Happy Anniversary to us!
27 years of great luck
Last updated 1-15-09 at 1:32 p.m.
by former staff member Evelyn Hou, Seattle Chinese Post’s
first advertising poster, from 1982, promises to deliver news
to the Northwest every Friday for 25 cents.
In December, I was happy that the Northwest Asian Weekly made it through
another year though the recession had hurt many
businesses. Little did I know, that there was a
bomb coming our way on Christmas Eve.
How do you turn moments of difficulties into something
magical? This was Oprah’s theme on her Dec. 31 show. I wish I
had watched it before our disaster.
What happened to the Northwest Asian Weekly and
its sister paper, Seattle Chinese Post, could have destroyed nearly
27 years of reputation.
Reflecting on our 27th anniversary (Jan. 20), I
know that we have never tried to be big, important, or wealthy — we
just wanted our newspapers to inform, educate, empower, and inspire
the Asian American community. We pride ourselves on being on time. We
have never missed a single issue in the past 27 years. Then came the
We weren’t sure if we could publish. The snow shut down roads
and public transportation. Our office in Chinatown/International District
was in a horrible part of the city to drive in. The vans that pick up
our papers did not have snow tires. Many of our staff members could
not come into the office. Sure, they could send their stories in to
the office electronically, but we needed their physical presence to
coordinate details before we went to press.
A big embarrassing mishap on the front page
December’s last issue of the Seattle Chinese Post carried
an obvious error on the front page. It was not the
gift I expected to get for that Christmas.
What we learned is that checking the hard copy
of a page is not always reliable. The staff member who was supposed
to check did not look at the digital version on the computer. She
rushed home due to the snow storm.
So what happened? Well, the “Seattle” part of the Seattle
Chinese Post’s masthead was absent.
Imagine our horror when we discovered this mistake.
We were stuck with thousands of these eyesores.
To reprint or not to reprint?
Deciding to reprint or not reprint the issue was
a decision I had to make on Christmas Eve. This error was not something
we could run a correction on in the following issue. That incomplete
masthead would be the joke of the community.
My first instinct was to reprint to avoid embarrassment.
As soon as one of my staff members hung up the
phone (after telling the printer to go ahead with
the reprint), I signaled “no” to him. What changed my
mind was that I was not sure if we could go back to the printer to
pick up our papers a second time. With treacherous road conditions,
the fact that the papers were picked up the first time was a miracle.
The delay could have produced a chain reaction of crises for the
The magical solution: Cooperation
Looking at my staff, I found the solution to my
disaster. Instantly, we transformed our 13 staff members into an
“Cover the ugly spot with new labels by hand,” I said.
And do it over and over thousands of times.
One staff member printed labels to cover up the
spot as a few others cut and pasted. Another person called in her
mom and friends who lived in the International District to come and
help. I woke my eldest son out of bed. Jason was visiting home for
Thank God we have color printers in-house. We had
stacks of nametag labels because of the many events we hold during
the year. Another person went to Office Depot to buy more labels.
And get this: A former staff member just happened
to walk in to volunteer because her employer closed down its office
due to the snow storm.
Why did she come to us? If you said there were
no angels, I would disagree. In Chinese culture,
angels are called “valuable
persons” who walk into your life to help without an explanation.
The week before was another hardship due to the
snow. A staff member’s boyfriend, who had chains on his station
wagon, helped us by picking up our papers when
our delivery drivers could not. He is another angel
who came to our lives unexpectedly!
We treated everyone to lunch on Christmas Eve so
the ID residents did not have to go home to eat.
It’s a blessing
that we have so many restaurants nearby.
History thankfully not revisited
In our past 27 years, we have only reprinted the
Seattle Chinese Post twice.
The first time occurred when we printed a photo
of the wrong murder suspect in the Wah Mee Massacre in 1983 on the
front page. The second time, a staff member forgot to place an ad
in the paper leaving a big blank space.
These days, the mainstream papers often leave huge
empty spots in their classifieds section. I don’t know whether
this is acceptable or not.
However, I have not regretted any decisions I’ve made so far.
There is no one specific formula to solve problems
in your business. “You have to be adaptable to changes in
your operation,” said my younger son, John, who also works
in the office.
I changed the newspapers’ goal — to adapting to new
challenges. “We are not going to be perfectionists,” I
told my folks on Christmas Eve. “Just get the job done.”
And they did, with promptness and organization.
Solutions to crises lie in your own business. You
just have to be vigilant, able think on your feet, and able to map
out strategies wisely. My decision not only saved money and time,
but also helped to maintain good morale. Had we been unable to get
the paper out, it would have tarnished our holiday spirit and our
I like for our readers to know that behind every
issue, there are untold pressures and unsung heroes who have fought
with determination to resist any deference so that our readers can
get the paper on time. From writers to editors, delivery drivers
to mailing staff, they all play a crucial role.
Lunar New Year blackout
The first day of Lunar New Year in 2008 was supposed
to be a celebration. We planned the day by ordering takeout for
15 staff members from four restaurants in the ID. However, power
outages affected several blocks of the International District,
including our building. It was a Thursday and our papers, still
fresh with wet ink, were just hurled back inside the office. Suddenly,
it was pitch black.
But I was prepared. I had seven candles in the office,
in preparation for times like these, so we could mail our papers
to our subscribers on time. We were lucky to have the power outage
on Thursday instead of Wednesday, our production day. Perhaps another
angel was taking care of us.
The shooting at Southcenter Mall
The last community fundraiser and awards dinner we
organized was particularly dramatic. I was shopping for supplies
for the Top Contributors Dinner when a shooting occurred at Southcenter
Mall on Nov. 22. I still remember it vividly, how I ran for my
life during the shooting. I was just a few feet away from where
the victim lay on the ground. How I managed to escape this calamity
was perhaps, another act of angels.
New (young) blood
If you were to tell me earlier that we would have
a complete new personnel change in the Northwest
Asian Weekly in 2008, I would have probably fainted.
But we did. Stacy Nguyen is our new editor, and
Han Bui is the new layout editor and Web designer.
President Obama says change is good. It’s a gift not to know
about your future sometimes, especially when it could be bleak.
In a stressful business like ours, we don’t need to be consumed
by unnecessary worries. Coping with actual issues
step by step is less draining to our psyche rather
than worrying about potential disasters.
Change brings opportunities, fresh perspectives,
and ideas. It actually improved my creativity and
expanded my network during the hiring process.
My staff motivates me to be visionary. They are my
reasons to work hard. “I have many mouths to feed,” I’ve
told friends. As long as my staff gives me the freedom
to travel and stay involved in interesting community
projects, I am very satisfied.
In 2007, Northwest Asian Weekly was redesigned, but
the look of our paper is still evolving because of
the new staff. This year, we added a new feature to the paper by
creating a Web site.
If you haven’t seen it lately, please take a look and give
us feedback: www.nwasianweekly.com.
This is the reward for having new energies in our
papers to grow our operation.
The power to make a difference
When I founded the newspapers 27 years ago, I did
not know the full potential of a newspaper. One
of our strengths is gathering donations for passionate causes. Through
machine,” we can make things happen for different organizations.
Every project begins with a simple idea, and we build
on these ideas to make the impossible into a reality. Sure, there
were many obstacles along the way, but our imaginative ways turn
obstacles into opportunities.
In 2008, we were able to raise funds for Sichuan
earthquake victims, Asian Counseling & Referral Service, Wing
Luke Asian Museum, Executive Development Institute, Family Services,
and the UW Business School’s API scholarship funds, in addition
to many organizations we support through other means.
Will we survive?
Last year, the pessimistic news for print media never
“Your survival is an achievement,” said June Chen,
“Yes, we will survive,” said my son John. “We
are a niche.”
Szeto Hung, former editor of the Seattle Chinese
Post, said, “No one can do a better job than the Asian Weekly
and Chinese Post to do local news for the Asian community.
No other papers have more local advertisements than you do.
We want to read
local ads to see what local businesses are doing.
Who wants to fly to California for a nice meal or shop there?”
Will we eliminate our print version and just be online?
No. This is because each version has a different audience. How can
we afford to lose either one of them?
It was also in 2008 when we broke records by printing
80 pages for both newspapers combined during Lunar New Year. About
1,500 people participated in the seven events we organized during
We wined and dined our employees with live lobsters,
Beijing duck, and free-range chicken during Thanksgiving. Our bonus
checks were delivered to everyone on Dec. 30. There are no layoffs.
Every 2008 setback we faced not only produced a happy
ending, but also taught us to reach beyond our horizon.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do not feel dismayed when
people have doubts about the future newspapers.
This is what you call “growing pains.” We’re
having fun. Most importantly, optimism propels us to think of possibilities
rather than roadblocks.
As for adversities in our journey, “You just have to make
a decision to live through them,” said Oprah. The hardships
faced during the last two weeks of December had merely
become great material for one of the chapters of our history. We
Thank you to our readers and advertisers for helping
us continue for 27 years! (end)
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.