By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Editor’s note: This month, Northwest Asian Weekly and the Seattle Chinese Post celebrate its 29th anniversaries. Each year, Publisher Assunta Ng writes a retrospective, musing on the history of the newspapers.
“Can the Northwest Asian Weekly last six months?”
The community had some doubts when we started in 1982. Jan. 20 will be the 29th anniversary of the Asian Weekly and its sister paper, Seattle Chinese Post.
“It took a lot of courage to do what you did (starting newspapers),” a colleague said to me. It wasn’t so much about courage. I just felt that the community needed to have access to information and local news.
If no one else was doing it, I would, despite facing some opposition from friends and parents.
It was strange, but in those days, I had never worried about not making it. My mind was more concerned about not giving it a try.
Today, however, I often ponder about the future of both newspapers due to the Internet and declining readership in print media.
Are we big or small?
On Dec. 19, a reader was infuriated when, in a national Chinese newspaper, he saw that a local writer depicted the Seattle Chinese Post as a “very small newspaper,” with its ability to connect politicians and the community. The reader questioned the integrity of the writer and brought the article to my attention.
I had the opposite reaction. Actually, it was great that we were featured, instead of the other nine Chinese media organizations in the local market.
“Don’t you feel offended by the use of the word ‘small’?” the reader asked me. “She is demeaning your paper.”
“But we are small,” I replied. Both the Asian Weekly and Chinese Post are tabloid-sized, thinly-staffed, and have tiny profit-margins. We don’t even have a full-time sales team. We can’t afford to hire our own photographer. Everyone has to multitask in order to publish the papers.
“It is not small when you have your own building,” he said.
“It is not small when you can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for scholarships, [and] organize the community to honor the governor, mayor, and other elected officials,” my son said.
Most of my staff own their own homes and travel overseas almost every year.
Last year, we won a record-breaking number of awards for our website, writing, and design work — 13 in total. We were recognized by Society of Professional Journalists and Washington Publishers Association in journalism, other web sites, and community organizations.
So who are we?
“You are a strong community newspaper with a rich long history,” the reader said.
And I may add, we are newspapers that can get things done and change lives.
Coping with recession
“When is this going to end?”
I remember thinking about this last year. On some days, the business climate was horrible in 2010. I was afraid it wasn’t going to get better.
Many small businesses closed its doors. There were lots of empty storefronts everywhere, even in boomtown Bellevue.
“What are we going to do? We don’t have advertisements this week?” said my staff.
“Search for good news,” was my response. That is, good news delivered in an advertisement.
Conrad Lee became deputy mayor of Bellevue. Phyllis Wise was appointed interim president of the University of Washington. We invited many community leaders to jointly buy full-color, full-page advertisement to congratulate them. We donated ad space for Tama Murotani-Inaba’s 90th birthday, so friends could congratulate her in the Asian Weekly. Proceeds went to Nikkei Concerns. If we don’t make money, we can at least keep ourselves busy. We can create and contribute, and make a difference in the community.
Helping our community is the golden rule. Several groups have asked us to help with their projects. We supported a few. Our strength is in brainstorming fantastic ideas for the community. First, former BIA Director Maribeth Ellis offered us the opportunity to print the Lunar New Year program guide in the Asian Weekly. We expanded her idea by doing the guide not only in Asian Weekly, but a Chinese guide in the Chinese Post. We suggested that a children’s parade be added to the program.
“Why don’t you do it?” she responded.
We accepted. On Jan. 29, we will be celebrating the second annual Lunar New Year Children’s Parade and
Costume Contest. Please bring kids to participate and win prizes.
“Have you ever written a business plan in your 29 years of business?” someone asked.
“No,” I replied.
But nowadays, I would advise anyone who wants to start a business to have a written plan. By writing it down, it clarifies your thinking and empowers you to proceed.
I have written proposals for our events and projects. Verbally, I have delegated staff members to implement my ideas. We are small enough, so I know that our people are on the same page, even without writing down details and instructions.
The Asian Weekly doesn’t have any hierarchy. And I am an egoless publisher. My staff can tell me when I have done something wrong. They give me ideas on how to improve things. I share my knowledge and mentor my folks on how to achieve their goals. Our ability lies in the fact that, frequently, we can change from our original plan fast enough when it doesn’t work. Sometimes, we execute our programs better than our original intent.
Inspired by my son, I am going to handle things differently from here on out. On Jan. 8, I went to a women’s party. A fortune teller sat across my table and read my fortune. “You will have the 10 best years of your life starting from your next birthday,” she predicted. Unfortunately, she then turned to the woman next to me and said, “You will have the 10 toughest years of your life.”
When my son heard this, he told me to write down my plans for the next 10 years. It’s not a matter of whether the fortune teller is right or not. I will make what she predicted into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
One thing is for sure, the fate of our newspapers is tied to the fortune of our community. If I prosper, the community will benefit.
The best is yet to come. The Asian Weekly will be here for a while. ♦
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.