- Date published:
8:02 am, August 31st, 2014 - 170 comments
Categories: accountability, blogs, Ethics, Media, newspapers, spin - Tags: #dirtypolitics, cameron slater, david fisher, dirty politics, fran o'sullivan, impossible dreams, jared savage, nicky hager, shayne currie, the herald
Key, Collins and the National government are not being brought down by a left-wing conspiracy, or by Whaledump, or Nicky Hager, or evil Leftie blogs, or any other desperate excuse. They are being brought down by we the people getting to see how they operate. They are being brought down by the dirty truth behind their smiling curtain.
It should have happened much earlier. The reason that it should have happened much earlier is that it is abundantly clear that a lot of people knew what was going on. People whose job it was to find out the truth and reveal it, but who instead played along with National’s game.
Herald Journalist David Fisher deserves credit for his brave mea culpa last week:
My history with Cameron Slater
…At some point after April 2012, Key went from blocking Slater to talking and texting with the blogger, and posing for photographs at his side.
It was also about this time I stopped dealing with Slater. Before then, as made clear in Nicky Hager’s book, I was speaking to Slater as a contact and source. …
Information has power. Those with the greatest access to information are those in power. Slater’s links inside National meant he had access to good information.
But as 2012 got underway, I began to wonder who was manipulating Slater and whether I was in turn being made to do another’s bidding. It caused a feeling of great unease. It’s not unusual for journalists to deal with people who have causes to push, or axes to grind. But when you can’t see who, ultimately, is pushing the cause or grinding the axe, you risk failing yourself and your readership.
I had been in the tent. It was a place where stories and story tips came easily – too easily. I stepped back and found myself outside the tent. … If you’re outside the tent, which is where I fetched up, it is cold and hard. This is what journalism should be. You should work for your readers, and work hard.
Other journalists have not been so brave. A few are mentioned in various Whaledump documents, including Garner and Gower. As developments yesterday made clear, The Herald is deeply compromised. The internally leaked email that precipitated the Collins dumping reads in part:
“I [Slater] am maintaining daily communications with Jared Savage at the Herald and he is passing information directly to me that the Herald can’t run and so are feeding to me to run on the blog in the meantime I have additional information flowing in via my tipline. That information will be drip fed into the media or via my blog. …
Cathy [Odgers] can outline her contact with Fran O’Sullivan separately. Basically though the Herald and other media are now picking up our lines…
Nothing to see? Business as usual? I guess that’s why The Herald ran with a panicked response trying to explain themselves. It wasn’t very reassuring. Here’s Savage:
I cut and pasted the content of some of those emails, to remove any possible identifying features, and forwarded them on to Slater. So information was shared, there was a bit of “horse trading”, we talked about developments as the story rolled along. This sometimes happens with journalistic sources and it’s naive to think otherwise. In total, I wrote six stories about the Feeley/champagne issue and Slater was not the source for any of them. I didn’t know that our conversations about Feeley were being shared with others, like PR man Carrick Graham – and that was naive of me to think otherwise.
Savage was beyond “naive”, and I wonder what other journalists would have to say about his description of their ethics. O’Sullivan is more from the Collins school of straight out denial:
The inference in Cameron Slater’s email that blogger and lawyer Cathy Odgers had any influence over that column is risible.
Apparently not Fran, because here you are in The Herald’s damage control piece. Speaking of which, here’s the Editor Shayne Currie:
Reporters will have conversations with contacts from all sides of the political spectrum every day – it’s our job to be fully aware of the source and their motivation, verify the information, and present it in a fair, accurate and balanced manner.
Whale Oil was one of a number of people Jared Savage spoke to as the issue rolled on, to find out what he knew. Some information would have been shared, but none of it, in our view, pivotal or relevant to our inquiries.
No doubt future sources will want to bear in mind that The Herald is happy to share their material with the most vile blog in the country.
Every careful observer of politics has known for a long time that Slater was running dirty tricks for the Nats. Plenty of media were inside Slater’s tent, as Fisher puts it, and many of them would have worked out, as Fisher did, what was going on. Why did it take a hacker and Hager’s book to blow the lid off this for the public to see? Why did journalists keep taking Slater’s morsels instead of digging into and reporting the bigger story?
I’m sure there is a lot of soul-searching going on for individual journalists just now, and I hope that there is a bit of self-reflection going on at an institutional level too. National’s dirty politics, for all its corrosive damage, also marks an opportunity for NZ. An opportunity to take stock, recognise such tactics for what they are, and reject them. An opportunity to clean up both politics and the media’s coverage of it.
Cleaning up politics is simple, vote the Nats out, that’s up to all of us. As for the media, that’s up to them, but if they rise to the challenge then Slater, in the long term, will have done us all a favour.