The biennial Asia Pacific Regional Editors’ conference of the Rotary World Magazine Press was hosted this year by Thailand at Bangkok. Editors from the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and India, and of course Thailand attended the meet. Presided over by Donna Cotter, the Rotary International Coordinator for both Regional Editors and the Global Communications Committee, the seminar was a useful platform for the editors to share their experiences in bringing out the regional magazine in their countries.
Giving an update from RI, Donna said the communications committee of the RI was today very proactive and the editors just needed to place their requirements for any information from the RI side. Everybody acknowledged the promptness with which she responds to the queries or doubts from the regional magazines. Donna added that in 2010 it had been decided to hold the Rotary regional magazine editors conference once in two years to alternate with the World Magazine Press editors meet in Evanston.
One of the sessions debated the future of the print magazine in an era of increasing use of digital technology. Vanit Yotharvut, the Editor-in-Chief of the Thailand magazine, which has a circulation of over 8,000 copies, and serves four RI districts in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar and is published once in two months, said the “situation in the marketplace is quite frightening and so many print magazines have simply disappeared in Thailand.”
But most of the editors felt that the print version of the regional magazine will hold its own in the Asian region for some time, even as the digital version grows, and Donna said the way forward was to examine ways in which the editors could continue adding value to print while expanding their digital presence in a variety of ways.
The conference debated on the different ways in which the magazine could be made more interesting and relevant to Rotarians and their families by good content, eye catching designs and candid photographs. How to attract ads from luxury brands such as Rolex, Audi, etc was one of the subjects that figured at the discussions.
Some of the regional editors, including your editor, expressed concern over the reluctance of the Rotary clubs in their region to subscribe to the magazine and pay their dues in time. The Philippines Rotary Magazine Editor-in-Chief Chit L Lijauco, shared her experience where, with help from the RI and Donna Cotter, her team had sent out suspension notices to 187 Rotary clubs in August 2017, giving them 120 days to pay up. The letters had a desired effect and 120 clubs did pay up their magazine dues, but the rest are yet to comply.
The editors also underlined the need to share interesting content from their region so that it has a wider coverage in the entire region.
Reader feedback and surveys were also discussed and the results of the online survey done by Rotary News (see November issue), were presented at this seminar, and the feedback was appreciated.
The venue of the seminar was the very impressive and plush Rotary Centre in the heart of Bangkok, just off the famous Sukhumvit Road in the Thai capital.
The Thailand magazine and Rotary Centre teams proved to be great hosts and for welcome dinner gave the regional editors a taste of the best of Chinese cuisine at the Somboon seafood restaurant, an iconic Chinese restaurant, which is a must-visit eatery for all Chinese tourists visiting Bangkok. The seafood here, as well as at Sanyod, a signature Thai restaurant, where the dinner was organised the next evening, was delicious.
Also, the manner in which the outing to the Kanchanaburi district, where the famous bridge on the River Kwai, made into a Hollywood blockbuster, is located, during which we also visited a charming project for paediatric patients at the local hospital, was commendable. One of the Rotary clubs hosted a lunch for us on the banks of the River Kwai, where we had some great fun moments learning a traditional Thai dance, which one must admit, has a lot of influence from Indian classical dance styles.
The outing ended with an evening at the charming village of Mallika which transports visitors, most of whom change into traditional Thai costume, which is available on rent and as part of the tour package, to another era, and where you can shop only by converting your currency to the earlier
The evening ended perfectly with all of us being given a charming little basket of flowers and diyas to be floated into the waters of the River Kwai. It was an experience so reminiscent of the aarti time on the banks of the Ganga in Hardwar. As Danucha Bhumithaworn, Director of Rotary Centre, Thailand, who had meticulously planned our trip, put it: “Along with the basket, you float away all the negative energy, influence or thoughts that might have crept into your system, and make way for positive energy, thoughts…”
What more can one ask for?
All in all, it was a learning experience, an opportunity to share our experiences and difficulties and find solutions, and a fun-packed trip where the pains taken to make everyone comfortable were amply evident.
Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat & Courtesy: Rotary Ccntre, Bangkok.