Jared Savage writes:
Nearly three years ago, I wrote a front page story for the Weekend Herald which detailed how Adam Feeley, the head of the Serious Fraud Office, celebrated the criminal charges laid against Rod Petricevic by hosting a drinks function at which champagne belonging to Bridgecorp was served to SFO staff.
Judith Collins was the Minister in charge of the white collar crime agency and her staff did not return my calls before deadline, but promptly referred the matter to the State Services Commission after publication.
Blogger Cameron Slater wrote a post saying it was a “non story” but later changed his mind. To the best of my memory, I hadn’t ever spoken to “Whale Oil” before but contacted him as the story rolled into the next week.
So the Herald contacted Cameron, not vice-versa.
I knew he was well connected to Collins and was trying to find out what he knew.
At the same time, I received a few emails about what was happening inside the SFO office.
Most of it was flotsam and jetsam, interesting tidbits of unverified information or gossip which I decided against pursuing as angles.
I cut and pasted the content of some of those emails, to remove any possible identifying features, and forwarded them on to Slater. So information was shared, there was a bit of “horse trading”, we talked about developments as the story rolled along.
And in their own words they passed on unverified information and gossip to Whale Oil, for Cameron to run, in exchange for Cameron sharing inofmration with them in return.
This sometimes happens with journalistic sources and it’s naive to think otherwise. In total, I wrote six stories about the Feeley/champagne issue and Slater was not the source for any of them. I didn’t know that our conversations about Feeley were being shared with others, like PR man Carrick Graham – and that was naive of me to think otherwise.
Since then, I’ve kept in touch with Slater on-and-off over the years always armed with the knowledge that he comes with a right-wing agenda. There have also been some robust discussions about Herald stories which upset him, such as Luigi Wewege’s role in the Len Brown affair and Maurice Williamson’s links to Donghua Liu.
Journalists talk to all sorts of people about all sorts of stories, much of which is nothing more than rumour or innuendo. Our job is to sort the wheat from the chaff and publish what is accurate, fair and true.
And pass onto bloggers to publish that which isn’t true!
Now I actually agree with Jared. This is how the media world works. You trade information all the time. When I worked at Parliament I would constantly have discussions with journalists where we swapped information. As a blogger, this is still the case today. Politics thrives and survives on this stuff. Helen Clark used to personally trade info and gossip with senior members of the press gallery on a regular basis. David Cunliffe’s closest advisor is a blogger at The Standard. His Chief of Staff has blogged at The Daily Blog. Three or four of his staff are former (possibly current) bloggers at The Standard.
And this is the point with the Hager book. He has selectively only shown the sharing of information between people on the “right” with Cameron Slater, to make it look like a conspiracy. It is no surprise that MPs and staffers sometimes talk to bloggers and share info with them, just as media themselves do. This is how it has happened for hundreds of years in politics.
I am not saying that means every individual action with regards to the sharing of information was wise or appropriate. Some clearly was not. But it was not a conspiracy or a concerted effort. One could have published a breathless book on how the NZ Herald conspired with agents of Mark Hotchin to attack the Head of the SFO, and demand a Commission of Inquiry into the NZ Herald – if you were to take the least benign interpretation of the e-mails.
Again my point is for some consistency.