The media has been urged to use its influence to change Thai society from emotional, superstitious beliefs to knowledge and logical thinking, as coverage on the rescue operation at the Tham Luang cave has shown that society needs to change its mindset to prepare for future disasters.
At an academic seminar at Chulalongkorn University yesterday, mass media and science experts said that Thai media’s failure to properly clarify the events and information in this massive rescue operation was to blame for fake news, harmful online content and illogical debates among netizens about the rescue operation in Chiang Rai.
Pijitra Tsukamoto, head of Faculty of Communication Arts Chulalongkorn University’s Journalism and Information Department, said it can be concluded from the observation on the media coverage of the rescue mission to save 13 lives that Thai media still focuses on breaking news and prioritised on selling dramatic stories rather than being the trusted informers for the public.
According to Pijitra’s observation of Thai and international media coverage of the rescue since the start of the operation on June 23 until yesterday, the top 10 online news articles with the highest engagement on social media all share the same themes of praising heroes, finding villains, and playing with the supernatural or religious beliefs of Thai people.
“This online media observation has reflected that the media are largely influenced by the traditional culture and mindset of their society, as I also found that the international news agencies also have their own styles to report this event to suit the culture and mindset of their audiences,” she said.
However, she emphasised that this style of news reporting is problematic, because reporters focus too much on trying to be the first to break a fresh update and neglect the fundamental roles of journalist to inform and enlighten society with accurate and comprehensive coverage.
“Inaccurate and misleading reports and fake news thrive on the situation of fiercer competition among the media in online platforms, as they are trying to get more online engagements on their news reports, which is not only harmful to those who are directly involved in these reports, but to the whole of society,” she said.
“The media should not only be a mirror to reflect reality, but they should also be a lamp to light the way to the better society.”
Professor at Faculty of Science Chulalongkorn University Jessada Denduangboripant agreed, saying that some Thai media had already inaccurately reported some events at the cave and caused widespread misunderstanding.
“Some news agencies have wrongly reported that United States’ satellites can see through thick rock layers of the mountain the cave system to identify the location of the trapped footballers, and many people believe this wrong information as a fact,” Jessada said.
He was certain that reporters did not intend to cause the mistake, but it was clear that many reporters did not recheck the information they received or study the issue that they are covering beforehand.
He also urged reporters not to replicate wrong social media trends or make emotional critiques. They should constructively report the news to push forward solutions to the problems and the improvement of society.