NZ media ownership report: Blogs

The New Zealand Media Ownership 2017 report details trends in print (down) and online (up) trends.

They have a section on blogs:

In 2017, some of the most well-known blogs and blogging platforms included PublicAddress (which features Russell Brown’s Hard News amongst others); Lizzy Marvelly’s Villainesse; Martyn Bradbury’s The Daily Blog; David Farrar’s Kiwiblog; Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil; The Standard, The Dim-Post, Chris Trotter’s Bowalley Road and Bill Bennett.

Villainesse won the best blog award at the Canon Media Awards, other nominations included PublicAddress and The Spinoff Parents. Judges Toby Manhire and Bill Ralston commented that “Villainesse stands out for its strong feminist voice, excellent graphic presentation and a good sense of what is in the news” (Canon Media Awards, 2017).

In 2017, bloggers – not so much the blogs themselves – were in the spotlight for various reasons. In August, The Daily Blog’s Martyn Bradbury revealed that the police had unlawfully accessed his private banking information as they searched for the hacker behind Nicky Hager’s’ Dirty Politics book. In an article written by the investigative journalist David Fisher, Bradbury detailed how the police actions lead his bank to deny him credit (Fisher, 2017).

In 2017, Conservative Party leader Colin Craig sued Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater for defamation. Slater then countersued Craig. In June, a High Court judge reserved his decision in the defamation case.

In October, Slater, public relations professional Carrick Graham and former MP Katherine Rich failed in a court bid to knock out a defamation claim by three health experts (“Whale Oil blogger, former MP, and PR specialist could face jury”, 2017). Slater was accused by Dr Doug Sellman and two other health academics Boyd Swinburn and Shane Bradbrook of defaming them in a series of posts on his site.

Their action was prompted by revelations in Nicky Hager’s 2011 book Dirty Politics. The High Court did not strike out the case, and said the defamation action could yet proceed to a jury trial (“Whale Oil blogger, former MP, and PR specialist could face jury”, 2017).

In August 2017, Nicky Hager observed that the Whale Oil blog, which “not long ago [was] so influential, is now “diminished” (Hager, 2017). He noted that “there is hardly a single journalist left who would take stories off the dirty politics bloggers. Cameron Slater and the Whale Oil blog still exist, but they have shrunk back to
the margins of politics” (Hager, 2017).

Slater has quoted just that last paragraph and has responded:

The report authors talk about blogs, and this one in particular, quoting extensively from Nicky Hager.

This report is could not possibly be described as fair and balanced because they never bothered to contact me to ask about Hager’s comments. For the record, my traffic is higher now than before Dirty Politics, and I’m not sure how Nicky Hager can claim that “there is hardly a single journalist left who would take stories off the dirty politics bloggers.”. He certainly doesn’t have access to my phone records that would prove that to be a lie. As for shrinking back to the margins of politics, that claim is again farcical.

My site has higher traffic than all other blogs in the top 100 combined and it exceeds the much vaunted and well resourced Newsroom site by a considerable margin. It is simply another false claim by Nicky Hager, but the fact the reports authors didn’t even bother to contact me for comment tells you more about their and the report’s bias than it does about anything else.

My subscriber base, my readership would be the envy of many of the print publications listed above. Unlike print media my audience is growing.

For a blog Whale Oil is large by New Zealand standards, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s political influence has diminished significantly in the last three years.

There was a time when Whale Oil prompted a number of large stories in media, but now it is largely a comments forum, a repeater of MSM news with a few comments tacked on (I do that a lot too) and a lot of filler posts and click bait to keep their numbers up.

Rules of the game

Rule 1 of the political/blogging game – there are no rules. But that doesn’t mean it has to operate like the wild west.

Some blogs like to play dirty. One in particular likes to brag about playing dirty and has said a number of times that dirty is they only way worth playing. That blog has also been whining a lot about being cut out of the loop and ignored. And whine about others playing dirty. So they try more dirt. Hypocrites and poor  learners.

Robust debate is encouraged here. Challenging crap from others is encouraged here. That will mean some people will get their noses out of joint and react badly.

It’s important to not lower to their level. Keep to facts and fair opinion.

They insist on the dirty way -they are trying to antagonise and inflame and smear. They have trouble dealing with it when they are politely confronted.

I’m insisting on keeping it decent here. It’s possible, and overall far more effective – to argue reasonably when you argue strongly.

In the heat of discussions things will inevitably get a bit messy at times. We can cut a bit of slack on that usually.

But calculated and deliberate dirt is not welcome here. If that’s your game please disgrace yourself somewhere else.

There’s no rules of the game here. But we should all apply human decency in what we do.

If you get overheated and say anything here you regret then do the decent thing and retract, apologise, or whatever you think is appropriate. If you want to withdraw what you’ve said get in touch and I’ll edit for you.

Keep reasonable alongside robust, and don’t do the dirt here that others do elsewhere.

What’s up with Freed update

Last month I showed that Freed seemed to have stalled in What’s up with Freed? Since then nothing seems to have changed with no updates on their website and no further updates on their Facebook page.

And while Freed comes up in comments at Whale Oil there are no responses from Cameron Slater or Pete Belt. The WO plebs are whistling in the wind.

But there is one interesting piece of additional information, via a response to this comment here from Missy:

About three months ago, my sister applied for the job as Receptionist with Freed, and despite her impeccable credentials, she didn’t even get the courtesy of a reply.

Kim has just added here:

It must be a small world! I applied for a junior reporter job with Freed at the end of 2014. I did get a Skype interview with Cameron Slater and a man by the name of Regan Cunliffe. I had a Skype interview because I am based in Sydney.

After that I was much the same as your sister. I never heard anything further from them. My curiosity got the better of me today so I decided to look into what’s happened with Freed because I was unaware if they just didn’t hire me or what.

From what I’ve seen it seems like it didn’t go ahead. If they contact me again about a job I don’t know if I’ll take it. Sounds dodgy

Slater’s involvement on Freed is we’ll known. It’s also well known that Regan Cunliffe had an interest.

But this is the first time I’ve heard that Slater and Cunliffe were directly involved in the recruitment process.

I don’t know what Cunliffe would be like but Slater has proven to be very selective about who comments on Whale Oil, and has proven to protect his messages via censorship.

Cunliffe runs the very popular Throng television site.

ABOUT

Throng Media is a new media company based in New Zealand which operates online communities serving the production, broadcast and viewing of television in New ZealandAustraliaCanada and the UK.

Throng Media was established in December 2006, following on from the highly successful, award-winning Idolblog.com; a niche site dedicated to commentary on the Idol franchise.

Each website within the Throng Media network is a single, stand-alone site that provides producers and broadcasters of television in each territory with the opportunity to connect with viewers in a neutral social networking environment. Producers, broadcasters and their publicity and PR representatives either publish their own content or submit it to our team for publication. If you’re a production company or broadcaster and would like your press releases, news or weekly highlights published by us, pleasecontact us.

Readers are invited, and encouraged, to participate in conversation about television shows and general television industry news as well as become members and contribute their own commentary and opinion on their own Throng blog.

More than 350,000 people visit the Throng Media network every month.

Cunliffe got some profile (along with Slater) in NZ Herald’s In bed with the bloggers (in February last year, before Freed was announced):

The big fish in the very small pond of blog commerce is Regan Cunliffe, from the Throng television blog. He also brokers ad sales for Geekzone, Kiwiblog and Whale Oil. Most successfully, he ran one for a commercial cleaning company: “Whale Oil dishes the dirt, we clean it up.”

But let us be clear: for all their posturing, the bloggers have only a fraction of the readership of the “old media” they so disdain, and that is reflected in their revenue. Of an estimated $2.2 billion spent on advertising in New Zealand last year, Cunliffe says barely $500,000 would have been spent on blogs – about 0.02 per cent of the total.

It is also because advertisers don’t want their brand tainted by obnoxious negativity. After reading on Whale Oil last month that a West Coast car crash victim was “feral” and “deserved to die”, would consumers feel in the sort of warm, upbeat mood that sends them down to the nearest mall to do some shopping for barbecues and summer frocks? They’d be more likely to go shopping for a gun.

“The big agencies don’t book blogs,” says Cunliffe. “They’re terrified of having their brand associated with content that is often derogatory of politicians and people.”

The blogs’ time will come, he says, and advertisers will recognise they provide access to a small but important readership. “The type of people who are reading these blogs are incredibly influential, and have deep pockets. I mean, the Prime Minister has come out this month and said, ‘I read Whale Oil.’ These blogs are functioning on the smell of an oily rag.

Can you imagine how devastating Cameron Slater would be with a bit of money in his pocket?”

Not very devastating if that money burns a big hole in Slater’s pocket and his grand new media plan stalls.

The openness and honesty of blogging

Long time US based British blogger Andrew Sullivan has hung up his keyboard after leading the way in political blogging for most of this century.

He looks back at the strength of honesty.

In his last post The Years Of Writing Dangerously at The Dish he looks back to his first post:

[T]he speed with which an idea in your head reaches thousands of other people’s eyes has another deflating effect, this time in reverse: It ensures that you will occasionally blurt out things that are offensive, dumb, brilliant, or in tune with the way people actually think and speak in private. That means bloggers put themselves out there in far more ballsy fashion than many officially sanctioned pundits do, and they make fools of themselves more often, too.

The only way to correct your mistakes or foolishness is in public, on the blog, in front of your readers. You are far more naked than when clothed in the protective garments of a media entity.

But, somehow, you’re liberated as well as nude: blogging as a media form of streaking. I notice this when I write my blog, as opposed to when I write for the old media. I take less time, worry less about polish, and care less about the consequences on my blog.

That makes for more honest writing. It may not be “serious” in the way, say, a 12-page review of 14th-century Bulgarian poetry in the New Republic is serious. But it’s serious inasmuch as it conveys real ideas and feelings in as unvarnished and honest a form as possible. I think journalism could do with more of that kind of seriousness.

It’s democratic in the best sense of the word. It helps expose the wizard behind the media curtain.

Some political blogging is more spontaneous, raw and honest, but wariness is essential, some of it is deliberately and blatantly dishonest, party of a dirty game.

He now says:

I stand by all those words. There are times when people take this or that post or sentence out of a blog and make it seem as if it is the definitive, fully considered position of the blogger. Or they take two sentences from different moments in time and insist that they are a contradiction.

That, it seems to me, misses the essential part of blogging as a genuinely new mode of writing: its provisionality, its conversational essence, its essential errors, its ephemeral core, its nature as the mode in which writing comes as close as it can to speaking extemporaneously.

Everything is true, so long as it is not taken to be anything more than it is. And I just want to ask that future readers understand this – so they do not mistake one form of writing for another, so they do not engage in an ignoratio elenchi. 

What I have written here should not be regarded as interchangeable with more considered columns or essays or reviews.

Blogging is a different animal. It requires letting go; it demands writing something that you may soon revise or regret or be proud of. It’s more like a performance in a broadcast than a writer in a book or newspaper or magazine (which is why, of course, it can also be so exhausting).

I tried, above all, to be honest. And you helped me. Being honest means writing things that will make you look foolish tomorrow; it means revealing yourself in ways that are not always flattering; it means occasionally saying things that prompt mass acclamation but in retrospect look like grandstanding.

I try to be honest and open too. It’s easier, and I think better. But it does expose me to a lot of personal attacks, taking what I say out of context, and highlighting of mistakes (blogging inevitably leads to mistakes).

But for me it’s worth it. You have to be open and honest if you want to demand more opennes and honesty from other bloggers and from politicians.

But it was effort nonetheless, as the exhaustion in our minds and bodies now proves. And it was the effort to keep honest that matters to me now.

Being open about who I am and what I am trying to do enforces honesty, because if I’m not honest I will justifiably be blasted.

In the main it’s the dishonest hiding behind anonymity who attack because they don’t know how to deal with openness and honesty. And they hate their dishonesty being exposed.

The dishonest inevitably turn to personal attack because that’s all they can do when they can’t defend their dishonesty.

Blogging can be a dirty weapon.

But it can also be a weapon against the dirt.

The best way to fight is by being open and honest.

Bloggers “not a big part” of Key’s day

Speaking on TV1’s Breakfast this morning John Key said that Bloggers ‘not big part of my day’.

Prime Minister John Key says bloggers are not a “big part of his day” but he lives in a world where he can’t ignore them.

Speaking on TVNZ‘s Breakfast programme today, Mr Key said the “ugly” tone of the 2014 general election campaign was the low point of his year.

“It was all kind of hate stuff…the whole thing was just awful.”

Nick Hager’s Dirty Politics book, which covered issues including collusion between Mr Key’s former staffer Jason Ede and right-wing bloggers, was a talking point during the campaign.

This morning, the Prime Minister said he no longer responded to texts from blogger Cameron Slater.

“I don’t have a terribly great relationship with the guy now. I don’t text him if he texts me,” Mr Key said.

“Even if I deleted his phone off the system it wouldn’t stop him sending me a text. He knows my number. A lot of people do,” Mr Key said. “I’m on my fourth mobile phone number as Prime Minister. And mark my words, you’d be amazed who gets my number.”

From what Slater posts at Whale Oil “don’t have a terribly great relationship with the guy now” seems to be reciprocated.

Key has previously said he keeps an eye on several right and left leaning blogs.

Whale Oil and Kiwblog bad, all other blogs good?

Anthony Robins throws down the blogger gauntlet at The Standard on media and blogs.

I want to pick up on the last point in particular. Permeating this report, and the coverage of it (e.g. RNZ quoted above) is the assumption that all blogs are equal – a blog is a blog is a blog. This is a version of the Nats’ dirty politics spin that “everyone does it” and “Labour has attack blogs” and “The Standard is written by Labour staffers” and so on – these are all distractions, deflections, and lies lies lies.

So it is disappointing to see this report accepting (apart from one quick comment by Russell Brown) the assumption that all blogs are created equal, and that all are tarnished by dirty politics. Bollocks. It makes no more sense than saying that all TV is game shows, that all radio is talkback, or that all websites are porn. Blogs span a rich and interesting spectrum, and the only ones tarnished by dirty politics are the ones that were actively involved – Whale Oil, Kiwiblog, and the (deleted in shame) Asian Invasion.

So – media – how about a little bit more honesty in the coverage of bloggers and blogs eh? And with all due respect to the JMAD team, for your next report, why not get out and talk to some bloggers, find out a bit about what is really going on (and not going on), instead of repeating the media lines that you are supposed to be critiquing?

(As a last point for a lazy Saturday, quoted above “blogs have started to fill the gap in public interest journalism left by the commercially operated media corporates”. Discuss!)

Whale Oil and Kiwiblog bad, all other blogs good?

Bad language on blogs

Much has been made of a clamp down on bad language being behind the clampdown on comments and commenters at Whale Oil. In his announcement of Travis qutiting Whale Oil yesterday Pete Belt later conceded he over emphasised it. He initially said:

There has been a shift in culture, where we’ve changed a bunch of foul mouthed blokey commenters for (what they see) a knitting circle.

It all comes down to the ability for people to swear in the comments, and old commenters that could not change being resentful that they’ve lost “the only place on the Internet” where they felt at home.

Many pointed out that the issues were far wider and deeper than “the ability for people to swear” so later Pete conceded:

Travis has alluded to it – I deliberately oversimplified things. It isn’t just about swearing.

I’m puzzled by the over-emphasis on swearing.It seems to have been a simplistic approach that ignores a much bigger problem – abuse.

Note: I infrequently swear on blogs but was banned from WO for, apparently, using the phrase ‘man crap’. The word crap is used so obviously allowed on NZ Herald and Stuff online.

Attitudes to swearing have changed markedly in my lifetime. When i grew up swearing at school was severely punished and you just didn’t swear in front of adults. Print media, radio, movies and TV were very particular about what language must be excluded. That has relaxed a bit in print media and radio, and substantially in movies and in TV programs where nearly anything goes at times. It reflects real life.

Younger people in particular swear far more openly than they would have last century.

While I don’t swear much I usually don’t have a problem when people swear, I’m now used to it being common, including on blogs.

I don’t recall much if any criticism of Whale Oil for the swearing. There was a far bigger problem with personal attacks, regardless of whether swearing was involved. Non swear words are commonly used to viciously attack people.

One of Cameron Slater’s biggest moments of infamy was not for swearing – he was quoted without censorship for language in the Greymouth Star:

Blogger puts the boot in

Provocative right-wing internet blogger Cameron Slater was today standing by a headline that described Greymouth car crash victim Judd Hall as “feral”.

Mr Hall, a 26-year-old from Runanga, died when a car in which he was a backseat passenger left the road and crashed into a house about 11 o’clock on Friday night.

At 7.21am on Saturday, Mr Slater’s Whale Oil blog site carried a brief story on the crash under the heading, ‘Feral dies in Greymouth, did world a favour’.

When contacted by the Greymouth Star today, Mr Slater accepted that he did not know Mr Hall or his family, but justified the “feral” description by saying: “It is Greymouth, isn’t it? Didn’t Helen Clark say that you are all feral?”

He said anybody travelling at 140kph in a car in a 50kph area was ‘feral’, whether on the West Coast or in south Auckland.

He did not regret the headline and would not be apologising for it.

Mr Hall wasn’t even responsible for the crash. Many may consider calling the driver a fucking idiot far more appropriate than the language Slater used.

Excessive swearing can detract from blogs, as it can detract from conversations, depending on the context and the company you are in.

But I think are worse than swearing on blogs are abuse, personal attacks, harassment and stalking.  And message control censorship.

Whale Oil didn’t have a bad reputation for swearing, it had a bad reputation for attacking people, sometimes viciously. Slater led by example.

The Standard has a bad reputation for one sided abuse and attacks, protected and even promoted by the site moderation, with lprent leading the way.

Kiwiblog doesn’t have a bad reputation for swearing, it has a bad reputation for personal attacks. David Farrar isn’t criticised for his occasional swearing, he’s criticised for allowing too much free speech – and his recent moderation improvements have clamped down on abuse, not swearing.

There’s probably more annoyance expressed and complaints on blogs about bad grammar than swearing. I saw someone complaining yesterday about mixing brought with bought. For some people the misuse of apostrophe’s seems to be a major offence (and I deliberately misused one there).

So what’s more important on blogs, having swearing police or grammar police?

I’d prefer that people were allowed to freely express their opinions and feelings, as long as it’s not done to attack and abuse.

I’d prefer less religious or Bain argument on Kiwiblog than less swearing.

I’d prefer an even playing field on The Standard to less swearing.

I’d prefer less silent censorship on The Daily Blog than less swearing.

I’d prefer more honesty on Whale Oil than using swearing as an excuse to ban people to sanitise and propagandise  the comments.

Each blog to their own. Cameron got around his own swearing ban yesterday by using an acronym – FIFO. That means fit in or fuck off. I don’t think it’s the swear word that is cringe in that, it’s the intent. If you’re careful not to speak contrary to the Whale Oil authors or sponsors and you’re lucky not to strike Pete Belt on a bad day (which seem to be frequent) then you can keep commenting there.

Fuck, I’d rather promote free and robust (with respect) expression than be mob controlled with crap like that.

The most damaging language in society and on blogs is not swear words. Bad language isn’t controlled by using banned word filters.

I’d prefer no censorship and more relaxed language dictates – and as I have my own blog I’m free to have that.

More on social media and defamation

Not surprisingly the Joe Karam defamation case victory has initiated comment online. See Karam defamation case a warning to blogs?  from yesterday.

There were some interesting reactions to this at The Standard yesterday.

More views on the Karam versus Parker and Purkiss defamation case:

The Paepae: Defamation via Facebook and ‘a private website’

This defamation case should be a shot across the bows of various internet wide-boys who think ‘defence of truth’ or ‘opinion honestly held’ is some kind of magic elixir or Get Out of Jail Free card. It’s worth noting the oh-so-easy-to-reach-for-until-you’re-tested ‘truth defence’ in this case was abandoned during the trial.

Occasional Erudite: The Joe Karam defamation case – what does it mean for blogs and social media?

To my mind though, the way in which Courtney J has applied the threshold test under which honest opinion can be relied upon doesn’t necessarily take into account the way that blogs and social media sites function.

That’s why I’m slightly uncomfortable with the judgment. A comment on a blog post, when viewed in isolation or as part of the individual blog post and the thread of comments that follow, may not appear to have a factual basis. However, when viewed as part of a blogger or commentator’s history of blogging or commenting, may have a factual basis that is well known to others who frequent the blog.

That’s not to say that the defendants in Mr Karam’s defamation suit don’t richly deserve to have been found to have defamed Mr Karam. My concern is whether the case sets a precedent that doesn’t necessarily fit with the way that blogs and social media actually operate.

Blogs and party connections

Charles Chauvel raised the issue of parliamentary offices – see Chauvel accuses Whale and Kiwiblog:

In the case of the two better known right wing blogs those online sources are proxies for the present Government, and much copy is supplied to them directly out of ministers offices at taxpayers expense

What connections do blogs have with parties and parliament? Perhaps it’s worth laying this out on the table.

Kiwiblog “is the personal blog of David Farrar”. In The Chauvel valedictory Farrar makes it clear:

Some on the left always have these conspiracy theories about supplied copy. If only it was true. I recall once I did a comprehensive rebuttal of a Labour press release 60 minutes after it came out with links to all sorts of official sources. A blogger said I must have had the info supplied to me, and I facebooked my browser log for the last hour which showed my Google searches and references.

I am the only person who writes copy for Kiwiblog, unless I indicate it is a guest post.

Farrar is open about his connections (with National and others), a disclosure statement is here.

Whale Oil is run by Cameron Slater who has well known connections to National but obviously has many sources, and has openly publiocised that he is editor of Truth.

Whale Oil Beef Hooked is the personal blog of Cameron Slater. I set it up in July 2005 after several months of getting addicted to reading other blogs and finding their commentary boring. Prior to blogging, I used to shout at the television news and rant at talkshow hosts. I have had a political pedigree since I was in nappies.

All about Whale Oil here.

Like many bloggers I have sometimes been a source for both Kiwiblog and Whale Oil, they (very occasionally) pick up and blog on one of my posts.

Keeping Stock is another right-ish blog with National Party connections but author identity is not revealed.

What about political blogs on the left?

Red Alert is run by Labour and Chauvel himself has posted there.

These are the voices of Labour MPs on issues that we care about – and we’d like to hear what you think too. What you’ll read are the individual opinions of MPs. We won’t always agree with each other and sometimes our opinions may change.

Red Alert heavily censors and bans views it doesn’t like (it’s believed to be moderated by Trevor Mallard and Clare Curran).

Frog Blog is a Green party blog and Green MPs are the authors, along with an administrator:

I spend my time chewing flies around the green expanses of the Parliamentary Complex. Many people – including Green MPs, Green Parliamentary staff, and Green Party members – have my ear. I’d be horrified if anyone suggested my views represented official Green Party policy or comment, but I hope they act as a catalyst for discussion among members of public.

The Standard is the biggest blog on the left and strenuously claims to be independent of Labour.

We’ve a collective who saw a gap in the New Zealand political blogosphere and decided that we should have a go at filling it here at The Standard blog site. We write here in our personal capacities and the opinions that are expressed on the blog are individual unless expressly stated otherwise (see the policy). We do not write on behalf of any organization.

We come from a variety of backgrounds and our political views don’t always match up but it’d be fair to say that all of us share a commitment to the values and principles that underpin the broad labour movement.

Authors include:

  • Lynn Prentice (lprent) – open about longstanding connections with Labour and a party member.
  • Mike Smith – works in David Shearer’s office.
  • Irish Bill – Labour party member
  • Anthony Robins (R0b) – loyal Labour Party member
  • ‘Eddie’ – various people believed to have used this pseudonym, all with obvious Labour connections, sometimes used for blatant political attacks, has been proven wrong
  • ‘Zetetic’ – this may be another multi-use pseudonym with perhaps union/Labour connections
  • ‘James Henderson’ – believed to work for Greens in Parliament (I’ve been given a real name)

That lineup makes Chauvel’s accusation about right wing blogs very ironic.

Imperator Fish:

My name is Scott Yorke. I’m a technology and intellectual property lawyer. I somehow find the time to run a blog.

I mostly blog about the news, politics and the law.

Disclosure

I am a member of the Labour Party. I am also fearlessly independent of all external influences.

The Dim-Post appears to have no identifier or discloser on the blog but is known to be authored by Danyl McLaughlan (danylmc). There is a link to Twitter:

@danylmc
I am Danyl.

Wellington

I don’t know much about him but there have been suggestions he is Green orientated and I’ve seen mentions that his partner works in communications for either Labour or the Greens.

Pundit is another collective of authors, all identified, with a variety of interests and angles.

Public Address is …

…a community of New Zealand-centric weblogs featuring Russell Brown’s Hard News, Damian Christie’s Cracker, Jolisa Gracewood’s Busytown, Fiona Rae’s Radiation, Graham Reid’s Random Play, Keith Ng’s OnPoint, David Haywood’s Southerly, Graeme Edgeler’s Legal Beagle, Emma Hart’s Up Front and regular guest contributors.

Those are what appear to be the busiest and most prominent political blogs in New Zealand.

My own disclosure

YourNZ occasionally feature’s guest posts (more are welcome!) but it currently pretty much my own blog.

I started it in June 2011 with a view to promote more discussion, but at the start it was mostly an anchor for information that I linked to from other forums I was active in. At that stage I had no conections with any organisation or political party.

It has evolved and grown (modestly) since then.

In August 2011 I was asked by United Future to consider standing as a candidate (I had already indicated I would stand as an independent), so I was a candidate in toe 2011 election for them.

Since then I have since maintained some contact with United Future, primarily with Peter Dunne. This is virtually all one way – if I want some information or a statement I contact Dunne and he usually replies. I clearly quote him when I do this. I do the same with MPs from other parties and sometimes get responses, which I quote.

I have not been and am not fed information by Peter Dunne, UnitedFuture or any other MP or party. I operate YourNZ independently. I fund it entirely on my own.

In the past I have commented on blogs under a pseudonym but haven’t done so for some time (since before the 2011 election).

I occasionally comment on news sites such as NZ Herald, ODT and 3 News, always under ‘Pete George’.

I occasionally comment on the Trade Me political message board under a pseudonym as they do not allow you to identify yourself there.

Apart from that I am open about my motives and connections in any communications and try to respond to any queries about them openly.

NOTE: If anyone has clarifications or corrections to make please advise and I will  update the above information.

 

 

The impact of political blogs

Like whistling in a wuthering Wellington wind…

Anthony Robins has asked Questions questions at The Standard about the impact and future of political blogs in New Zealand. At the end of the day’s commenting Anthony posted his own views which are very much in line with my own (quoted in full below).

What is the impact of political blogs in NZ? Is it increasing or declining? Why?

Political blogs have a minor impact, occassionally. Compared to mainstream media they are a small side trickle. The vast majority of people are not aware of the existence of blogs so obviously aren’t influenced by them. Politicians and their parties are aware (and wary) of blogs.

Media keep a watch but only very occassionally report on what is said on blogs. Much of the comment on blogs is as useful as public bar conversations.

To what extent are the views of the active blogging community representative of, or different from, the average NZ voter? Is it fair to say that bloggers tend to have views that are more “extreme” than the norm?

To an extent blog views represent what average voters may think but they are frequently more extreme and persistent.

Most voters aren’t interested in politics most of the time, while most in the blogging community want to be actively involved in the political discourse, they want to be heard and they want to make a difference. But most blog discussion is ignored by the wider public and futile.

Some blog topics keep coming up, they attract a lot of comment but rarely get anywhere. Flogging dead horses is far more common than useful debate. In yet another climate change debate on Kiwiblog yesterday I responded to a comment:

“I am suggesting we do not run off half cocked. There is no evidence of anything out of order with our climate”

That is not half cocked, it is cockless.

These days I usually avoid climate ‘debates’ here because they’re futile, they have been futile since well before Griff added hisn two bobs worth. Your mindless certainty and petty attacks on anyone you disagree with are the height of that futility. Nothing will be changed by what is said here.

Another regular, RightNow, replied to that:

I’m inclined to agree, and not just about climate topics.

That’s the reality of political blogs. They are a pastime, an opportunity to vent, an outlet for nastiness for some and for others a perceived political battleground where point scoring skirmishes are attempted. Usually futilely.

Blogs can be useful for discussions, and things can be learned from them if you filter out the masses of mindless meandering and mouthing off (most participants seem to be uninterested in learning, they want everyone to agree with them).

Occassionally blogs can become a part of the mainstream discourse but are likely to remain a small slice of media.

The best way of being noticed in media is to monitor Twitter or Facebook and volunteer for being a participant in a ‘new’s story, TV and newspapers are often looking for ‘ordinary people’ to pad their stories.

And it’s worth keeping in mind that a lot of people take little or no notice of much the mainstream media anyway.

Ultimately political blogs are what we as individuals want to make of them – because most of New Zealand is blisfully unaware of their existence.

Anthony Robins answering his own questions:

As requested I will at least have a go at giving my (current) answers to my own questions.

What is the impact of political blogs in NZ? Is it increasing or declining? Why?

I think the impact is relatively minor. I think it is increasing slightly as readership increases, as “real reporters” increasingly keep an eye on blogs, and due to Bryce Edwards’ NZ politics daily abstracts which make a wider readership aware of blogs. I also think that blogs may be peaking, and that other forms of media (Twitter, Facebook groups) may come to assimilate their role.

I think that the impact of blogs will remain relatively minor unless they find ways of going beyond their current role as forums for discussion. For example, by becoming a focus for shared community projects like policy development (which is why I’m so sorry that Policy Progress didn’t seem to take off).

To what extent are the views of the active blogging community representative of, or different from, the average NZ voter? Is it fair to say that bloggers tend to have views that are more “extreme” than the norm?

I don’t read the right-wing blogs, but speaking for the left-wing I think the views of bloggers are significantly more extreme than the norm. For example, there’s a lot of energy and passion here at The Standard. But if I can say so without being branded a bastard oppressor of free speech, I think too much of that passion is turned destructively inward, instead of looking for solutions and positive contributions. What goes on here at The Standard is not the way the average NZ voter sees the world.

Bearing in mind the answer to the above, how should blogs relate to political parties in NZ? How should political parties relate to blogs?

Maybe the first part of that question doesn’t make much sense, but the second part does. How should political parties relate to blogs? In an ideal world I would like to see parties and politicians actively engage with blogs, each contributing to, and bringing out the best in each other. Labour MPs have popped up here occasionally (most recently Annette King) and as far as I can tell it has always been appreciated and often been productive.

But I don’t think it’s an ideal world, and I don’t think the engagement between parties and blogs is likely to develop further. Because it’s a dilemma to parties. To win office they need to win over the majority of “averagely engaged” voters (I hate the term “center left”, but there it is, that’s what wins elections). Labour, for example, almost certainly can’t win over the center, and win over the (significantly more left wing) Standard community too. That limits the extent to which they are willing to engage here, and motivates the publicly dismissive attitude that some of them profess about blogs. Sadly, the audience of The Standard can’t win Labour the election, they are after the audience of the 6 o’clock telly. In short, I think the tension between parties and blogs is likely to remain.

A blog disseminates information and opinion, a successful blog builds a community. Could or should a blog / web based community do more?

There’s no “should” about it, each blog charts its own course. “Could” blogs to more? Probably, but not with their current resourcing and volunteer writers. Again in my ideal world, I would love to see The Standard much more engaged with left-wing parties, with the MSM, and with developing policies and ideas. But I just can’t see how it can happen with a part-time volunteer crew.

I also take the point of BLiP’s comment at 11:43 AM. We should recognise the limitations of blogs, and that writing or commenting here isn’t enough. I hope that we are all actively engaged with the political party of our choice.

What is the role of blogs in the run up to the next election? What can the community here at The Standard accomplish in that time?

I don’t think it will change match – forums for information and discussion, a minor but definite voice (or cacophony of voices!) in the national debate. I think there is the potential for this community to accomplish much more, but that would require a significant rethinking of attitudes both on our part, and the part of left-wing parties. At the moment I don’t think there is any realistic chance of that happening, which is a pity. But, steady as she goes, it is enough.

The major political blogs will need to vastly improve their quality to noise ratio if they want to be seen as serious political commentary and make themselves influential and newsworthy.