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Gordon Campbell on further changes at Scoop

Gordon Campbell on further changes at Scoop, and the new Act Party leader

by Gordon Campbell

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column about the involvement of Alastair Thompson, Scoop’s founding editor, with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party. The errors of judgement made at the time have been amply canvassed in this column and elsewhere. Those mistakes were partly a by-product of one head wearing too many hats - in itself, a reflection of the kind of economic pressures impacting on Internet journalism. Those conflicts of interest have been sorted out, and Scoop’s lines of editorial and business responsibility are now very clear and transparent. Alastair Thompson has resigned from the Internet Party, but will have no further role in the editorial output of Scoop. Instead, Al will be bringing his experience and expertise in Net commerce directly to Scoop via Craig Pellett, the CEO of Sublime Group, Scoop’s new majority shareholder.

The editorial content of Scoop will become my responsibility. From today, I will be Scoop’s Editor. Some things (essential to me, at least) will not change. I’ll still be doing my three Scoop political columns a week, and will continue to research, write and publish my own monthly magazine, Werewolf. As for Scoop I’ve indicated before, Scoop has been the mothership of independent journalism in New Zealand for over 15 years, and it will continue to carry the press releases that have been one of its traditional strengths as a journal of record. As pay walls go up online elsewhere, it has also been made clear by Selwyn Pellett that Scoop is committed to keeping the editorial content - press releases, features, analysis etc - free of charge, and open to all. In all important respects, the editorial content of Scoop will continue to be the country’s digital Town Square.

So what will change? Well for one thing...within a month, the site will gradually begin to look better, and become easier to navigate. Beyond that, the journalistic challenge can be expressed very simply: my job will be to widen the range of contributors to Scoop and the diversity of opinion it carries, and by doing so, increase the readership. I could wrap that up in inspirational rhetoric but I believe good content will, over time, speak for itself. Clearly, there is an audience out there that’s hungry for quality feature journalism and for well written, well researched reportage and news evaluation. If the content is good and diverse, more readers will come.

In times past, one of the main obstacles to Scoop being that kind of forum has been the sheer lack of resources. Survival alone has been an achievement, and all credit on that score to Al Thompson for keeping this ship afloat before, during and after the Global Financial Crisis. While the fresh resources from Sublime are not unlimited - sorry, but we’re never going to see the gravy days of late 20th century journalism ever again, anywhere - they seem sufficient to make a really good fist of the job that needs to be done. For years, I’ve been told by many people just how much they want to see a diverse and independent news source that’s dedicated to quality journalism etc etc. Well...we have a chance now to make that dream real. To me, Scoop has always seemed like the Kiwibank of journalism - i.e., home grown, innovative, and offering a quality service that needed only to be properly resourced to foot it with the foreign-owned competition. Now, we’ve got that ability.

All the same, taking this on has been something of a culture shock, already. I’m used to being a lone wolf, and it will take a while to get used to the idea of being pack leader. I’ve already met people who - even in a small outfit like Scoop - I never knew existed, and am learning just what some of the people who look vaguely familiar, actually do. I’ve learned things about Scoop itself, too. Including the discovery that since December, some of the tasks and skills involved in putting up the press releases have been outsourced to Fiji. I’m still coming to grips with the rationale.

Finally...Scoop is not interested in just singing to the choir. It will be trying to expand the choir, and to get it seen and heard in more venues, on the back of the resources available. If you’d like to be part of this adventure, get in touch with me - or at the very least, tell your friends about Scoop. Three months from now, we aim to have content on site to inform and stimulate, wherever you sit on the political spectrum. Amid better arts, culture and business coverage too. Point being: If you’re from the left or the right, Scoop is planning to carry content for you to agree with and disagree with. We may take a while to become the forum of the national debate but hey...within three months, we should be able to provide the intellectual ammunition to start a number of family arguments, and resolve them.

ACT’s new leader
So Dr Jamie Whyte is to be Act’s new leader, and David Seymour its Epsom candidate. In obvious ways, this looks like the last roll of the dice, and Whyte is already talking about his exit strategy, and his personal response to failure. The party has also effectively closed the door on John Boscawen, despite the regard with which Boscawen seems to be held in the Beehive, and despite his past role as a party fundraiser and major donor.

Ultimately - and whatever faces are at the helm - the future of Act will depend on whether National sees it as more worthwhile to do a deal in Epsom to get Seymour elected, rather than run its own candidate. With Act currently registering zero in the political polls, it is hard to see the numerical logic. Currently, a deal with Seymour wouldn’t bring in any more MPs. And on the policy front, National can always rely on the Conservatives to usher in (via a coalition agreement) any business-friendly policies that National might not want to own during the election campaign. Whyte is going to have his work cut out to make a compelling case as to why the voters - or the government - need the Act Party any longer.

P.S. Terrible, terrible news about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. In some countries, losing the greatest actor of his generation would be an occasion for national mourning. He did everything he touched - television, Broadway, the movies - supremely well. By all accounts, he was also extremely kind and generous to people he worked with, and to young actors starting out. Much of his best work was for Paul Thomas Anderson - in Boogie Nights, Magnolia and supremely, in The Master. Oh, he was also great as Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe’s otherwise dodgy Almost Famous. That’s the thing - even in bad or so/so movies PSH single-handedly made them worth watching. Typical that the role that won him an Oscar - Capote - should be no better, or worse than anything else he did. His death is mainly a tragedy for his family; but at a lesser level, its a loss for all of us.


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