Journalism's duty of quality

Journalism's duty of quality

As the #NationBusted hashtag circulated online on March 20 following widespread criticism about Nation TV's broadcasting of a doctored audio clip, The Nation newspaper did not attempt to play down the story the following day. Neither did it bury the story for the sake of saving the face of its sister media house. Instead, it carried the story on the front page of its print edition.

Reporting on Nation TV's airing of the clip, which was altered to mislead the audience into thinking that it was a conversation between ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra and Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the paper referred to its sister outlet as "a right-leaning TV station".

Running the story on its front-page was a statement in itself that the paper wanted to remain independent. Sadly, The Nation will publish its last print edition on June 28 when it turns 48.

The decision came after the paper's owners, Nation Multimedia Group, said they were hoping to halt the paper's financial losses by focusing more on its online version.

Established in 1971, The Nation has been an arch-rival of the Bangkok Post. The rivalry between Thailand's two leading English-language national dailies had meant that there was a variety of news reports and opinions offered to the country's expat and English-speaking population.

Like many other Thai media outlets, The Nation has experienced ups and down financially and editorially. After a long period of prosperity in the 1980s and early 1990s, the paper's revenue took a serious hit as a result of the 1997 financial crisis. However, the paper was able to weather that financial storm.

Over the years, the paper has demonstrated fearless reporting, especially in crusading against the Thaksin Shinawatra administrations which were accused of abusing power prior to the 2006 coup that toppled his second government. However, as the anti-Thaksin sentiment among conservative Thais rose to extreme levels, some of the reporting by the paper become biased and unfair.

After one of its co-founders, Suthichai Yoon, left the paper following a takeover in January last year, the paper underwent an editorial facelift under the leadership of the new managing editor, Supalak Ganjanakhundee. With a small team of editorial staff, the paper was able to make its front-page stories and editorials interesting and insightful reads again, even though the rest of its content has been minimal in volume.

The shutdown of The Nation's print edition was seen by many as inevitable. Many newspapers in Thailand and abroad face similar fates as consumers increasingly prefer to read news through digital platforms. Earlier, the Bangkok Post's two sister publications, Post Today and M2F, also stopped printing with the former only keeping its online version.

But the shutdown of the Nation's print edition may matter less than how the paper will transform itself into only a digital media outlet. As Simon Kelner, former editor of the UK's The Independent put it following the closure of the paper's print edition and its transition to a digital platform in 2016: It doesn't matter whether journalism appears as a printed product or digitally online.

"What matters is the sort of free-thinking, independent, unbiased, quality journalism that has been the hallmark of The Independent throughout its life survives," he said. That should prove to be the same for The Nation. Its print edition may soon be gone, but the paper will still have to strive to maintain what it and its readers perceive as its core values.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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