The Pattaya Mail Story

Pratheep “Peter” Malhotra

When the Pattaya Mail celebrated its fifth anniversary, Chuck Pringle, the first issue’s Editor, saw it this way, “Five years on! There were many who, when they saw the first issue of Pattaya Mail five years ago, said, ‘They won’t last the year out.’ Perhaps not surprisingly there were some who still said something similar on our first anniversary - and even, but with less confidence, on our second - but by the third, the doubters were getting fewer. And here we are - five years later and still going strong - more pages, more information, more subscribers and, yes, more advertisers!”

What will the doubters say now, another two years further down the track, to make Pattaya Mail now seven years old?

With the introduction of our home page to the Internet in 1996, Pattaya Mail took your voice to the world. Pattaya Mail on the web receives well over 2000 hits per week, and our Mailbag receives letters from the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe, proving that we have indeed grown into a global market.

But the Pattaya Mail was not without its growing pains. In fact, several times it looked as if it would be still-born with the conceptual Editorial staff themselves not even making it to the first issue!

Publisher Pratheep (Peter) Malhotra recalled those painful early days. “In 1991 I realized that Pattaya needed a ‘voice’ to protect ourselves (Pattaya City) from adverse publicity. I decided we needed a ‘proper newspaper’ in English since the national dailies were not serving the needs of Pattaya. In fact, in many cases it seemed they did not care about Pattaya, or that we were just too small to worry about.”

Application was made for the Official License to publish a newspaper, but that took almost two years to come through. By 1993, however, Peter was given the green light to go ahead and publish the first English language newspaper on the Eastern Seaboard.

Those pre-production days included settling on the name for the paper and the design for the “mast-head” at the top. The font used to proclaim “Pattaya Mail” is as original as the paper itself, “It was designed by a local artist who made up T-shirts,” said Peter laughing. “Although it may look similar to other fonts, it truly is one of a kind”. Such was the spirit as the pace continued and the date was set to publish Volume 1, Number1.

In the two weeks that it took to produce that first issue, Chuck Pringle had filled the gap as Editor and a young American, Dan Dorothy, had been asked to step in to cover the Sports Writer’s position, as the original writer had been posted overseas. An even younger Austrian, Andy Gombaez, who was on his way to Hollywood to be a cartoonist, stumbled into the artist’s job after talking to the embryonic Pattaya Mail’s driver! That the first issue, dated 23rd July 1993, ever made the streets is a wonder on its own.

Three weeks later, to coincide with H.M. the Queen’s Birthday, the second issue came out, and then weekly thereafter. Though Chuck does admit “Amazingly, every week there was a Pattaya Mail. Sometimes a day late, but it did come out!” Dan Dorothy remembers on occasion tentatively asking Chuck as he brought in his sports articles, “Do you think you’ll still be needing anything next week?” But he did, and Dan kept on supplying.

In those early days, the Pattaya Mail was actually printed in Bangkok as there were no local printers then able to handle the job. Andy Gombaez’ memories of those early days included, “Getting up early and catching the bus to Bangkok to take the art-work to the printers. This was sometimes after working all night.”

Chuck remembers “The 18 hour days, day after day, problems with egocentric journalistic and inexperienced clerical staff, the nervous wait for the paper to arrive - hoping there were not too many mistakes this time. Not to forget the spats amongst the management and editorial staff caused by the pressure under which both were working.”

Andy put it very succinctly, “They were tense times and we had apologies every Tuesday!” (This was the day after the paper went to the printers.)

However, Chuck still smiles and says, “Now, with the healing passage of time, we can look back and laugh at some of our agonies. But of this we can be proud, we maintained our stance and told the truth. There were times when that became very difficult. Pressure was brought to bear by corrupt policemen, influential persons on whose toes we had trod, disgruntled local politicians whose inefficiency or wrong doings we exposed, but we followed the principle of that great publisher Hearst, ‘Publish and be damned.’”

Peter Malhotra added, “It has not just been the power-brokers who have been sometimes upset. In 1995, after publishing stories on the local ‘mafia’ I was the subject of a serious assault and battery. Pattaya Mail had enough growing pains without giving me physical pains as well!”

Peter’s cousin and some time crime reporter, Amorn Malhotra, said, “Pattaya has gone from being a wild-west town to now being a city with some order. The Pattaya Mail helped that progression by working hard to produce the new order.”

Chuck Pringle backed that claim, “We can also be proud that our aims were achieved. Our message got across. Campaigns initiated or supported by us, or both, bore fruit and gradually Pattaya changed and the perception of Pattaya in the eyes of the world changed.”

But that change has had its own costs, too. Eventually the weekly work load became too much for Chuck and he needed out. This was the next major change in the paper. Dan Dorothy dropped his copy in one evening to be met by Peter saying, “Hey Dan, do you want to be the Editor?” Dan agreed he would try it for two weeks, and that was four years ago.

Dan believes, “There’s no paper like us in the world. It is unique in the fact that it is all locally written but with international appeal. We are not restricted like the ‘big boys’. We are restricted only by our conscience.”

Under his stewardship Dan has seen the Pattaya Mail grow and gain a large following on the Eastern Seaboard and he feels that the paper has the potential to expand beyond our borders. It has got bigger and is attracting good writers; however, some of the old ‘ad hoc’ methods are still with the paper. An example is when there was a change made to the mast-head. Peter Malhotra described sitting in a bar, chopping up the mast-head and sticking the words down on bits of paper to take to the printers that evening. The pioneering spirit is certainly not dead!

That spirit is, in many ways, the act of commitment. Commitment of the paper to its ideals and the commitment of the staff to the paper. Dan Dorothy says that the opportunity the staff have been given here is such that it breeds loyalty. As he said with a grin, “After all, I’m a lobster fisherman from Harpswell, Maine - where else could I be an Editor?” Where else indeed, but there is also another saying, that Talent Will Out!

Peter Malhotra said, “Dan has overseen growth and consolidation which has continued through to today. Our priority of presenting readable editorial material has helped maintain the quality of the paper. It has been my pleasure to be at the helm of your newspaper and I thank all of you for the support you have given us over the past five years. The staff of the Pattaya Mail and myself are looking forward to the next five.”

The final quote came from ex-Editor Chuck Pringle, “Our commitment remains. The whole truth, and by publishing this, to increase the awareness of Pattayans and visitors alike to the fact that we have a precious jewel here and we must guard and nurture it.”

That was how we saw our birthday in 1998. Now two years further on, the Pattaya Mail continues to grow - both in actual number of pages and in its content. Executive Editor Dan Dorothy is still there, keeping an almost avuncular eye over the entire paper every week, while trying to keep the sometimes unruly band of writers, both local and expats under linguistic control. Faces change, but the concepts and the principles remain the same.

The newspaper has spawned an offshoot, in the guise of the Pattaya Mail Channel. An entity that itself is going through many of the growing pains experienced by the Pattaya Mail itself in its early days. Like the Pattaya Mail it shares the commitment to the promotion of Pattaya and is now becoming an “information station” for the cable TV network.

As Pattaya has become more colourful, so has the Pattaya Mail, with colour pages now a regular item. Rewards have also been bestowed on Pattaya’s first English language paper, with the “Best in the East” being granted to us, not just a fanciful editorial boast.

No, as we go into our eighth year, the commitment to excellence is even stronger than it ever was. While no-one is ever perfect, nor any newspaper without its detractors, the Pattaya Mail, from now a secure base, is looking forward to continue to serve the Eastern Seaboard with truth, honour and integrity. Thank you, our faithful readers, for your support!

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