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Do you want The Truth? Because Damien Grant can't handle The Truth

A curious coda to the Horton & Malley vs Apollo Marketing scrap.

Fri, 13 Jan 2017

It seems no one wants The Truth. 

Waterstone Insolvency has been trying to sell its bound copies of the newspaper since November last year, but principal Damien Grant says there have been no takers.

He's tried the National Library, but it already had a complete set. And collectors have turned up their noses.

Most people who spared a glance at the tabloid during its death throes will associate it with lurid, X-rated stories and ads for sex workers.

But the paper has a place in New Zealand social history.

It was founded in 1905 as a left-wing voice for working class underdogs.

"It regularly attacked fat-cat businessmen, hypocritical politicians, and prudish ‘wowsers’," NZ History says.

"At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, New Zealand Truth prided itself on being ‘the champion of the little person and the scourge of corruption and scandal in high places’."

In The Truth: the Rise and Fall of the People's Paper, author Redmer Yska says readership reached a high of around 500,000 during this period, and the paper's political influence was also at its peak.

But from that point, as tabloid beast Jock Anderson related in a short history of the publication for NBR, the paper drifted to the right, and became more socially conservative.

During the 1970s, it backed Rob Muldoon as he taunted Labour's Colin Moyle for alleged (and illegal at the time) "homosexual activities," and it revealed that wannabe Labour MP Brian Edwards was (hold on to your hat, vicar) living with a woman to whom he was not married. In 1981, it backed the government over the Springbok tour. A lot of it seems unsavoury to today's eyes but it's all part of New Zealand's rich fabric.

Not that anyone wants it.

Mr Grant says the bound copies are in mostly good condition though they only go back to 1932.

What sort of offer is he looking for? 

"I quite like having them so I won't sell them for $500," the liquidator says.

Chequered recent history
In 2007, Fairfax sold The Truth to Hawkes Bay businessman Dermot Malley.

Mr Malley's Onyx Capital went on to partner with Horton Media to form Multimedia Solutions, a company that attempted to reboot the paper as The Truth Weekender.

Messrs Horton and Malley tried to take the paper back to its conservative blue collar heydey and installed Cam Slater as editor.

But the effort faltered and the paper was shut down in mid-2013.

Mr Slater told NBR that while he'd tried to interest them in political news, The Truth's regular readership was "addicted to crack"; that is, its diet of adult-themed stories. He failed to ween them off the smut — or at least in the timeframe given.

Truth Weeker – the company – was liquidated in 2013. But Multimedia Solutions, which owned the masthead, survived as a company into 2016, when it went into liquidation following legal action from Apollo Marketing.

Apollo sold its website to Multimedia Solutions in late 2011, with the Horton/O'Malley company positioning it as an online companion to The Truth.

In 2013, Apollo owner Roy Kingsnorth began legal action against Multimedia Solutions, claiming breach of contract. He went to court arguing part of the agreement provided him with free advertising in The Truth for his brothel, The Pelican Club. The paper's demise meant he missed out on 60-weeks of co-op ads that he valued at $128,000.

Last year, Mr Kingsnorth successfully sought a liquidation order, which saw Waterstone Insolvency enter the frame.

As liquidator, Mr Grant ratted around for assets he could flick off. (don't try going there, it's defunct) had become a worthless URL but Mr Horton did point out that Multimedia Solutions had possession of the historic bound copies of The Truth. The liquidator immediately dispatched one of his staff to retrieve them. Now, if you make him an offer, a piece of New Zealand social history could be yours ...

The Truth is out there in Albany: Damien Grant relaxes with one of the archive editions and (NBR is guessing) a cup of instant coffee.

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Do you want The Truth? Because Damien Grant can't handle The Truth