When it was announced yesterday that the rightwing blogger Cameron Slater had become the new editor of the Truth newspaper, both his fans and detractors were probably mouthing the full name of his blogsite (in an Irish accent): ‘Whale Oil Beef Hooked’. After all, Slater is a larger-than-life blogger with a reputation amongst his fans for being a fearless and straight-talking battler against ‘socialism’, and a reputation amongst his detractors for meanness, irresponsibility and buffoonish muckraking. Whatever Slater does online always has more than a touch of controversy about it, and both his critics and fans can probably agree that his editorship of the Truth newspaper will be fascinating. The full announcement by Slater can be read on his Whaleoil blog – see: Announcement: Whaleoil appointed editor of Truth. Interestingly, Slater says he will turn Truth from a newspaper to a ‘views-paper’. [Read more below]
There has been considerable interest in
the appointment, particular because it represents a relatively unique situation
– perhaps a first – of a high profile blogger taking over a newspaper. As the
Listener’s Toby Manhire says, ‘the symbolism is pretty potent. I can’t think of
another example in which a blogger has been parachuted directly into a
newspaper’s editor chair’ – see: Whale
Oil to edit Truth, 100% in your face, but no longer pro-union. For this reason, the new
appointment has caught the eye of the UK’s Guardian newspaper’s media
commentator, Roy Greenslade, who has blogged about it – see: Blogger hired to edit print newspaper.
Few would be disagree that Slater’s appointment to Truth is a marriage made in heaven. Slater’s politics, style and personality are a perfect fit for the populist tabloid. This is a point well made by one of Slater’s opponents at The Standard blog, who says ‘Slater is perfect as editor as he has those essential bullyboy characteristics required in abundance. He has a eye for exactly the type of crap that the Truth specialises in’ – see: Whaleoil and his toilet paper. A seemingly more generous evaluation is made by another leftist, Scott Yorke – see: My Mate Gets The Truth.
Another leftwing blogger – and Truth columnist – Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury, has written an informative blogpost on the issue – see: Cameron Slater as the 4th Journalist of the Apocalypse - why I resigned from Truth. In this, Bradbury gives some background to Slater becoming editor, why he doesn’t want to be involved in the new venture, but also why Slater is likely to be successful in making the newspaper relevant again. He also says that another columnist, Ross Meurant, has decided to leave. In reaction, Slater has announced that Bradbury will be replaced as the Truth’s leftwing columnist by Josie Pagani. Chris Trotter also offers his congratulations in Anything Cam can do...
Much of the debate about Slater’s new role has been in Twitter. The Listener’s Jane Clifton (@rumpole3) exclaimed: ‘Dare I say it, Bomber has resigned from Truth = Slater has improved the MSM already’. Labour’s communications and media spokesperson Clare Curran (@clarecurranmp) responded by saying she ‘feels slightly ill’ at the news; the Greens’ Holly Walker (@hollyrwalker) said ‘This thing about Cameron Slater becoming editor of the Truth is a hoax, right? Right?’, and NBR journalist Rob Hosking (@robhosking) wrote, ‘Been saying for a couple of years that Mr Slater has all the instincts of an old fashioned tabloid journo. Still surprised, though’.
How is the paper’s style and politics likely to change? Slater says he plans to reduce the adult sexual content – especially the dominance of sex work ads, and perhaps even get rid of the ‘page 3 girl’ – see Amy Maas’ Editor: Less sex, more news for Truth. Obviously Slater will reinvigorate the rightwing nature of the paper, but the paper hasn’t always been this way. To get a glimpse of the history and political nature of the Truth, Toby Manhire recommends a useful 2010 feature by the Listener’s Joanne Black about Redmer Yska’s excellent history of the newspaper – see: The whole Truth.
But will Slater be successful? Is he likely to be able to turn the paper around, revitalise it with a whole new business model? Currently the paper claims a weekly print-run of 16,000, and is obviously struggling to remain relevant and profitable. For a discussion of these questions, listen to Radio NZ National’s three-minute item, Blogger takes helm at Truth. Slater will be hoping that the venture goes better than his ‘aborted scheme to sell NZ Army tanks to overseas military buyers’ which William Mace reports on in Inside Truth editor's arms dealing plan.
Part of Slater’s strength is his online experience and abilities, and obviously it’s likely that the Truth’s future will involve a much greater internet presence. Arguably, Slater should no longer be referred to as a ‘blogger’, as he is well and truly part of the mainstream media now. Slater says he’ll keep his blog going, and keep it separate from Truth, but that eventually there might be a tie-up between the two – see Chris Keall’s Cameron Slater named Truth editor, promises overhaul.