“No” was the answer I received when I requested membership for the Seattle Chinese Post in the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association (WNPA) in the 1980s. The white executive director denied us when I asked for membership stating that it would be discriminatory because the Chinese-language paper could only be read by a certain group of people.
So I asked him, “What about the Asian Weekly written in English?”
That would be the same thing, he said. The Asian Weekly would only be read by the Asian community.
Today, the Asian Weekly is read by many folks, including the movers and shakers of the Greater Seattle community.
I didn’t fight the executive director at the time, and we never talked after that. I know my friends would be curious — why didn’t I make waves and let him get away with it? You have to understand that when you run a small business with limited manpower, you can’t do everything. Just getting papers out each week is demanding.
I waited and waited for an opportunity. More than a decade later, I read in the Mercer Island Reporter that the WNPA had hired a new executive director, Diana Kramer — the previous director retired.
So I called Diana. She said, “You are in.” I have joined the group and have been a member since the late 1990s.
I had never written about this piece of our newspapers’ history. Why am I choosing to break the news now?
Something touched me at the WNPA’s annual conference in Olympia last Friday. The Walter C. Woodward Freedom’s Light Award was given. It was only last year that the award’s name was changed after the late Woodward, a Bainbridge Island Review publisher.
According to the WNPA, “He made journalism history with his passionate, eloquent stand against the internment of 240 of his Bainbridge Island neighbors during the early months of World War II. Their only ‘crime’ was their Japanese ancestry.”
It was a remarkable achievement of the WNPA, which represents hundreds of community newspapers in our state, to finally acknowledge the courage and contributions of small newspapers’ leaders.
You have to realize that small papers don’t have a legal team like other daily newspapers. And the threats and pressures we receive from the outside are beyond what the public can imagine. Thank you, WNPA for acting and saying what should have been done ages ago! Changing the name of the award demonstrates the WNPA’s commitment toward the advancement of the First Amendment in our state. ♦