IHT ThaiDay: “Stop the Presses, The Presses Have Stopped”

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Blowback? “Uncertainty clouds future of” Sondhi’s flagship Anglophone Asian “innovation journalism” title and “this is not a strategic content alliance” Times-Mirror business partner, August 2006.

In such a “me or them” national atmosphere, there are two extremely opposite scenarios to ponder. One is of a valiant media up against a corrupt, powerful leader who manages to twist, distort and manipulate in order to make himself look like a victim. The other involves a malicious, powerful and self-pitying media that manages to twist, distort and manipulate in a bid to overthrow a democratically elected leader while making itself look like a victim.The Nation (Thailand), May 3, 2006.

C G Am
And I don’t know who killed who
Dm Am
I’m having a sex change
G C F
To a woman who loves too much
C G
My sister’s a petty thief

–John Hiatt, “Shredding the Document”

“I am a gay American.”–Hon. James McGreevey, former governor of New Jersey, responding to corruption accusations with one of the most startling non sequiturs in the history of American political discourse

The notion that Sondhi is, not a failed “media mogul,” but rather a “crusading journalist” and global hero of Soviet Press Freedom, has some definite McGreeveyist overtones to it, I am beginning to think.

From IHT ThaiDay: The editor in chief of the International Herald Tribune‘s “this is not one of our featured content alliances,” the flagship daily of the Manager Group, writes wistfully on August 31, 2007 that the paper is at some risk of not continuing to thrive and grow.

Its founder, Mr. Limthongkul — whose son is the Thai Day CEO — had stood up at a February 2006 rally and screamed for the patriotic, king-and-country-loving armed forces to take the current prime minister — who refused to bail the debt-saddled media group out of gargantuan debts in 2002 — out and execute his sorry ass.

Editor in chief Paisal Sricharatchanya was the bearer of the sad tidings:

Under normal circumstances, ThaiDay would have continued to thrive and grow into the newspaper of choice for the English-language readership in Thailand.

In a market traditionally dominated by newspapers that either toe the establishment line or opt for the other extreme of sensationalism, we were confident that our mature and insightful coverage of the major stories of the day would enable us to carve a niche from which we could continue to grow.

Indeed, the fact that total sales of the International Herald Tribune plus ThaiDay package has roughly doubled since ThaiDay’s launch last June proves that our conviction was right – there will always be room for quality journalism in this growing market.

But unfortunately, these are abnormal times and we have had to operate under abnormal circumstances.

The well-known fact that Khun Sondhi Limthongkul, founder of the Manager Media Group which owns ThaiDay and chairman of this newspaper’s editorial board, has been spearheading a crusade to oust the caretaker prime minister, Pol Lt-Col Thaksin Shinawatra, has resulted in credit lines for the Group being cut, bank overdraft facilities being withdrawn and advertisements for Group publications being pulled.

Cut by whom?

Pulled by whom?

The passive voice is often the first recourse of a not especially resourceful journalistic scoundrel — or sometimes also, of someone with a gun to their head, literally or figuratively speaking.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it: Fact-check thoroughly and rewrite this paragraph in the active voice, giving names, dates, and stated reasons.

Who did what to whom here, when, and why?

The financial well-being of this newspaper and its staff have inevitably suffered.

In other words, the owner of this newspaper bet the farm on a single roll of the dice — on an astroturf “emergent social movement” not unlike the “Cansei “movement” here in Brazil — like a sucker, and lost it all?

So instead of continuing to struggle through such cloudy circumstances, we have decided to call it a day.

We hope this will be just a temporary break. Given the mounting problems gripping the ruling regime of late and the seemingly endless blunders committed by the caretaker premier himself, it seems just a matter of time before he steps down.

Thaksin’s opposition party seems to have thumped the Thai ARENA-equivalent and says it is ready to form a government.

One might idly speculate — I would bet you a beer, though I do not know that much about the subject yet — that they would not be kindly disposed, generally speaking, toward that crusading world hero of Soviet Journalistic Freedom, Mr. Limthongkul, if that occurs.

Once the prevailing crisis is resolved and the various negative factors contributing to ThaiDay’s closure disappear, we intend to return, hopefully bigger and better.

List those factors.

Thank you for your support and we hope we will continue to receive the same support if and when we resume publication.

Paisal Sricharatchanya

Editor-in-Chief

IHT stays solo after closure of ThaiDay.
Journal: Media: Asia’s Media & Marketing Newspaper
Pub.: 2006-09-08
Pages: 2(0)
ISSN: 15621138
Subject: NEWSPAPERS — Circulation; NEWSPAPER publishing; PUBLISHERS & publishing; INTERNATIONAL Herald Tribune, The (Newspaper); THAILAND
Description: Language : English AN : 22552967 The article reports that the newspaper “The International Herald Tribune” has said that it will not be entering into any partnership in Thailand after the publication of its former partner newspaper “ThaiDay,” was discontinued. The simultaneous circulation of the two newspapers resulted in a 30 percent increase in Thailand for “The International Herald Tribune.”

Media is not all that informative on the question we set ourselves to answer, either, in this terse note:

Media reports suggested the closure was prompted by funding difficulties, following clashes between the paper’s owner, Sondhi Limthongkul, a staunch critic of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (Media, 25 August).

Media reports by whom?

Earlier:

IHT’s Thai partner runs into problems.
Author: Sudhaman, Arun
Journal: Media: Asia’s Media & Marketing Newspaper
Pub.: 2006-08-25
Pages: 2(0)
ISSN: 15621138
Subject: WAGES; PARTNERSHIP; INTERNATIONAL Herald Tribune, The (Newspaper); NEWSPAPER employees; MANAGER Media Group (Company); LIMTHONGKUL, Sondhi
Description: Language : English AN : 22305869 The article reports about the funding problems faced by ThaiDay, partner newspaper of International Herald Tribune (IHT). Manager Media Group which is owned by Sondhi Limthongkul, publishes ThaiDay. According to some news reports, Sondhi was not able to pay wages at the newspaper. Randy Weddle of IHT has refused to comment on whether IHT will continue its partnership with ThaiDay or not.

Question: Did anyone at Times-Mirror ever advise this man to stop screaming for the army to put the elected government in front of a firing squad, foreseeing the political risk this might involve for Times-Mirror, which by doing business with this idiot risked being seen as vouching for gabbling nonsense?

Or did they just go ahead and let the man gamble with their money, without providing adult supervision (as Citi seems to have done with Dantas)?

On Randy’s declining to comment, anonymous sourcing and fuzzy factoids:

International Herald Tribune (IHT) Asia-Pacific MD Randy Weddle has declined to comment on problems at Thai partner newspaper ThaiDay, following news that the Thai title’s parent company has run into funding difficulties.

ThaiDay is published by Manager Media Group, owned by Sondhi Limthong-kul — a staunch critic of Thailand’s caretaker Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. News reports claimed Sondhi was unable to pay wages at the newspaper, although a source at the title confirmed that staff had received their salaries.

‘For some staff, it is a matter of ongoing concern, but there are others who are keen to keep the paper going,’ said the source. ‘Funding has run into some unusual difficulties but, at the same time, it’s hard for Sondhi to concentrate on multiple things all at once.’

What unusual difficulties? And what, by the way, were the usual difficulties, if any?

The source added that ‘certain guarantees’ had been made that staff would be paid regularly in future. Another source in Thailand said Sondhi is claiming that he cannot transfer funds between various bank accounts.

An anonymous source is cited passing along uncorroborated hearsay.

Weddle, meanwhile, refused to comment on whether the situation would lead the IHT to reconsider its distribution partnership with ThaiDay, which has helped the international newspaper grow its domestic circulation by 30 per cent since it was inked 15 months ago. Manager Media Group CEO Jittanart Limthongkul did not return requests for comment.

So what kind of martyrdom story is this, anyway, about dark, unnamed forces applying alleged financial pressure for reasons intimated, but left unstated?

Who told the recovering bankrupt Limthongkul to pay up or shut up? Who called in his markers?

Is this the tragic “death” of RCTV (which survives on cable and satellite, after all)?

Or is it the death of Paul Klebnikov and Anya Politkovskaya at the hands of Russian mobsters (a much more actually irrevocably biological and less metaphorically violent and tragic demise)?

To put it bluntly in the American vernacular: Is this bogus bullshit or the real deal? Or some cocktail of the two?

Why should we journalists and freedom of the press watchers have an ounce of sympathy for this “crusading innovation journalist”?

If you can convince me to dig deep and discover that ounce, I will gladly pay it.

But I have yet to be convinced.

I do tend, however, to want to give the ThaiDay staff the benefit of the doubt: This could well be one of those “when top-notch professionals have no choice but to do what gabbling idiots tell them to do, or starve” stories.

You know: Like the one about to unfold at the Wall Street Journal. I hope I wrong about that. But we should all keep an eye peeled.

Announcing that the goose was beginning to lay golden eggs:

Insert sharpens appeal of IHT for Thai readership.
Author: Murphy, James
Journal: Media: Asia’s Media & Marketing Newspaper
Pub.: 2005-06-17
Pages: 14(0)
ISSN: 15621138
Subject: MARKETING; NEWSPAPER publishing; BUSINESS information services; NEWSPAPERS; THAILAND; INTERNATIONAL Herald Tribune (Company); MANAGER Media Group (Company)
Description: Language : English AN : 17619389 The article reports that the International Herald Tribune (IHT) has launched an English-language Thai business supplement in Thailand, following the successful inclusion of similar inserts in other markets. Aimed at localizing content to attract more Thai readers, the insert–Thai Day–will include a combination of original and translated articles on business, political and cultural news. The eight-page supplement is sourced from the Thai business daily Phujadkarn, after an agreement was struck between IHT and publisher Thaiday Dot Com Co., an affiliate of the Manager Media Group, in January 2005. In Japan, the local news insert lifted circulation figures from 6,500 to 28,000, while in Korea the numbers increased from 1,600 to 20,000.

Now there is a deal postmortem for the NYT’s — eminently useful and readable; I consult it often — Dealbook to take a gander at.

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