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Panpa Bulletin : March 2007
38 PANPA Bulletin March 2007 people New owner plans to rejuvenate NZ Truth Sol Lebovic, chairman of Australia's Newspoll, is leaving the organisation of which he was the founding managing director. Lebovic held the position of manag- ing director of Newspoll, a joint venture between News Limited and Yann Campbell Hoare Wheeler (now known as Millward Brown Australia), from its formation in 1985 until he took the chair in 2005. In a parting tribute, Newspoll chief executive officer Martin O'Shannessy said the organisation, which helps shape much of Australia's national agenda by accurately measuring public opinion, would not be in its position without Lebovic's tireless work over nearly 22 years. "Under his leadership the company has grown from humble beginnings to become Australia's pre-eminent opinion polling company and leading market research Omnibus provider," he said. "I speak for all of us who have benefited from Sol's eye for research perfection and infinite patience when I say that he will be missed." News Limited chairman and chief execu- tive officer John Hartigan said Sol's dedica- tion to, and success in his 35-year-career, had been remarkable. Lebovic graduated from Sydney University in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts, with majors in pure maths, statistics and a minor in psychology. After university he began his career with a research consultancy as a market and media researcher. In 1973 he joined News Limited, becoming research manager four years later. In 1981 he was appointed group mar- keting services manager and, as well as being responsible for the research require- ments of the entire News Limited group, was also involved in the marketing of the company's products. In addition to his role at News Limited, Lebovic was elected chairman of the research committee of the Australian Magazine Publishers' Association in 1983 and was heavily involved in many im- provements then made in reader research in Australia. In 1985 he moved from News Limited to establish Newspoll. By Warren Page The new owner of NZ Truth intends to rejuvenate the country's oldest weekly by ensuring the powerless get a fair go. Rejuvenation will be editorially and reader driven, insists Dermott Malley, head of a group who bought the 102-year-old weekly for an undisclosed sum from Fairfax Media. When circulation picks up advertis- ers will be welcome to take advantage of increasing readership, Malley says. But, he does not want to have his advertising peo- ple asking to stop publication of stories that may be damaging to a particular advertiser and their spending with NZ Truth. Malley is a Hawke's Bay businessman with a publishing background that includes the National Business Review, The New Zealand Gardener and some Auckland free local newspapers. Malley told the PANPA Bulletin that he wants NZ Truth to return to its earlier hey day campaigning for powerless men and women, the "little guys", receiving a fair go from powerful bureaucracies and business. Sex and scandal used to be part of the old NZ Truth editorial package too, especially in the days when juicy divorce court proceed- ings could be reported. When asked about this part of the week- ly's earlier success Malley says, "We are not going to write about the sex industry and drugs." He believes that those subjects have been written to exhaustion by the Fairfax media. Sex though plays a part in everyday life and so will not be out of bounds for the new NZ Truth. Business plans include a thorough review of content, design, layout and paper stock and launching of a promotion campaign. Existing staff, including the acting editor, will be given the opportunity to switch to the new ownership. But the new owners are also keen to receive stories from freelancers and commission writers. Malley believes NZ Truth would benefit by linking and inter-facing with the rest of the media. He admits that NZ Truth circulation has been bleeding profusely. He has to. Circulation dropped by 17.8 per cent to 12,546 net average sales for the year-on year results to the end of September, 2006, the latest figures available. But, he says that drop is not entirely due to readers' decisions. Since Fairfax took over NZ Truth as part of the Independent Newspapers Ltd empire in 2002, says Malley, nothing had been done to promote the weekly and in that time so many stories had gone to the "Sundays". At time of interview, February 22 was to be the first of NZ Truth editions to be pub- lished by the new owners. Improvements will not come overnight Malley predicts but, he says, the newspaper has a great name. "This is a paper that survived simply be- cause it refused to die," said Malley, a man obviously determined to provide new life and resources for NZ Truth. Lebovic leaves Newspoll New NZ Truth owner Dermot Malley