In previous posts I have pinged the Samoa Observer for ‘lacking a little’ in the ethics department, though they’re certainly not short of bleating about others’ misconduct! In this post I dig a little bit deeper and give an example of the type of shonky deals that the Samoa Observer gets up to. As always with BS like this the buck stops with the guy at the top, in this case not only the Editor-in-Chief Savea Sano Malifa, but I believe, the Editor too, Mata’afa Keni Lesa.
Since my unpleasant engagement with Sano, and the Samoa Observer, I’ve spoken to people from within and from out side of Samoa, Palagi and Samoans. The fact is that I’m not the only one that Samoa’s ‘local rag’ has ripped off, and their name isn’t the best in the industry as a result of their ‘ethical flexibility’.
This may be surprising to some who believe Samoa Observer’s own hype, but basically local people back off from confrontation with these guys because nobody thinks that they can take them on. The current Prime Minister Tuila’epa and a few other political leaders in the past have had a go at clipping their wings but the owner Savea Sano Malifa has been persistent, taken the blows and pulled through. That doesn’t make him right, nor perfect – it just means that he’s reaping the rewards for a ‘can-do’ attitude and persistence.
Internationally, Samoa is an also-ran, widely viewed as a hiccup on the journalism stage, semi-tolerated but hardly known or bothered about outside of Samoa, except when needed in which case everybody is best friends for a day, or two. The general feeling is that Samoa is still governed by “the island way” and it’s not worth your time or money to chase them up over little matters.
And that’s pretty much the way things have been for as long as I can see looking back before my time – Sano fighting all and sundry, a few pot shots landing here and there over the years but finally ending up in a pretty nice position, able to pick his fights and as I mentioned in the previous article and as I will show now, make a buck at others’ expense as he so chooses.
A Stolen Story
The Samoa Observer ran a story in early 2015 entitled: “One more Samoan who made it big”. It was not written in-house; it wasn’t an editorial, nor was it an advertisement nor was it an advertorial. It was a “FEATURE” – both story and the associated images scraped off the Internet.
So far so good – that is not a crime in itself and the story reads well, they had the author’s name clearly marked at the top of the article and printed the URL of one of his websites. They published the story in their print edition which of course is sold and to all intents and purposes this would be perfectly normal except for one little thing . . . they did all this without the knowledge or permission of the original author!
I know this, because I ask questions and unlike Samoa Observer, I have spoken directly with the author – actually more than once.
The original author is a professional journalist who makes his living by conducting interviews and then writing them up. He them sells the results of his labour to people who ‘normally’ pay him for his creativity. This is the normal conduct in this industry. You do creative work, sell it and then get paid for your labours.
If a publisher wants to use the story (especially a commercial ‘for profit’ business) then according to the law (and morality) you must negotiate with the author for publication rights, pay the author (or agree to pay him) and then you can use the original work* . . . unless of course you are a thief, in which case you just steal others’ work!
Samoa Observer short-circuited the normal process, scraped his work, then published it in a commercial operation.
Let’s just go over this again so that it’s perfectly clear what these guys did – they took a professional journalist’s work off his website without his knowledge or permission and then published it in a commercial publication that their customers paid to buy and read.
In case you still haven’t got it, I’ll use an analogy . . . my neighbour grows taros and sells them at the market. At night time while he and his dogs are sleeping I jump the fence, grab a few and take them down to the market and sell them along with my own oranges and lemons.
This is a crime, called theft in all jurisdictions that I’m aware of, including, yes, believe it or not . . . Samoa!
Some further considerations in this matter:
This case is not plagiarism, which is the taking others’ work and passing it off as your own. Samoa Observer did not plagiarise this work (although this is another topic for another day!) because they credited the original author correctly at the top of the FEATURE. It was just downright theft. Plain old ordinary stealing!
Samoa Observer though not only stole the story, their arrogance in placing the author’s name in print, without his knowledge or permission is the mark of a deliberate, cynical attempt to deceive, for who would ever (normally) bother to check that a story correctly attributed like this, in print could actually have been stolen – and by the flagship of Samoa’s Fourth Estate – our self-appointed moral police at that?
Remember that this was no accident. Somebody within Samoa Observer deliberately took this work, rehashed it and published it – A BRAZEN ACT OF THEFT FOR COMMERCIAL GAIN!
I contacted the original author quite easily and I have no reason to believe that Samoa Observer too could not have entered into a brief exchange (as is normal in such matters) in order to secure publishing rights/permission from him.
I can understand publishing deadlines and the desire to get the story out there under their own brand ASAP before Social Media did but was it so time-sensitive that waiting 24 hours for a response wasn’t even considered worth potentially destroying their supposedly good reputation over one story?
The original author attributed the photograph of the two Samoan cousins standing together to the photographer. Samoa Observer used more than one image from the original story (without permission) and did NOT attribute the photography. This aspect of their crime IS plagiarism which of course is a form of theft.
As a result they have exposed themselves legally, for if the photographer ever chooses to sue, Samoa Observer will surely lose and it could cost them (more on this topic later).
One of the sweetest parts of an investigation is getting two different documents and comparing them. I love this exercise and doing it with the shonky Bartercard Prospectus in 2014 was incredibly revealing as you could see how the Board quickly changed their documents as a result of my blogging, basically to cover their butts!
Most of the time in an investigation you find yourself picking up little clues along the way . . . you generally know the big picture from the outset – that’s after all why you ask questions at the outset. You have a complaint, or a tip to start with so there is an initial direction to head in.
For example you always know that when the devil speaks that he’ll be lying – that’s easy! Then you have to work out WHEN he speaks and when it’s the other voice – a little harder to be sure but you get the idea – from the get-go you know that the devil is full of BS and God is good.
Likewise, you always know that when a politician does something that there will ALWAYS be a healthy dose of self-interest in there and that anything to do with United Nations and their gazillions of offshoots that centralised power (aka globalisation or the New World Order) will be be the result of anything they say, do, threaten or bribe us to participate in.
Likewise, knowing as I did that the head of Samoa Observer (Savea Sano Malifa) was not afraid of screwing me, when I heard that other people too had got their fingers burned, I could be pretty sure that there was a repeating pattern developing in my sight.
The original headline was:
THE GUY FROM PORIRUA WHO MADE IT BIG
Their headline of course was redesigned for a Samoan audience:
One more Samoan who made it big
Does the change speak a lot to you? It does to me, I’ll explain why.
It’s a perfectly natural change but I can see two issues immediately, Samoans are intensely patriotic. Their pride over the fact that this guy is a Samoan is again perfectly natural, but let’s call it for what it is, racism. It’s one of the reasons that outsiders (Palagi) like me have little chance to foot it in a strongly Samoan context. This is normal, I know BUT it is racism at it’s core. More on this another day, I promise!
The second is a deeper point but one that indicates the futility of looking to the MSM for moral leadership or guidance – aside from the fact that they stole the story, their entire purpose is to . . . wait for it . . . make money; sell newspapers! Thus in New Zealand the focus is a boy from Porirua who succeeded but to the Samoa Observer, they know that it is the fact that he’s Samoan that will tickle the ears of their customers.
Always follow the money to get to the bottom of any situation. From what I’ve heard and observed, the owner of Samoa Observer is only ever interested in one thing, and it’s got nothing to do with ethics, morality or anything other than business, it’s money – plain and simple.
The Samoa Observer inserted a sub heading, one that summarised the entire story in two lines – it’s an excellent addition and good print editorial practice.
They then selected what was actually a secondary image as their primary image, trashing the one that the original author had used. I understand this move very well because their new primary image shows a Samoan lad standing beside another Samoan of fame . . . BUT again, you see the callous treatment of the original author’s work. He wanted the photo of the subject (a neat photo BTW) as the focus, not the joint photo clearly for a reason – remember this is a professional journalist who wrote this story! I cringe, knowing that this is all being done on stolen content, all totally unauthorised activity!
They published the photograph minus the attribution to the photographer – oops! A real-world case of dumb and dumber for now they have potentially p*ssed off two people. They could have easily left the original attribution in there at least? Nope!
Somebody has deliberately chosen to do all these changes. This person knows their audience. They know how to tickle their fancy and produce a newspaper that has the best chance to sell. It’s just like I know exactly what taro my customers at the Fugalei markets will pay the top dollar and I will make sure that I steal only those ones!
The story wasn’t altered in the slightest. It was an interview with a strong character engaging in meaningful dialogue with the guest. They simply HAD to keep it word for word due to the format, which leads me to suspect that they WOULD have changed it however they wanted to if they COULD have. Cynical maybe, but they say that there is no honour among thieves.
These changes reveal the mindset of the thief/thieves. A deliberate, knowing act done specifically to gain maximum commercial benefit from the crime. A judge would be well positioned to maximise any punitive damages should it ever go to court.
Perhaps a genuine mistake? If this was the case then why no apology?
Maybe a staff member lied to the Editor and . . . ? So why not pay-up and apologise, after firing the crook?
Maybe they tried to negotiate with him but perhaps the journo was greedy? Then why did the journo ask us other journos in New Zealand for help? Why did they publish it then if they knew it was copyrighted work and they didn’t have his permission? That only makes it worse!
I can’t think of any mitigating factor that possibly stacks up, but if Samoa Observer ever exercises their Right of Reply I’ll be sure to publish it here, with commentary!
Who did it?
I don’t know.
I suspect that Sano himself doesn’t source Samoan-content stories, rewrite headines, and massage scraped articles for his own paper. He might flick a link of something that he stumbles upon to his staff and tell them or suggest for them to do it but I doubt that he was the guy who both did and hid the crime.
It’s possible that the Editor himself did it. Mata’afa Keni Lesa currently holds that position. It’s his job to put the whole paper together and while he’s got a lot of responsibility with his own steady stream of editorials to write, he could possibly have done it.
I suspect though that it was somebody else on the team who scraped the story, changed the heading to suit the Samoan ego, picked out a couple of photos that would massage the ego of the local Samoan readers and put it forward for publication.
At the end of the day the buck always stops at the top.
In this case though I don’t think pinging Sano for this one entirely would be fair. For screwing around with the author – the guy that his company has ripped off – sure, that’s Sano’s modus operandii to a tee – I’ve had the same treatment and while it sucks to be on the end of it at the time, most of us can get over it pretty easily. You just say to yourself, “Well it takes all sorts to make the world. He’s a d*ck. Get over it an on with life!” and you do.
From the outside looking in though, it’s the Editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa who I think has been outed with this story. You see, I find it incredible to believe that the Editor of Samoa’s biggest daily newspaper didn’t know from where the article came and under what circumstances it arrived on his desk. He either knew or suspected that it had been scraped OR he’s been lied to by a junior staff member who has told him that they had the original author’s permission to reproduce it.
My pick on this is the former. I know the fear that the Samoa Observer staff all work under and it’s certainly not the free environment where initiative is encouraged and occasionally it gets a little exuberant and someone would lie about having scored a juicy pro-Samoan story WITH the permission to publish free of royalties.
Nah! Nobody does ANYTHING there unless they have been authorised to do it, and generally from the top.
The Editor was in on it somehow, for sure. If he wasn’t then he shouldn’t be in that job for it’s the most basic of questions to ask – “Cool international pro-Samoan story! Where did you/we get it from?” Do you think that he’d permit any obvious plagiarised work past his eyes if he cared about his career? Would a staff member lie to him at risk of immediate dismissal that they’d got permission from the original author when they hadn’t?
Nah! I think he knew and thought that he’d get away with it by attributing the story to the original author and things came unstuck when he got found out; Sano covered for him and gave the poor guy the cold shoulder/silent treatment and he’ll be fuming that I’m again hammering his ego and opening his business up to lawsuits like a can of eleni on a Sunday morning. I might be totally wrong and they simply don’t give a ***’s behind but if that’s the case then in time, if I’m still alive, kicking and blogging, that attitude will be sure to change.
For those who doubt the facts, I reproduce here the author’s actual words of validation as given by way of explanation to the New Zealand journalism industry. This is verbatim for the record:
“[My] editorial piece was republished without my permission by a Samoan newspaper.”
If anyone wants further validation I can provide it offline in confidence.
Note that I haven’t validated 100% that the story was run without the original author’s KNOWLEDGE just as yet, but I’m pretty sure that it was. It was certainly run without his PERMISSION. I’ll update this post if/when I find that out.
Samoa Observer acknowledged that they had been caught out and according to the original author after he confronted them . . .
“I got an immediate response from the Samoan Observer’s marketing manager saying this was a serious matter and their Editor-In-Chief would send a response”
Yeah right! Get those pigs all fed and watered, ready to fly again!
You guessed it . . . despite this poor guy contacting, complaining, requesting and eventually invoicing Samoa Observer, their response week after week, month after month:
ZIP, TADA, ZILCH – nothing.
Arrogant, hypocritical thieves!
With conduct like this from the prime newspaper in a country (according to their leaders) supposedly “Founded upon God”, no wonder the Palagi who come here to engage with Samoa pretty much all go away within two to three years vowing to never come back again.
Savea Sano Malifa, I say this to you again . . . you are a hypocrite and a crook. You and your company are a disgrace to not only the people and culture of Samoa but to the Creator of whom you and your paper arrogantly refer to so frequently.
Let it be known here and now, once and for all that the God the I know, love and serve has absolutely nothing to do with the one that you do.
In my next post in this series relating to Samoa Observer I make an offer in which I take real practical action to do my bit to save Samoa from itself, and hopefully restore just a little tiny bit of the credibility that crooks like Samoa Observer have denied a country that really desperately deserves so much better from its leaders than it currently gets.
Take a long, deep breath and standby . . .
* There are exceptions in copyright law that permit fair use, educational purposes and so on. Rest assured though that outright theft for commercial purposes is not and will never be one of those exceptions!
- Savea Sano Malifa - Fooled by Gossip - the orginal post exposing Sano's foolish reliance on gossip
- Samoa Observer Sues Blogger for $2m - My initial notice following lodgement of Samoa Observer's Defence & Counterclaim
- Samoa Observer’s Dodgy Defence - Analysis of SA's document showing lies, twisting & logical fallacies
- Blogger Sues Samoa Observer - My [first] case against SA, the one that triggered their defamation case
- Open Letter – Samoa Observer - Telling it like it is!
- Observations on Samoa Observer - One example of SA's immoral conduct [theft]
- Suing Samoa Observer - An offer to help anyone anywhere sue SA
- MEDIA RELEASE: Samoa Observer Sues $2m - Media Release summarising the defamation case
- The Two Million Tala Palagi - The Book, contains all documents, web posts, the original articles and commentary
- Warning to lawyer Rosella V Papalii - Open Letter to Samoa Observer's lawyer discussing legal, moral and personal issues relating to the case.