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In a changing media climate that has gone from radio, newspapers and TV to the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and digital TV, it is interesting to learn how and why veteran journalists use social media and study their tricks for attracting up to 20K followers.

Organized by Media Inside Out on May 26, 2015, the media café discussion on “Veteran journalists in the world of new media” was joined by three senior journalists, namely Sermsuk Kasitipradit, editor of New TV, Attukit Sawangsuk, senior editor at Voice TV, and Nithinand Yorsaengrat, senior journalist and advisor at Matichon TV & Matichon Online.  The discussion was moderated by Pinpaka Ngamsom, editor of Prachatai.

“I do not concern about followers.  They are interested in the news I post,” says Sermsuk Kasitipradit, editor of New TV, who presently has 27,000 followers.  The reason he started using FaceBook are to talk with friends, to share news, and sometimes to give comments.  In the beginning he posted about news on Preah Vihear Temple dispute. “I was the only Thai journalist who kept a close eye on the news and was present in the final ruling at the International Court.  People in Thailand wished to know what happened there.” 

Share news and get informed

Although not all of his followers share his political stance, talking with followers on FB may lead to some news sources and information, Sermsuk adds.  “A friend of mine, who follows news on the southern Thailand insurgency issue, is a soldier using his penname. Having been friends for quite a long time, I have got very useful information from him. And even now I still do not know his real name.”      

For senior editor at Voice TV Attukit Sawangsuk, Facebook is a way to promote his work, challenge the authority, and share nude pictures.  Unlike Sermsuk, he is not a field reporter. Most of his posts are commentaries. “I started posting on FB because I wanted to promote my commentaries, which I got paid for by Voice TV,” says the sharp-witted columnist, aka “Bai Tong Haeng”, who writes for several media.

Promote works and challenge authority

“Initially, I did not post regularly. But since the May 22 Coup last year, I have had more time so I have posted every day to make ironic statements/jokes on politics.  Followers are those who do not like the NCPO (National Council for Peace and Order). I just want to see how far I can challenge (the NCPO),” adds the editor.  

Alternative to political comments, Attukit also posts erotic pictures on his FB. “Interestingly, there are fewer people who like nude posts than people who like my comments on the NCPO issues,” he observes.  

“I do not copy others.  And I have found that people do not like long comments so I try to write short but captivating ones instead,” notes Attukit, whose FB draws more than 24,000 followers.

Speakers, from left, Nithinand Yorsaengrat,Attukit Sawangsuk,Sermsuk Kasitipradit,Pinpaka Ngamsom

Discuss on politics and on soft side of life         

Meanwhile Nithinand Yorsaengrat, advisor at Matichon TV and Matichon Online, uses new media not only as public space for sharing news but also as private space.  For public space, she started using new media by blogging to express opinions when she worked for the Nation newspaper.  Because of her different political stance from the paper, she got chewed out and felt uneasy that the organization would be affected.  These days the Matichon TV advisor regularly shares news not only from Matichon, and makes academic-oriented comments on political and social issues, attracting more than 5,300 followers.   

For private space, Nithinand posts about lifestyle issues such as pets and weather by setting a FB page as a private group.  “When I write about dogs, and weather, many people also like them,” she adds, believing that people do not always read hard news all the time.   

“Faster” means “more mistakes”?

“On the one hand, with intense pressure for speed, all media compete to be the first who offer news. On the other hand, they also compete to make mistakes. What are your views on this phenomenon and what should be done to solve this problem?” asks moderator Pinpaka Ngamsom. 

“Newspapers are produced on a daily basis.  For radio, it is hour-to-hour reporting. When I worked for a radio station, I made a major mistake, predicting the death of the late Buddhadasa Bhikkhu,” Attukit admits.  Now, for minute-to-minute online news reporting, mistakes generally occur, he says.

However, Attukit is not saying that young generation reporters are that bad.  “The point is in the past, we have more time to think and write for newspapers but now for online news reporting, they tend to ignore background of news. This, unintendedly, leads to “drama” (dramatic) reporting, focusing on pinpointing “villians” in news,” he criticizes.  He cites an example of a story by Daily News Newspaper, covering the displaced Rohingya people in Thailand requesting for X-rated movies.   

“Get it first or get it right?” is always a challenge, adds Nithinand. “It is better to be five minutes late and get it right,” she insists.  

“What we lack are right judgement and fact-finding,” Attukit points out.  “An example is a report about an abbot attacked by a tiger. When I saw the picture of the injured abbot, I wondered because the wound should be more severe. Another example is news about whales having sex and dying.  When they rival to get it first, these things (right judgement and fact-finding) disappear,” he observes.    

“A weak point in Thai media is that senior journalists do not go out for field reporting,” Sermsuk adds, “They send young reporters, unlike BBC and Aljazeera which send experienced reporters.”

No Partisan Journalists in the Past

Another noteworthy phenomenon in Thai media is young generation reporters take sides, which would have never happened in the past, says Attukit. “Some cover military affairs news become their mouthpieces while others cover the Democrat Party news, and become the Democrat Party’s mouthpieces. More recently, a report covering news about the draft constitution (under the junta government) reported the news with a gleeful voice.”  

“In the past, don’t journalists take side?” asks Pinpaka.

“No. We did not have reporters like Wassana Nanuam, who covers military affairs news only. Older generation journalists know all parties and are not rooted deeply in any particular groups.  Sending reporters to stick to particular ministries without circulation is a problem we need to beware of," warns Attukit.

Veteran journalists in the world of new media