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Panpa Bulletin : February 2006
The first copies of the newest daily newspaper in the Pa- cific Islands, the American Samoa Tribune, have gone on sale in American Samoa. The American Samoa Tribune is the group's second new newspaper launch in a year. It joins their flag- ship newspaper, the seven-day-a- week Samoa Observer, published in Samoa, and the New Zealand Samoa Observer, launched last year. The bilingual (English and Samoan) newspaper is being compiled and printed from a new production centre set up at Tafuna, American Samoa, by the Samoa Observer Newspaper Group. The group's flagship is the 27- year-old Samoa Observer; a bilin- gual daily newspaper printed at its headquarters in Vaitele, in subur- ban Apia, Samoa. Previously copies of the Samoa Observer were also flown from Samoa to American Samoa each morning. Publisher Muliagatele Jean Malifa said of the group's setting up in Tafuna and launching the American Samoa Tribune: "We want to think that we can help enhance the good rela- tionship being enjoyed by the two Samoas, and work towards making it even better. "Because despite be- ing separated politically by a quirk of history, we are still one. We share the same language, culture, cus- toms and traditions, and most im- portant of all we're linked by blood," Muliagatele Jean Malifa said. When asked what underlines the success of the growing Samoa Ob- server Newspaper Group, the own- ers say they knew their market and totally focus on their niche. In their case at they are at home in the two Samoas and in the growing Samoan communities overseas. They also emphasize strong, credible local news coverage with fearless inves- tigative reporting readers can't get elsewhere. The Malifas' latest news- paper launch, the five-day-a-week American Samoa Tribune, began printing late in January on a four- unit Harris they set-up at their new American Samoan headquarters. The New Zealand Samoa Observer is being printed on a six-unit Har- ris at their New Zealand headquar- ters in South Auckland. It contains a mix of coverage from back in the Samoas and from the big Samoan community in New Zealand. All three newspapers are tabloid size and bilingual, with content in both English and Samoan. All share their stories. A pool of coverage of Samoa, American Samoa and the Samoan community in New Zealand is there for each paper to choose from. The Malifas took two important steps as they planned their expansion, after building the Samoa Observer from a small weekly to a flourishing daily. First, they brought in experi- enced Fiji newspaper and maga- zine editor, Peter Lomas, as their training and development editor. Lomas has close links with Samoa that began in the 1970s and is a longtime friend of the Malifas. He now looks after the daily Samoa Observer in Samoa. This is so the Malifas can concentrate on de- veloping their new papers in New Zealand and American Samoa, and look at further expansion into other Samoan overseas markets. Austral- ia, which has a fast growing Samo- an community, might be next. Sec- ond, the Malifas bought from APN all 10 refurbished Harris units that printed the Wairarapa Times-Age before printing was shifted from Masterton to Wanganui. Six units and a folder went to Auckland and four units and folder to American Samoa. The Malifas had built the Ob- server from a small weekly first put together on a kitchen table in 1978. It was started after Savea quit Samoa's then main newspaper, the weekly Samoa Times, where he was a journalist. He had become frus- trated at what he saw as censor- ship being imposed by that paper's businessmen owners. The Samoa Times has long disappeared. It was unable to match the public sup- port for the fearless investigative journalism the Malifas made the Samoa Observer famous for. However, it has not been easy. In the 1990s their printing plant and newsroom were burnt down and they faced legal threats and physical violence because of their regular exposure of corruption. Their courageous newspapering was recognised with public sup- port and in a series of international awards. These included the Com- monwealth Press Union (CPU) As- tor Award and Savea in 2000 being named by the International Press Institute (IPI) as one of the 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the past50 years. Both Savea and Muliaga have been awarded the Pacific Islands News Association Pacific Media Freedom Award. Today, thanks to the battles for freedom of expression and informa- tion they fought back in the 1990s, Samoa has one of the most free and fastest developing news media in the Pacific Islands. And their Samoa Observer Group is showing there is still plenty of life left in newspapers. Especially when they have owners prepared to invest in and constantly support strong local journalism in the public interest. 12 | PANPA BULLETIN February 2006 NEWS Five-day-a-week bilingual American Samoa Tribune the second new newspaper launched by the Samoa Observer Newspaper Group within a year. Savea Sano Malifa (left), editor-in-chief of the Samoa Observer Newspaper Group. Muliaga Jean Malifa (far left), publisher of the Samoa Observer Newspaper Group. New Samoan Daily launched How do you develop new newspapers in an age where doomsayers predict their demise? Samoan owners Savea Sano and Muliagatele Jean Malifa have a simple but successful formula writes Nina Ratulele