Letter From The Scoop Editor #1 - Back To The Frontline: Scoop’s Alastair Thompson Returns As Editor Of Scoop.co.nz
This column has been a long time in the gestation, so please bear with me dear readers as I explain what I have been doing these past few years, and why I am now returning to Scoop as editor.
As some Scoop readers – and hopefully more of our very generous Scoop Foundation supporters - will be already aware, I returned a few weeks ago as editor-very-much-at-large of Scoop News NZ. These days I am based in rural Brittany, France. My wife Wendy Cooper and I settled here in early 2016 roughly halfway through Scoop.co.nz’s 17th year of operations.
The previous year, at the end of 2015, I resigned as Scoop Editor and departed, arriving in Ireland in time for a very fine Christmas in Tullamore, near the center of the Emerald Isle. Gordon Campbell took over as editor for a while, and then handed over the reins at a practical level to the wonderful Lyndon Hood who we very much miss. More recently the position of Scoop Editor has been shared on a part time basis between another of Scoop’s co-founders Ian Llewellyn and TheDig.nz editor Joseph Cederwall. I express my deep gratitude to all those who have kept Scoop’s editorial fires burning these past six years.
A recap on the past six years for Scoop.co.nz
I left NZ at the end of 2015 after completing a four-year process of transformation of the Scoop business. This began with the launch of the Scoop Foundation Project in 2013 at AUT’s Pacific Media Center, and concluded with the establishment of the Scoop Foundation for Public Interest Journalism in September 2015, followed by a fund-raising campaign to build enough of a buffer to give us a chance at succeeding. I have stayed on in an unpaid governance and support role since my departure in early December 2015.
Back in 2013, Scoop’s two current national digital independent news competitors, NewsRoom.co.nz, and The Spinoff were yet to launch. The then business news wire-service incarnation of BusinessDesk was still working fairly closely with Scoop. Scoop had by then been seeking investment for several years, an effort which finally failed for the last time in early 2014. In September 2014 The Spinoff was launched as a TV Blog with the assistance of Spark and the encouragement of the NZ Herald. NewsRoom.co.nz followed in 2017 two years after the slow motion destruction of Mediaworks saw an end to Campbell Live. In 2020 BusinessDesk relaunched as a paywalled business news service.
Throughout all of this independent news start-up activity Scoop.co.nz went through a re-birth process as a charitable trust owned news outlet with a new advertising free business model – a effort which was supported generously on several occasions by a cadre of Scoop supporters to whom we at Scoop will remain eternally greatful. If you are not yet a Scoop supporter please become one >> Scoop Foundation - Scoop Citizen.
Our initial objective back in 2013 was to stabilise and secure Scoop.co.nz’s core functions – i.e. our openly accessible raw news intelligence services which bring in a sold in half a million user every month as measured by Google Analytics. Many of these are professional news users – and our primary source of revenue comes from 300+ Scoop Pro clients who acknowledge their professional use of Scoop and make a contribution towards provision of our services via our Ethical Paywall business model.
Scoop has been providing this core service free to all NZers since June 1999, and facing significant commercial challenges our transformation effort was undertaken to ensure we could continue to maintain NZ’s largest open, rich, persistent publicly accessible database of NZ politics, business and culture news, with an archive dating back to the end of the 20th Century. Scoop’s Trustees, my mother Margaret Thompson and I strongly believe Scoop’s service strengthens NZ’s democracy and illuminates the diversity of culture and thought in Godzone. That said the retrenchment which took place during this period – to achieve sustainability without advertising – came at a considerable cost.
Much of this Scoop transformation story can be found on Scoop under the byline “Operation Chrysalis”. We reached break-even towards the end of 2019, and in 2020 and 2021 we finally started to see some of the fruits of this patience, and were able to resume some innovation efforts. For Election 2020 we soft-launched a NZ elections social network nextelection.com/nz as a pilot. We have some plans to relaunch it in 2022 for a second pilot in perhaps one local election, and then fully at the general elections in 2023.
While it appears Scoop’s view of our Mahi, combining news curation and original content to create a very timely and fast first draft of history is not universally appreciated within our industry it seems –use our services for professional purposes remains strong and Scoop remains undeterred in its mission to provide a persistent, cooperative, un-filtered platform for NZ public debate, a home for NZ’s national argument.
Next Steps: More Scoop Editor updates to follow
Whilst having an editor for an NZ publication based in France may seem a little odd, this will likely be a transitional situation until Scoop is in a financial position to employ a new NZ based editor to take over the reins. In the meantime my intention over the summer will be to continue to share with you dear readers some of the plans, hopes and dreams we have for Scoop.co.nz and the Scoop Foundation for the decades ahead.
Scoop has always had a strong international focus, and greater exposure to the wider world of news is something I think NZ could benefit from. Surrounded by our bubble of Ocean NZ is increasingly becoming an echo-chamber.
After spending several years learning about how things work differently in other parts of the world, I intend to share some of what I have learned these past few years about different modes of governance, and about what we can learn from others’ experience about the pathologies of governance, democratic dysfunction, and administrative performance, both globally, in the Anglosphere and here on continental Europe.
There are a lot of interesting approaches to national development abroad which NZ could well learn from and the world is about to embark on the greatest transformation of pretty much everything thanks to climate change.
Whether you agree or disagree with any or all of this please let me know what you think.
My Twitter DMs are open for news tips and feedback at @althecat and you can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have something confidential to share/leak that is also welcome and I have encrypted channels open (dm/email for details or to request a meeting).
And that’s me for now. More soon….
Alastair Thompson – Scoop Editor