Happy Birthday Citylife the best little mag in the north

Bangkok, July 12 2011

If you live anywhere else but Chiang Mai you may not know but this month the magazine Citylife celebrates its 20th birthday. It would be totally remiss if I did not wish them well here.
Alongside the dogged Phuketwan online news site, Citylife is one of my favourite reads. It does not break stories, it does not take on the establishment, apart from boss Pim’s editorials, but nevertheless it’s regularly an interesting read and one never gets the feeling it is hiding anything.
Left: Pim – impeccable pedigree
There is some entertaining stuff between the adverts and it tackles some weird and wonderful stuff. In terms of advertising it seems to have cleaned up in Chiang Mai.
Of course I am biased because I like the guys up there, but at least Citylife is not like other English language newspapers, more often than not vehicles for meglomaniacs which are so common in Thailand.
Can’t some English language newspapers in Thailand be a depressing read, especially the ones in the provinces?  Well, all newspapers can be. But I want to be depressed by news not piles of self promoting blurb.
Dubious foreigners
These newspapers are often owned by foreigners of dubious background, who crow on about the wonderful city in which they live. They  follow the police, and local authority line on every story and expect us to believe it. Their insincerity knows no bounds as they profile one scoundrel after another to the level of canonisation.
The reinvention of themselves has become an art form of a juvenile nature.
In this respect Pattaya excels. Most Pattaya newspapers appear to be there for the glory of the owner/editor.
These people do little to improve the editorial of their products so even today the television outlets still do not know how to present television news. One, for instance, ten years on, monotonously still reads the headline twice in case we did not get it the first time round.
Plaques galore; this one to newspaper editors from the British Legion!
Week after week their owners appear in print doing something good, even though back home they may have been less than savoury. Are they truly reborn?
Some even appear to have spider like skills in jumping in front of the camera to get themselves photographed with a local dignitary.
Charity work is always good for projection.  But most often they promote their other property and law businesses, their real ‘raison d’etre’.
None have any interest in journalism.  To say some of these guys are businessmen is not complimentary to the business community..
They all sit behind desks, dozens of plaques on the walls around them for winning ‘Best this’ or ‘Best that’ – seemingly competitions in which no-one else is asked to compete. They are more decorated than Woodward and Bernstein and seem to only seek to confirm ‘We are all in each other’s pockets so you’d better watch out!’
The owners promote themselves in editorials using such expression as ‘fearless’ and they praise their investigation teams to the heavens. But we all know these investigators do not exist and in any case could not investigate their way out of a paper bag even if they actually could summons up the desire to. 
One editor after being thrown though a glass restaurant front claimed it was because he was taking on so called foreign mafia.
Of course had he really been taking on the mafia he would not be boasting about it.
Another newspaper brazenly places the logo of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand  in its editorial page stating it is a member, when actual members know this is a clear breach of club ethics.
Another owner claims, falsely, that he is instructed in law and journalism (to degree level) and that he was invited to Thailand to set up business to help the country.  Some saviour.
Some of the things happening in newspapers in Thailand would make the disgraced News of the World look like  the Jehovah’s witness publication ‘Watchtower’.
They report arrests, but rarely report the outcome because they never go to the courts. They do not care.
In one case I know, a journalist, was also a policeman, and a legal representative. Thus he could interview a defendant, as a policeman (using a stun gun, I am not kidding, in one case) then as a journalist, and finally as the man’s legal representative.
Of course he had different prices for keeping his victims out of the newspaper, for bail and acquittal, and could even offer a police bodyguard service at a price.
Exceptions are rare and when they shine we should acknowledge them. Pim Kemasingki and her team are amongst them. I wish them a great birthday.  They are a breath of fresh air.
Read: Andrew Drummond in Citylife magazine