Thailand has two main English language newspapers, The Nation and The Bangkok Post. Both newspapers are published daily and both usually cover many of the same stories, but from slightly different angles. I don’t buy either paper on a regular basis, as neither are very good, but do pick up one or the other a couple of times a week. I do however read both papers online every day. After reading both The Nation and The Bangkok Post for more than seven years, in my opinion, one is slightly better than the other one (although that’s not saying much). But which and why?
The Bangkok Post – The Bangkok Post is the more popular English language newspaper in Thailand and is also the oldest, having been published for more than 60 years. On most days, it’s a thicker newspaper than The Nation (which always seems a bit thin) but, on further perusal, you’ll find the thickness is just due to advertising, so not something I care about.
The Bangkok Post covers local and international news, politics, business issues, sports and cultural and arts topics. There’s also a classifieds section. The newspaper has special sections on specific days on subjects such as education, technology and cars. They have some excellent coverage of art exhibits, new computer technology and new book releases, as well as interesting interviews with authors, high-society types and even politicians.
Most western expats living in Thailand think The Bangkok Post is written with more of a western style, whereas The Nation is definitely Thai. For me, I actually find the quality of writing sometimes poorer in The Postwhen it comes to in-depth news reporting. Writers will write a story assuming you already know the background to it, so often miss out pertinent details that would ensure you actually understand what they’re talking about. The Nation, on the other hand, does a better job of explaining the ‘back story’, which makes their stories easier to understand, but the English skils of The Nation journalists leave a lot to be desired.
Newspapers in Thailand have some freedom of speech, but not like in the west. There are certain subjects they cannot discuss and others they will not. The Bangkok Post, in many people’s eyes, often has a more conservative slant and is more pro-government, thus cowtowing somewhat to censorship. A great example of this is the present political situation with the massive red shirt protests in Bangkok against the current government. Just from reading a couple of stories, it’s obvious The Post supports the government. So, for unbiased journalism, The Bangkok Post isn’t the newspaper I would choose.
The Bangkok Post also has a website but it’s not updated as often as a western one would do and, sometimes when they do, they haven’t checked their ‘facts’ before posting the story. The Post does have an E-Paper, but at $43.50 for a six month subscription, it’s more than double the cost of something similar The Nation publishes online.
When I buy The Post, I buy it for the cultural stories, IT information and some of the business issues writers present.
The Nation – As I mentioned, The Nation is often a thinner newspaper than The Bangkok Post , although as it spends most of its time supporting the Democrats, it doesn’t really need to be that large.
A few years ago, there was a scandal involving The Nation and then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The PM didn’t like the criticism he was getting from The Nation and so stopped any company he owned from advertising with them. He also tried to pressure business associates to do the same. Instead of caving in and criticizing him less, The Nation published stories talking about Thaksin’s harassment of them. Thaksin lost favor with much of the public and The Nation won. But, to this day, that’s one reason why The Nation is so much thinner than The Post – less advertisers.
The Nation covers many of the same issues as The Post but, in my opinion, does a far worse job of investigative journalism. Its stories are usually thin, without much substance and, often, incorrect.
On the internet front, The Nation’s website looks far superior to The Bangkok Post’s. There’s more bells and whistles. But, when it comes to publishing ‘breaking news’ they’re hours, sometimes even days behind The Bangkok Post. The Nation also has what they call “Nation Exclusive” which, for just a couple of dollars a month you get 24-hour a day access to exclusive in-depth reports, real time updating of the news, commentaries, business news and lots more. Overall, with everything out there online and much of it far better written, it doesn’t seem to me to be worth the money.
In my opinion, both The Bangkok Post and The Nation have their place in the Thai newspaper world. I get something out of both newspapers but, don’t expect either to be up to western standard. They’re simply not.