By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
What a year!
Nobody saw a pandemic coming. We have endured some impossible times—days that felt like years, and months like a century. Yet, we’ll survive even without family and friends to dine with us during Thanksgiving. Only recently, I said OK to my son for a Zoom dinner, much to his relief. With my daughter-in-law’s fabulous cooking, our unity in spirit (yet separated physically), it could be one of the best Thanksgiving feasts for us! I am grateful that our family can adapt and Northwest Asian Weekly is still here…
When our newspapers were bleeding financially, from last March to May, like a broken pipe without any chance of repair, a friend said, “It’s time (to quit). You have done enough for the community.” Another friend said, “This is not the way to continue…it’s not worth it.”
I did ponder whether we should close down. Our office was empty. The phone stopped ringing. Most people would agree COVID gives us a perfect excuse to end, as newspapers are in decline with or without the virus.
Yet, picking the easy path has never been in my nature. My attitude is, wait and see how things play out. Shutting down during the pandemic is the worst time for a community to lose its voice. It’s also the worst time for my employees to lose their jobs. In retrospect, I am grateful for our struggles and hardships. Our painful experience enables me to see possibilities that I would have never seen. It enlightens me and my team to work harder and smarter in multiple ways. “Take this time to rest and take care of yourself,” I told some of my staff working at home, not realizing that I was the one who needed rest.
I am grateful that we have elected Joe Biden, even though President Trump didn’t want to concede. Who could have predicted that even staying at home, watching television news could be just as thrilling as spy movies?
This was the most exciting and unusual election I have witnessed in U.S. history since I came to America more than four decades ago.
From the Demoractic primary to the presidential election, every episode was a real-life drama of U.S. history. The twists and turns unfolding each week before the election made me hold my breath. We didn’t know the final results until two weeks ago with states flexing their muscles to show their might. Which state determined Biden’s win? Was it Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania or all of three? Had we shut down in May, we would have lost the opportunity to cover historical moments. It’s nail-biting to watch even the number of votes in key battleground states.
And the presidential debates were equally exciting, a little messy, but entertaining. It gave me hope and bliss to see Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win. The most powerful and historical moment was when Harris, the first Asian, Black, and female Vice President of the United States, joined President-elect Biden on stage on victory night, Nov. 7, in Delaware. What spectacular fireworks afterwards!
Election brought us luck
With sheltering in, how could we connect with candidates and convince them to support ethnic media by buying political advertisements? All candidate forums were Zoomed. I thought we lost opportunities to bring in much-needed income to help us survive. I was wrong.
About 20 candidates and groups advertised in both Asian Weekly and Chinese Post.
The unexpected record-breaking number of political ads for both publications, print and online thanks to my crew, gave us much hope to celebrate. We are grateful to all the candidates and organizations. Thank you, thank you.
Our record-breaking journalism awards
At our Lunar New Year dinner in January, I announced to our amazing writers that we would increase the rates for every article they wrote. They deserved it. Then COVID struck… We had to cut back on everything, from publishing the number of pages to staff hours. I felt miserable when I had to call each staff member personally. Surprisingly, everyone understood and one even consoled me not to worry. It was especially hard for me to withdraw my offer from the freelancers, as they were already getting so little pay.
However, none of our writers quit. Instead, they poured their heart and soul in their stories and they won 24 journalism awards on Oct. 9 from the Washington Newspapers Publishers Association. About 58 community newspapers participated.
Mahlon Meyer received eight awards from covering business to community stories.
No one in our 38 years of existence has ever won that many awards. Their loyalty moved me to tears. A couple even said they wanted to volunteer.
“I almost had a heart attack,” wrote reporter Kai Curry. “I thought this email (not increasing rates) was going to be a lot worse. I know this is a terrible time for small businesses and I understand and support your decisions. I am willing to help keep the Weekly going. Please do not pay me for April…I hope it will be a small donation in this tough time. Also, please do not be silent if the Weekly’s situation deteriorates further. I have a little bit set aside, and I would be able to make a donation if things were dire.
“The Weekly—you, Ruth, John, your husband—have been there for me through what were some very tough times in my life…The Weekly has given me so many things that do not have a price tag… and my own 15 minutes of fame at the top of the Space Needle interviewing the cast of Crazy Rich Asians.”
Our writers’ commitment to Asian Weekly was never about money. We are so grateful for the journalism recognitions and our writers’ contribution. Thank you writers for your devotion and support.
During the early days of the pandemic, a tsunami of advertisers emailed and called to cancel their advertisements. I really believed we were done. But miracles happened repeatedly. Call them supporters, readers, and community advocates.
They reached out to lift up the Asian Weekly when we were in crisis. Community leader Bettie Luke was the first one to send us a check and card to encourage us, followed by attorney Charles Herrmann.
“I’d like to increase our advertisements,” said Herrmann. That message sounded surreal. It was a generous offer.
A few days later, Markham McIntyre of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce emailed me, “How can I help?” And then, Elaine Ishihara, of Asian Pacific Islander Coalition Advocating Together, emailed that she liked to advertise in both papers.
Tim Otani of Union Bank, an event sponsor, knew that we couldn’t have an event due to the pandemic. But he checked with us to see how he could offer support.
A few days later, Pradeepta Upadhyay of InterIm emailed us to advertise. I was grateful for their gesture. These people came to help us at a critical juncture, even if they didn’t know it. But they have rescued us from falling, and we are grateful.
We lost so many long-time advertisers during this period that we couldn’t even keep track. But we understand they are hurting, too. The whole community has been hurting.
What we have lost came back in another form. COVID presents a health crisis, it also creates opportunities. Several health ads from government and private corporations knocked on our door. We are grateful for their series of ads and attractive contracts.
A better body
Early this year, I was reading a book, “How to Do Nothing,” by Jenny Odell. Ironically, it prepared me to define productivity in a meaningful way. Looking busy at your desk and a full schedule don’t necessarily mean you are productive.
The author taught us to find joy in doing simple things, such as walking in nature, finding ducks in a lake, and bird-watching. How fortunate I was to stumble upon the book in the library before shutdown.
The lockdown forced me to slow down and focus on self-care. I thought my health was great as my body was often full of energy. A few years ago, an acupuncturist told me when you don’t feel tired, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have good health.
“You are stressed out because your body does not feel tired after long hours of work. It’s not a good sign when your body resists fatigue and rest.” Now, I understand what he meant. I used to have poor sleep, cold hands and feet during winter. Not only has my sleep improved the past months, my hands, feet, nose, and ears are warm at bedtime without needing a hot pad. Sheltering-in has given me a completely new body. I can feel the difference of my body then and now.
Original Thanksgiving still applies today
The history of Thanksgiving began in 1621 when the Pilgrims celebrated their safety, food, and support from Native Americans. They witnessed the deaths of loved ones during their journey from England to America and even after they arrived, just like our pandemic. This Thanksgiving, we celebrated our survival. No matter what happens, we still have food on our table, and the support of family and friends.
Being alive is an immense gift. If you and your family are doing OK, you should thank God and/or the people who help you. If you have loved ones who suffered from COVID, you still should. Things could be worse. This mental exercise will spare you from mental agony, at least for a short while. It’s enough to shift our mindset to a relaxed state of being. Pause a while and write down the good things that happen in your life.
Like us, our struggles are part of our journey. We are more resilient after challenges.
A Zoom dinner with your family is not ideal, but it’s still good. I am looking forward to Thanksgiving. As long as we have some activities and celebrations in our lives, it’s better than nothing. Finding options are survival strategies. Being happy about small things will keep us going.
For those who complain that you have nothing to be thankful for, think again!
Reflect hard and deep. Go years back. In times of crisis, such as dealing with COVID and our election, gratitude saves the day. Please don’t take life for granted. Many people long for your blessings and what you have!
Give thanks to what you have, and don’t focus on what you don’t have—message of the Pilgrims. So whatever gifts you receive in 2020, cherish them, as they may vanish next year.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.