Categorized | Vol 32 No 9 | 2/23-3/1

BLOG: The death of print, will we be next?

By Assunta Ng

Photo by Charles Lam/NWAW

Witnessing the digital attack on publication has been a nightmare for those of us in print media. It hasn’t mattered how big, rich, or strong publications have been before, or how many prestigious writing awards they’ve won. Advertising revenue continues to bleed out, and many die as a result. Some publications, like Newsweek, have ended their print editions, continuing their online versions only.

The inevitable question that has been chasing us is, “Will we be next?”

Do we have a future?

To my friends who think this way, don’t ask us how long we can live! The fact is, we don’t know. What we know for sure though is that print media has a dim future.

Our only consolation is that community newspapers are strong.

Big newspapers are facing their demise — like the P-I, which folded because no one wanted to take it over. However, Black Press just recently bought the Seattle Weekly, an alternative paper. If there were no future in weeklies, why would Black Press make that move?

As long as we exist, please appreciate our work. Give us credit for serving the community for 31 years, one week at a time without fail as both the Northwest Asian Weekly and Seattle Chinese Post. We are the only publishing company in the United States that prints both Chinese and English weeklies with separate content and separate readership. Support us for our coverage and reporting, which has made a difference. Recommend us to your friends to read and advertise. That will prolong our life.

The digital revolution has brought our industry both innovations and crisis. Even though print media is on the edge of extinction, it’s not as bad as the old days when we first started. We had to cut and paste our hands, processing films and making prints in a dark room and typing all the subscribers’ labels on a typewriter. Writers mailed us typed and hand-written copies of their articles.

Now, one person can do all those chores through a computer. One person can write, edit, send photos, and do layout. You can imagine how much time and money we have saved in the publishing industry. We do things quickly, efficiently, effectively, cleanly, and with much fewer resources and manpower.

Technological progress has its pitfalls, too. When technology made everything affordable and easy, as many as seven more Chinese media companies entered the market, even though the Seattle Chinese Post was the first Chinese newspaper in the Pacific Northwest in 1982.

Understanding our mission

When we first started, we knew we would embark on a harsh journey because there were no successful role models in the community.

We were pioneers. We experimented and forged new ideas, taking risks rather than just copying our competitors. If you compare our papers and website with our competitors, you will find that we don’t do what our competitors do. Content-wise, we try to cover stories, which other minority papers shy away from.

Even our events have become models. I’ve found that many organizations have followed our programs and picked up ideas from our formats.

I knew when I started the papers that I would never be rich.

The newspaper business is a very different kind of business. You cannot measure your success by your profits. The rewards of running a paper lie in gaining influence, respect, and credibility from peers, the community, and the mainstream.

What saves us every issue

In a turbulent economy, the first thing most companies do is lay off employees. We did the opposite. We worked hard to keep our staff intact. We streamlined our operations to make sure we didn’t waste anything. We do everything in-house to keep our staff employed.

While we don’t expect miracles, miracles hit us every week. It’s amazing how stories and advertisements sail to our office without us looking for them.

Each week, we begin with literally nothing. I am not joking. Our pages are empty; we have few leads and no advertisements. (Just ask my staff, they will tell you the same thing.) But then, a string of events and tips flock into our inboxes, and people walk through our doors as if God was signaling to an army that it was time to help the Asian Weekly.

Suddenly, everything clicks and we end the week with strong stories, nice-looking advertisements, and an impressive front page. We’re working even right before the moment we go to print. Everyone on our staff contributes to the completion of the paper. We have become so used to this cycle that we are not scared or shocked anymore. I don’t know if you would call this optimism or confidence, but I call this defiance.

We never worry if we’ll be here next week or next year. We just wish that the Asian Weekly and Chinese Post’s teams will have good health, so we can work hard.

Give us leads for stories and advertisements. Your gift will last a long time.

How will we survive?

Mohammed Ali put it best.

“Don’t count the days. Make the days count,” he said.

That’s how we view our role at the newspaper. We are meandering in an unsolvable maze. I have no answers to your questions. But do we really need to figure out the maze? Maybe it’s not too bad just to have fun inside of it.

In the journalism world, you can’t plan too far forward. We focus on the moment and do the best we can in everything we do.

We find strength not from our smarts, but from our drive, determination, and lots of hard work.

I am amazed at how we bring our two papers to life every week. We are a flexible, dedicated, and stubborn team. Stubborn means that we will get the papers done no matter how challenging the environment can be. We keep two papers running for three decades with passion, conviction, and commitment.

Why? Because we believe in giving our community a voice. It doesn’t matter how bad the future is for print media. As long as we are present, we will use every ounce of our energy to bring you all the important news and issues in the community.

When Sam Ung, owner of Phnom Phenh Restaurant, was asked how he survived living through the dark Killing Fields, his answer was simple.

“I have hope,” he said. “I have never given up hope.”

That’s the characteristic of a survivor. We will never give up on our community. (end)

To read the Chinese version of the publisher’s blog, visit www.seattlechinesepost.com.

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