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John Drinnan is a Herald business writer and media commentator

Media: Ihimaera plagiarism row has a few chapters left

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Witi Ihimaera says he will buy back remaining copies of the book. Photo / Richard Robinson
Witi Ihimaera says he will buy back remaining copies of the book. Photo / Richard Robinson

The literary establishment and Auckland University are taking Witi Ihimaera's plagiarism in their stride.

Amid the storm over The Trowenna Sea, they appear to be treating it as an irritating disturbance they'd like to say is not so important.

Ihimaera was even named an arts laureate by the New Zealand Arts Foundation for his lifetime work. There are no plans to delve further with plagiarism checks on Trowenna Sea or other works to close the issue.

Tomorrow, the New Zealand Listener - in which reviewer Jolisa Gracewood broke the story two weeks ago with examples of plagiarised content - reveals more unattributed lines in The Trowenna Sea from other people's work.

It is not clear whether these have been acknowledged by Ihimaera.

The latest Listener quotes Margaret Soltan, a professor of English at George Washington University in Washington DC, who criticises Ihimaera.

But she mostly criticises Auckland University, where Ihimaera is a distinguished professor and lecturer.

She says the university has too-readily accepted the author's word that the plagiarism was inadvertent.

"Pretending it did not happen is the sort of thing a very provincial university will do," she says.

Yesterday, author C.K. Stead criticised the university for minimising the Ihimaera plagiarism controversy, and said it would reflect badly on it until professors acknowledged the seriousness of the situation.

Ihimaera said this week he would buy back the remaining copies of the book.

A revised edition of The Trowenna Sea will be published next year, with a new section explaining the background and making full acknowledgement to writers whose work is drawn on.

Penguin Group general manager of marketing Sandra Lees said Penguin "had done the right thing by the book and the author by withdrawing the book".

Asked why Penguin had not picked up the plagiarism during its own publishing processes - using expert advice - she said that for fiction it would be very tough for anybody, unless they were intimate with the author's previous works.

"For us to do that for every title would cost us a lot of money to run through [computer] plagiarism programmes."

Penguin New Zealand publishing director Geoff Walker sought to draw a line under the affair.

"Sorry mate. I have no wish to revisit this now - this is days old."

Asked whether there would be checks for plagiarism in Ihimaera's other works - he has said himself the The Trowenna Sea plagiarism was inadvertent - Walker said there would be none.

"The books have been published in the past and that is the way it has been, I am not saying anything about them.

"No, we have not pulled out all of Witi Ihimaera's books and subjected them to a plagiarism check," he said.

Yet complete checks on the past work for people found to have plagiarised material is exactly what other publishers - including Radio New Zealand, the Herald on Sunday and the New Zealand Herald - have done when there have been plagiarism allegations against writers.

ROCKY PATH

Advertising sources say a "charismatic" foreigner is a frontrunner for one of the top jobs at Saatchi & Saatchi. There has been no word on negotiations between chief executive Andrew Stone (aka Rocky) and executive creative director Mike O'Sullivan (Mike O) to leave the agency, many believe to set up their own after a period of gardening leave.

It is understood that former Saatchi managing director Cindy Mitchener - who has had a consultant's role as liaison with key client Telecom - has been approached, but she says that she is happy in her new venture as a partner with Martin Gillman at media strategists MG Com.

There has also been talk in the industry about closer ties between the creative departments of Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis Mojo - both are part of the French advertising group Publicis but they have developed independently and have very different cultures.

The scale of the top jobs for Saatchi means that global president Kevin Roberts will look offshore. The "charismatic" person has already been in talks.

BREW-HA-HA

Ogilvy advertising creative Damon O'Leary has taken umbrage over a Weekend Herald article - written by yours truly - that credits O'Sullivan for the Tui ads featuring a brewery staffed by women.

He acknowledges O'Sullivan was creative director at the time but "The Tui television commercials 'Brucetta', and 'A river runs through it' were devised and created and written by myself and Basil Christensen.

"The idea of gorgeous girls running the factory because men could not be trusted was ours - not Mike's.

"Yes, he selected that script, from a number of others. But the idea was ours. It annoys me that you gave Mike credit for what in fact was our idea. It was not 'classic Mike O fare' - it was classic Damon O'Leary and Basil Christensen fare."

For the record I stand by the Mike O credit. With limited space you judge creative directors by an agency's creative output. It's the old story - success has many parents.

SKY'S COSY HUDDLE

Sky Television's directive for rugby commentators and producers to refrain from criticising the New Zealand Rugby Union shows the dangers of an overly cosy relationship between the code and the monopoly rights holder.

The directive was publicised last week when Murray Mexted said he had been suspended over his comments criticising the decision to cull four teams from the Air NZ Cup.

The Rugby Union said he had not been suspended, and criticised media coverage. But this year Sky was criticised for appearing to bow to pressure from Indian cricket's governing body, changing plans to use Craig McMillan as a commentator when the BCCI kicked up a fuss about his "rebel" Indian Cricket League links.

The Sky directive and other comments suggest the "whatever you say boss" approach used to secure sporting rights has subverted the role of independent commentators.

Sky and the Rugby Union are both matter of fact about their aligned interests in promoting the sport.

To be fair, people subscribed for the games not the industry politics.

The union acknowledges there are passionate debates about off-field aspects of the game and insists it only intervenes to clarify situations.

But what are the arrangements with the Rugby World Cup? Are broadcasters also banned from criticising the International Rugby Board?

IS IT EDITORIAL ...

Public relations consultant Claudia MacDonald of Mango public relations has noticed an increase in the number of magazines that link editorial coverage with advertising spend. The issue of preferential treatment being given to advertisers who get their stories published, or comments sought, over and above non-advertisers is not new, she said.

"But it is more prevalent. It used to be pretty much the norm for many trade magazines but has started to creep into consumer publications and even television. Newspapers were the last bastion that rejected that option."

MacDonald says her concerns are that it risks devaluing both editorial and advertising in the eyes of the consumer. However, it's not unusual for the Mango consultants to get a "how about taking some advertising" response from media when pitching stories, the implication being that it would help.

... OR AN AD?

The subject came up when MacDonald mentioned a conversation with HB Media - the publishers of Idealog and the Stop Press website - in which MacDonald said she was told that if she wanted editorial coverage she should place an advertisement. Idealog editor Matt Cooney said there was no policy linking editorial coverage with advertising support at HB Media, and never has been. Editorial director Vincent Heeringa said: "We do indeed produce advertorial and are proud of how we have broken the mould of how it's done."

- NZ Herald

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