attacking authors on this site rather than what they’re writing about – that is pretty much a self-martyrdom offence – they can do that elsewhere where it doesn’t upset the ‘staff’.

      Perhaps you should learn how to suck eggs and recognize patterns in the net a bit more before judging? You’re sounding like John Armstrong who clearly doesn’t understand the nets either… He seems to think it is something to do with journalism – which it does not

  7. Wayne 7

    Obviously I don’t expect you to agree with HG, but did his statement of fact deserve a ban?

    • QoT 7.1

      He’s on auto-moderation, there’s a difference. And since this is lprent’s playground, it’s lprent’s rules, mate. Also, plz lrn 2 reply.

    • weka 7.2

      So if a journalist goes to work for a political party, does that mean they can never be a journalist again?

    • lprent 7.3

      They are just being asked to make their missing point. Remember this is a person who has had 5 comments on site – so I treat them as a newbie. While it is from an IP that has a ‘history’ as far as I am concerned. no-one on it has a current ban – so they just get newbie treatment.

      It isn’t a ban, it just means that whatever they write winds up in front of me first because I demanded that they make it. The probabilities go something like this….

      1. They don’t show – this is the most common for an astroturfer ~70%. In which case they lose the identity that they were trying to establish today.

      2. They do show and argue essentially what you are arguing. I run them through some hoops with the point that I made above to ensure they understand why it is a problem on this site. ~10%

      3. They do show. I get some abuse for daring to moderate them and they get a ban ~10%

      4. They do show and they say opps. I accept that and eventually they will lose my attention if they don’t trigger anything else for a while.

      • Wayne 7.3.1

        Iprent, this is a reply to your comment setting out the rules – and I do appreciate it is your site, therefore your rules. However, rules should be reasonable and I simply can’t see why stating a fact (in the circumstances it was stated) can actually justify moderation. Of course a journalist can belong to a political party, but it can hardly be unreasonable to point that out.

        • lprent

          The rules are reasonable if you look at them as being for the purposes of the site objectives. These are expressed in our policy rather than some arbitrary external standard. That is why we wrote the guidelines down, so both commentators and moderators would have some idea of what to expect. Obviously in the multi-moderator site we needed some kind of standard that was a bit more robust than some of the singleton blog sites

          We encourage robust debate and we’re tolerant of dissenting views. But this site run for reasonably rational debate between dissenting viewpoints and we intend to keep it operating that way.

          What we’re not prepared to accept are pointless personal attacks, or tone or language that has the effect of excluding others. We are intolerant of people starting or continuing flamewars where there is little discussion or debate. This includes making assertions that you are unable to substantiate with some proof (and that doesn’t mean endless links to unsubstantial authorities) or even argue when requested to do so. Such comments may be deleted without warning or one of the alternatives below may be employed. The action taken is completely up to the moderator who takes it.

          As I said before, in my view (and most of the moderators seem to do the same), simply dropping in an unsubstantiated “fact” into the debate without bothering to say why it is of any relevance does absolutely nothing for the debate. It is a straight troll technique and is usually done to trigger a flamewar. It is also a characteristic sign of some person who has recently swallowed a PR book on viral techniques in social media. I always deal with it harshly when I see it. How else is a newbie going to learn? If it isn’t dealt with early then they will repeat and expand on it to the detriment of the site.

          These kinds of issues were all explored to the endpoints in BBS’es in the 80’s and usenet in the 90’s. Not being able to handle these types of issues plus the whole question about how to sustain a net space over time as the founders lose interest/time was in my view the main reason that they flowered and then died. The personal blog seems to have been following the same path. It is something that we’re trying to avoid here.

    • mike e 7.4

      The tyranny of the yellow media!
      Lame stream Media!
      To scared to put the other side of the argument ie Herald ,Fairfax TV3 -John Campbell and TVNZ

  8. Jokerman 8

    J.A: read ém and weep Fool.

  9. Jokerman 9

    oh. How’s that gravy train workin out for you?

  10. xtasy 10

    Hmmm, if we would have real, somewhat balanced, rather “independent” public broadcasting, we might even have people like Campbell, Edwards and others discuss meaningful topics in top end talk shows and the likes.

    But, well, “public” and “independent” media, what is that again? Must be something from another universe.

    There are some great “cook-up” and wannabe “talent” shows though.

    Better switch that restless nervous centre upstairs off again, might get some undesired ideas here.

    • Jokerman 10.1

      progress. brother/sister. i will be so bold to ‘say’ “Fuck John Key and the ship he Came in on”. Fool.

  11. uke 11

    All the comments on JA’s “NZ Herald” blog/column seem to have disappeared…

    • bbfloyd 11.1

      Nothing new there uke…. the herald is as sensitive to coherent criticism as the press gallery., and the talking heads on tv….

      They don’t want us to see just how unwelcome their propaganda is….

  12. XTASY 12

    NZ Herald: “Der Stuermer” 2012, English version!!

  13. XTASY 13


    look it up, if you get irritated.

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