R eading the debate between Chris Horwood and Nate Thayer on the subject of the latter's reporting of the July coup attempt, I couldn't help feeling that Horwood came out of the tussle with more marks for logic than Nate Thayer.
Basically, Thayer scored a few quick points defending himself against an imaginary accusation of overt bias; but be seemed to miss the substance of the charge, which was that the bias was covert and arose from a lack of balance in the paper's overall coverage of the situation. This charge wasn't answered at all. The point here is that bias is as much a matter of what's left out as of what is actually printed.
It's true that Nate Thayer's Regent Hotel story made gripping reading. It might have been ideal in a Western weekly paper of 50 pages. But it's questionable whether it was really good journalism in the context of a paper the size of the Phnom Penh Post and in that context it may be pertinent to question the judgment, in this case, of the editor as much as the author. Mayn't it?
Chris Horwood is certainly not the only reader to feel that the issue was perhaps a bit of an ego-trip for the reporter. In the light of this, the rather arrogant and sarcastic tone of Thayer's reply to Horwood's letter was not very well judged.
One felt that although Thayer certainly writes a good story, he's happiest when he's at the center of it.
I was also surprised that Thayer, in an attempt to be snooty to Horwood, should have revealed that he doesn't know the difference between the professions of demining and project management.
And Thayer's accusation of 'pomposity' definitely had the ring of the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.
Brevity is the soul of wit. And it has to be admitted that Thayer, for all his other journalistic talents, can sometimes be just a teeny bit long-winded.
- Colin Alfred, freelance educational materials writer, Regent Hotel, Phnom Penh.