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Bangkok is an old city. Modern music and vibrant signs emanate from the many red light districts here but memories are the lifeblood of this place. Bangkok draws in expats from around the world looking for an alternate lifestyle to their Western homelands. With them, they bring memories of war, of people left behind and of a media world that once thrived.

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Horses remind me of the past at the prestigious Thai Country Club. Photo by Ada Lee

When you are the foreigner in a city, you are naturally drawn to people like you. You notice them struggling through the chaotic street traffic, you see them buying a Mars bar in a 7-Eleven, you wonder what they’re doing working in an office thousands of kilometres away from home.

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The bright lights and live music draw in foreigners near Khao San Road. Photo by Ada Lee

I’ve met more than a dozen expats now. Most of them are men who have been here for decades.

There was the father of a Thai celebrity who I met in a 7-Eleven (and later visited the Thai Country Club with), the cynical Vietnam War veteran, the Israeli war veteran who is now a jeweller, the veteran foreign correspondents, the man who used to work for Frank Packer, and the subeditors who would struggle to find a job if they moved to Australia.

In Australia, I doubt I would have ever crossed paths with people like this. But in Thailand, in this mixing bowl of foreigners, it’s almost impossible not to.

Conversations often steer towards the woeful state of the world’s media.

In Thailand, people are too afraid to ask the tough questions, they say. Government officials host press conferences and make announcements on television (not too unlike Australia).

In the West, it’s all about the 24-hour news cycle and clickbait. Investigative journalism and quality are diminishing, they say.

They talk about the days when subediting wasn’t outsourced, when public relations didn’t dominate information distribution, and when you had time to write a good story.

They remember those days vividly (I suspect hindsight makes them seem even more glorious) and though it appears the ship is sinking, they haven’t abandoned it just yet. Perhaps they’re trying to inject all the remaining lifeblood they can muster from their memories of the great media nirvana of the past.

There is a lot to learn from the past, but I do wonder whether looking back may stifle the future.

I do not doubt that Twitter journalism and blog-style posts can breed laziness in the industry. But surely there are benefits to the rise of the Internet, chiefly the rise of communication — between audience and journalist, between nations, between voters and politicians. Surely, there is something to be optimistic about for the future.

We now have the ability to tell stories through an amalgamation of words, videos, images and interactive graphics (the classic example being The New York Times' Snowfall, shown to us in our online media course). Journalists need to harness these technological opportunities while retaining the ability to tell good stories.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the Internet is that it’s difficult for news organisations to make money from it.

Buzzfeed and Junkee have dabbled in native advertising but this simply isn’t viable for mainstream media (“Independent. Always.” is The Sydney Morning Herald’s slogan). Mainstream papers have dabbled in online subscription models but I can’t help but feel people (particularly my digital generation) will be unwilling to pay.

Still, I am hopeful journalism will survive. Storytelling is in our nature. Whether it’s via the telegram or in print or online, I doubt we’ll ever lose it.

One thing I’m sure of is that choking the workforce dry in the name of corporate ‘efficiency’ means less minds trying to find the answer to journalism’s survival.

About the Blog

Parallax records the experiences of final year students of the B.A. (Media & Communications) degree who have won competitive overseas internships to work in Asian, Indian and Latin American media organisations.
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