From the passenger seat: Who created the monster?

Cameron-Slater-Bugby Pete

Almost ten years ago, a fairly unknown guy called Cameron Slater was spiraling down.  Financially.  Emotionally.  Pretty much everything he had touched had come to nothing.

He spent most of his days in bed.  When he didn’t, he was surfing the Internet, or listening to talkback radio getting increasingly annoyed at the “commentators” who were talking rubbish.

Someone suggested he start a blog, more as therapy as anything else.   On day one, nobody knows you exist.  The first ever article you ever write is only read by you, and perhaps a few close friends.

How did we get to the point where this blog became the focal point through which a whole national election progressed?

Ten years ago, would anyone have guessed a Prime Minister would have to issue a written apology, or parliament would have this blog and Cameron Slater at the centre of its discussions for months on end?

Who created this monster?

The obvious answer appears to be “Cameron Slater”, and yes, he is indeed the critical element of this whole phenomenon.  But it isn’t just Cameron Slater.  If it was, all we would have today is a guy running a blog and being happy with getting monthly traffic that we currently do in 6 hours.

When the Dirty Politics brigade decided to take Cameron Slater down once and for all, they decided on a multi-pronged attack that included placing Slater under immense mental pressure, cutting off his financial support, and disconnecting him from his support network.

On paper, that looked like a perfect plan.  And it could have worked with anyone else.   But not with Slater.

When you work with Cameron, he’s actually a very nice guy.  He’s straight up and down, doesn’t stab you in the back, and if he says something gets done, it gets done.  This, of course, isn’t what many people believe to be true.  They think he’s a liar, sneaky and underhanded, and will take anyone down that gives him the chance.

This error in perception was their major problem.

No matter how much the Labour and Green leadership were pushing for their own people as well as National’s to no longer communicate or associate with Cameron Slater, the truth is that those that really know Cameron, and have a genuine bond with him, were never going to comply.

The most publicly damaged relationships were with Cathy Odgers, Jordan Williams, Judith Collins and Carrick Graham.

So the test is:  have these relationships been destroyed?

Not at all.  Because the bonds between these people are real.  They are strong.  And they can stand a little pressure.  In the end, they were based on loyalty and truth.  Nobody on his own team got blindsided by Cameron Slater, and they never will.

But what about all those people that claimed he’s a back stabbing untrustworthy liar?

Yes.  What about them.

People use Cam Slater.  Or they try to.  In the beginning, this appears to be going well, as Cam is all about building relationships.  Relationships that work both ways mind you.  After a while, when there appears to be only one-way traffic, Cam turns off access to what and who he knows.

So far so good.   It can end here.

An example would be Rachel Glucina, who was prompted to let bygones be bygones and make contact.  Cam happily gave it a try, and for some time, close observers would have noticed Glucina appeared to be the first to certain political stories.

But then it stopped.   Why?  Because nothing came back.   It’s not the way Cameron works.  He’s not a place to go to help people sell papers, or solve their problems.   Occasionally he needs to fill his blog, or solve his own problems.

So, Glucina hasn’t been getting any more leads.  Slater sees himself as a trader of leads, something that comes from his background in sales.  Once the trade is going only one way, he stops.  At no point did she get thrown under the bus.  At no point did Slater take more than his pound of flesh.  The relationship, which was really just a one-way street, is still convivial.  But unless Glucina understands the process of give some to get some, nothing more will come of it.

Cameron Slater is surrounded by people that want something from him for free.  And for a while, he’s happy to oblige.  But when it becomes clear the other person isn’t interested in carrying part of the load, it ends.

Which brings me to David Fisher.  Let’s take the New Zealand Herald’s David “tainted” Fisher as a perfect case study.

David and Cameron worked closely together for some time.  But again, it was a one way street.  This may be a professional blind spot for journalists when you compare them to PR monkeys or politicians, but even so, the one way traffic ended up with Cameron stopping the information flow.

This is where Fisher acted differently to Glucina:  he threw Slater under the bus.   And I’ve seen him do it with others.  He’s done it with Bradbury, and in the end he did it with Dotcom.

It is a standard technique for some journalists.  Sidle up to your source, get the story, but also get lots of “soft data” that you won’t use because it doesn’t fit the narrative.  When that original story runs out, you use the info that the source didn’t expect you to use.  Eh presto – two stories for the price of one.  And, sarcastically enough:  balance.

Of course, once you have betrayed Cam Slater, you do get onto his shit list.  And you do get ground down with prejudice.  And you discover there is no end to it.

Pay back double?  They wish.

As the media at large started to realise that they were “being used” by Cam Slater, all the shutters came down.  Well, not all of them, but those editors, media personalities and hacks that had previously been happy to take a Slater story tips were now stone walling him.  Oh, they were still talking, but it would be to get a quote for an attack piece about him.

Overnight, he went from the ‘secret’ source that was never revealed and quoted, to the bad boy that was front page news and the devil incarnate.  Cameron Slater was presented as the central source of everything that was wrong with New Zealand politics.

Talk about throwing someone under the bus…

The newsrooms at the Herald, Stuff and Mediaworks must have felt quite chuffed.  There was no way Slater could exercise his power if they didn’t let him have access to their audience.

Two problems with that.  One, Cam Slater runs a blog with an audience that is larger than any regional newspaper, any radio station, and all other New Zealand news web sites with the exception of Stuff, the Herald and TVNZ.

The other:  it motivated Cameron to start his own media company.  If he can’t work with them, he’ll simply go around them.

So who created the Whaleoil monster?

By and large, the New Zealand media did.  First, by making fun of the “rude bloke that laughed at dead babies” and giving him exposure.  Then, by working with him and using him as a very productive source of stories about politics.   Next, they tuned him into the most recognised bad boy of the election, when in reality, the hacker Rawshark should have been the bad guy instead.  And finally, by giving him the drive and motivation to start his own competing media company.

Who else but Cameron Slater would think:  “seeing as the main stream media are broken, it is time we went back to basics”.  Critics have suggested he’s working on Whaleoil 2.0, but how ridiculous is that?  Whaleoil 1.0 is head and shoulders above anyone else.  There is no need for a Whaleoil 2.0.

What there is a need for is a media company that goes back to basics.  It will be a return to the ethics of journalism of a by-gone era, one lost , squandered even by the NZ Herald, Fairfax and other media.  And the funny thing is, they won’t even believe this is the genuine objective.

But a number of very serious investors believe him.  And a new crew of media people that are chomping at the bit to get back to what really works.  You won’t see him “out front” at all.  He’s got Whaleoil for that.

But for the rest of the media, the Monster hasn’t been slain, and it’s still growing stronger.





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  • Optimist

    Well said, Pete. I am really looking forward to the launch of the new media outlet. The timing is brilliant. It’s going to be enlightening to see how the other tired media react to this exciting new development in our treasured democracy. Roll on 2015!

  • Aucky

    Good luck with this project Cameron. God knows, our country is in dire need of an honest, unbiassed and NZ-owned news source.

    You can be sure that they will pull every dirty trick in the book to close you down. They will threaten your advertisers, tell lies, vilify you and collude with each other – it’s started already and will only get worse.

    Kia kaha.

    • spanishbride

      They are lining up a very good actor to play his Tran-sexual lover as we speak.
      My lesbian affair with Helen Clark will come to light and it will be revealed that our children are both drug dealers.Our family pet will have chewed on a baby recently and as usual all our friends will have abandoned us and Cam will be mentally ill and unstable in charge of a butter knife, threatening to do genital mutilations for free on fine upstanding male members of New Zealand’s Islamic population :) I can hardly wait. What I really want to know is who will play me in the movie?

      • intelligentes candida diva

        Thelma Hayek ,> beautiful spunky outspoken charming loyal and intelligent

        • Cadwallader

          And Ray Leotta for Cam?

      • Aucky

        You’re gilding the lily a tad SB and you need to come clean. I have it on good authority (a skilled & trained journalist no less) that it wasn’t your family dog that chewed on the baby – Cameron ate it.

        • spanishbride

          Shhhhhh he took a bite but he didn’t swallow.

        • kehua

          Not to mention the dead cats………

      • 1951

        Bomb shelter available less than 2 hrs drive North. Electric fence, guard dog backed up by The-Cat-Who-Thinks-He’s-A-Lab, other 4 legged critters and a zillion bees ready to be Freed at a moments notice if required.

        • spanishbride

          Thanks 1951 :)
          Turns out the attacks have already started on Freed. Discovered a fake Freed twitter account operating today. Rule of thumb if it hasn’t been verified with a link to it from here on WO then it is a fake website, facebook page, twitter account, gmail account, etc

          • 1951

            Oh really? Just one word for them but Pete won’t allow it. They are Fools to say the least.

      • Hard1

        The Left aren’t fighting for their credibility any more. They’ve already lost that. Now they are fighting for their jobs.

      • EveryWhichWayButLeft

        I reckon it would just have to be Salma Hayek – but only if I can be on set for the entire filming :D

  • Sally

    Now waiting for the usual suspects to pull this all apart. Can almost see them pounding the keyboard right this minute.
    I do think that things will get more nasty as the launch of Freed gets closer and closer.
    It won’t be pretty.

    • spanishbride

      When Freed launches I will be battling down the hatches. I expect rocket fire from all directions. As they get more and more desperate as Freed takes their market share they will get more and more personal. I may even get a thrashing.
      I have had to ignore lies in the MSM about Cam and I before and just today on Trademe I came across a thread where they described me as Cam’s Ex-Wife! No doubt our marriage will be said to be on the rocks, I will be having an affair with the pool boy and Cam will be the shadowy figure behind some gangland assassination LOL I just hope that the Pool boy is hot and that I enjoyed it ;)

      • Cadwallader

        There will be many conspiracies and Campbell together with his weird associates will dish them all up with their usual breathless insincerity. I think one of the best moves of 2014 was National neutralising Shane Jones with a goodies package. To neutralise the msm why not bring one or two of them aboard the good ship FREED? On the subject of National I still believe there is an opportunity to thump Labour further by offering David Shearer an overseas post. He is well qualified for such a role and his departure would be a needle in the eye for Angry Little.

  • Cadwallader

    Thanks this thought provoking and clearly heartfelt. One thing I hope to see in the future is a larger role at Newstalk for Cam. His Huddle participation is generally well pondered and (dare I say; professional) but I recall his handling talkback at this time 2 years ago. It was quite a soft considerate approach which surprised me at the time but again it was well pondered. At present the nightly show on Newstalk is hosted by a self-preening know-all and an ex-pat. While it is far better than the Corkery days the hosts seem to be there primarily for self-aggrandisement and to deliver themselves as the package. I never begin to detect this type of behaviour at WO.

    • 1951

      Isn’t the ex-pat doing a great job of making the self-preening know-it-all look somewhat limited. I think it is having a very destabilizing effect.

    • Nige.

      Cam did alright ay. Best thing to do would be to write to the station manager and tell him.

  • steve and monique

    We have faith in Cameron, and his team. It was a bad year for all those who tried to derail Whaleoil. All they succeeded to do was make themselves look bad, and this site to become stronger. Good luck with the coming year, and we all look forward to where this journey is going.

  • Chris EM

    Good read, Pete. There is nigh on a quarter of a million people chomping at the bit, too.
    Go for it, Cam, you already have the readership backing.

  • GoingRight

    Enjoyed reading that post, filling in a few more pieces of the puzzle, just have a few really big gaps though that I shall be intrigued to find! Can’t wait for the launch of FREED as maybe that is where the whole story will be able to be told?

  • 1951

    Pete, their should be an instant link to this post and similar explanations for New Comers. There are some who may be a little wary having only ever listened to msm gods. Many will have no idea what went on leading up to and during the elections etc,etc. Can’t wait to see the next stage.

    • Nige.

      I have learned that people who don’t want to know don’t want to know and the more I push the more they push back. You have to wait for people to come to their own conclusion in their own stupid time all the while maintaining your own dignity.

      I bookmark links to articles like this and should the opportunity arise share with people on a one on one basis I do so.. But those opportunities are getting less and less as I visit other news media less.

  • cows4me

    Have you thought of issuing shares?

    • sheppy

      I for one would be up for having a share in this exciting venture

      • Odd Ball


    • As far as I know, the current shareholders are so confident about the result that they are reluctant to dilute their own holdings :) But I suspect that at some stage someone will want to cash up, and a public offer could be on the cards then.

      • cows4me

        Good luck to you Pete and I hope you have a few dollars in the venture, I strongly suspect you are on to a winner.

        • I have no skin in the game. My job is to make sure Cam doesn’t abandon Whaleoil :D

  • Hard1

    Remember “Without Fear Or Favour”?. Media used to care. They had morals, and mostly refused to bow down to vested interests.
    We have reason to celebrate the new year, with the return of an almost extinct form of information sharing. Telling it as it is.
    We are sick of being gamed, treated like fools, by not only the media but the people who feed it.

  • ozbob68

    Is there a prize of a shirt (or mug) for the first person to name-drop Freed in an on-the-street interview with TVNZ or TV3?

  • Bart67

    I have to say, the one thing that I hadn’t considered was that there must be a huge amount of quality journalists out there that are continually frustrated to see their copy being re-written to suit the political outlook of editors and owners. Now that this has been cleared up for me, I look forward to what will appear in the not too distant future!

    • The outlook for newsrooms in NZ is dire. They are bleeding cash. The recent “new” move to centralise the news operations of various arms of the media empire (paper, radio, TV) is to try and get the same job done with less money.

      It is against this backdrop that a fair number of journalists are feeling trapped and uncertain about their futures. Some of them are very much aware of the extreme skew that’s gone on over the last 12 months and they are sick of toeing the line.

      Another pressure that is coming about is that the output required from journalists in 2015 is going to be more than 1 piece a day. Have a look at the likes of ‘award winning journalists’ like Vance and Fisher. They produce about 4-6 pieces a week.

      Can you even imagine how expensive it is to have people like that on staff?

      They are the dinosaurs, and they don’t realise it.

      The NZ Herald and Fairfax have sat there and wondered what the real damage is to their bottom line by letting these sorts of ‘stars’ go and replacing them with eager young “no name” journos that will be at least twice as productive.

      The next five years will be fascinating, and there will be a number of “stars” that will find themselves freelancing (blogging, even)

      Do you really care that Vance wrote a story? Or Fisher? What if it was written by someone you didn’t know? Would you refuse to read the story?

      • Effluent

        I think it does matter that there should be news media employing skilled and trained journalists(!) because there are stories that require substantial time, effort, and resources to deliver. One can only go so far on the basis of tipoffs, gossip, and internet searches.

        The problem is that within the NZ media, it is now very difficult to point to any journalist who has not squandered his/her reputation for balanced, accurate, comprehensive reporting (if they had any in the first place) as a result of their poisonous coverage of the Dirty politics affair.

        Any media organisation that asks its readers to subscribe financial support will need to provide quality journalism in return. We have seen what happens when advertising revenue dominates. A good name at the top of an article saves time, as we soon learn which journalists can be trusted to provide this, and which ones can’t. Much as I enjoy the WO blog, and will pay to a certain extent to participate in it, I believe that Freed will need a stable of “name” journalists, to establish a reputation for credible journalism if it is to survive.

  • Melissa

    Good post Pete, thanks. What great support Cam has in you. No wonder WO does so well if the rest of the team is as supportive as you are. What fools those media people are.

    • What amuses me the most is those that could learn the most from this article will write it off as the ramblings of a blinded sycophant :) Some people simply get in their own way overthinking things, as they did with Dirty Politics.

      • Damon Mudgway

        Good piece Pete. The simple fact is if the MSM went back to reporting the story instead of trying to ‘make’ the story, readers like myself, those who value truth over all else, would continue to support them.

        After all, this is ALL about business, and if you don’t have a product the punters want, you’re business is doomed to failure.

  • Pluto

    It continues to astound me that the MSM can’t see is that all people want to read is the truth. Instead we are continually fed this tripe that then creates a brand of politician desperate to be the answer to some perceived problem. And so people like Jacinda become media darlings, and the cycle continues.
    I for one am over it, bring it on FREED.


      I would argue that many people are interested to read stories/opinions that reflect their own way of thinking….in many cases you could probably call them ‘their version of the truth’.

  • intelligentes candida diva

    I found this post a really simplistic easy to comprehend timeline. Helped me to”get it”

  • Oddly enough, when we open up an AMA post where people can ask Cam anything, they go for “what is your favourite cut of meat”, and similar questions.

    The reason I’ve run the AMAs in the past was to give people a chance to have their real questions answered.

    It has been an eye opener that given the opportunity, nobody actually asked a question that would have made us flinch.

    Although, we do now know Cam is circumcised. Not sure how that improved the world, but I’m trying to make a point here.

    • Korau

      Thanks for your response Pete. I don’t think an AMA will ever reveal the real person because of constraints of space and the format.

      I still would push for a book (could be a great adjunct to the launch of Freed) to give us a better view of the “real” Cam Slater. I get the feeling that he is a very deep and interesting person once you get past the public persona.

      As regards your final sentence, I will say it first to save others having to . Cam slater is a little less of a dick than we thought!

  • chef01

    Hi Pete, again thanks for all the effort you all put in. Others have said it but without you all our day would be lacking the sunshine. Again if I can help in any way please let us know. Thanks Cam and SB and keep your chins up, there are a lot of people out there supporting you.

  • timemagazine

    You forgot to mention Cam’ s humour. Sometimes I know what a post is about and read only his comments because they are so funny.

  • Michael_l_c

    Posters have mentioned ‘the truth’. Be careful because the truth is subjective to the people involved. Everyone has a different viewpoint. When I try to explaiin this I hold up a sheet of A4 paper & ask what shape is this. The answers are oblong or square. I then turn the paper so the edge faces them – a line but the same piece of paper. Twist the sheet corner to corner & numerous other shapes but they are still seeing the same thing.

    Any writer however honest or meticulous will include some of their perceptions even predjudices. We see that here but it is honest and out in the open, so for me no problem.

    Take katie bradfords pathetic quote about the election, this is what is wrong with journalism & the msm. They believe their own verbiage. One says, another repeats & you have chinese whispers with maximum prejudice. The election result showed what the majority thought, still the msm tell us we voted the wrong way. No we are right they are wrong.

    My concern is are there sufficient ‘honest journalists’? If so where have they been hiding?

    Guess we will find out. Great luck to you.

    • There are always some Cliff Clavin types that will argue that there is no such thing as black, or white. And we never may achieve it. It is the intention to be ‘as black’ or ‘as white’ as possible, that is important.

      • IKIDUNOT

        as long as there is room for honest and ‘intelligent’ debate to look at issues from different perspectives

  • Wheninrome

    This was a personal Blog that obviously found favour with others, created discussion and question.
    It could have stayed just a “blog” for one person to get things off their chest. Because it had real substance it took wings and flew.
    If it had been rubbish no-one would have bothered to add their point of view and it would have very likely died a natural death.
    I am enthusiastic and positive about the future of people when I read the comments here. Makes me feel happy for my grandchildren.

  • LesleyNZ

    NewstalkZB board have been very dumb then. They should listen to us loyal listeners more. It appears NewstalkZB took a very different direction last year. They refuse to accept that Rachel Smalley is not the answer to NewstalkZB’s future popularity – yet they keep on promoting her on just about every NewstalkZB webpage – at the expense of other hosts. If it were not for Leighton and Larry (and Mike Hosking) my loyalty to NewstalkZB would reduce quite a lot. Mind you there are not many others talkback hosts who are on the same wavelength as me. Perhaps a niche in the airwaves will open in the future.