Volunteer Newspaper Binds Thai Community In Denmark

Itthiphol Jitphumsak is the editor and founder of Thai Tang Dan Newspaper, a Thai newspaper based in Copenhagen, Denmark. The paper is approaching the end of its second year in operation with news covering not only the activities of Thais living in Denmark, but also in Scandinavia as a whole.
      When Itthiphol moved to Copenhagen a little over four years ago, he had to start from scratch. Having learned that there was no mode of communication or means of connecting and bringing Thais living in Copenhagen together, he thought of starting a small Thai language newspaper in the hope of bringing Thais living in Denmark together and keeping them informed life and society in general.
      Thai Tang Dan is a free copy paper published on a monthly basis with approximately 2,000 copies distributed in important areas such as the Thai embassies, Thai temples, Thai supermarkets and by orders from certain Thai groups across Scandinavia; Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland.
Membership assures that members receive their copies monthly right at their door at a cost of approximately 250 DKK.
      The objectives of the paper are to bring together Thais living in Scandinavia, but initially in Denmark. Through this monthly journal, it is hoped that Thais there will be informed about activities, events, lifestyles and experiences of all those who are part of their special community. Itthiphol sees that the Thais need to have some form of record of their life experiences overseas and the paper helps serve that purpose.
      “I want Thais to know about each other and what everyone is doing through this paper,” says Itthiphol.
      “This way they can learn about each other’s way of life and what activities they are engaged in,” he adds.
      Itthiphol’s chief inspiration in starting Thai Tang Dan was to somehow represent Thai people living in Denmark and giving those Thai people a means of recording the events in thier lives and to let the next generations learn from them. And he saw a need for others who wish to learn more about Thais living overseas and amongst them. Hence, Itthiphol believes that the paper will be a valuable research resource in the future too.
      Itthiphol’s success in establishing Thai Tang Dan is based solely on his experience as a journalist in Korat province, Thailand. Having no degree in journalism, he had to study various other newspapers namely Thai Rath, Daily News and others to discover their established procedures and to spot obstacles and other functional elements necessary for a successful newspaper.
      “Before setting up my own work, I studied many Thai newspapers and their history,” says Itthiphol.
      “I learned that before success, there are many obstacles to overcome and this was not easy for me at first because I had to start from scratch and do everything by myself. It was tough based just on my experience from my former career as a journalist and what I learned from studying other papers,” he adds.
      Itthiphol operates the paper completely from his own funds with certain support from his closest friends and editorial advisors in Thailand.
      “We don’t have any financial support and all the expenses are from my own pocket,” says Itthiphol.
      “We also have advisors in Thailand who comment on the work for necessary improvements such as Khun Somkiat Pongpaibool, who is a writer at The Nation,” he adds.
      The features of Thai Tang Dan are unlike those of other newspapers as they focus more on the lifestyles and activities of the Thais and the stories are made simple to fit the market in Denmark. 
      “Most Thais living in Scandinavia, to be specific in Denmark, are working class people and they don’t read The Nation or anything too sophisticated,” says Itthiphol.
      “So we keep it simple by publishing stories that are of major interest such as Thai events, activities and who is doing what, just to feed the demands,” he adds.
      Since there are no full time reporters, most stories come from readers or any Thai interested in having their stories published – be it be birthday parties, Thai festivals and the like. Thus anyone is welcome to contribute stories about their life experiences and news that relates to or may have an impact on Thai people’s life in Denmark.
      “We don’t think much about making profits and we don’t have incentives or salary ,so this is more like voluntary work for people who are interested and are willing to make some contribution to the papers,” remarks Itthiphol.
      “But most contributors are busy and they don’t have time to write every month, so contributions are not very regular. But the editorial team also contributes a lot of stories too,” he adds.
Itthiphol plans to expand the paper through continuously improving its contents and putting greater effort into creating awareness and demand in the market. He wants to create a website for the paper but at present Thai Tang Dan is not strong enough to launch a website which will need experts to create it and more importantly, to update the stories on the site on a regular basis. 
      “Nevertheless, we continue to improve and we will try to find some permanent reporters,” says Itthiphol.
      “Now we are new and are not in a hurry. We must do some research on the market and see what are the major demands among the Thai community here. We hope that the paper will be strong and gain wide acceptance in the market in the future so that there will more advertisements and a rise in membership. This will bring more income for the paper and will support it in the long run as advertisng is the core of free copy papers,” he says.
      “At the moment we don’t have budget and personnel to make a website but we do plan on having one,” says Itthiphol.
      “Now we are not strong enough and our first priority is to establish the market, create awareness and get more people to read the paper. Also, having a website is rather too sophisticated for the market in Denmark as the Thais here prefer to read the paper. So if there is no demand then we can leave that for the future,” he comments. 
      Thai Tang Dan’s headquarters is in Nakorn Sawan, Thailand along with its printing and publishing house. The head office does the layout and artwork and sends all copies to Denmark. Thai Tang Dan is also collaborating with Stockholm, which is a sub-editorial base, in finding stories as well as splitting half of the monthly circulation copies for distribution. 
      “We collect stories here and send them to the head office to be published and then back to Denmark to be distributed,” says Itthiphol.
      “Any articles which we see not professional enough come to me for editing first before they can be sent to Nakorn Sawan for publishing. The Stockholm sub-editorial base also collects its own stories and sends them to the head office,” he adds.
      “It is a lot of hard work because I am not capable and professional enough to do everything by myself. But because it is expensive to hire people here and this is more like voluntary work, I need to do a lot of things myself to save expenses,” he comments. 
      Itthiphol plans to have an official opening for Thai Tang Dan in Stockholm after two years of operations, which is in just a few months away.
      “After 24 issues we will have an official opening of the paper in Stockholm and we will invite guest speakers to conduct seminars related to journalism and writing. There will also be some performances as well,” says Itthiphol.
      The 42 year-old editor received his first degree in Public Administrations from Rajabhat Institute in Korat, Thailand. He is currently doing his Master’s in the same field at Ramkhamhaeng University on an online basis in Copenhagen. Prior to his arrival to Copenhagen, he ran a construction company in his hometown Korat and was a local politician with Palang Tham Party and a member of the municipal council during 1995-1999. With his experience in politics, he joined the Korat local newspaper and contributed stories on local political affairs.
      After receiving his Master’s degree – and once the paper is more stable – Itthiphol plans to move back to Korat and teach at the Rajabhat Institute in Public Administrations. 
      “By that time Thai Tang Dan should be stable and strong enough and the new team can easily take over as everything is already laid out for them,” Itthiphol comments.
      “Now the feedback is strong and I hope that there will be more improvement and progress in the future,” he adds.

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