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Phuket Opinion: Legacy of accuracy in black and white

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: With advances in information technology in recent years, much has been said about the “inevitable” demise of print media.

Few among us would deny that we are living in a time of breathtaking change in the way news is delivered, consumed and shared.

Copyright laws are becoming virtually unenforceable in our global world, and the new reality is that just about anyone can download and re-publish digital information with little more fear of adverse consequences than might arise from running a red light on the streets of Phuket.

As one aging social commentator comically portrayed the new status quo: “I remember a time when water was free and we had to pay for pornography.”

On a more serious note, it is important to remember that all technologies can be double-edged swords.

As the great Daniel Dennett so perfectly phrased it: “We used to think that secrecy was perhaps the greatest enemy of democracy, and as long as there was no suppression or censorship, people could be trusted to make the informed decisions that would preserve our free society, but we have learned in recent years that the techniques of misinformation and misdirection have become so refined that, even in an open society, a cleverly directed flood of misinformation can overwhelm the truth, even though the truth is out there, uncensored, quietly available to anyone who can find it.”

Multimedia organizations such as the Phuket Gazette are faced with numerous risks and challenges, many of which are not always well understood by readers. Producing accurate and informative news stories is difficult and sometimes dangerous work that involves a great deal of effort and expense.

Threats of lawsuits are an ever-present danger in Thailand, where freedom of the press laws are relatively weak. As a result, the expression “when in doubt, cut it out” is the mantra used in most newsrooms.

Some social media enthusiasts are quick to brand the print media as a tree-killing industry headed for extinction. However, the very real need for media companies to maintain accuracy might just turn out to be a saving grace for news providers.

Those who are quick to put trust in online-only ‘news outlets’ and social media, none of which require a license to publish in Thailand, should consider the case of the “Worst Twerk Ever – Girl Catches Fire” video that recently appeared on YouTube. A few weeks after “going viral”, it was revealed as a hoax.

We have certainly come a long way since the Dark Ages, when dogma, blind faith and intimidation trumped curiosity, skepticism and reason. The downside is that parents these days face a daunting challenge in teaching their children the information literacy skills needed to survive in this digital revolution.

Whatever those skills may be, the Gazette remains fully committed to serving as the oldest and most trusted source of English-language news and information in the South of Thailand.

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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