By Assunta Ng
The news of Amazon’s founder buying The Washington Post made me realize how much I owe its late publisher Katherine Graham and her paper.
When I first started my newspaper in 1982, I had to admit I didn’t know anything about publishing. I went to the Wedgwood Public Library to do research on female publishers to find a role model. I was disappointed because there was only one at the time — Katherine Graham.
There was a line I used in my speeches when I went out to ask for community support in those days. “The difference between Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham and Assunta Ng is that I started two newspapers myself, she inherited the Post from her husband who got it from her father.”
It wasn’t easy for her at first, as she was a housewife with little confidence and self-esteem. Like her, I was a housewife too, taking care of two young children before I began my publishing career.
Even though Graham received the Post on a silver plate, I admired her ability to grow the Post into a powerful institution with international reputation.
The Washington Post had inspired us to name our Chinese paper the Seattle Chinese Post because subconsciously, I wanted the Chinese Post to be like the other paper one day.
In 1998, I met my idol in Atlanta, Georgia, when the Washington Post sponsored a panel at the Unity Convention in 1998. She was a gracious and poised woman. I still kept a photo of her and me as a source of inspiration.
That evening, I was a party crasher at a reception hosted by The Washington Post for minority journalists at a splendid plantation house. An Asian American journalist from the Oregonian told me to tag along to go to the party. Why not? I thought. I remember I ate some of the best lamb I have ever eaten in my life.
In 1993, I was at a convention in Washington D.C. Accidentally, I met an account executive for The Washington Post and he gave me a tour of the Post’s building. Wow! I was amazed. Yes, after that, I was determined to have a building for the Northwest Asian Weekly.
From one Washington to the other
I applaud Washington Post’s decision to sell to Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder.
My colleagues would disapprove of what I said. As a publisher, I know how hard it is to run the print business. Its future is bleak like a well without water. We are in a crisis. We need help. We need innovators like Bezos to give us a totally different perspective and provide us with a breakthrough direction.
Lets face it. Journalists, including myself, are sometimes stubborn fools who refuse to change. We are one-sided toward the marriage between a reputable newspaper and a businessman with unlimited appetite for greed and profits and buying influence in the Capitol.
Sure, you can have high-sounding principles, but if your business can’t even survive, you can’t even prove your ideals make a difference.
Journalists have tunnel vision. We think we are usually 99 percent right. We often have too many opinions, jump to conclusions too soon, and don’t have enough guts to create bold experiments. For the past decades, we’ve failed to grasp the importance of generational changes and underestimated the forces of digital trends.
So let the older, sophisticated Washington learn how this younger Washington sees opportunities instead of challenges. Washington state has more than one Bill Gates. Jeff Bezos can see what no one else can see. You wait and see! (end)