In his book Flat Earth News*, Nick Davies outlines some of the problems afflicting the media industry: the conversion of newspapers into primarily commercial operations means that (as was a leitmotif in the fifth series of The Wire) there is a need to ‘do more with less’ and this means journalists are under pressure to produce copy more and more rapidly. As a result, the quality of the stories produced declines as there are fewer opportunities to check facts and impart judgment – on the other hand, there has grown a public relations industry (including PR functions for large organizations, scientific journals, political parties – just about every organized part of society) determined to produce copy of its own which can be cut and pasted directly into the paper.
To all of this may be added the problem of the internet – as dozens of newspapers close across Europe and the USA, more and more people expect to obtain their news via the internet and for free. I can, for example, access all the content from the Bangkok Post and The Nation for free (which is about all it is worth in the case of The Nation these days) – although I still subscribe to the print edition of the Bangkok Post, presumably many people do not. Almost certainly, therefore, at a time of economic crisis, papers are going to reduce costs or else face going bust.**
So the question is, given the problems that the media in Thailand already face (improperly trained journalists, culture of deference, self-censorship, fear of draconian laws and so forth) and combine them with these new constraining factors, will we ever get a decent newspaper in the Kingdom? It seems not.
* More information about these subjects is also available at the website of the same name, which is here.
** Assuming, that is, that no one can work out a reliable and profitable method of charging people for web access to news and preventing cross-linking, copying and so forth. Despite Rupert Murdoch’s attempts to try to do this, the prospects at the moment do not seem to me at least to be slender at best/