Lynn Prentice on radio on The Standard

Lynn Prentice from The Standard was interviewed by Guyon Espiner on Radio  NZ this morning.

Left wing bloggers defend their own work

Espiner: And joining me in the Auckland studio is Lynn Prentice from the left wing blogsite The Standard. Good morning to you.

Prentice: Good morning.

Espiner: Well, you heard Bill Ralston saying there that this has been happening for years and this is just the new form of it with websites. Is he right?

Prentice: Ah not for the left. Basically we don’t take material particularly from the parliamentary wing. We never have. other blogs might be we don’t.

Prentice doesn’t speak for “the left”. There are other major left wing blogs like Public Address and The Daily Blog – at the latter (which Prentice has been an author at) Martyn Bradbury was posting while a paid consultant to the Mana Party and while involved in the setting up of the Internet Party.

Espiner: So the Standard has never received any information from the Labour Party.

Prentice: We have but a long time back. If you go back you have to go back to the H-Fee back in 2008.

Espiner: So for the last, what, six years you’ve not received any information from anyone at all in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Mike Smith was General Secretary of the Labour Party until August 2009.  He became Prentice’s co-trustee at The Standard in 2010 and became an author. He was an adviser in the Labour leader’s office (in Parliament) up until last year. He is still authoring posts as of today. (Source L Prentice).

Prentice: We will often get stuff pointing at stuff that is already in public.

Espiner: Right. So you have received material but just not fresh material.

Prentice. Nah, That’s right. The thing about it is…

Espiner: You’re in contact with the Parliamentary wing of the Labour Party surely?

Prentice: Yes.

Espiner: Yeah, ok. So you’re really just the left wing equivalent then of Whale Oil are you?

Prentice: No.

Espiner: What’s the difference?

Prentice? The difference is basically we sit there and write opinion, we don’t try to form it. We write our opinions about what we actually do, we don’t actually go off and try and say what everyone should be thinking. We’re not broadcasters in the same way.

Yeah, that’s an interesting explanation. They have even had a number of posts recently imploring people how to vote. See Get Out The Vote!

Espiner: Well that’s a fairly subtle difference isn’t it? You’re forming or making left wing opinions based on contact with the Labour Party at times. You’ve just said that.

Prentice: Not just the Labour Party, I mean we talk to the Greens…

Espiner: Other left wing parties.

Prentice: There’s maybe, I don’t know, fifteen or twenty people who’ve been active on the blog over time, some of them from the Greens, some of them just not affiliated at all like Karol.

Karol recently stated she was not a member of any party but “I have party voted Green in recent elections, and intend to do so again this election” and has been strongly promoting Greens and voting left.

Espiner: Was it originally hosted on the Labour Party server?

Prentice: Ah hem. There was a server courtesy of a, that was donated to the Labour Party which then got ported onto an activist, and we were hosted on the activists running it, and that was for a grand total of about six weeks until we found out that that was actually the case.

Espiner: Right, ok. Why don’t people on The Standard blog blog under their own names?

Prentice: Why should we?

Espiner: Well because when you’re putting an opinion forward, putting your own name to it …

Prentice: Because the fast way to have Cameron Slater go and try and trace you down at work.

Espiner: Well, no…

Prentice: It, it’s actually in my current job I had to actually go off and tell them if Cameron Slater finds I’m here he’ll attack me.

Espiner: Ok, but you could say look, Cameron Slater, no matter what you think of Cameron Slater, you know who he is.  He’s the son of the former National Party president. You’ve got no illusions about where he’s coming from whether you like his material or not. Yep I’m looking at The Standard website now and I have a bunch of people, Rocky, who’s Rocky?

Prentice:  Rochelle Rees, my niece. She’s well known.

She may be well known amongst the regulars at The Standard but will be unknown to casual readers. I check out The Standard quite often and either didn’t know who Rocky was or didn’t remember. Being well known to Lynn doesn’t mean everyone else knows her that well, but they don’t seem to get that.

Espiner: Ok, who..

Prentice: There’s Mike Smith.

Espiner: Who’s um, you’re lprent I presume.

Prentice: Yeah.

Espiner: Who’s Bunji?

Prentice: Bunji’e just one of the guys from Auckland.

Espiner: Who is it?

Prentice: I don’t know.

Espiner: You don’t know who that is?

Prentice? Well, I do know but ‘m not going to tell you.

First he lies, then he won’t say. Fair enough for the latter, except that Bunji himself did say a bit today.

There’s much more and this must surely rumble on, but for a start can I say that I’m unaware of any passing of gossip and scuttlebutt to The Standard – even if I don’t know all the authors.  I know that a few times Labour policy has been sent to us as it was to journalists with an embargo so we can have stories ready and scheduled when it’s announced.  But nothing more than that.

So they have received material before it goes public. A repeat from above:

Espiner: Right. So you have received material but just not fresh material.

Prentice. Nah, That’s right.

Bunji also said today:

People know where I’m coming from far more than whomever is doing today’s Herald editorial.

They know I’m a Labour party member – as I’ve mentioned that – and from my topics, that I’m based in Auckland.  That’s further confirmed by the fact that I’ve blogged about Labour conferences in Auckland – which might cause an accurate assumption that I’m actively involved in my local Labour Electorate Committee.

Ok, so an active electorate party member. But again, ‘people’ don’t know this.  Some regulars will know but many won’t. I didn’t. Unless you happen to notice the comment amongst many that reveals a bit about someone you won’t know. None of the authors (or either trustee) has disclosures or any information about themselves that’s easily available.

Espiner: Ok, well this is the point though isn’t it, because people can’t make up their minds about…

Prentice: …about what they’re writing? Of course they can? It’s sitting right there on the page.

Espiner: Yes, but it’s anonymous, isn’t it.

Prentice: No it’s not anonymous.

Espiner: Well yes it is because we don’t know who these people are.

Prentice: No, but the thing about it is that it’s no more anonymous than the editorial of the Herald…

Espiner: Well let me put this to you.

Prentice: …who are completely anonymous, they don’t even put their names to it.

Not right – here are named people in editorial positions at NZ Herald.  No one is identified in About at The Standard, and rarely is anyone identified on posts apart from their pseudonym (with an exception or two).

Espiner: Yes, but we it could be couldn’t it that these people could be members of the Labour Party, could even be Parliamentary staffers for all we know, they could have very strong links to the Labour Party, so…

Prentice: Except I say they aren’t. Mike Smith says they aren’t, and we’re the people running the Standard.

That’s the Mike Smith mentioned above, who was himself an adviser in the Labour leader’s office not long ago.

Espiner: So none of these people are connected to the Labour Party?

Prentice: No, they might be connected to the Labour Party, they might be members, they might be supporters, but what you’re asking is are they MPs, are they staffers? Nah.

Espiner: Who are they?

Prentice: They’re basically people who’re interested in politics.

Like mickysavage (Greg Presland), who isn’t a staffer but works in David Cunliffe’s electorate committee and set up a donation trust for Cunliffe last year. And who else? No way of most people knowing.

Espiner: And why don’t they put their names to it?

Prentice: Because basically we’ve had people who go off and try to attack them at work, ok. And it’s a strange thing to do. If some of our people like Clint Smith for instance, basically went on as Steve Piersen on the blog, and eventually went off when he went off when he went off to work for Parliamentary Services. He just happened to be out in the open.

I’m not sure that he was out in the open. Clint Smith worked for Labour, switched to Greens (‘Hey Clint’) and earlier this year moved back to Labour. It had been claimed but wasn’t verified that Smith posted at The Standard as ‘James Henderson’ up until the end of last year, if that is true it was as a Green staffer.

Prentice: But the point about it is there’s a long tradition of being pseudonymous on the ‘net. That goes back thirty years…

Espiner: Ok, can I put a hypothetical to you. Someone comes to you with information which is hugely damaging to the National Party, and it’s four weeks before an election, around about where we are now, and what do you do, do you put it on a website?

Prentice: Ah, a lot of the time what we’ll do is just simply forward it to a journo.

A lot of the time?

Prentice: We’re not there to make news, we’re there to write opinion.

Espiner: All right, thank you very much for explaining that and for joining us, we really appreciate your time. That’s Lynn Prentice from the left wing blog site The Standard.

Some may not be interested in making news, but there is a lot of discussion at times about wanting to make news and to be noticed by mainstream media.

I think it’s fair enough that some people choose to use pseudonyms online. I don’t and being known makes me more of a target for personal abuse. I understand that some prefer to avoid that.

But using a pseudonym does alter perceptions of what is written, not knowing if it is just an ordinary unaffiliated person or David Cunliffe’s offsider.

Lynn hates getting advice (he bans people for it) but I’ll give him and Standard authors some – it would help if you had an ‘authors’ page (or add to ‘About’) with named authors with brief backgrounds plus authors with pseudonyms with brief descriptions of their disclosed background. It does make a difference if you know you’re talking to an active party member or a non-aligned individual.

The problem with avoiding saying anything about authors (apart from in comments scattered through the blog) is that it makes it much more likely people will speculate. If an author is hard out promoting a party but their background is unknown many people will presume they are working with or for the party.

They way things are at the moment there is doubt and there is mixed messages that are far from convincing.

UPDATE: Later in the day on Newstalk ZB ex Labour candidate Josie Pagani named three people including Clint Smith who she says blogged as staffers at The Standard. The other two were Neale Jones and Rob Egan.

There has been discussion about this at The Standard (including Prentice) and so far no denials. I’ll update if there is more on this.

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4 Comments

  1. Brown

     /  16th August 2014

    I could be wrong but I think Prentice is a liar. They’ll be thick with the left just like Slater is with National. If not they are stupid but principled. The latter is not apparent in politics, except for Craig perhaps, but he’s new so give him time..

    Reply
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