The Beehive and the blogosphere

7:36 pm on 14 August 2014

Nicky Hager's new book Dirty Politics highlights the close relationship between politicians and the blogosphere.

In it, Mr Hager singles out a National Party staffer as a conduit to right-wing bloggers, especially Cameron Slater who writes Whale Oil.

David Farrar has his copy of "Dirty Politics" signed by author Nicky Hager in Radio New Zealand's Morning Report studio.

Nicky Hager signs a copy of his book for right-leaning blogger David Farrar. Photo: RNZ

Senior Cabinet minister and National's campaign manager Steven Joyce says National briefs journalists and bloggers all the time and claims it happens on the left of politics as well.

"Some of the left political blogs are actually ghost written by staff members of the Labour Party and this actually occurs all the time. Politicians make no apologies for briefing blog writers," he says.

Steven Joyce  during a press conference regarding Novopay next steps.

National's Steven Joyce. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

But Labour Party leader David Cunliffe says while it is true that political parties have contact with journalists and bloggers, his advice is that no member of his staff has blogged anonymously on websites like the left-wing blog The Standard.

"While there is contact between the Labour Party and left blogs, there is nothing of the character and order of magnitude of what is in the book Dirty Politics, and there is no equivalent to the sort of business that Cameron Slater has been in," he says.

Some of the predominant political blogs on the right are Kiwiblog, Whale Oil, No Minister and Keeping Stock.

Political blogs on the left include The Standard, Dim-Post, Public Address, No Right Turn and The Daily Blog.

David Cunliffe.

Labour leader David Cunliffe. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

David Farrar, who runs Kiwiblog, says he has always been very open about who he is and that he's a National Party member.

"It would be no surprise to anyone that people in National sometimes pass information on, but that doesn't mean that you run with it, 95 percent of what people throw my way I have a look at and [decide not to run it]."

A blogger who runs No Minister, under the pseudonym Adolf Finkenstein, says he gets his background for the blog from the mainstream media and other blog sites, not only in New Zealand, but also the United States and Australia.

He describes himself as moderate centre right, a National Party voter and ACT Party helper, and says the blogs on the left (with the exception of Bowalley and Dim-Post) tend to be nasty, ban any dissent and indulge in some amazing spin.

Lynn Prentice runs The Standard - a left-wing blog often accused of being a mouthpiece of the Labour Party.

He says bloggers on the site get their information almost entirely from public sources, library research, or their own knowledge from being in political parties for decades.

"It is completely obvious in the posts where the information comes from because we always either link to it or state how we acquired it. We don't have a "tipline" of ministers dishing the dirt on enemies.

"To be complicit in that kind of sock-puppetry requires the kind of compliant deference to authority that comes naturally to people on the right."

Mr Prentice says the accusations by the National Party that The Standard is ghost written by Labour staffers is "bullshit".