As Bangkokians go through another round of lockdown, they have creatively adapted their homes to function as offices, gyms, art studios, and so much more. In our Lockdown Lowdown series, we talk to professionals from different areas of life to discuss how they are keeping on with their careers, what they are doing to stay sane during the new normal, and give us tips on how to live a better life at home.

The vaccination rollout slowly continues and people are anxious to resume a normal life. With things not going as expected, we tune into the news daily to stay abreast of the latest updates. But instead of keeping us informed, the news seems to be stressing us out even more. We’re bombarded by a barrage of headlines about contradictory reports on reopening businesses and the vaccination program, which can certainly take a toll on our mental health.

But thanks to a new kind of short-form news platform like Bitesize BKK, people can get the latest breaking news updates in a concise and punchy manner via Instagram. With each post displaying a short headline followed by a summarised report from multiple sources, you’ll know enough without overwhelming yourself.

It’s all thanks to founder Niki Chatikavanij, who wakes up every day to filter through the day’s important happenings so you don’t have to. We chat to her about how she manages to stay on top of it all, and she offers some advice on healthy news consumption during these stressful times.

Bitesize BKK founder Niki Chatikavanij

What have you been reading at home?

I usually rotate between fiction and non-fiction to learn something new, so I’m often reading two or three books at the same time (probably because I also get bored easily!) Currently, I am reading NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway’s non-fiction called “Post Corona” about how the pandemic has turned tech giants into even bigger titans.

I also finished reading “Billion Dollar Loser” about the rise and fall of WeWork. It’s an accessible expose into Adam Neumann and everything crazy that went down.

I also spend a ridiculously long time reading through Twitter threads and blog posts to learn about how businesses and sharp minds work. It’s always good to learn from people who are much smarter than you, which I often find, is a LOT of people!

Have you picked up on any new activities during lockdown?

Aside from browsing food delivery apps, I’ve been keeping up with exercise during lockdown while gyms are closed. Since I spend more time at home, I try to exercise every morning because it keeps you active and fresh. I usually spend some time on the bike and then attempt to do some strength training.

I’ve learned to appreciate the slower life, and have also started assembling Legos to wind down on some evenings. I just bought the latest Friends set!

Bitesize BKK on a digital billboard at an airport
How do you keep up with the ever-changing breaking news cycles?

As this is a part of my daily work routine, I just have to get it done. I usually start by checking for breaking news on Twitter, then I head over to my go-to news sites; Bangkok Post, Bloomberg, CNBC, and check the daily news summaries I subscribe to on email.

Because Bitesize BKK breaks down the news in a digestible and relatable way. We never aim to be a “news breaker.” Instead, I would spend time reading a few sources and choosing what the most important takeaway is for each story.

I think a lot of people these days just focus on the breaking news headline but don’t dive deeper beyond that, which means things get lost in translation.

My approach is to only consume from the media you trust, and perhaps don’t try to consume everything at the same time. You’ll go crazy!

Why are people gravitating towards platforms like Bitesize for COVID-related news (or breaking news in general)?

I hope people are gravitating towards Bitesize! Personally, I think it’s because people don’t have the luxury or the attention span to spend time on different news platforms and reading lengthy articles. I always try to pick and choose different stories from business, technology, and current events so that my followers get a bit of everything each day.

I used to say that Bitesize BKK can keep you informed enough to hold your own at a dinner party or be clued in during a meeting. We never pretend to be more than we are, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take my work seriously!

Bitesize also tries to make the news more approachable and fun with our bright graphics, headlines with some humour, and interactive stories. I think that may be the key differentiator.

An example of one of Bitesize BKK’s summarised news posts

 

Has the pandemic changed the way you consume media?

Quite a bit. I feel like with the pandemic, you kind of have to be “on” a lot of the time. People really look for the daily Covid-19 cases report! In general, the pandemic has actually taught me to be more analytical and accurate with news consumption and reporting in general. A lot of misinformation gets floated around during the pandemic, and you really have to make sure that what you’re reporting is truly helpful, accurate, and verified.

A lot of people developed an unhealthy habit of news consumption during the pandemic, which is understandable. But it’s all about balance. As a news outlet, you have to be accountable for what you put out there and try to be helpful.

People often want to be the “news breaker” during these times, but it’s best to be a little late but have all the right facts. There’s enough sensationalising just for the sake of it.

What are some of your favourite ways to de-stress?

Exercise for sure. Spending an hour every day working out helps to set the tone for the rest of the day and keeps your body and mind quite alert. In the evenings, it’s always Netflix or HBOGo – I need something new to watch now!

Other than that, I like to spend Sundays exploring new coffee shops for takeaway, it makes me feel like there’s some weekend resemblance during lockdown!

What are some tips you have for healthy news consumption?

Follow Bitesize BKK! Other than that, if headlines stress you out, try to refrain from reading news on social media platforms. Just stick to a quick scan once in the morning and once in the evening from a couple of websites to stay informed. I would also recommend signing up for some email newsletters like Bloomberg’s “Five Things to Start Your Day” and that’s all you need to know.

I think news consumption is important because everything is connected – from stock market performance to cryptocurrency to Facebook’s latest policy change. However, during the pandemic, it’s easy to get carried away and fixate on details that don’t matter.

For example, don’t just read about the rare side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine, but also read about the millions of vaccinated people who are okay. I think it’s all about perspective. Consume enough to be clued in, but not too much that you keep refreshing the daily case counts!

Minnie Ongsricharoenporn
Managing Editor, Bangkok
Minnie is a distance runner and fitness junkie who is always on the lookout for her next runcation destination. Gyms, spas, and hotels are her natural habitats. She hopes to complete all six World Marathon Majors one day.