How the media manipulate, the Drinnan case study


John Drinnan

John Drinnan asked me for an interview…since he and David Fisher seem to think trolling on Twitter is what decent journalists, trained and skilled should spend all day doing you can imagine I was reticent.

He sent through his questions and I and answered them…Here is my reply in full….once you have read that you can go see what John Drinnan did with it…you will note I warned him…publish it all or not at all, and that I would publish it anyway. Apparently there isn’t enough space online to have published in full…seriously that was his answer!

Tue, Oct 22, 2013 at 9:07 PM

From: Cam Slater

To: John Drinnan

I won’t post these questions to my blog until you’ve published them. I’ve taken the liberty of providing substantial as opposed to yes/no answers. Wouldn’t be much of an interview without it I guess. I would prefer them to be published in total or not at all. Thanks.

1. Regarding the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story – do you have more evidence against Brown to hand.

At the time I’m responding to your interview, yes. Not sure what the situation will be by the time your readers read my answers. More information keeps coming to me. The timeline spans from before his first marriage, his current one, at work, and various extra marital events in addition to Bevan Chuang. It is still my position he is not fit to be Mayor of Auckland. I knew of Bevan Chuang for a good two months, and even the day before I published I didn’t think it was a story worth publishing. Only when we had the undisputed and now verified affidavit did we make it public. This is why everything I know won’t all come out. Some of it is simply not relevant, because it is indeed just personal. But some of it may become pertinent to the public discussion surrounding Len Brown’s Mayoralty. They say that timing is everything, so one of my options is to see where Brown takes this, and just as it all looks like he’s safe and ready to start kissing babies again, I’ll publish the next story.  

2. Do you believe that you/ the blog have not received enough credit for breaking the original story?

Judging by the fact it has doubled my audience overnight, I don’t worry about critical acclaim from the media, I only worry about people choosing to read Whaleoil out of their own free will. I have instinctively known that there is a demographic that isn’t catered for by traditional media. As the world is moving away from broadcasting and broadsheets to 24/7 access to information via portable technology, the strategy has been to create awareness, then capture that audience and don’t give them a reason to stop reading Whaleoil. People wake up to Whaleoil. People go to bed with Whaleoil. People steal away their employers’ time to sneak in some Whaleoil or catch up during breaks. My only credit is a loyal audience of readers. I am very grateful what I do resonates with them.

3. I would argue many in MSM respect you with breaking story in the first place – and that you have good sources. Yet your blog is often dominated by criticism/ attacks of other media. Why are other media so important to you?

I’m not catering for people that read the Herald, or watch TV news. I’m capturing the audience that have already given up on those sources of “news” and give them what they feel the “main stream media” should be providing to them in the first place. Criticism of other MSM outlets is part preaching to the choir and part sales technique. I’m opening people’s eyes to what passes for reporting and news via traditional outlets, and my criticism invites people to consider a new way of looking at it. Which oddly enough, is the old way to look at it: bluntly, critically and open to discussion. I don’t always get it right, but the readers will tell me within minutes. As a result, the interaction between publisher and reader is like a peer review process where together we arrive at an even better answer. My readers also feel part of the process rather than observers of it and they frequently assist with further research and information. You could call it the incubation of Crowd-Journalism if you like, and Whaleoil is a tool for us to do it.

4. Why are you unhappy that other media opted to follow through on other angles – such as the links to the Palino campaign and Luigi Wewege? Do you believe that other media should not look at these angles?

I’m unhappy in the sense that it has been a huge distraction to my original objective to have Len Brown take responsibility for a history of poor decisions and personal choices spanning several years. Those ‘angles’ you speak of were largely directed at shooting the messengers; at justifying Len Brown’s appalling behaviour by repeated suggestions that those who published the story were somehow either lying, had undisclosed motives or were not trustworthy. And yet quite recently, I heard one of the other media experts claim that even though Cook and I were the worst possible people Bevan Chuang could have engaged, none of the facts are in dispute. The spin is that it was over the top. Too sleazy. And the lies have come in that floated the meme Cook and I shouldn’t have published her identity. Which of course we didn’t. It has been a full week of Brown, Palino and Chuang’s people trying to focus on the messengers that brought them the story. Yet Brown and Chuang don’t dispute and confirm everything we have written as factual. But these stories have a life cycle, and no matter how much they try to spin it – the facts are still standing strong. Mayor Brown is going to have to explain why it is OK to misuse council time, money, resources and influence. His sex life and cheating on his wives is personal. But because he also involved council staff, resources and time, he needs to answer to the public for that.

5.You appear to have a deep seated dislike for the New Zealand Herald- why is that?

Only for certain people at the Herald. Some of them have been actively trying to discredit me for some time when they should really have been getting on with their jobs. I can stand the criticism just fine, but I don’t appreciate the lies. The effect has been that it provides a motivation now. One of my readers reminded me of Gandhi saying “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. I think we’re getting close to the part where we will have a fight. I’m actively coming for the NZ Herald’s audience now. Some of your readers have been wondering why they are still bothering to get the paper. Perhaps Whaleoil is what they’ve been looking for. And the same goes for TV viewers and Fairfax readers. Some of those aren’t satisfied and I’m looking to provide them with a new home.

6.Do you ever think you/ the Whaleoil blog have been too aggressive in your criticism of individuals? Or is this simply a part of the branding for your website?

Undoubtedly. Just like the NZ Herald publishes retractions and apologies, I’ve also made mistakes. However, because the Whaleoil medium is electronic, and the feedback through my audience instantaneous, the cycle of mistake, admission and correction often happens within the hour. Facts are facts. But opinions are mine, and people can agree or disagree. They can like my style or be appalled by it. But as many people have found: even when they don’t like me or agree with much that I publish, they can’t help but come back to read more. Whaleoil publishes original content and opinion you simply can not find anywhere else, and that’s proving quite addictive to an increasing audience.

7. Apart from yourself and Stephen Cook who do you respect in New Zealand media?

Rather than name names and add fuel to a fire, I prefer to generalise by saying that anyone who still has a spine to stand up and do what they think is right, even though this flies against their commercial or corporate interests are easy to respect. Often doing the right thing is hard, especially when you are in a minority. I respect people who set themselves some standards and aren’t going to walk away from them. I realise this isn’t easy within the commercial realities. Would a cub reporter with the information that there is major fraud inside the newspaper ever get to publish the story? Probably not. This is where Whaleoil is raw and in your face. We can go back to when the Fourth Estate wasn’t owned by or beholden to the companies that funded their future, and we can criticise Prime Ministers, police, judges, lawyers and anyone else if the facts stack up.

8. Is Whale Oil Beef Hooked a commercial concern.

Not yet in the sense that it doesn’t generate any income for me to live of, let alone run as a profitable company. But I’ve been working to a plan that may see Whaleoil turn into my full time income instead of a hobby that defrays costs through advertising and the odd sponsorship deal. I heard a media strategist talking to Duncan Garner a few days ago saying that printed newspapers are on the way out in two to three years. Garner thinks 5. I think Whaleoil is perfectly positioned to cater for this emerging audience that no longer feels at home in front of a TV or flicking pages of a newspaper. In that sense, I think Whaleoil has a lot of potential to become a commercial operator in the near future. As Whaleoil doesn’t need expensive buildings to house staff, printing or distribution facilities, the cost structure is in our favour in any competition for eyeballs. Some years from now I see Whaleoil as a media company, employing staff. But we’re not quite there yet.

9. Do you/the website have any commercial relationship with Simon Lusk.

The blog, no. Simon and I have worked together over the years as projects presented themselves. Simon is one of hundreds of people I am in contact with regularly and semi regularly that may contribute ideas or material for the blog. We believe in similar things, that ratbags be held to account and that politicians are careful with public monies. That said no money changes hands for the privilege, we enjoy each others company and sharing of ideas.

10. Why do you appear to have a much more measured approach to issues appearing on mainstream media (TV) in contrast to phlegmatic approach on the blog?

Do you talk the same way to your mother as you do to your colleagues after work on a Friday afternoon? Of course not. I adjust the way I communicate to my audience. And the Whaleoil audience likes it straight up, hold the ice and the slice. But that simply wouldn’t translate to a personal conversation or a TV appearance. I employ a different ‘voice’ depending on the medium and the audience. You do the same thing. And as Whaleoil readers will note, I haven’t used my “Whaleoil voice” answering this interview either.

11. Away from media/blogging/politics – what makes a good day for you?

If people like to find out who Cam Slater really is, they should Google Whaleoil and come have a look. We post 30 articles a day, of which only a proportion are about politics. I regularly post pieces about my own life and experiences. About living with depression, fighting insurance companies in court, or the death of my mother. It is honest and raw. If you are interested in what makes me tick, then Whaleoil is probably going to be the best place to find out. These couple of lines here wouldn’t do it justice.


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  • Magoo

    More people will probably read it here than in the Herald anyway Cameron.

  • Lux

    Fanastic Cam !!

  • Monique Angel

    I’m ordering in the tiny violin brigade for the MSM journos who got all butthurt by Whaleoil.

  • Rex Widerstrom

    A very different “voice” indeed. And some open, forthright and honest answers. I’m particularly glad you differentiated “the Herald” from “some people who write for the Herald” because there are people who write there, like Audrey Young and Fran O’Sullivan, for whom I have the utmost respect.

    Often doing the right thing is hard, especially when you are in a minority. I respect people who set themselves some standards and aren’t going to walk away from them.

    That’s an interesting and refreshing perspective too. I share that view, and acknowledge that their are principled people to the right and the left of me that have firm principles and genuinely want what’s best for the country even if I disagree (sometimes vehemently) with their prescription for achieving it.

    I wish you’d write in this “voice” more often Cam, but then I suspect I’m in a minority here in thinking that, and you of course deliver information in a way that the majority of your readers like it served – and quite rightly so.

    edit: Having now read the Drinnan article, I don’t see it as particularly distorting or unfair, as you seem to imply by the headline. Can you be more specific?

    • It was more that he said some silly things…not enough room for his column, and not enough room online…which is just plain stupid…especially online.

      I also said to him publish all of it or none of it…so he edited and published the bits that suit his narrative…

      • Rex Widerstrom

        Well there’s only a limited supply of ones and zeroes you know, and the dams are getting low due to global warming. A huge chunk of ones and zeroes just melted away the other day, in fact.

        • Salacious T Crumb

          Au contraire Rex. Why I believe that NASA’s latest satellite imagery shows the binary shelves of both hemispheres have grown quite significantly.

      • Statehousekid

        Did he say he would publish all of it? If he did he is a conman and a liar.

    • CommonSense404

      He gave (buried) just enough space to avoid being accused of having ignored WO’s perspective. But he rather reinforced our collective concern with MSM by resorting to the written equivalent of 7 second soundbites.

      • Rex Widerstrom

        His column’s always been that way, though. I read it to keep up with the industry, but there’s rarely been a column that hasn’t left me frustrated and wanting more information.

        Dare I say it, but Russell Brown – both on TV and online – does a sterling job of examining MSM performance and debating its future, and almost always links to more information in doing so.

        The newspaper as soundbite is, I think, the way things are increasingly going to go, till newspapers lose all relevance. How their editors do not realise that depth and well-researched analysis is the one remaining advantage they still have over blogs (who can’t fund investigative work), I don’t know.

        • stephen2d

          Not sure how much money newspapers have to fun investigative work. Most of it is just plain lazy and use of agency wires stuff for the world section and going through twitter for the domestic stuff – except when reporting from the Parliament House.

          • Rex Widerstrom

            Well let’s put it this way… last year I got offered a senior role at a sizeable provincial newspaper. Salary: $45,000. I couldn’t mask my shock and they were sufficiently insulted to withdraw the offer, which I wouldn’t have taken anyway.

            I was earning $45,000 as a journalist in the 1980s, with around 30 years less experience than I have now.

            But it’s like any business, you either take the risk and invest in its productive capacity (in this case, journalists) or you give up and close it down.

            Gambling on luring some competent senior journos back to the profession is, IMO, about the only hope they have left. I love media – I’d take a pay cut to go work for a decent news outlet. But I said cut, not massacre.

  • Chancey

    got to be happy at being called moby dick

  • Garbageman

    Thanks Cam Great to hear your views without the likes of Willie & JT giggling their way through the interview, and i will happily pay for a subscription to this blog, keep it real as you always do m8 im here for the long haul

  • GregM

    Now we know that journalists trained and skilled look at the truth the same way a potter looks at a lump of clay. The raw material to turn into something vastly different, that only they want, and that very few people want to pay for.
    Very good answers Cam.

  • Nick

    God that photo is awful, he looks like a very strange man.

    On the note of strange journalists, Cameron WTF is up with the Gurnard’s latest defamation of you on twitter?

    • Gurnard has prostituted himself tot he Fat German and is looking more and more embarrassing day by day as he shills for him.

      From award winning journalists to paid mouthpiece for convicted fraudsters and conmen…how the mighty have fallen

  • LesleyNZ

    Not right John at all. You should have published in the question and answer format. Why ask the questions if you were not going to use the info. Reason why we read Whaleoil – because of what you have just done with Cam’s Q&A.

  • CheesyEarWax

    There isn’t enough space online? Has he heard of the scroll bar? Either he’s too lazy to copy and paste, or hes a manipulative lying c*nt, trained and skilled.

  • Patrick

    What was an interesting Q&A ended up being a cut & paste pap job with little content. Hardly worth the ink, paper & time to produce. Makes you wonder why when the whole thing was delivered on a plate requiring no legwork from Drinnan.
    Ham sandwich without any ham.

    • Dave

      “Ham sandwich without any ham” on stale unpalatable bread!!

  • MarcWills

    So how many column inches were given to David Lewis today then? Pfffft.

  • Dave

    Mr Drinnan, my opinion of you as a MSM flunky and less than strategic is wrong, my apologies for giving you some credit, whereas you are in fact just plain stupid, or and very very arrogant. Your definitely NOT a trained and skilled Journalist, and you cant even REPEAT as you were instructed. You had an opportunity to publish and add to the story, but you chose to ignore everything. More and more of your readers will take note, and learn you simply publish watered down bullshit. If a restaurant or manufacturer was found to be watering down their products, they would lose customers and ultimately find themselves in court.

    Cam – a fantastic reply, I suspect Mr Drinnan is well aware of the rise and rise of your blog, and its OPEN format, knowing they simply cant offer that, and that coupled with their declining PAID circulation, they are dying a slow death.

    Keep up the good work ,i look forward to the Commercialization of the Whale over the next few years.

    • Macca

      Drinnan reminds me of a referee who is incapable of quelling his own ego and thinks the reason people pay good money is to watch him rather than the players/game!
      The guy is too fucken stupid to comprehend that what he has done here is the EXACT REASON why readers are leaving the likes of the Horrid in their droves and switching to blogs like this! What a complete moron! I actually feel sorry for the shareholders.

  • Steve (North Shore)

    Drinnan is off the Xmas Card list – fuck him. Just another manipulator

  • Muffin

    Should have stuck to yes and no answers, then told him to get a real job and fuck off. I imagine you might next time

  • timemagazine

    MSM should be called LSM. L= lame

  • LionKing

    Thanks Cam.

  • RightOfGenghis

    Impressive response, and a good insight into what makes Cameron tick

  • Ken

    What the heck is MSM? Microsoft Messenger Service?

    • MSM is a dying animal…Main Stream Media … being eaten alive by smarter and faster organisations.

  • Azeraph

    It might sound a bit NSA but what about peoples video? What if people loaded phone vids of particular media objects of interest on the day, it would have to be actual video not parodies or channelers from youtube but actual vids that have the object caught on cam. There could be a side show to the article.

    What could be funny in the future is that instead of professional cam and reporter crews there’s just a bunch of locals pointing phones at people :)

  • Mr_V4

    I’d be interested in your comments on this development:

    Seems positive for investigative journalism, ie the very thing MSM isn’t these days.