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Recordings + Rumour + Innuendo = Historian's Rant

STATE OF IT: Secret Recordings + Rumour + Innuendo = Historian's Rant

By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Media co-editor

Much energy has been directed this week by politicians and journalists to identify the individual who secretly recorded senior National Party MPs at the party's pre-conference cocktail soiree. That is obviously the prerogative of our peers. However, the ridicule directed at Scoop Media and two of its reporters by historian Dr Michael Bassett, is in need of reply.

This week, after Scoop published audio of the secret recordings of National Party deputy leader Bill English and senior MP Lockwood Smith, Dr Michael Bassett wrote: "First a preliminary about this new style of campaigning that is taking place. A small group of weirdos with a Berlin Wall mentality are associated with a website “Scoop”. For some time now they’ve invited themselves to functions where they bug people and take photos without permission. A book of mine was launched in Wellington on the evening of 9 June. Someone who later identified himself as Kevin List insinuated himself into the room, took photos of those present, and put them on “Scoop”. Accompanying them was a left-wing diatribe from that ex Listener hack, Gordon Campbell. List went further. He recorded an inarticulate rave about the launch. “Scoop”, it transpires, is also involved with Duncan Garner’s story. Snooping Scoopers have become TV3’s new news gatherers…"

Dr Bassett continued: "And what, I wonder, does our Ninth Floor Nanny in the Beehive know about the activities of the Snooper Scoopers who are clearly working for Labour? If this carries on then TV3 will have to list itself with the Electoral Commission as a Labour supporter for the purposes of the Electoral Finance Act."

Dr Bassett's website proclaims himself as: "Michael Bassett is probably New Zealand’s best known political historian…"

The claim is arguable, but certainly Dr Bassett is a household name and an historian of note – and our own personal history tells us he is a former Cabinet minister in the Labour government of 1984 to 1990.

However, I find it rather ridiculous that a well known historian should write a piece, as is referred to above, that (due to myself having directly received the audio of the secret recordings) I know to be based on assumption and not fact.

One would have thought, as an historian, Dr Basset would seek to establish fact and build his opinion upon that foundation. Sadly, in this case, he has not. He has jumped to conclusions and has used those jaundiced conclusions to ridicule two of our reporters – namely Kevin List and Gordon Campbell.

According to Dr Bassett, Kevin List vitually gate-crashed his book launch.

I can confirm Scoop's Kevin List was actually invited by Dr Bassett's publisher, along with other media, to his book launch, to report on this event, and to photograph it. We have no idea what Dr Bassett is talking about regarding the supposed recording of an "inarticulate rave" about the book launch.

Here is a copy of Dr Bassett's publisher's invitation:

Dear Kevin List,
I am pleased to remind you of the Book Launch of Michael Basset’s new book “Working with David.”
The event will take place on Monday 9 June at 6pm at the National Library in Wellington.
Please let me know if you would like to be in attendance.
Kind regards,

Dr Bassett's ridicule of Gordon Campbell is rather sad. Like Scoop's audience will well know, Gordon Campbell is one of New Zealand's most experienced and respected journalists. To refer to this journalist as: "that ex Listener hack, Gordon Campbell" is petty and leaves the reader pondering the motives of the writer.

This week, rumour circulated around the Parliamentary press gallery – suggesting Kevin List was somehow the culprit who had secretly recorded the MPs.

The idea is actually quite far-fetched. Kevin List is after all accredited to the Parliamentary press gallery, is a frequent visitor to Parliament Buildings in the course of his journalistic duties. As a reporter, he has interviewed Bill English and National leader John Key. The insinuation that Kevin List recorded the conversations of English and Smith is ludicrous and frankly below the standards of rational thinking that one would expect from reasonably minded people.

Also, as co-editor of Scoop, I have no interest in the person who recorded the audio, nor do I see it necessary to establishing the identity of the individual. What was of interest were the views of those expressed in the audio. I can confirm however that it was not anyone from Scoop who did the recordings, nor did Scoop organise the recordings.

In deciding whether to publish the audio, I considered:

Was the audio authentic?
Was it the MPs speaking as was claimed by the sender?
Had the audio been doctored?
Was what was said in the audio of importance in the public interest?

The answers were: Yes, Yes, No, Yes. So I decided to publish the audio to allow a public discussion to take place.

As for Dr Bassett's accusations that Scoop is made up of a group of Labour Party stooges - Scoop is a commercially independent news organisation that is accredited to the New Zealand Parliamentary press gallery. It has carved out a niche as an independent voice among New Zealand's media. It is commercially viable and operates with the public interest at the heart of its editorial policy. It has nine years experience in providing information, open sourced or otherwise, to its subscribers and audience. It also provides written and live analysis on politics, foreign affairs, and media to a wide range of organisations. And according to Nielsen Net Ratings Scoop Media interacts with between 420,000 to 500,000 individuals monthly.

The assertion that Scoop is "working for" any political party (as Dr Bassett put it) is not supported by the facts – and again, is ludicrous. Unlike other media, Scoop receives no grants nor operational funding from any public, political, or government entity. It supports an independent brand and lives up to that brand. The New Zealand market recognises it for that fact.

It is ironic, that Dr Basset (a former Labour Cabinet minister) should suggest such a thing and to ignore how this media organisation continues to challenge the Labour Government on issues of public interest, including its policies spanning foreign affairs, immigration, essential social services and the environment. Scoop Media was recognised as being a forthright agency that investigated and published critical analysis of the Labour Government's handling of the Ahmed Zaoui case and the dis-information that affected its performance. Scoop Media did so in the public interest.

But it would appear that such facts, while available should Dr Bassett have been compelled to check, did not compliment the impression he conveyed in his article.


© Scoop Media

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