Telum Talks To…Kamol Sukin, Editor-in-Chief, GreenNews (Thailand)
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m like any other journalist. Most of my work is about the environment but not the hiking or exploring the wilderness kind. I cover environmental news which is pretty broad. It covers socio-environmental topics that addresses environmental issues, in various dimensions - from the economy to society, politics, science, health, education, culture, etc. It is like looking at Thailand and the world through green glasses.
Tell us more about your media career journey?
I started working with Manager as a Business-Environment journalist as my first job. It was the golden age for journalism. Manager had a very progressive strategy with a goal to elevate news quality to the level of media in the Western world with a specific desk for each type of news. They opened a Business-Environment News desk and looked for a journalist with a background in science. I was a fresh grad with a degree in chemistry when I first joined the media industry.
When I started my career, I encountered many problems and had to learn everything from the ground-up. If my life at that period was an academic subject, it would be called "Journalism 101" I had to teach myself things that I lacked. If my language was not good enough, I needed to study more after hours. I was a rural kid from Chiang Mai and was deeply fascinated by environmental news. Today, I have been in the industry for more than 20 years. From working with a Thai language newspaper at Manager, I moved to an English-language newspaper at The Nation, and later became an Editor for the Southeast Asia desk at Chinadialogue. I am now Editor-in-Chief at GreenNews, the environmental news agency of theThai Society of Environmental Journalists.
As a newly appointed Editor at GreenNews, what is your approach in managing and leading your environmental news team?
I find the experience fun and challenging. Our main mission is to write environmental news that has real implications on people's lives, especially in the age of media disruption and COVID-19. Our job is to make our stories recognised, in terms of quality. We have adopted a new logo, redesigned our presentation style, format and channel, as well as our policies regarding financial support from outside organisations. GreenNews is a news agency under the Thai Society of Environmental Journalists, a non-profit organisation. Our strength lies in a network of quality journalists all over the country with years of experiences. If all goes to plan, we should be able to see the fully rebranded GreenNews from March or early April.
What do you think are the obstacles or challenges in covering environmental news in Thailand and how do you plan to handle these challenges?
I think media disruption and COVID-19 are huge challenges. Actually, the media all over the country and around the world experience the same challenges. We must relearn everything. The experience we have is practically useless now without appropriate adjustments.
The approach GreenNews has adopted is to design our work to broaden the perspective of everyone in the team - for them to be flexible and to benefit from their strengths - This is our work culture. We believe that with this design, we should be able to deal with the challenges.
What kind of material is GreenNews looking for?
In terms of news, GreenNews considers movements in every industry equally important. We welcome all news that every source would like to share or send to us. Every bit of information is important one way or another for GreenNews’ environmental stories. However, some of the news we get may not be ready to be used immediately. Some may need to be developed further to fit our format and quality. If people understand this, we always welcome any kind of news, including from PRs.
As an environmental media publication, what stories do you think you must keep an eye on this year?
You would want to look at the overall picture in the country - fundamental issues like earth, water, air and fire, forest land, people living in the forests, wastewater, drought, floods, dams, PM 2.5 pollution, global warming, power plant projects and wildfires.
The main factors that will intensify these fundamental issues are most likely to be political, both from the government and the street protests. This government’s policy has quite an effect on the fundamental environmental issues. Other factors are international agreements that will affect the direction of our environment management such as the agreement on global climate change, trade agreements such as CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the politics between the US and China. These external factors have the tendency to have an impact on problems and management of the fundamental issues like earth, water, air, and fire as well as management of the Mekong River.