Pacific Media Watch

16 January 2014

NZ: Scoop’s co-founder and chief editor Thompson quits - or on sabbatical?

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Alastair Thompson ... stepped down from his Scoop editorial role after blogger revelation. Image: Scoop

WELLINGTON: (Wellington Scoop/Pacific Media Watch). New Zealand's major independent news website Scoop’s co-founder and managing editor Alastair Thompson resigned yesterday, according to media reports. But today the in-house message has been one about a "sabbatical".

"The apparent resignation of Alastair Thompson from Scoop – there seems to be some dissent as to whether he has resigned or gone on sabbatical – was triggered by the release of information about his involvement with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party," wrote Gordon Campbell on his Scoop column today.

"If his exit does prove to be permanent, this would be a sad way for Al to end his leadership role at this site. Scoop has been the flagship for alternative journalism in New Zealand for nearly 15 years."

A report on Stuff yesterday said his resignation followed claims earlier in the day by a prominent right-wing blogger that he was to be the general secretary of controversial American entrepreneur Dotcom’s new Internet Party and he had registered a domain name.

Stuff quoted Scoop’s controlling shareholder, Selwyn Pellett, as saying he had not previously been aware of the extent of Thompson’s involvement with the new party until details were published today on Cameron Slater’s WhaleOil blog.

He said that after the blog became public, Thompson tendered his resignation.

According to Stuff, Pellett said that while he understood Thompson’s passion for internet freedom, there was a clear conflict of interest with his journalism.

But Wellington Scoop reported today  that Thompson had described it more like "having a sabbatical". He tweeted this morning:

just to clarify. As you can see I have a new job, which was announced prematurely

Also to clarify. I have not left @ScoopNZ. More like I am having a sabbatical inside the business I founded 17 years ago as a client.

The New Zealand Herald reported yesterday:

Scoop Media confirmed this afternoon that Mr Thompson had stepped down as chief executive and editor….

Scoop Media owner Selwyn Pellett said: “We had no idea of the extent of the involvement until Cameron Slater’s blog today. We knew he was considering some involvement and the discussion was ‘you can’t do both jobs’.

"You can’t be an editor and be actively involved in Dotcom’s party. It is disappointing. There is no ill-feeling with Alastair. This is his passion and it is what he believes in and wants to do.”

The resignation was also reported tonight by Radio New Zealand News.

Columnist and independent journalist Gordon Campbell wrote:

I’ve personally known Al for over 20 years, since he walked in off the street while I was acting features editor at the Listener, and handed over a piece of well-researched journalism into the noise problem at Wellington Airport. Then as now, Al seemed to be a born journalist: curious, idealistic, and impulsive enough not to second guess whether something could really be done. Al just went ahead and did it, somehow. That impulsiveness has now come with a cost. Some of the fallout from his involvement with Dotcom has been at a personal cost for Al, some of it damages Scoop’s reputation. Obviously, this incident has not been helpful to the role envisioned for Scoop by its new investors.

Scoop, a  champion of robust journalism for almost 15 years publishing under a "unique, independent and necessary" banner, claims to provide "no spin" news. On its website, it says: is New Zealand’s leading news resource for news-makers and the people who influence the news (as opposed to a news site for “news consumers”). It brings together the information that is creating the news as it is released to the media, and is therefore a hub of intelligence for the professionals (not just media) that shape what we read. presents all the information driving the news of the day in the form it is delivered to media creating a “no spin” media environment and one that provides the full context of what is “reported” as news later in the day. Its audience has a circle of influence far greater than the number of reported readers, which averages more than 450 000 a month, and it is a key part of the New Zealand media landscape.

Established in 1999, Scoop’s three founders were Andrew McNaughton, Ian Llewellyn and Alastair Thompson.

Gordon Campbell on Dotcom and recent events at Scoop


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Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

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