Libertine in Dreams

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Second Letter to the Editor

18 February 2015

Editor of the Samoa Observer
PO Box 1972
APIA

Dear Editor,

Re: “If you want advice Rivers, ask your boss Tuilaepa. He knows.”

I thoroughly enjoyed and was greatly amused by your lengthy diatribe in today’s Observer.
If I was easily cowed and unsure of my own mind, I would have been shamed by your public chastisement.  Luckily for me, I have been blessed with a strong and independent spirit, and I don’t scare easily.
Respectfully, I don’t need to ask the Prime Minister for his advice on this matter because this woman is capable of thinking and speaking for herself.
I won’t resort to personal attacks, because I have too much respect for you as a wizened wordsmith and an embattled media sage (and also because it’s not my style).  However if you would be so kind, I would like to address a few of your comments:
1. Like most Government offices, yes, my office is tax-payer funded.  And to a great extent, so is yours.  Where do you think the POs come from to pay for all those Government ads in the Observer?  That is tax-payer money:  yours AND mine.
2.  In reference to: “For someone who’s just barged in…..as if she’s Tuilaepa’s gift to the media.”  Well, thank you.  I’ve never considered myself to be a gift.  But now that you mention it, you might as well enjoy my presence.
3.  No one is forcing the Observer to print what you consider to be “page filler” Press Releases from Government.  And by Government, I am referring to any informational release from any Ministry, Authority, Corporation etc.  If you believe their work is not worthy of your “free” publicity, then you are well within your rights to decline them in place of your own news items.  Far be it for any Government agency to clutter your paper with what you deem to be “trash” such as national development news, community projects, educational programmes, health initiatives etc etc etc.  It may not be the “hard news” you prefer, the kind that guarantees your newsprint to sell out, but in my most humble opinion – it’s valuable and important information for the greater community who deserve more than the latest titillating, sensational headline.

Whilst you have made your feelings very clear in today’s editorial devoted entirely to me, I’ll tell you now that it doesn’t faze me.  At all.
I will remain a loyal servant to the public and continue to go about fulfilling my duties.  And to reiterate, those duties include clarifying some of the misinformation or worse, disinformation, put out there as ‘news’ about Government.  After all, that was the onus of my letter to your office from 15/02/15 – to clarify that my office did not request the Observer to “hold your presses”, as your newspaper erroneously claimed.

To wrap – I consider you all colleagues, and yes that means the Observer’s reporters too.  I know them all, and they know me.
My office serves many other media organisations.  The Observer is but one.

Here’s wishing you an unceasingly prosperous 2015, Savea.  May you continue to show us your wise, patient and profound thoughts in your editorials, for years to come.

Faithfully yours,

Renate Rivers


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Letter to the Editor (of the Samoa Observer)

16 February 2014

Editor of the Samoa Observer
PO BOX 1972
APIA

Dear Editor,

Re: Editorial “Setting the record straight.”

I read, with great interest, the editorial in today’s Observer by Mrs. Moore where she is “setting the record straight”, and after reading through to the end, I would like to take this opportunity to fulfill that promise.
Firstly, thank you for printing the Savali Newspaper interview of the Prime Minister from Saturday 14/02/15.  As the only daily in Samoa, your newspaper has the widest circulation in Apia so your front page splash of the Prime Minister’s interview boosted our audience numbers significantly.
Secondly, I wish to make clear that the email sent from my office to the Observer’s editorial triumvirate of Savea, Mataafa and Marjorie on Saturday evening did not ask for the Observer to “hold the presses”, nor did the email request for a front page.

The content of the email was simply a courtesy note, letting you all know that the Savali Newspaper had just wrapped an interview with the Prime Minister, and if you were interested – it would be issued within the hour.  I invite you to read the email again and let me know exactly how you extracted “hold the press” from it.  In fact, your own Editor-in-Chief wrote back to me, and then even called me up to say that the Observer would wait for the Interview.  Although appreciated, the eagerness of the Observer to “hold the presses” had nothing to do with me or my powers of persuasion.  I suspect it was more to do with the fact that the Prime Minister’s interview would make for better reading on a Sunday, than “other news of interest”.  And while on the topic, what other “news of interest” did you have to reshuffle?  Was it a rugby story?

Let’s just call a spade a spade and admit that the Observer needs news and the Government is the news.  We’re practically in a relationship.  So despite your paper’s attempts to distance yourselves from the warm bosom of Government’s stream of information, I’m afraid you’re as reliant as a child on the nourishment it provides.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Observer and other media organisations rely on Government for their news.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Samoa is a small country from a big region in a huge world.  Comparatively speaking there’s not much to report on, unless of course you are wizened and clever and manage to create the news yourself.
Browsing quickly through my cherished pile of Observers next to my desk, I can tell you off hand that since Thursday last week – there have been approximately 20 different stories relating to Government.  And that doesn’t include the different Press Releases and court stories you print.  Also I note that on Friday last week the Observer printed a total of three (3) stories that were written by your reporters.  The other four (for a total of seven) were Press Releases.
I’m not so tactless as to outline what kind of revenue was collected from an edition that prints three original news stories (two of which were about Government), but perhaps your powerhouse trio of editors could explain why the good people of Samoa should overlook the fact that your newspaper makes a living off Government, and yet you insist that we – my office in particular – are basically begging you to “hold” your impressive state-of-the-art presses?

We, as a courteous and efficient office of Government, work hard to maintain great rapport with our media colleagues.  We recognise that the media’s role in society is important, and we work hard to ensure your newspapers and radio shows and television programs are supplied with news on a regular basis.
In fact, I usually correspond with Mataafa.  The only reason I specifically copied Savea and Marjorie in to my email was because I had not received a response from Mataafa from earlier last week when I had written to him and questioned the objectivity of one of the Observer reporters’ story lines.  Our office does not favour any particular media organisation, nor do we provide scoops or special breaking news to any particular reporter.  We issue our news to everyone on our media mailing list on the same day, at the same time, and by the same method.  We also provide the same information to the public, government agencies, diplomatic corps, our overseas missions, civil society and the private sector through mailing lists, the Government Website, social media accounts and hard copies should anyone wander through our doors and want to know what’s going on.
Currently we provide Government news to around 20 different Samoan news organisations here and abroad (dozens of reporters) as well as regional news outlets.  If any of your readership gather their news from alternative sources, they would have seen that the Newsline also ran the interview in their Sunday paper.

My office and I are here to help the media.  All of the media.  We don’t need to curry favour from any newspaper, radio or television station.  So to my colleagues at the Samoa Observer, I ask that you don’t forget relationships that have been forged since time immemorial.  Or perhaps only as far back as 1978.
The Observer is only one of a long list of news outlets that my office serves, and there are plenty of other media representatives who share our Press Releases, our news of Government initiatives, development projects and community programmes with those who matter the most – the people of Samoa.

Faithfully yours,

Renate Rivers
Government of Samoa