A little over twenty years ago when I decided to step into the world of newspaper publishing, everyone, especially my family wondered whether I had lost my mind.
I too would have had second thoughts about what I was getting myself into, but being the determined person as I am, never backing off from challenges, I decided that I was not changing my mind and the newspaper must be published.
Pratheep S. Malhotra
Now I’m really happy that I didn’t.
I was born in Phitsanulok where my father owned a successful business. When we were still young, he decided to make it bigger and moved to Bangkok.
During the Vietnam War era, my father set up tailor shops in Bangkok and at Utapao where my brother Marlowe and I respectively started our business careers. As you can well imagine we came into contact with English speaking foreigners (Americans) at a very young age.
At the end of the ‘war’ as the US troops were being pulled out of the many bases in Thailand, shopkeepers looked for newer pastures to set up shop to operate their businesses. Most of them were dealing with US troops and therefore it was relatively easy to switch to the European tourism market. In those days the Germans and the Brits were the predominant tourists to Thailand.
The main tourist destinations after the ‘war’ were Bangkok and Pattaya, long before Phuket or any other tourist resorts were heard of.
My family moved to Pattaya in 1975 where we set up shop in South Pattaya, now known as Walking Street. The original shop next to the ‘big tree’ still stands. It is called Sir Marlowe. My younger brother Bill owns and runs it now.
During the almost two decades of fun and games in Pattaya I saw that the community was growing and it was not just the influx of locals but the expat community was also growing in leaps and bounds.
Having had close contact with foreigners for so long, I had gained their trust and many became my close friends. It didn’t matter whether they were here for a few days or had come to live here for the rest of their lives, there were always questions popping up about the various aspects of life in Pattaya and Thailand as a whole.
In 1991 I realized that Pattaya needed a ‘voice’ to protect ourselves from adverse publicity in both the foreign and national press, combined with the needs of the local foreign community for information about the town and country that they had come to call home.
I decided we needed a ‘proper’ English language newspaper since the national dailies were not adequately serving the needs of Pattaya. In fact, in many cases it seemed they did not care about Pattaya at all as we were just too small a community to worry about.
Application was made for the official license to publish a newspaper, but that took almost two years to come through. I guess the authorities were confused as to why anyone even bothered to apply for one. By 1993, however, we were given the green light to go ahead and publish the first English language newspaper on the Eastern Seaboard.
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!
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. 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.
The first page of the first issue of Pattaya Mail comes off the printing press in Bangkok in July 1993.
Three weeks later, to coincide with H.M. the Queen’s Birthday, the second issue was published and then weekly thereafter.
Amazingly, every week there was a Pattaya Mail. Sometimes a day late, but it did come out! Dan Dorothy would ask Chuck as he brought in his sports articles, “Do you think you’ll still need 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’s 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’.”
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!
My cousin and sometime 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 and I dropped the question, “Hey Dan, do you want to be the Editor?” Dan agreed he would try it for two weeks, and that was 17 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. He said, “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 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!
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. 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.
The Pattaya Mail continues to grow – both in actual number of pages and in its content. Executive Editor Dan Dorothy is still here, 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.
In 1999 the newspaper spawned an offshoot, in the guise of Pattaya Mail on TV. 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 networks in the region.
In 2002 we launched the Pattaya Blatt newspaper in the German language and also the Chiang Mai Mail to serve the north of Thailand. At this point we transformed into the Pattaya Mail Media Group.
We are recipients of numerous awards in recognition of our work, the most prestigious being the ‘Best in the East’ Award. This year the Pattaya Mail Media Group won the ‘Most Outstanding Newspaper in all of East Thailand’ for the 15th straight year from the Eastern Mass Media Association. Concurrently the Chiang Mai Mail was awarded the ‘Most Outstanding English language newspaper in north Thailand’.
‘Best in the East’ Awards.
Another milestone of note is that after almost 20 years in our old premises on Second Road we moved to our very own brand new ultra-modern 5 story office building on Thepprasit Road. After months of ongoing construction and interior decorations, I am proud to say that we are ‘almost done’. But we have settled in nicely and our operations are in full swing.
In the past 20 years, I can proudly say that I have befriended a team of outstanding journalists and co-workers who enjoy and believe in the same ideals as we all do at the Pattaya Mail. They are not just friends or colleagues anymore, but have become a part of our family.
Men like Dan, who not only looks after the paper but has also become a world renowned author having published a novel called ‘Mango Rains’.
Martin Bilsborrow is our untiring Assistant Editor in charge of sports, classifieds and entertainment. Supporting our editor is Bob James, the sub-editor who rewrites stories that come in from various sources in preparation for our chief editor’s stamp of approval before publishing.
Paul Strachan, our wee Scottish brother, handles production of the PMTV program.
And of course Dr Iain Corness, who writes about anything and everything, not to mention two bestsellers on Expats in Thailand. He claims he is not a cardiologist, but I believe that he knows more about matters of the heart than he lets us believe.
Dr Iain Corness
Peter Cummins, our evergreen yachting scribe, always has his nose to the grindstone and the perfect tack into the wind. PC is a gentleman and scholar extraordinaire. He is a person who has my highest respect and endearment.
My very dear friend Elfi Seitz is our charming Austrian executive editor of the Pattaya Blatt. My adorable sister Sue, the sweet ‘girl’ of PMTV, can ‘hard talk’ the toughest interviewees into submission.
My heartfelt thanks also goes to our contributors, such as Mike Baird for his ‘Life in Fun City’ cartoons, Graham Macdonald on ‘Money Matters’, Lewis ‘Woody’ Underwood for is untiring work with ‘Jester Care for Kids’, plus the numerous articles he sends in for publication. Wine lovers fervently read ‘On the Grapevine’ columns by Colin Kirkpatrick, learn about the various charities through stories written by William Macey and Derek Franklin. There are so many other contributors and I thank you all for being part of our newspaper.
Lewis ‘Woody’ Underwood
Shana Kongmun, the brave and tenacious Managing Editor of the Chiang Mai Mail who refuses to give in to all odds and has kept the Chiang Mai Mail flag flying high up north.
Nopniwat Krailerg, the chief of our editorial staff for all three newspapers keeps a watchful eye over our reporters and their work.
Thanawat ‘King’ Suansuk and his extremely talented team of graphic designers who week after week create masterpieces in our newspapers and special publications.
Then we also have our brave and loyal staff, some of whom have been with us from day one. There are so many, and I couldn’t even begin to name them.
Our new generation of leaders include my sons Prince, Tony and Dave, all of whom have grown to love and respect the Pattaya Mail and realise what it means to the community, their family and most importantly, to themselves. They sure do have a tough act to follow, but I don’t really believe they’re followers. They are already far ahead of the game.
The Pattaya Mail Media Group is deeply indebted to all of you. Without you we could not have come this far.
As we venture into our 21st year, the commitment to excellence is even stronger than it ever was. While no-one is ever perfect, nor is any newspaper without its detractors, the Pattaya Mail Media Group, now from a secure base, reinforces our commitment to serve the Eastern Seaboard with truth, honour and integrity.
Thank you for your support, our faithful readers, advertising clients, our friends and our families.
The old man with our new generation administrators Dave, Tony and Prince.
Our switched on Accounting Department.
Our Graphics designers and website specialists.
The Pattaya Mail on TV team.
Our reporters and editorial support team.
Our ever so charming Sales and Marketing team.
Our hard working distribution and office support staff.
Our new offices on Thepprasit Road.