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Journalism Thai politics

My GlobalPost story on Chuvit’s anti-corruption crusade

Just briefly: Here’s a story I did for GlobalPost about Chuvit Kamolvisit, whose campaign posters are surely familiar to Bangkok residents.

In an interview, the former “King of Commercial Sex” discussed not just his fight against corruption, but he also touched on Abhisit, Thaksin, Yingluck, and more.

Categories
Journalism Thai politics Thailand

BBC: “New finding on cameraman’s death during Thai protests”

2011 02 28 hiro

The BBC has this story today:

New finding on cameraman’s death during Thai protests

Investigators in Thailand have reversed an earlier finding into the killing of a Reuters cameraman during red-shirt anti government protests last April.

Officials from the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) now say Hiro Muramoto was shot by an AK47, a gun not used by Thai soldiers.

An earlier leaked report blamed the military for shooting the cameraman.

Critics say the investigations into how 89 people died in last year’s protests have been hurt by interference.

Hiro Muramoto, a Japanese cameraman working for Reuters, was killed on 10 April last year.

Thai soldiers were trying to clear many thousands of anti-government protesters, known as red-shirts, from the streets of Bangkok.

They failed – five soldiers died in the attempt and 20 civilians.

Mr Muramoto died from a bullet through his chest.

An earlier finding by the DSI had concluded this was fired by an M16 from an army-held position that night. Witnesses from the scene agreed.

The military was unhappy with that finding and army sources have told reporters that a military officer was assigned to help the DSI’s investigation.

(Emphasis mine.)

Photo: Reuters via BBC.

Categories
Bangkok Journalism

New WSJ story on Indian molecular gastronomy in Bangkok

I have a story in today’s Wall Street Journal about Gaggan, a new Indian molecular gastronomy restaurant here in Bangkok. The piece is online and also appears in print in today’s Asia edition.

Categories
Bangkok Journalism

All about Pantip Plaza

Just for kicks: Here’s a lighthearted CNNGo story I wrote recently. It’s called “8 things you might not know about Pantip Plaza.”

From the intro:

Pantip Plaza is Bangkok’s most infamous IT-related shopping center. Located in a drab, five-story building on Petchaburi Road, it houses hundreds of shops selling computer hardware, software –- both pirated and legit — accessories and other tech-related gadgets.

Nearly every Bangkok resident, not to mention tech-loving tourists who have done even a tiny bit of research, knows that if you need new gear for cheap, go to Pantip. But while the shopping center is well-known to many, the fluorescent and neon-lit space still holds a few surprises.

Here are some of Pantip Plaza’s lesser-known qualities.

And one of my favorite tidbits:

8. Pantip is featured in the chorus of a popular Thai rock song

Several years ago, Thai band Loso — as in, the opposite of “high so,” or “high society” — recorded a popular tune called “Pantip.” In the chorus, the singer says he’ll go shopping with his girlfriend anywhere in Bangkok — except Pantip, since an ex-girlfriend works there.

Check out the video above. An english translation of the lyrics can be found at www.ethaimusic.com.

RSS readers: If the embedded video doesn’t show up here, you can find it on YouTube.

Categories
Journalism

My new Chronicle story on Singapore’s first residential colleges

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I’ve got a new story in the global edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. The headline is “A Singapore University Plans Its First Residential Colleges.”

Here’s how it starts:

Many of the world’s leading Western universities are reaching out to the East, setting up campuses and forging relationships in Asia. But one renowned Asian university is looking to the West for inspiration as it builds four residential colleges using a North American and British hybrid model.

The flagship National University of Singapore will kick off a phased opening of the city-state’s first residential colleges in August 2011. It is a unique arrangement in a place where many students live at home, and those who do stay on the campus are ensconced in dormitories. The project, known as University Town, will eventually house some 4,100 students in the four colleges and a graduate residence.

Categories
Bangkok Journalism Thai politics Thailand

Roger Arnold wins award for reporting on Red Shirt protests

I’m a few weeks late in noting this, but I wanted to point out that Bangkok-based journalist Roger Arnold has won the 2010 Rory Peck Trust award for his video news reporting.

The awards, which were given out last month, go to freelance cameramen and camerawomen.

Roger captured some compelling footage for the Wall Street Journal during the Red Shirt protests last spring.

This WSJ video, embedded below, contains some of his work.

I also suggest checking out this BBC story and accompanying video, in which Roger discusses covering the events.

Categories
Journalism Tech

Cool Tools: Hands-Free Phone-Interview Setup

headset-recording.jpg

Cool Tools: Hands-Free Phone-Interview Setup:

It’s a serious issue in contemporary journalism: how do you record phone interviews while using a headset?

The post points to the Olympus TP-7 telephone recorder and this more elaborate setup (pictured above).

Related Newley.com post: Some thoughts on audio recorders.

Categories
Journalism Tech Thai politics Thailand

WSJ: “Thai Groups Denounce Web Censorship”

Today’s WSJ:

Thai Groups Denounce Web Censorship:

BANGKOK–Criticism over Thailand’s efforts to curb political debate online is mounting as the government restricts thousands of websites following deadly protest clashes earlier this year.

Thai authorities say they have blocked at least 40,000 Web pages this year, according to the government’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, which monitors the Internet. Free-speech activists say authorities are blocking at least 110,000 sites, based on government disclosures and spot checks online.”

The piece also includes this video featuring an interview with PM Abhisit Vejjajiva:

Related Newley.com post here.

Categories
Bangkok Journalism

Bangkok Post — in 3D

Given my previous dispatches pointing out interesting tidbits from the Bangkok Post, I would be remiss if I failed to note that yesterday’s edition featured 3D images. E&P explains here. ((Related (kind of): On the Media‘s excellent episode, from July 16, about the future of newspapers.))

Yesterday was the Post‘s 64th anniversary, and the paper was delivered with accompanying 3D glasses affixed to a special outer advertising supplement. 3D photos were used in the supplement as well as throughout the paper itself.

Here’s a cell phone pic:

Bangkok Post in 3D

So how did the 3D effect work? It seemed, well, fine to me — though I must say that I have never seen a newspaper in 3D, so I have nothing to which I can compare the experience.

Categories
Journalism Tech

Some thoughts on audio recorders

I’ve been meaning, for some time, to write a post about audio recorders. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to play with use several recorders for casual and professional purposes. And I thought it would be helpful to compile a few tips and suggestions in one place. So here goes:

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For interviews and non-broadcast use

For everyday recording I suggest a simple, relatively inexpensive Olympus unit, like the Olympus WS-500, similar to the unit pictured here. This device costs about $70 at Amazon.com. I have a slightly older version of this recorder. Some features:

  • These devices work well for interviews, as the recorders are easy to use, non-obtrusive, and lightweight.
  • They have copious amounts of internal memory, so you can record hours and hours at a time. The WS-500, for example, has 2GB of internal memory, which according to Olympus is enough for 545 hours of recording time.
  • The single AAA battery lasts for a very long time — I use my Olympus several times a month and have only had to change the battery a handful of times in three years. ((One more note on batteries: Many small audio recorders, as well as larger, more sophisticated ones, use AA or AAA batteries. Environmental concerns aside, disposable batteries are preferable to rechargeable ones because you can replace disposable batteries in the field. If you’re off in the wilderness, let’s say, and your rechargeable batteries run out of juice, far from an electrical outlet, you’re out of luck.))
  • For transcribing interviews, the internal speaker on units like these are fine for playback, though the device also has a jack for headphones. If you want to transfer the audio files to your computer for storage or editing, the unit has a convenient built-in USB port. For playback directly from the unit, a button allows you to listen to recordings at a slower or faster speed. This is especially helpful when transcribing interviews you’ve conducted with fast talkers. ((Also, a note about evolving technologies: In my experience, few people use mini disc recorders these days. It’s all digital, all the time. That said, I think there’s a place for older technologies. Take the simple, cheap cassette recorder. For documenting interviews, these work just fine. Cassette recorders are actually better than digital voice recorders in one way: You can look at cassette recorders and see that their wheels turning, so you know they’re functioning. Yes, digital recorders have lights that illuminate when they’re running, but sometimes — especially in hectic situations — these lights can lead to confusion. As in, is that the power light, or is the unit actually recording?))
  • Note that the Olympus units record in Windows Media Audio (WMA) format. That means that if you’re on a Mac, you’ll need to use a special application to covert the WMA audio files to mp3s. I recommend the easy-to-use EasyWMA audio converter.

So how good does the audio sound? The quality you’ll get with a unit like this is fine for casual use, but the quality isn’t high enough for radio or Web broadcast. That said, you can plug an internal mic and grab some decent sound.

For example, here’s a 21-second mp3 I recorded of traffic in Hanoi a couple of years back with my trusty Olympus:

hanoi_traffic.mp3

For Web or broadcast use

pcm_d50_2.gif

If you want to record audio for professional broadcast, you’ll have to spend a bit more money. For the past couple of years, I’ve been using — and really love — the Sony PCM D50.

This unit typically costs about $600. But the relatively high price tag is justified by its top-notch recordings. This model is particularly popular with radio journalists, as it’s a less expensive version of the Sony PCM D1
, which costs upward of $2000.

The PCM D50 has been out for a few years, and you can now find it on Amazon.com for $440.

Here are some of the PCM D50’s features:

  • The audio quality is excellent: 96 kHz/24-bit.
  • The unit has built-in dual condenser microphones that can be angled for various purposes.
  • The device is rugged, with an aluminum — not plastic — shell, and though I don’t recommend treating it roughly, it can withstand some serious jostling.
  • The PCM D50 has 4GB of internal memory, so there’s plenty of room for recording many hours of audio.
  • The unit has an easy to use recording level dial, so that you can ensure that what you’re recording isn’t too loud.
  • The unit has a divide track button, so that you can create a new track on the fly. That is, you don’t have to press stop, and then press record again. Just press divide track, and you’ll continue recording in a new track.
  • The PCM D50 takes four AA batteries and records in the uncompressed WAV format, which works on PCs and Macs.

You can find reviews of the PCM D-50 here [O’Reilly], and here [Transom.org], and here [BradLinder.net]. And here’s a video review of the PCM D50 and D1.

One thing: I suggest purchasing the optional windscreen, since the mics are so sensitive that they pick up wind noise very easily, even from simply walking across a room. This windscreen is a bit pricey, at over $40, so if you don’t want to spring for the official Sony version, you can always fashion your own out of an old sock (preferably a clean one) or some other sound-absorbing material.

How does the audio sound?

For a sample of the PCM D50 in action, you can check out an audio slide show I created called scenes from Calcutta. I also used the device to create a CNNGo.cm audio slide show about chef David Thompson.

In the last few months, a new Sony model has caught my eye: the Sony PCM M10. It’s currently under $400 at Amazon.com.

Two notable features: The unit can record in mp3 format (so format conversions aren’t necessary), and it has built-in speaker, which makes for easier playback. (In order to play back audio from the PCM D50, you have to listen with headphones.) Here’s a video review of the PCM M10 on Youtube.

Perhaps, in a future post, I’ll discuss external mics and audio editing software. But I’ll leave it at this for now.

Happy recording.