Bloggers targeted business journalist

MATT NIPPERT
Last updated 17:03 01/09/2014
Bernard Hickey
JOHN SELKIRK / Fairfax NZ
FINANCE JOURNALIST: Bernard Hickey of Interest.co.nz.

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Documents show lobbyist Carrick Graham and bloggers Cathy Odgers and Cameron Slater targeted media outlets and commentators that were critical of ''the team'' for attacks.

Emails hacked by Rawshark show the trio specifically targeted Bernard Hickey and the financial news website interest.co.nz.

Graham, Odgers and Slater have come under the microscope after Fairfax Media published emails obtained by hacker Rawshark appearing to show they were paid by Mark Hotchin to attack the credibility of regulators probing collapse Hanover Finance.

Hickey, a business and economics commentator, works out of the parliamentary press gallery for interest.co.nz and his own Hive News services.

In email in August 2012 Odgers told Slater and Graham that Hickey's bid to set up a nonprofit journalism site needed an immediate response and he was seen as an enemy.

''This may create a problem, so make a note that we are trying to shut it down before it gets up and running as he was no friend of the team,'' she said.

Odgers claimed Hickey was in a dispute with interest.co.nz publisher David Chaston and would soon leave, and the website was also being offered for sale. 

Odgers claimed these rumours - rejected as false yesterday by Chaston, and Hickey, who still works with interest.co.nz - could be exploited.

''Goss you can spread is Chaston wants 3-4m for interest.co[.nz] and Hickey asked for equity and got refused. They are managing his transition so BNZ and other sponsors don't walk/get jitters,'' Odgers said.

''I say we finish off interest.co.nz and Hickey's [new site] before it is even born, hence the whale post Tuesday. What we term an abortion.''

Hickey said he had never been in dispute with Chaston, and had become a contractor after a sales process for the website - which would have seen Hickey get a bonus if a certain price was reached - failed to find a buyer.

''I'd refute any suggestion from Odgers that I'm in dispute with Chaston. We've never been in dispute,'' he said.

Internet archives show that following the email discussion Hickey, and his nonprofit venture and potential partners, became regular targets of Whaleoil of attack post.

Chaston agreed with Hickey and said Odger's rumours and Slater's posts attacking him were rubbish.

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''The first casualty here are facts. It was never going to suffer any investigation anyway, so why worry?''

Odgers did not respond to emailed request for comment.

Graham did not answer phone calls seeking request for comment.

Slater also did not answer phone calls seeking comment.

The ''Tuesday post'' referred to by Odgers is believed expressed vociferous criticism of Hickey's planned venture including: ''This new website is a vehicle for the left. ... a one stop SuperBlog of whining high-pitched left-wing c*** calling for higher taxes and a left-wing government''.

Hickey said he was aware of the flurry of posts about him, but had stopped reading.

''It was simply too painful to read. It was like wading into a cesspit and you come out feeling sticky. It's not a pleasant experience,'' he said.

Hickey said his nonprofit journalism venture failed to get off the ground due to insufficient backing.

He said he was unsure whether the Slater-led campaign against him had anything to do with his inability to find funders.

''I don't know. I suspect I'm just not very good at raising funds from philanthropists,'' he said.

- Stuff

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