'Truth gig is over' - Slater

UPDATE / June 17, 2013:  Editor Cameron Slater has confirmed speculation Truth will not publish this week. 

In October last year, the Whaleoil blogger was drafted to rescue the struggling tabloid.

Tonight he told NBR ONLINE, "The paper was just too far gone ... I'm proud of the editorial and production staff and the changes we made, but ultimately the hole it found itself in was just too deep."

Mr Slater blames previous management and owners for the paper's plight.

"My belief is the old formula of adult content was well past its use by date," he says.

The incoming editor made good on his promise to add more politics, and remove pictures of half-naked women from the paper's front page, and its website.

But it seems there were withdrawal symptoms as Mr Slater tried to wean Truth off its quick girlie fix, and the easy high of the red-light classified ad revenue that came with it.

"The paper was essentially addicted to crack," Mr Slater tells NBR. "That ultimately destroyed the paper and its long legacy."

Media commentator Bill Ralston says Truth "tried to get rid of the nudie photos and strange adult ads too quickly." Serious news needs a larger staff, Mr Ralston says.

Truth has been published since 1887.

The paper's general manager, Russell Beaumont, told Fairfax Media it was not in receivership. Rather, "the owners and shareholders have said we should pause for a cup of tea".

NBR understands that of the two current shareholders, Matthew Horton (who also owns a printing business, which numbers Truth among its clients) is willing to put more money into the paper, but Dermot Malley is not - a situation one insider described as terminal.

It's demise caps a day that has seen TV3 broadcaster MediaWorks placed in receivership, and Fairfax axe computer titles Computerworld, PC World and Reseller News.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz


UPDATE / Nov 1 2012: Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury has resigned his Truth column, From the Left, labelling new editor Cameron Slater a "far-right hate merchant" who espouses pro-marriage equality views merely to blunt opponents' attacks (among a raft of other allegations on his Tumeke blog).

"He quit before I could cut him," Mr Slater told NBR ONLINE last night.

The editor confirmed a second columnist, former Red Squad leader and one-time National MP Ross Meurant, had also walked. 

Mr Slater's Whale Oil blog (which he is keeping on, separate from his Truth role) has previously highlighted Mr Meurant's role as an adviser and lobbyist for Simunovich Fisheries amid controversy over scampi quotas. However, he was unaware of the immediate reason Mr Meurant quit upon his appointment. "Just petulance I suspect," Mr Slater said.

Mr Meurant has been replaced by David Garrett. 

The new editor will also keep the From the Left column (opposed by Lindsay Mitchell's Right On), but with a new author.

He has replaced Mr Bradbury with Josie Pagani.

Ironically, Ms Pagani has consolidated her position as the resident voice of the left on RNZ's Afternoons with Jim Mora since Mr Bradbury was banned from the show in October last year.


Cameron Slater named Truth editor, promises overhaul   

Oct 31: Infamous blogger Cameron Slater has taken a "proper" old media job.

Mr Slater, aka Whale Oil, has been named the new editor of Truth, replacing Joe Lose, who will remain as a contributor.

He started in his new role today.

Mr Slater told NBR ONLINE the role developed after Truth management approached him with a special project, asking him what he would do with the title if he were given a blank canvas.

Truth has always had a mix of news, tabloid sensation and adult content.

Mr Slater says the girlie pics will remain, but over time he wants to shift the emphasis to more hard news and opinion pitched at the "working bloke" and written in a "blunt and forthright manner".

Beefing up the paper's sports section is another priority.

Mr Slater also wants to transform Truth's website into a 24-hour news operation.

He told NBR that his Whale Oil blog had 730,066 page impressions (95% of them domestic) during September and 354,890 visits - putting it substantially ahead of Truth.co.nz.

He plans to maintain his blog on its separate site, he told NBR, but over time there could be potential to tie it more closely to Truth.

Mr Slater says the paper is "making money, but not enough".

Truth PR manager Amanda Maclaren told NBR the current print run was 16,000 and that it is "safe to say" sales ran to 10,000 copies.

The print run is not audited, but Ms Maclaren says the new owners plan to join the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Fairfax sold the 107-year-old Truth to Hawke's Bay businessman Dermott Malley in January 2007. 

In May this year the weekly was bought by Horton Media and Pravda Ltd (owned by Truth chief executive David Crow), which each have a 50% holding.

Mr Slater – son of former National Party president John Slater – has enjoyed a controversial career as a blogger.

His greatest hits include a $6130 fine in September 2010 for breaching name suppression orders in a series of cases involving high profile defendants, and a June 2011 stand-off with the Labour Party after he was able to access the names of donors gathered from an unprotected website.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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