[Coral-List] CBS news distortion about reef damage - Phuket Thailand

Melissa Keyes mekvinga at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 4 09:59:55 EST 2005

Hello, Listers,
This is from a liveaboard dive boat based in Thailand.  Sorry about the length, I didn't want to edit.

To those of you who saw Ocean Rover in the CBS News report about coral
damage: do not believe what they are telling you! We are furious at CBS.
One of their producers contacted us and asked if we could help them get
to the Similan Islands to report on coral damage. They assured us the
piece would be “fair & balanced”.

We did everything we could to assist the CBS news team and they spend
half a day filming and interviewing people on board Ocean Rover. One of
our clients kindly gave them his underwater video footage for use during
the broadcast. CBS promised our client that his footage would be used in
a responsible manner.

Our Cruise Director Hans Tibboel described one specific divesite in
Surin Island with the words: “it looked like a giant sandblaster was
used”. Again, Hans was describing only one divesite and made positive
remarks about the actual lack of damage at other places. Of course, the
CBS editor used the “sandblast” soundbite and hardly anything else.
Footage was also arranged in a “before & after” method that is not
consistent with the real situation. All the beautiful “before” footage
shown by CBS was actually filmed AFTER the tsunami.

Somehow the media just cannot help themselves and turn everything into a
gloom & doom story. CBS should be ashamed of what they did here. We have
talked to their producer since but of course she blames the New York
editor. This is the way the media works. The way the news piece came out
is 100% the opposite of what was promised to us. We urge fellow dive
operators to be very careful in dealing with the media. These people do
not let scruples get in the way of a juicy story. Shameful!

The CBS piece is damaging to our reputation and business. It paints the
wrong picture about the true level of coral damage in the Similans AND
it makes our own website reports look like lies. All we can say is when
you dive with us, you trust us with your lives. When you read our
website, you can trust us to be truthful.


As the Indian Ocean Region slowly stabilizes it appears that Thailand,
thanks to a more developed infrastructure, is able to recover from the
disaster faster than placers such as Sumatra and Sri Lanka, which have
the highest numbers of casualties. But in Thailand too there are
countless human tragedies, people who lost their loved ones, their homes
and their businesses. Still, everyone speaks of pulling together,
rebuilding and surviving.

Phuket, though hard hit on her west-coast beaches, is in better shape
than Kao Lak and Pi-Pi islands and the clean-up is well underway. Patong
Beach celebrated New Year's Eve in subdued fashion with a memorial
service near the beach. In Phuket and Kao Lak, emergency relief aid is
now in place with no immediate need for further shipments. In spite of
the overwhelming events, people realize they have to pick up the pieces
and get their lives and businesses back on track.

Those who call this callous fail to see that last thing Phuket needs
right now is an economic meltdown caused by tourists staying away as a
result of inaccurate news coverage. Thousands of ordinary Thais are
employed in the resorts that are now damaged and closed. Mass
cancellations would destroy what is left of the island’s fragile
economy. If you are booked for a Thailand holiday, please do not cancel.

There are many exaggerated news stories about the situation in Phuket.
Reports about disease, contamination, water and food shortages and even
“widespread looting” are totally incorrect. TV footage of the horrific
events of 26 December is repeated over and over but meanwhile a lot has
happened that is not shown on TV. Everyone is working hard to return to
some sort of normalcy and tourists are beginning to reappear on the
beaches. Oddly, the beaches look like they did 20 years ago: white clean
sand and calm seas. Mr Watchara Apornsiri, Director of the Royal Phuket
Irrigation Project and a Phuket native declared that the sea water at
Phuket's beaches is clean, uncontaminated and safe for swimming.


We have received hundreds of messages of support and we are touched by
everyone's concern. Many of you have expressed a wish to contribute
money but worry that their contribution will simply be absorbed into
machinery of some mega aid agency. People want to be certain their
donation reaches those who really need it.

There are several reputable organizations in Phuket setting up relief
funds. One such organization is the Rotary Club of Patong Beach. The
fund aims to supply immediate as well as long-term financial aid (e.g.
scholarships) for children who lost their parents in the tsunami. You
can make a donation on-line at www.rotarypatong.org

Similar accounts are being set up by other clubs and individuals. More
details as we learn them. No matter which fund you support, make sure
you supply your details so you can be kept informed about what was done
with your kind donation. 

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