The project’s current form is the outcome of consultations between various funders, recipients, and other participating organizations held from Nov. 2021 to July 2022. The project began with a planning meeting of the five editorial boards of five regional or alternative media organizations or entities: Prachatai in Bangkok, The Isaan Record in Khon Kaen, Lanner in Chiang Mai, Wartani in Pattani/Yala, and Louder, connected to Ubon Ratchathani University. The funders of the project are the embassies of the Netherlands, Finland, and New Zealand, as well as UNESCO and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). An important partner has been Thai PBS and in particular its Citizen+ program. The UN’s Peace and Development section in Bangkok has also played a key role as advisor to the project.
The project recognizes that much of highly centralized Thai’s “news” is for, by, and about Bangkok. There is little “information” about the periphery in the ecosystem, except what is sent to and then processed and transmitted by Bangkok. As a result, minimal or inconsequential news about the periphery distributed from Bangkok is typically what is available. This project aims to counter the Bangkok-centric news scene by encouraging regional and alternative media organizations to communicate with each other and devise ways to produce news for people living in the periphery as a whole.
In selecting 50 trainees countrywide (10 from each site), a special emphasis was put on women and LGBT applicants, with a separate training and a six-month paid internship of a female/LGBT assistant editor to work on each organization’s editorial board. The final slate of participants are 70% women, and 30% of participants self-identify as LGBTQ+.
A major project goal is to create relationships between participating organizations and their trainees through the creation of “cross-regional thematic series” on issues of gender equality, environmental and social justice, and human rights and cross-regional learning exchanges between sites, resulting in a regional network that shares life experiences, content, and resources, all in an effort to give more voice to regional voices and perspectives. One part of the project funds “cross-site learning exchange visits” that allow participants and staff from each site to visit and learn from other sites, which will begin in the first third of 2023 and end by January 2024.
A core mechanism is six trainings: three on issues that will inform the experience of the citizen reporter trainees and three on specific journalistic skills. As a whole, the trainees will produce 100 features and 100 video pieces, with the support of each site’s editorial team.
The formal launch of the project was on 4 November 2022 after most sites had already largely finished their respective trainings. One of the highlights of the launch was the unveiling of research done on Thailand’s current media landscape and what kinds of possibilities there can be for regional and local media organizations.
The project’s website and Facebook page were launched on January 15, 2023, as the first set of journalistic outputs were ready for publication.
In August or September 2023, the project will host an exhibition of outstanding pieces and series of participants, along with other activities that highlight both the project’s highlights and challenges. Immediately following the event, teams from each site, including the most promising trainees, will lay out a 2-year plan for continued collaboration as a network.
The Foundation for Isaan Education and Popular Media (FIEPM) is the implementing partner in the project. In addition to one of its main activities, The Isaan Record, FIEPM carries out activities that further the cause of Isaan education and culture. Its chairperson is former senator and human rights commissioner, Dr. Nirun Phitakwatchara, and Ms. Hathairat Phaholtap serves as its vice-chair and director.