Who would have thought? People across the kingdom would be glued onto Facebook Live, watching Thailand’s political protests unfold.
Indeed, journalism evolves with technology, chasing after ever-changing consumer habits, and today’s consumers love the uncut, uncensored, and raw nature of live coverage.
It’s not “live from the studio,” in which the newsroom would cut to the on-site coverage from time to time. With Facebook Live, the audience savors the pleasure (or the horror) of “anything can happen” because the camera is right there. Anything can happen with a few seconds delay, and the only way to miss it is a poor internet connection.
For example, the first crackdown on 16 October at the Pathumwan Intersection. What was shaping up to be a peaceful evening of young people making speeches quickly turned into a Songkran nightmare washed in water cannons laced with chemicals. No one saw it coming. But everyone was able to follow everything on Facebook Live.
The “anything-can-happen” angle is excellent TV.
It entices the appetite for entertainment. The alleged shooter at the 25 November protest at Siam Commercial Bank headquarters accidentally walked into the frame of The Standard’s Facebook Live coverage, for example.
The anticipation of when and if the police would fire water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Or, if and when there’s another sudden clash between Ratsadons and Royalists.
But outside of the danger and violence, there’s also the spectacles that these protests offer. Drag queens sashaying up and down the streets. Dance groups twisting their bodies to K-pop hits. Red-shirt uncles and aunties putting on country-music performances. Street food everywhere. Souvenirs and knickknacks. Mini stages where the people with all different kinds of causes and grievances take to the microphone. Mini stages where musical artists entertain protest goers.
A reporter can take the audience on a journey, live and in person, with just a smartphone. It’s an entirely different coverage from past protests.
Then there are the speeches from the mainstage that the audience relish. Again, the live factor comes into play. You just never know what the speakers are going to say. From the inspiring to the skin-crawling and, let’s face it, many audiences wait to hear anything Article 112-esque bellowed from the stage, amidst “oohs” and “ahhs.”
Journalists become Facebook stars.
As with any reality TV, Facebook live coverage has turned journalists into stars. For the best English-language live coverage in town, there’s Pravit Rojanapruek of Khaosod English. Not only does the audience get live coverage, but they also enjoy his quirks, quips, and insights. Not least of which, his entertaining interaction with staff reporter/cameraman Tappanai Boonbandit.
Then there’s the formerly most popular live English-language coverage in town, by Patpon “Artie” Sabpaitoon, formerly of the Bangkok Post. Again, it’s not just about the news. This is reality TV, the personality also takes the spotlight, and the audience couldn’t get enough of Artie. But Artie had enough of the Bangkok Post, a conflict which, like any good reality TV, also unfolded on the internet, complete with tears and live singing.
Over in the Thai-language media, Thapanee Eadsrichai of The Reporters has turned the up-and-coming news media platform and herself into nationwide household names. Again, in true reality TV fashion, the drama over one of her reporters, who’s accused of alleged sexual assault, became another gripping story for the social media world.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a new day and a new dawn for journalism. Facebook Live is where it’s at, that is, until something else comes along. There’s one complaint, however, if only Thailand has a better internet connection.