Thursday, March 17, 2005

To Print, or Not to Print?

I’ve finally re-jump-started my writing, in part because of being on the blog. In doing so, I’m a little more conscious of the power of the arts.

A couple of days ago, a small article in my office’s copy of the Bangkok Post caught my eye, about a maid being beaten by her employer… in Penang. Actually it was just a color picture, with a caption. Not exactly worthy of being called international news, now is it. Thai-Malaysian relations have not been particularly cordial recently, what with comments on the situation in the south of Thailand, and this is one of the byproducts.

I think that it’s these small articles, the pictures with just little enough information for people to make their own assumptions, that really show the power of print. In a way, it’s more influential than front page news – you don’t need to quote or confirm sources, and you don’t need to honor a right of reply, since the real target is not named.

Is it warranted? Sure, it is. The comments south of the border have been for own local popularity, not for any real concern for people here. Is it unprovoked? Hardly; many of the articles on Thailand are about prostitution and the incidents of the south.

But in the end, journalists and editors have a choice – however justified public resentment is, the decision as to whether to fan that resentment, or displace it.

The truth is more complex than most will admit; it can be a weapon as much as it is something of virtue, but perhaps the real issue is beyond issues of truth and politics, that papers print what people want to buy.

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