Karl du Fresne on the new media landscape

Karl du Fresne looks at the ongoing Brown sex scandal and makes note of the changing and changed media landscape.

In the digital era, the news cycle operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The tempo has increased exponentially and a far more aggressive media constantly hounds politicians, hungry for new developments. It seems John Key can’t go anywhere without having microphones thrust at him.

But an even more potent factor is the emergence of new digital media – text messages, blogs, Facebook and Twitter – which provide a virulent forum for rumour, gossip, lies, abuse, propaganda and character assassination. It feeds on itself, each inflammatory item ratcheting up the intensity of the political conversation.   

Anyone can become a player in this new game, and they can do it in the safety of anonymity. In other words, it’s not just the pace of political journalism that has changed, but also the tone. Nothing is off-limits; everyone is fair game.

Bloggers compete for attention, often making outrageous claims that the mainstream media don’t bother to follow up. But the most successful bloggers, such as Slater, break stories that the mainstream press can’t ignore. They have made themselves part of the political landscape.

Slater is well informed and politically astute. Mr Brown is his biggest scalp yet, but he won’t be the last.

Some argue that this new political environment is healthy. It promotes transparency and has opened up the debate to new participants. But we’re deluding ourselves if we think it doesn’t come at a cost, and that cost may be that potential new entrants to politics might look at the sleaze that has enveloped Mr Brown and decide it’s not just worth the anguish and stress.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.