After it was revealed by Whale Oil that Scoop founder, editor and general manager Alastair Thompson was the proposed Party Secretary for Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party, he has resigned his roles with Scoop. This was a necessity as Scoop was probably facing losing its press gallery accreditation if their editor was also running a political party.
A number of journalists are pretty upset that the involvement was not disclosed earlier. There had already been eyes raised at the extent and nature of questions Thompson would ask at the PM’s weekly press conference.
The resignation of Thompson as editor and general manager is not quite the end of it for Scoop. Alastair is the sole director of Scoop. Also according to the Companies Office, Alastair, his partner and his mother own over 50% of the voting shares in Scoop, which is a controlling amount. So it raises real questions of independence.
Another interesting revelation in this, is a new shareholder in Scoop is Selwyn Pellett. Some reports even say he is now the majority shareholder.
Pellett is a vocal supporter of Labour, and a major donor to their Auckland Central candidate. This means Scoop is linked to two left-wing political parties. Now everyone knows Scoop is left-wing, and I’m the last person to say there is anything wrong with a website having a political leaning, or even affiliation to one or more parties. But they key thing is that the affiliations should be public, and the extent of any involvement must be a factor in whether or not you are eligible for press gallery membership, which gives you significant privileges and access around Parliament.
Scoop used to do the advertising for Kiwiblog, and I wish them well. But they do have a number of issues to work out, for them to retain credibility going forward.
UPDATE: It seems Alastair is not leaving Scoop, but merely taking a sabattical. So this leaves the company controlled by the party secretary for the Kim Dotcom Party and a significant Labour donor. Now I’ve got no problems with that, but it does undermine the claim to be independent. Has Scoop ever published anything negative on Dotcom? Will they now?
UPDATE2: A thoughtful post by Gordon Campbell on this.
The apparent resignation of Alistair Thompson from Scoop – there seems to be some dissent as to whether he has resigned or gone on sabbatical – was triggered by the release of information about his involvement with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party. If his exit does prove to be permanent, this would be a sad way for Al to end his leadership role at this site. Scoop has been the flagship for alternative journalism in New Zealand for nearly 15 years.
It is unclear whether it is a temporary or permanent departure. At this stage he is still listed as the sole director and his family as majority shareholder.
Because so much of the Internet Party looks like a toy and vanity project for Dotcom, the likelihood is that such a party will function – at best – as only a voter recruitment vehicle that by mid year, will have lost its ability to amuse Dotcom. Especially if and when the polls are indicating by then that the Internet Party hasn’t a hope of (a) winning a seat or (b) reaching the 5% mark that would make its “kingmaker” role anything more than delusionary. At which point, Dotcom may think that he can throw his imagined legions behind Labour or the Greens.
I don’t think the intention of the party is to gain seats in Parliament. I assume the intention is to make it as hard as possible for Dotcom to be extradited. Being a political party leader makes what should be a judicial decision, a political one.