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Phuket Needs an Enlightened and Intelligent Discussion. Care to Comment?

Phuket Needs an Enlightened and Intelligent Discussion. Care to Comment?

Friday, August 16, 2013
Brave Enough to Change Phuket

PHUKET: Phuketwan has made a mistake in allowing too much ''freedom of expression.'' We now aim to rectify that mistake.

Since adding reader Comment at the end of articles several years ago, we've engaged in lively conversations with many readers about all kinds of issues.

One of our aims in opening a Comments section was to encourage readers to provide additional useful information or anecdotes that added to the knowledge of other readers.

In many cases, the contributions of readers have been worthwhile. However, we've recently come to understand that ''freedom of expression'' means different things to different people.

Far from understanding that ''freedom of expression'' comes with responsibility, a small number of people have taken it as an invitation to treat gossip and rumor as fact and to breach what we'd call natural justice.

And our own acceptance of criticism and a willingness to deal with it openly - even when it has been unfair and petty - has rebounded. Some readers appear to think there are no barriers to insults and abuses.

So our open-door policy is being revised. We are not alone in this change of attitude. Online sites in many places are reducing access to comments.

Australian Press Council Chair, Professor Julian Disney, said recently: ''The quality of comments that are being received on a lot of streams have led newspapers to just not open them on many articles.

''There are some topics which editors say, 'we know what we will get if we open a comment stream' - and that means that those who wanted to comment on that topic in a responsible way cannot do it, because of the excesses and abuses of other people.

''It is a classic example where overshoot means freedom of speech has been limited, because editors - for understandable reasons in my view - have just said, 'look it's not worth it for us, it's spoiling the brand'.''

We don't think it's so much about spoiling the brand as spoiling the principle of free speech.

And we have no intention of allowing a few misguided people to exert more influence than their opinions warrant.

A well-known quote is attributed to Voltaire, although people say it wasn't something he actually said: ''I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.''

There are not a lot of comments by readers on Phuketwan that are worth defending, let alone to the death.

What we'd seek to encourage is for the silent majority of readers of Phuketwan to express a view more often, and for the noisy minority to take a break.

A good guide is to never use anonymity to write something you wouldn't be prepared to say in a public place, using your real identity. And of course, there are laws that control what can and can't be said in real life.

People whose only aim is abuse or discord will no longer provoke a challenge from the Editor. They will simply not be published.

The Canberra Times online site puts it well: ''We encourage readers to contribute to public discourse through our comments section.

''We take our responsibilities seriously and strive to ensure it is a civil and constructive debate.

''Please help us to create an enlightened and intelligent discussion.''

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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No comment....

Posted by Whistle-Blower on August 16, 2013 14:27

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I understand and support the idea, even though I would probably be counted as one of the "noisy minority".

It's pointless to publicly debate the comments that are out of line. Just don't publish them.

I also understand that while I can feel relatively secure about my anonymity and lack of repercussions, under the strict Thai Cyber law PW can be ultimately held accountable for everything they publish, even if it was a reader comment.

People often think that freedom of expression means they can say whatever they want and to whoever they feel like, especially online.

Having moderated the largest chat site in my country for many years back in the late 90s I have pretty good idea of what is being said that we never get to see and what the challenges are to keep the conversation civil.

For the users I was virtually invisible and never engaged in any conversations or debates in that capacity. I appeared as a normal user and never revealed my real function to anyone.

Posted by ThaiMike on August 16, 2013 15:10

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why do we have to accept all that we read or hear in the meadia without question or opinion? When the media reported the statement made by Bill Clinton "i have never had sexual intercourse with this woman", we had to accept or could we question it?
I agree abuses/insults should not be posted, but we should be allowed to question reports, especially statements made by the Mayor of Phuket.

Posted by danny on August 16, 2013 15:26

Editor Comment:

You can question whatever you like, danny. But the media is often in the position of being required to report in as accurate a way as possible what people say, without making instant judgements of the kind that readers make. The problem with modern technology is that readers too quickly convert those judgements to comments. Yet they still want a media to provide them, accurately and unadorned, with whatever happened or what was said. So there is a clash between what the reader expects in the way of accurate media coverage, and what he or she expects to be able to say in reaction. The shortening of reaction time from the days of newspapers, when readers wrote responses that would not be instantly published, is the problem. Laws everywhere have not kept up with technology.

And technology takes no responsibility.

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Still, your moderated comment section is/was way better then so many others. A real plus for your site and the articles. And I do not care, when you not publish all my "contributions". Sometimes I am even surprised you did. *55
Your party, your rules. I am ok with that. I will never mention Boardwalk Empire again...

Posted by Lena on August 16, 2013 15:46

Editor Comment:

Your comments have never been a problem. A few could learn from you in how to engage an audience with an argument.

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''A well-known quote is attributed to Voltaire, although people say it wasn't something he actually said: '' I don't really understand that - either he said it or he didn't.
Probably more apt would be a quote from Oscar Wilde:

''By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community''. Go stamp it out Ed.

Posted by Pete on August 16, 2013 16:05

Editor Comment:

Without journalism, the world would probably never have heard of Oscar Wilde or Voltaire.
To say ''he either said it or he didn't'' is a good example of the reader's desire to have everything expressed in black or white. In life, there are many colors and hues. Readers tend to simplify, based on their experience. Journalists understand that no two events are ever the same. Nothing is black or white.

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IMHO, anonymous comments or those using a nickname should not be allowed.

It's very easy to be an anonymous 'keyboard warrior', but it's a different matter to put your real name and photo against your comments.

I've looked back over many PW articles and the vast majority of comments are from anonymous posters.

I stand by my comments and have no qualms about putting both my full name and photo against them. If I don't agree with someone (Editor included), then I'm man enough to identify myself.

Despite some controversial comments, no-one has visited me in the dead of night to break my legs :)

So I'm with the Editor on this one. By all means state your viewpoint or even controversial stance. But please don't adopt the cowardly route of anonymity.

Simon

Posted by Simon Luttrell on August 16, 2013 16:09

Editor Comment:

My legs are also unbroken, even though people know where we live. We've granted readers the privilege of commenting anonymously. Some readily accept that they're still obliged to behave responsibly. Others abuse the privilege.

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"Nothing is black or white".
A blackboard can be black or white, just as a newspaper is black and white.

Posted by Pete on August 16, 2013 16:20

Editor Comment:

You score a single point, Pete, and I hope that makes your day.

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To your credit your articles are wayyy better than the opposition, and certainly reflect the concerns we all have for the future of this island.
But....its a shame you can't handle some of the criticisms and comments aimed at your more opinionated articles.
As ThaiMike says: just don't publish the offensive ones, but pleease leave the Comments column in. I so enjoy other people's take on things. Even if you DO think they're wrong.
Your publication will be a whole lot less enjoyable without the Comments sections.

Posted by jimbo on August 16, 2013 16:22

Editor Comment:

We've undertaken to respond to comments where we think a challenge is required. Contributions that add value are welcome. Our only aim is to improve Phuket.

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Alan: A well written article & one with which I mostly concur.

The PW is always quick to get newsworthy stories published & quick to rectify any errors in hindsight. I enjoy the site when not on the island as it keeps me informed as to events.

You can please some of the people some of the time, but there will always be detractors. So long as that is on the theme published, then okay, but many take is as an opportunity to go off at tangents, myself included.

I don't apologize for that as you will set me straight if I step over the line.

However, it would be most welcome if you could create a new section (forum) where people could post views for your consideration & possible publishing as a new or separate article at your discretion.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by Logic on August 16, 2013 16:51

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The comments reveals the opinion of the readers, which can be interesting, just like a poll.
On the other hand to much opinion without any content can be quite tiresome, but not as boring as an endless debate about nothing.
So I agree with ThaiMike, only publish what's worth publishing, but please keep comments available.

Posted by Sherlock on August 16, 2013 17:00

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Ed, What are you views on setting up a Chat Forum in addition to the comment section, surely this will bring more traffic to your site and then you can become a multi millionaire and retire to a tropical island.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on August 16, 2013 17:11

Editor Comment:

There are already chat forums catering to a Phuket audience, so I couldn't see the point in starting another one, FF. In baht terms, i was once a millionaire already.

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You know something...I have been reading PW from day 1 and i'm a big fan and support what you do and the fortitude it takes to bring the injustices of Phuket to the forefront. No one has done the same. You guys have stepped up to the plate and have never disappointed.
Now the Readers Comments section?? or should I say " Editor's choice" section is another topic all together. yes i'm just as sick of the 'doomsayers" as the rest of us ( i'm not counted as an optimistic having been her 20yrs...Im more of a realist) but i'm just as fed up with the continuing line of commentary from the ED. I don't know who is worse....the doomsayers or those trying to dissuade/condemn them?
I've said it before when PW went thru this sometime back and i'll say it again......either make the Readers Comments section for READERS ONLY ( no Ed comments) or have NO Readers Comments at all. The Ed can edit out the comments he does not want included but stay out of the discussion.
lets see how that goes over?
Tom

Posted by Tom on August 16, 2013 18:51

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@Tom - don't agree, the editors comments are quite entertaining. Wouldn't like to miss them.

Posted by Sherlock on August 16, 2013 20:04

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Even a noisy one like me understands the Editor has libel concerns the fear of being sued or a petrol bomb thrown in the middle of the night, that stories req verification that its thier buisness they can print or not print any commentary they choose why print a comment that inflames is prejuducial a platform for personal axes to grind or serves no purpose no one that comments is subject to the same considerations as the Editor is.

Posted by slickmelb on August 16, 2013 21:08

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I do't like your "do good, NGO, clean up" attitude, it's inappropriate for a newspaper, manged by a Farang. You ARE a newspaper, right? Or are you connected to the UN, Human Rights Watch, and various other leech-organisations, justifying their existence on the basis of other peoples/countries misery? I'm one of the veterans who remember Phuket way back, and even at that time it was a POS hellhole, mountains eroded, too much traffic, and the Boss of Patong was the same man you now confront! You ARE a brave guy, or stupid, a noob, and I'm sorry, but I really think you've done the whole crusade very, very wrong. Thais don't want to be confronted, you know that, right? So why the h... do you think it will work confronting them with all this s... garbage? Let them die in their own polluted 3rd World backyard, who the f... cares anymore? The Russians, the Chinese, the Paki's, The Indians, (moderated) BEFORE they got ugly and greedy, you write something about that, but I bet you are too young, too f...ing stupid, not being able to connect all the dots in this sad, sad story about Phuket.

Posted by Bent on August 17, 2013 00:33

Editor Comment:

Thanks, Bent. Your kind of outlook - hard-nosed, selfish, close-minded - is one of the reasons why the Editor responds to Comments. When we started out in 2008, the chat forums in Thailand were full of people like you. Thankfully, attitudes have changed and better-informed outlooks prevail these days. If we can just get rid of you, and all those on Phuket who are self-interested, short-sighted and greedy, Phuket still has a chance. And no, we are not a newspaper. And yes, I'm far too young.

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i would not follow what is currently happening in Australia , the press has been controlled by the Fed Govt for 6 years ( the worst govt in the countries history).... what happened to freedom of speech ? on the flip side, trash , racist or abusive comments should be deleted.

Posted by chris on August 17, 2013 06:45

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Simon, said it all

If you have something to say stand by it, be factual, fair and interesting.

For the first time i read whistle blower has no comment?

Posted by wm on August 17, 2013 10:33

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It would be great to keep the comment section but have ED not answer. You should moderate offensive comments. You do no have to defend yourself from critics from every article. We all see and read things differently. Let people express their thoughts, great for them. I would rather you and the rest of the PW team that does a great job, reseaching and writing more stories than wasting time on rebuttal that gets no where.

Posted by jiminkata on August 17, 2013 11:39

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Be honest, a lot of the more extreme comments are spawned by your own belligerent remarks. A clean up of your comments would be welcome and those follow ups, by others, would mostly disappear, resulting in a hopefully better website, and, who knows, more sponsors. Or has that particular penny finally dropped? I don't think a lot of people will want to give any personal information on any of these sites. It doesn't make them or their comments evil. Raise the behavioural bar, yourself included.

Posted by PMW on August 17, 2013 21:08

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One more thing - I haven't read your pages for a while. Why? Because some of the comments of your readers, and some of yours, just left a nasty taste in my mouth and I didn't need it. A lot, I suspect, were not true views, but just comments designed to wind people up. And it succeeded, so a better class of comment all round would be a good thing, anonymous or not. In my humble opinion.

Posted by PMW on August 17, 2013 21:19

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Bullsh*t, you are very, very wrong, you cannot silence people like me, and why the f*** should you? (moderated)

Posted by Bent on August 18, 2013 02:17

Editor Comment:

Because, Bent, you spout your own doubtful opinions in a foul-mouthed fashion without the slightest interest in listening to anyone else, or dealing with reality. Phuket has changed. You're now part of the problem.

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Well done Bent et al. Let the locals shoot themselves in the foot, they're experts at it. To deny freedom of movement, expression blah blah is just plain wrong.

Posted by Gee on August 18, 2013 11:05


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