Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lessons from a master

One of the best blogs around Kiwiland, in my view, is Kiwiblog, run by David Farrar. It gets a 'best' in my judgment because of its transparency (biased towards the National Party), fairness (always willing to criticise National and to point out fair and good policy from other parties), saneness (astute, sensible comment when fisking articles/columns) and spread of interests (not just politics, also travel, arts, economic data).

In the recent turmoil generated through the publication of Dirty Politics by Nicky Hager, some of which focuses on Kiwiblog, lots of questions are being raised about blogging and where it fits in the 'mediascape' of present day NZ. It is becoming apparent that the main blog being critiqued by Hager is a vehicle for unacknowledged diatribes against public figures such as scientists which are paid for by various 'industry groups.'

Out of this turmoil David Farrar reflects on his blogging activities and does so in a way which, with appropriate translation to another sphere, yields lessons to consider for Christian/Anglican bloggers. As well he says some things about blogging which are similar to my own motivations for writing in this public way.

Here are a few excerpts from this post:

(Start of excerpts) "Over the last week or so I have seriously considered walking away from Kiwiblog. While some will take huge pleasure in what has happened, let me say that it is genuinely traumatic to have hacked e-mails to and from yourself (even if you were not the one hacked) floating around, and to also realise that because you are a blogger and pollster, it means you and your office is fair game. One of the worst moments was having a senior staff member of mine, who is also a very good friend, tell me that she had been worried that I might think she was the leak, as our politics are different. I hate the impact this is having on so many people.

Some of the revelations coming out, also do not show aspects of the blogosphere in a good light (to put it mildly) and I’ve thought quite a bit about how this impacts the wider blogosphere.


There is part of me that wants to walk away so I am no longer a target. ... But the trouble is the blog for me is an outlet on what I think – what I like, what annoys me, what amuses me, what appals me. And I can’t imagine it can function as that, if I try and avoid politics. I do genuinely blog because I like having my say – that is my primary motivation.


So after some reflection, I have decided to carry on, but to make some changes. I want to improve trust in myself, Kiwiblog, and perhaps the wider blogosphere. So I’ve decided on the following.
  1. Kiwiblog is sending in an application today to join the Online Media Standards Authority. I’m not doing this so I can be called media. I don’t intend to label myself as media. I’m a blogger. I’m doing it so I can be held accountable to a public code of ethics and standards, and an independent complaint procedure. The code of ethics and standards will apply to both myself, and all guest bloggers here.
  2. I receive up to a dozen unsolicited e-mails a day, suggesting stories to me. Most are from people who are not politicians or staff – just ordinary readers. Some are just links to stories, some make some points on a topical issue. I sometimes quote these e-mails in posts. I have always been very careful to distinguish between content I write, and content people may send me (which I quote as coming from a reader). But I’m going to go a further step and if any content substantially comes from a parliamentary, or political party staffer, source I will state so when using it. I will not name individuals, but if I quote someone I will include information on their affiliations, when relevant. You will find this is very infrequently.

  3. After the election (ie when I have more time) I am going to consult on a tougher moderation policy for the comments. I want them to be robust and forceful, but focused more on issues than people. I have very limited time to read them myself, so probably will ask for some readers to step forward as moderators. We’ll have that discussion in October.
I hope people will appreciate the changes. I welcome feedback on them, and other suggestions. I believe political blogs can play a very valuable role in political discourse, and want to do what I can to be a constructive part of it." 
(Conclusion of excerpts)

One of the most time consuming aspects of blogging, I find, is moderating comments!

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