The content in this page ("Balanced Reporting" by Harrison George) is not produced by Prachatai staff. Prachatai merely provides a platform, and the opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of Prachatai.

Balanced Reporting

The Scene: The interrogation room in a Bangkok police station

So I suppose you know why we’ve brought you here.

No, not really.  You haven’t told us anything, no arrest warrant, no charge, nothing.

Listen up, sonny boy.  Less of this talk about warrants and charges.  You’re a journalist, not a lawyer.  Do you not read your own news?  New order under the Emergency Decree.  Spreading news designed to cause fear and corrupt public morals and all that.

What?  What are you talking about?

Well, for starters, yesterday you reported that Thailand had 178 Covid deaths.

So?  We just reported the government’s own figures.  That’s an offence now?

It is if it causes fear.  Did that number of deaths make you afraid, sergeant?

Absolutely terrified, sir.

There you go.  Case closed.

But, but, are you going to arrest the government people who gave us those figures?  Those doctors on TV every night? 

Nothing to do with you, sunshine.  They’re government.  That’s different.

So we can’t report deaths from Covid because your sergeant gets frightened?

Not just like that you can’t, no.  But there is a way you could have done it and saved yourself a lot of trouble.

What way?

Minister Chaiwut explained it all for you.  You can’t just talk about the negative.  You have to include the positive as well.

The positive?  What’s positive about 178 Covid deaths?

Look, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but if you insist on reporting how many people have died of Covid, scaring the life out of our poor sergeant here, then why don’t you also report on how many people haven’t died of Covid?  Balanced reporting, see?

What?  How many people haven’t died of Covid?

I dunno.  You’re the reporter, you should find out yourself. 

But people not dying of Covid isn’t news.  They didn’t die of heart attacks, or cancer, either.  It’s not news to say ‘Most Thais stayed alive today.’ 

Perhaps not, but it doesn’t scare people.  Does it scare you, Sergeant?

No, sir, very reassuring in fact.

That’s what you want in the news, is it?  Most people didn’t die yesterday.  There is stuff in the shops.  The weather was alright just about everywhere.  Almost everyone escaped from dying in a traffic accident.

Ah, now you could have used that.

What?

Traffic deaths.  The numbers have gone down something shocking.

I know.  We’ve reported it. 

But you put it somewhere on the bottom of page 7.  Did that make you feel happier, Sarge?

No, sir, I never read past page 1.  My lips get tired and my finger gets sore.

Look, if Covid deaths are up but traffic deaths are down, there’s your balance.  You could get away with that.

What?  So we write ‘Yesterday 178 people died of Covid, but in other news, the number who died in traffic accidents went down’?

No, no.  You just don’t get it, do you?  The other way round.  Front page banner headline ‘Road fatalities sink to unprecedented low – well done Traffic Police.’

It’s nothing to do with the police.  It’s because of the lockdown and curfew.

Tut-tut.  There you go again, bringing in the negative.  Your front page is traffic deaths and your Covid stuff is at the bottom of page 7.

You are joking.

In small font.  Maybe with a few words written in farang.  What do you do when you see an article with farang words in it, Sergeant?

Oh, I never look at it, sir.  Being a true Thai, I never bother with that farang stuff. 

There, you see.  Nobody’s scared, the Minister is happy, and we don’t have to take away your internet access.  Take him down.

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