#105 TESTING TIMES (UPDATED 8/7)

Fiji Times and stable papers

UPDATE -RESPONSE FROM DR MARC EDGE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION:

You have to wonder what is going at the Fiji Times when its senior reporters write blatant commercials masquerading as news. How else to explain the piece below by Verenaisi Raicola extolling the virtues of the Cozmo Lounge in Suva? At the very least, this puffiest of puff pieces should have been heavily labeled as an advertisement or advertorial. But it appears on the FT’s website in the general news columns.

Editor Fred Wesley has some questions to answer about this. Did the owners of Cozmo Lounge pay the Fiji Times to write a story about it? Or is the FT receiving any other consideration from the business? Leaving aside any media regulations that might pertain to instances like this, it’s a blatant breach of normal journalistic practice.

Verenaisi Raicola covering real news with John Howard (Photo: Linkedin)

It’s not the first time it’s happened. Readers are still to receive any explanation of the circumstances of another blatant plug in the FT for an apartment complex at Suva Point.  We highlighted this in a previous posting, in which we also asked for an explanation from the subject of the article – Dr Marc Edge, the Head of the School of Journalism at the University of the South Pacific. Dr Edge – who was extolling the virtues of where he lived in superlative terms – has declined to respond to our questions about what he or the Fiji Times received from the owners in return. It’s an extraordinary stance – we think -for a journalist educator whose job it is to instill proper media ethics.

And guess who the reporter was on that one? Yes, Verenaisi Raicola. Is this merely coincidence or is Raicola now the dedicated advertorial reporter on the Fiji Times? It’s not as if she’s incapable of doing hard news. She’s a senior writer who’s covered many of the country’s most important events so she should know one or two things about ethics. Time was when the Fiji Times became famous for “skirt journalism”, for two of its female reporters (not Raicola) becoming romantically involved with successive prime ministers and gaining pillow-talk scoops as a result. The Fiji Times did nothing to stop this at the time but surely it learned something from the damage caused to its reputation. If Raicola is doing these promotional “stories” off her own bat, she should stop. But the fact that it sailed through the editorial process and was published suggests it’s more likely to be a case of the management compromising the reputation of one of its more talented writers by assigning her abject pap.

Fiji Times GM Hank Arts ( left) with Frank Bainimarama (Photo: Fiji Govt)

It would never have happened under News Limited – the previous owner –  but according to sources working there, the Motibhais who took over have little concept of media ethics and regard newspapers as just another business. The Fiji Times is not a happy ship, according to these sources, with reports of tension between its general manager, Hank Arts, and the editorial and production teams. Perhaps the “Cozmo Lounge affair” explains why – a lack of appreciation of the need to keep the business separate from what goes in the news pages. There are two “clarifications” also published today, which also suggests lapses in the editorial process. The readers of Fiji’s most venerable paper – the country’s  journal of record for 143 years – deserve better.

 FIJI’S NEWEST AND COOLEST BAR

 Verenaisi Raicola
 Thursday, July 05, 2012

 ITS ideal location, sleek furniture, cool atmosphere and exquisite interior makes Cozmo Lounge Fiji’s newest, coolest and trendiest spot. Yes! Cozmo Lounge in Tappoo City is available for special events.

Planning a launch, press conference, birthday or even a small party? Cozmo Lounge, a non-smoking bar can meet all your event needs with its 200 standing capacity, 120 sitting capacity for dinner parties, finger foods, delicious meals from the restaurants, great music, soothing atmosphere, excellent customer service, a fourth-storey view overlooking the Suva harbor, and the breathtaking sunrise across the ocean.

Cozmo Lounge is intimate and ideal for family drinks or even that special date with only your loved one. The lounge which opened in September last year is one of the top hot spots for friends and colleagues wanting to enjoy a few cocktails, alcohol and beverages over good music and a great atmosphere after a hard day’s work….or for those simply wanting to catch up.

Their wine list is accomplished, interesting and approachable and they also have a good selection of local and imported spirits and cocktails.

They have great happy hour specials from 12 noon to 6:30pm daily. On weekends, there is a 25 per cent price off on all their wines and hard liquor. Every month, Cozmo Lounge holds a barrel night that is like no other. Customers are treated to top class, professional service as they get their drinks served to them. Sports fanatics need not worry about missing out on that much-anticipated rugby, football, league or tennis match with the huge screen television.

Cozmo Lounge takes customer care very seriously and all their staff have weekly training to better equip themselves with the skills they need to keep customers content.

Cozmo Lounge in Suva City is a bar scene, offering fantastic service, great value wine and food in a sweet, laidback setting. They open from 12 noon to 7pm on Sundays, 12 noon to 9pm from Mondays to Wednesdays and 12 noon to 10pm from Thursdays to Saturdays.

UPDATE JULY 6th: And here’s another piece by Verenaisi extolling the virtues of a Mexican food outlet written in the same breathless PR style. Looks like it’s part of an arrangement to promote businesses in TappooCity, Suva’s newest retail complex.