Why Slater isn’t news media and doesn’t deserve protecting

By   /   December 2, 2013  /   31 Comments

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The day a wolf that cries boy like Cameron Slater becomes the standard bearer of free speech is the day we run out of speech that is free.

Cameron-Slater-Bug
The defense of Slater’s right to be covered by legal privilege to protect sources is admirable but terribly misplaced.

I don’t think the Judge is suggesting all bloggers aren’t worthy of those protections, he’s saying Cameron Slater’s case isn’t.

Let’s remind ourselves again of what happened? Cameron, for reasons that were never clear, started to humiliate some bloke by publishing personal details Slater had been anonymously sent.

The spite that followed was Slater at his usual inglorious sewer plumbing best. The bloke was furious and took Slater to court to find out who the sources were for his defamation case. To afford Slater the legal protections of a journalist to not reveal his sources seems ludicrous in this case.

And this is hardly a new pattern of behavior is it? Remember when he was convicted of breaching a variety of name suppression orders? Remember when Slater published all the humiliating details of Len Brown’s affair in a cruel and vicious manner? Remember when Slater published the personal employment details of a wharf protestor? Remember when Slater posted a fake Green Party press release that inspired threats of violence against Russel Norman? Remember when Slater publicized a doctored interview with Jim Anderton edited into Anderton saying an earthquake would need to strike for him to lose the Christchurch mayoralty? Remember when Slater was wanting looters in Christchurch to be shot in the stomach so that the death would be slow and painful? Remember when he claimed Chris Carter’s mother who was dead for 12 years was still using a taxpayer cell phone?

If bloggers want the legal right to protect sources then they have to show a body of work that proves they have the ethical standards to claim those protections.

This is Cameron Slater’s body of work…

…a pus filled, decomposing rotted gasbag of exploding poison. Are we honestly wanting to expand protections that reward pus filled, decomposing rotted gasbags of exploding poison?

The day a wolf that cries boy like Cameron Slater becomes the standard bearer of free speech is the day we run out of speech that is free.

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31 Comments

  1. Pete says:

    There is a fine line to be pondered in considering the case Slater puts forward.
    When the circumstances suit the Mongrel Mob put themselves up as a gentlemen’s club doing positive social work. In similar fashion Slater makes claims of what he is.

    • High Tory says:

      Many would say that in many cities even in NZ in the first decade of 21C it was the cities in which the sophiticated bars, clubs, brothels and entertainments that were run by organised crime that are the more interesting and fairly run. The Kefauver committee in 1955 found that the 6 states in the USA were almost entirely run by organised crime. Joseph Kennedy’s response to that was first to have Kefauver photographed in bed with a whore, and second to make the RFK the head of Kefauvers old organised crime committe and thirdly to give Mayor Daley who was supported by corrupt authorities massiv e support as he segregated his cities by motorways to protect the main Kennedy invesment the Merchandise Mart and the Chicago business loop from too much black street traffic.
      Secondly the simplistic debate on protection of sources shows the narrow nature of NZ jounalism. The best sources come in many forms and may not be known or human. The accused range from Valerie Plane to Snowden,
      Fairly obviously in the international or defence field the best sources will be from an intelligence or defence background or employment and will often deliver material in all sorts of ways even wrong address, anonymously or private transmision. Much of the debate and accusation of illegality comes from the issues of synesis of defence documents, publications,statistical, mathematica and scientific data – and what is legal and defendable simply reflects your interest and ideology.

  2. Leith says:

    I don’t believe Slater has a legal defence for his source, but the judge’s decision is still horrifying. Saying a blog isn’t a news source, in this the 21st Century, is just pure geezerdom.

    This judge’s statement actually is quite dangerous for people like you, Martyn, and Slater’s well-deserved (and repeated) comeuppance shouldn’t blind us to the dodginess of this ruling. It’s not entirely clear what the judge’s reasoning is, and I haven’t looked at it directly, but it seems totally out of step with today’s world.

    In saying that whaleoil isn’t a news medium, the judge seems blind to modern realities. It’s verging on an attempt to turn back the clock to a legal definition of journalism resting on journalism as a business. That puts citizen journalists out in the cold unless someone’s holding their purse strings. It’s a dinosaur of a decision and I don’t understand why a judge would tar blogs with this La Brea brush.

    The judge’s actions are a mystery to me. There is provision within the law to compel Slater to reveal his sources – and send a clear signal that the purpose of source anonymity is to protect the public interest and free flow of information. Under the Evidence Act 2006, a judge may decide that the public interest lies on the side of revealing the source more than on the side of communicating their information.

    In a case where there is zero public interest served in revealing the information (attn. Slater), there is zero protection from this argument, and any public interest at all is enough to compel revelation of the source.

    Rather than take this route, however, the judge apparently believes it’s more important to establish blogs’ vulnerability to abuse through the courts.

    I sincerely hope that the judge’s initial ruling is overturned on appeal, and that the source is then revealed under the public interest provisions – a much better legal precedent than allowing the courts to rule that online, citizen journalism is not ‘real news’ and deserves no legal protection.

    IANAL.

    • Ovicula says:

      I very much share your concerns, Leith. Personally, I don’t think Blubber Boy should be allowed to access a computer, but the day we rely on the bosses’ courts to enforce this is a day we’ve gone backwards. My understanding is that the sources would also be available without going this far. It seems crystal clear that this sets a dangerous precedent.

    • unsol says:

      I agree Leith – the problem is that the judge didn’t seem to make it clear whether it was all blogs/bloggers that were incapable of establishing the kind of news medium that allows journalists to protect their sources, or just Whale Oil/Cameron Slater in particular. If the latter the former the judgement should easily be able to get overturned, but if the latter then it will stand; rabid dogs are not considered rational & impartial. And dare I say it, the same would apply to Martyn’s own blog which tends to venture into ranting rather than reporting. Even if WO is all about the truth, there is a way to deliver it & it keeps coming up short….Len Brown saga being the most recent sordid example.

  3. Lisa says:

    Since when did Whaleoil blog become a news medium?? It’s basically hate speech based on the unsubstantiated or misreported musings of Cameron Slater, and there is no-one to hold him accountable for his often untruthful rantings. If the law lets this slide then what is to stop anyone from making up all sorts of defammatory lies, posting them to a so-called news blog of their own creation, and claiming they were tipped off by anonymous sources who cannot be named.

  4. Tim says:

    ….which would all be fine and dandy IF the Mongrel Mob’s ‘respectable’ credentials didn’t immediately meet with scorn and the realisation they were pulling our collective tits. ….
    whereas a piece of fat ugly slime presents itself, and we (i.e. not me – but a collective ‘we’) start to engage in academic discussion, and start to seriously consider whether or not he has a point.
    Both are cut from the same cloth though it’s funny (funny strange) how we’re prepared to entertain the idea he’s legit, whereas the mungies get short shrift.
    I’d piss on them both without worrying about my effects on the water table beneath.

    oh …. that was a reply to Pete – I re-read and see you’re essentially making the same point. I’ll join you maybe in a mutual dowsing sometime

  5. unsol says:

    I can only assume that this judgment meant Cameron/his blog in particular rather than all blogs in general. Brian Edwards, Chris Trotter, this blog & DPF are several rungs above when it comes to common decency, taste & a consistent standard that demonstrates some kind of moral compass; Len Brown is just a recent example of a very long list of Cameron’s ranting that he & his cyber buddies confuse with real reporting.

    As a centre-right voter I like the right wing element of Cameron’s blog, but the infestation of guttersnipes & his determination to drag everyone down to his level of moral bankruptcy is toxic & far from what anyone with half a brain would consider a valid news source.

    I had to laugh when I read his blog today – he seems to think he really is a journalist when more often than not the reality could not be further from the truth. But he could be. He strikes me as a very intelligent guy whose talents are being undermined by what appears to be a rather significant emotional maturity. Sometimes his delivery is perfect & he clearly has a decent amount of resources at his fingertips re tips etc, but most of the time he seems to shoot from the hip & let his ego do the talking rather than his brain. A lot of the carry on on his blog is indicative of something you would see on the Jerry Springer Show. Or the Kardashians! Either way the key points get lost in a whole heap of dribble & BS that usually concludes with commentators turning on each other like a bunch of parasitic wasps.

    Cameron makes a fair point when he rants about journalists who fall short of a good standard, despite being apparently ” “decent journalists, trained and skilled”, but for him to then claim his own delivery is of a superior standard is just ludicrous, if not an outrageous. I don’t think I have ever read anything in our major newspapers or seen anything on Stuff, The Herald or the 6pm broadcasts that come even close to the kind of gutter posts he clearly relishes in:

    Putting an awful picture up of Green MP Holly Walker under his daily ‘Face of the Day’ segment & using an innocuous twitter comment out of context to invite readers to make cruel & derogatory comments. This post was put up by one his helpers, but nevertheless he has to take responsibility – http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/06/face-of-the-day-538/#axzz2mIXV9nOO

    The post where he said the overweight girl running the food bank is the reason why they were getting low in supplies (old post, but one that stuck in my mind)

    http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2009/09/foodbank-runs-out-of-food-i-wonder-why/#axzz2mIXV9nOO

    His post in August that poor people are useless – obviously he is referencing an article about Jamie Oliver’s comments re poor British, but as usual it his delivery & how he leaves it wide open for his post to become a big hate fest. A good journalist would find someone who could provide more insight or a good retort – http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/08/poor-people-useless/#axzz2mIXV9nOO

    And the one that really pissed me off & made me realise that he is just never going to ‘get’ it – http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/03/sad-fat-crap-and-dumb/#axzz2mIXV9nOO

    He used how the boy described himself & then added the word dumb. Unacceptable.

    And then of course there is the various posts insinuating that Len Brown beat his first wife & posts claiming to be for equal rights all the while using derogatory terms against the LGBT community.

    I am sure others can come up with far more, but the point is reputable news sources who are allowed to protect their sources don’t engage in this level of smut.

    It will still be interesting to see how this case concludes & whether anything more comes out re arguments either way. In terms of the defamation case I do find it curious it has got this far – Cameron had Blomfield’s own emails so not how the claim he has been defamed could have any validity.

    From a personal perspective I hope Cameron uses this as a chance to reflect & do things differently; as a politically aware voter I feel the public needs more than MSM, we need blogs & we need them from all sides of the political spectrum, but not in the tabloid format Cameron seems to favour. While I share many of Cameron’s political views, so his topics often appeal to me & as a robust commentator I accept that blogs get feisty, his seems to always go that one step too far.

  6. Burnt Out Teacher Burnt Out Teacher says:

    His “reporting” is hateful and petty, with biases obvious and overt.

    NZHerald et al may be heavily influenced towards National, but unlike Cameron Slater / Whale Oil, they don’t openly slander whilst relying on the fact that those whose names they smear don’t have enough money to sue them for it.

    Whale Oil is media, and therefore deserves some protections, but until it starts behaving reasonably sane (and that day seems a long way off), it certainly isn’t NEWS media.

  7. Countryboy says:

    cameron slater .

    He’s the Face of the Future . He’s the fruit of the harvest . He’s ‘Idiocracy’ incarnate . http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/

    He’s the glee at the misfortunes of others . He’s the dull eyed sociopath that revels in wretchedness . While there may be one or two of ‘Us’ who condemn him , there are thousands of ‘ Thems’ who sift through his vomit for titillations . That’s what attracts low budget Libertines to the orgy of Hate that is our MSM . He just sees a market to exploit . Human misery .

    slater is vitally important to society for only one reason . To show as a bench mark from which we all must strive to rise above .

    I loved the exploding whale . What a cunning Muslim terrorist that came up with that idea . That guy in the fluro coat ? Running as he made an Ooooh fuck ! Look out ! face . Brilliant .

  8. AceMcWicked says:

    As much as Whaleoil is the crack cocaine of news and current affairs I find it almost humourous that people who peruse this blog are not worried about the artificial line created by the courts as to what constitutes ‘news media’.

    I also ask you, what real guidelines, rules or balance requirements exist to make the MSM so special and blogs not?

    • unsol says:

      No I don’t think that is a fair assumption at all – I think most people are concerned IF in fact the judgment references ALL blogs & all bloggers.

      The problem is that the judge wasn’t all that clear so we are left to draw our own conclusions. I would assume that he was saying Cameron & his blog in particular. But I guess more will come out in the appeal.

      In terms of the requirements or guidelines that separate MSM from blogs, well for a start there is the NZ Press Council – something Cameron has yet to be granted access to….

      • AceMcWicked says:

        Okay, where have the Press Council been on balance requirements which have been relaxed since the mid-2000s to a point of laugh-ability?

        There’s more than one way to weaponise the media and Slater is small fry.

  9. Gabriel White says:

    I’d say that Slater is a quasi-journalist, if of an ideologue sort, and is in principle deserving of the basic rights of a journalist or newsmaker. His blog feeds into the mainstream media and contributes to news and current affairs. If he is not media, then it is hypocritical of accredited media to repackage his work, which they are only to happy to do. I think there need to be measures put in place here to monitor such quasi-journalistic activities, just as the Law Commission has recommended. But the Law Commission’s criteria strike me as rather arbitrary and I can already think of exceptions. I worry, for example, what it might say in the case where a genuine whistle blower felt constrained by accredited media (or felt accredited media were being constrained) and decided to go through a blogger or some other less official avenue? This judgement cuts off that option for someone who may have the public interest at heart. Of course, if Slater or any other quasi-journaist abuses their journalistic rights, as News of the World did, using the confidentiality clause to conceal illegally obtained information or to make defamatory claims, then he should be made accountable, first via an enforceable code of ethics and secondly via investigation and prosecution. But even there, I’m nervous. There is currently a grand jury case being made against Wikileaks, and in this age of mass digital surveillance journalists everywhere are no longer able to protect sources, regardless of what the Law says.

    • AceMcWicked says:

      That is precisely true – dead tree and dead air can’t have it both ways: they can’t use blog content, re-report stories blogs break and relax their standards of sub-editing and balance to compete with blogs only to turn around and suggest they are different, and the Courts should definitely not be in the game of ring-fencing the ever smaller monopoly of ‘news’ outlets with special privileges.

      This is way bigger than what people think of Cam Slater.

      • The Daily Blog martyn bradbury says:

        Let me get this straight. An attack by Slater on some bloke who is having an argument about a Pizza franchise deserves Slater gaining access to his private emails and viciously detailing them?

        Slater’s right to rip some person to pieces affords him protection of sources??? What public service did ripping Blomfield to pieces serve the public? Blomfield wasn’t a public figure, he wasn’t a politician, he was a disgruntled pizza franchisee.

        Is this kind of petty childishness what you want to afford the right to protect a source for? Some might argue that these posts went well beyond any of the ‘genuine’ (and I use that word as broadly as I can) role Slater plays in the fourth estate, and that Slater really should have to front with the information regarding who gave him these personal details as it has been Blomfield who has been most harmed here. His right of reply is this defamation case.

        I’m not suggesting the right to protect your sources should be removed from bloggers, I’m saying that this is a test case and that being a test case, Slater’s behavior here doesn’t warrant the protection. Look, if Slater had been given secret information about a serious issue with real political ramifications, I’d be the first to defend his right to protect his sources, but to allow him to gain this right via posts of such questionable merit is a mockery of free speech, not a defense of it.

        • AceMcWicked says:

          No, it doesn’t. And I think you’ve outlined that pretty clearly in your post, a long with a list of other shitty things Slater has done. Which was followed by posts also detailing why Cam Slater is a bad human being.

          I accept all that.

          What I wanted to point out that that’s not all there is to this issue: the judgement contained a clear, and I think dangerous, demarcation between what is ‘news media’ and what is not. Its not even a free speech issue; it is tacit legal protection for one form of media over another and I am flabbergasted that more is not made of this.

          • The Daily Blog martyn bradbury says:

            The Judge points out that the protections were built by and upon the existing news industry and so to expand that to bloggers, the work has to be of a standard that shows responsibility. The Judge here is suggesting Slater’s work isn’t of that standard.

            • Danyl Strype says:

              So now Judges get to decide on the fly what is and isn’t a “news source”, and whether traditional protections for journalists apply? You don’t see this having chilling effects on new media like your own, which on the basis of this precedent, can now be declared non-media on a judges whim?

              As with Willie and JT, this is not about the media celebrities involved, it’s about the precedent being set. This is a bad precedent for media freedom, and the fact that it’s put egg on Slater’s face is a pyrrhic victory.

              • The Daily Blog martyn bradbury says:

                You do understand right that EVEN IF you were to extend those rights to Slater, the Judge can still over rule that and find him in contempt of court for not handing over the information?

                • SDC says:

                  I would say that makes it all the more chilling that the protection has been removed from blogs due their not being news organisations. My understanding of the facts of the case (as presented by the media) are that Slater would not be able to use the exemption of the Act to hide his sources even if he tried it on (he has to tell a High Court Judge the source and that judge would decide if it was in the public interest to keep the name secret). But this decision is not based on the facts of the case, but on the underlying principle of what is a news source.

                  A dangerous decision for blogs of any political stripe. Extreme examples (ie Slater) make for bad law.

              • Danyl,

                I think there’s a vast difference between a “news source” and a news-reporting media.

                Anything can be a “news source”. Facebook. Two blokes gabbing in a pub. A briefcase left on a bus. Those are potential news sources.

                News-reporting media is how that information is used and for what purpose.

                I wouldn’t for one minute refer to my own blog as a “news reporting media” and myself as a “journalist”. I’m a blogger (or “citizen’s journalist” at a stretch).

                Ditto for Slater.

        • Gabriel White says:

          Perhaps you should have been more nuanced and less knee-jerk in your take on this issue. You would have done yourself credit if only you’d begun your piece by pointing out what you say in the final paragraph of this reply. As it is you’ve delivered a very crude and belligerent invective that says very little of value on what is an fact a very complex issue with huge ramifications.

  10. Arto D says:

    Haha its about time he got served up with his mate Banksie!

  11. jane says:

    This is a seriously disturbing issue, as the baby ( blogger) gets thrown out with the bathwater (blogosphere) Is it just The Times behind it’s paywall, The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal which qualify as “news”?
    Slater (haha funny picture btw) may be a newsmonger but he is still putting up content, however slushy. His readers may be putrid, but they are still newshounds after their own fashion. That a judge could define a totally arbitrary distinction as to what constitutes a purveyor of news is BAD news.
    who pays the ferryman?

  12. Simon White says:

    I don’t see why people think the judgement is restricted to WhaleOil, or is a judgement on its quality.
    Judge Blackie said WhaleOil “does not come within the definition of a news medium in the Evidence Act 2006”.

    The Law Commission’s definition of news media for the purposes of legal recognition requires the publisher must be accountable to a code of ethics and a complaint process. WhaleOil, like all blogs not associated with newspapers and broadcasters, clearly fails this test therefore does not get source protection.

    The Law Commission’s report, The News Media Meets “New Media”, proposed a single complaints body recognised in law in the hope that blog sites would submit to it, thereby gaining the protections (and becoming subject to the obligations) of the traditional news media.

    Interestingly the NZHerald editorial containing the above information seemed to ignore its significance.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11165862

    I don’t think we could tolerate a situation which every blog’s legal status was indeterminate until tested in court, especially given that blogs can pop up like mushrooms and be reincarnated like dodgy builder’s companies.