Editor’s Note: The following is in response to a reader’s letter to the editor in last week’s issue, Vol 29 No 43.
It’s unusual that I respond to a letter to the editor. I decided to do so this time regarding the story of food stamps fraud in the International District.
We appreciate readers that take the time to read and share feedback with us. Thank you Mr. Dohrs for setting a high standard for the Northwest Asian Weekly.
You stated that we should strive to provide the same kind of in-depth reporting as KING TV and “stand up for the truth.”
How I wish to have the same manpower and resources as KING TV, including a team of attorneys, an investigative department, a budget for investigative stories, and several additional reporters and editors.
You must understand the operation of a community newspaper such as ours. We only have two full-time staff members on the editorial side of the paper. They are jacks of all trades. The editor is the managing editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader, and she deals with the newspaper’s online content, too.
Even with our tight resources, we did the story. I did not see any other ethnic community paper in the International District report on the incident.
A community newspaper has to prioritize or else it won’t survive. We know our limits. Do we want to spend all of our energy on investigative journalism so that we exhaust ourselves and put the paper at risk of not being published every week and on time? I have heard of ethnic papers that were so obsessed with one story that it killed the publication in days, not weeks! The line between survival and death is very thin for a community newspaper.
When people call on us for investigative journalism, we often have to refer them to the mainstream media.
It’s not that we don’t want to take on those stories. We just have to be realistic about our own capabilities.
We can pick only one or two subjects for in-depth coverage each year.
This year, we chose our Tony Ng series. Ng was one of the accomplices in the infamous Wah Mee Massacre.
We did a five-part series on his upcoming parole. We are the only newspaper who dedicated ourselves to a series of stories. It was time-consuming just to do the ground work, such as obtaining security clearance from jails and permission from the inmate, not to mention that it’s more than an hour-drive each way.
Although we printed the series this year, we actually started planning for it in 2008 with the help of volunteers. We can cover these kinds of expenses once in a while. It would be an extreme economic burden to do so frequently.
Our aim for stories like the food stamps story is to report them, and then provide occasional follow-up reports. We cannot be all things to all people.
Here is another challenge for us: The Asian community is bigger than Chinatown/International District. We have to cover the broader national Asian community as well as the international Asian community since many of the residents are immigrants from Asia.
I understand your frustration toward the ID. Many community organizations are working daily to collaborate with the city to improve this area. The problems you mention cannot be resolved in a day. And the problems will not be resolved simply by our reporting. ♦