Vol. V No. 33 - Saturday August 12, - August 18, 2006
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Responsible journalism?

Responsible journalism?

Dear Sir,
I wonder if you read The Nation newspaper on Wednesday 2nd Aug? The front-page headline reads: “Unprecedented floods devastate Chiang Mai”. Although I live less than 500 metres from the river and have a business in the Night Bazaar I was unaware of such devastation. All I saw was a small section of the Chiang Mai - Lamphun Road closed between Nawarat Bridge and the new Iron Bridge. Here the water was ankle deep, which was depicted in the photo on page 5 of the paper. The picture on the front page was of flooding in Hang Dong, but since it is an aerial photo it is difficult to determine how deep the flood-water is. Either way, the recent flood was nowhere near the level of last year’s.
The smaller heading was: “tourism in tatters”. This presumably refers to the fact that the train link was cut due to flooding in the neighbouring province of Lampang.
Last year we had the worst flooding for forty or fifty years and by definition they were not unprecedented. By comparison the flooding so far this year was minimal, and the inconvenience for tourists was equally small.
Okay, so they may have used a bit of poetic license, so what’s the problem? The problem is that front page headlines like this mean that thousands of tourists that would have come to Chiang Mai will cancel their trip and go elsewhere. Also, every taxi driver, tour guide and man on the street in Bangkok will inform anyone headed for Chiang Mai that it is flooded, and they will continue to do so for the next two or three weeks. Bad news makes the headlines but “Chiang Mai returns to normal” doesn’t, so people continue deterring visitors from Chiang Mai for weeks because they are unaware that things are back to normal.
Sensationalist stories may well sell papers, but they can have a bearing on peoples livelihood. Chiang Mai truly suffered last year and needs a good tourist season this year to help it recover. The Nation should think twice before scaring off the tourists unnecessarily. More stories about the inaction on flood-prevention would be much more worthwhile, and if they were short of a good front-page headline for Wednesday, what was wrong with “South hit by 70 attacks”?
Chiang Mai

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