By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
It’s often hard to say goodbye when it’s a permanent one.
This week will be the final print editions for both the Seattle Chinese Post (SCP) and Northwest Asian Weekly (NWAW) after serving the community for 41 years. Jan. 20 is our 41st anniversary. If you are reading this in print, you are holding a collector’s item. This last issue will be a perfect memento for you to share stories from the Weekly with your children and grandkids about the struggles and accomplishments of the Asian community. If you are reading this online, no sweat, you know that my blog will continue online.
Thank you for four decades of astonishing and happy memories, collaboration, support, advice, and friendship.
Since our announcement on Dec. 31 on ending the print editions, a stream of well-wishers have responded with gratitude, agony, shock, sadness, disbelief, and criticism.
Here are some reactions:
“You gave me a heart attack…”
“Who will hold those [with power] accountable (from now on)?”
“I am stunned…”
“It’s so sad (after the news of shutting down the papers). I didn’t feel good the whole day…”
“What can I do (to help)?”
“It’s alright. You have to do what you have to do…”
“Online is not the same as print. I don’t want to read online.”
“If you ask for help, people will come to you. But you didn’t.”
“A good start and end is what your newspapers are about, well done having a financial plan for the laid-off employees after the shutdown.“
“I think it’s time (after 40 years)…”
“You shouldn’t just close them (the papers). Why didn’t you sell it? Do you not want money!?”
The last comment really hurts me. The speaker might mean well. But if the person thinks I am doing the newspapers for money, s/he is completely wrong. My stepfather often said, “With your commitment, time, and energy you spend in your papers, you can reap a lot more financial reward if you work in other kinds of business.”
A newspaper is not just any business. If it falls in the wrong hands, the newspaper can be abused as weapons for political propaganda, fake news, personal sniping on people and subjects, and provoking divisions and factions in the community. It takes time to find a successor who has no personal ideology and agenda, is ready to accept opposing views and a variety of perspectives, and willing to report the truth and serve the community. I am sorry to say that I ran out of time to do so. And I apologize that I didn’t have a succession plan.
A changed community
It pains me that the SCP’s exit will create a void for local news and the Chinese immigrant community will lack a formidable voice. But the consolation is, the Asian and Chinese community has changed—it‘s not the same community when we first started SCP. The community has been transformed and has become “change agents.”
In the past, when I asked community members, “Have you voted?” The response was usually, “No,” “Maybe,” “Do I have to?” “No use,” or “No time.”
Now the reply is often, ”Yes,“ a firm ”yes” that is filled with conviction and a desire to make a difference. Many have organized the limited-English-speaking Asian immigrants to vote in every election since the early 2010s.
The Asian community, including the Chinese community, has risen above inaction, antipathy, or insensitivity towards their immediate and political environment. Their assertiveness is astounding. They realize that it doesn’t matter if their English is not good enough, their education level is not as high, or their income might not be above average. They have as much right as others to make their voices heard and participate in this country by voting and exercising their right. What’s important is, there is no shame to participate in protests—being together to speak out against injustice as one voice. Our community has finally learned that working and uniting together is so much stronger than fighting alone.
Last year, the Chinese community even founded a couple of political action groups, buying advertisements to endorse candidates they believed in, hosting fundraising events in their own house, holding signs on the road campaigning, and working with other groups to build up support and connections for them. Why they caught up fast was because they were upset with what’s going on in the City of Seattle. What they have learned is, it’s not efficient nor effective to complain. They now know how to activate their voice to be more impactful.
A healing community
As I blogged months ago, the Asian community was characterized by rivalry and conflict between Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos as their elders were butting heads with one another decades ago. What brought the community together was a series of crises including the SODO mega homeless shelter plan and Sound Transit (ST)’s plan for a new station in Chinatown-International District (CID).
Filipino American Frank Irigon was one of those who reached out to Chinese American Brien Chow and Betty Lau who were fighting against the ST to be transparent and sensitive towards CID needs in its expansion plan so that the community could be preserved after all the construction impact of the connected route between Ballard and West Seattle.
“How can I help?” Irigon asked.
Both were in their 70s, Chow was moved as he said he had never talked to Irigon in his life, although he knew who he was and they were not always on the same side when dealing with community issues in the past. Since then, they have closely worked together. At the recent Organization of Chinese Americans dinner, both Chow and Irigon were honored for their community contributions. Chow dedicated his award to Irigon. He then went to Irigon’s table and hugged him. That was an unexpected and touching moment for me and perhaps a symbolic, profound healing bringing the Chinese and Filipino communities together. The lesson is, we can overcome mountains of challenges if the community members can overlook their egos, past and personal ideologies, and work together for a better future. That should be one of the community’s New Year’s resolutions. More healing, more love, less fighting.
New Year’s resolution
Elected officials have the power to make things happen or not. In other words, they have the ability to lift up our lives or make our lives miserable. To grow our community in political power means our people should pick careers in government and be involved in decision-making and leadership positions.
Another New Year’s resolution for the community should be getting more people of color to run for office and win. We have to build up coalitions and political capital. Getting our people to be politically involved is not enough for us to get our foot in the door. For young people, one of the windows into the political world is to work as politicians’ aides, and prepare themselves for other opportunities inside the government.
The late Ruth Woo, a political guru, long advocated and worked hard to get young people involved in politics. We need our people to be at the table so they can open doors for their community and themselves. They can help us when we are in trouble and in crisis. We, as a community on the other hand, need to provide experience for our youth and support our leaders so they can work effectively and achieve goals to benefit the community, as well as raising their profile for higher office. Winning is merely the first step. We need to think big.
This is an exciting year to run for office in the Seattle City Council. Already, three seats are open. Actually, four seats might be available. Councilmember Kshama Sawant in District 3 announced that she will not run for reelection. Potential candidates should start planning and talking to community leaders to mobilize support. So far, Joy Hollingsworth, a community advocate, has announced a run for the District 3 seat. We, as a community, should be ready any minute for political campaigns. We may be called to rally and organize any time for those candidates who will understand our issues and serve us well.
Stop the presses
I know many of you think we are crazy to stop the print editions as much of our revenue comes from print advertisements. The fact is, print media is at a crossroads and it’s hard to sustain when the younger generation is reading print less and less. Either we make some critical decisions or the Asian Weekly online won’t be able to survive in the long run.
We are confident that we can make the transition. We will update more often and for breaking news. Some advertisers have already agreed to switch from print to online ads, including Herrmann Law Firm, Uwajimaya, Lam’s Seafood, City Produce, Port of Seattle, Washington State departments, and more. We thank all of them for thinking ahead and supporting an ethnic media outfit like us. We are grateful to Uwajimaya, our longest advertiser, who has been with us from day one—advertising for 41 years and never missed a single week.
Of all the people who sent us their feedback about our closing of the print versions, I was surprised and touched by my own niece, Shinny, whom I met when she married into our family six years ago. Her memories of SCP, when she first came to the U.S. in the 1990s, summarized how new immigrants relied on the paper.
“I remember when we first moved to the U.S., Chinese Post was the newspaper we used to look for rental houses and jobs, stay up-to-date with the current news, etc. There are other free Chinese newspapers, but Chinese Post was the one others recommended. Thank you to John (associate publisher) and your employees!”
I didn’t publish the papers alone though. A team of dedicated folks have worked hard week after week to make the papers and me look good. I bow to you all, our community, readers, and advertisers for 41 great years!
Farewell, my beloved “twins,” Asian Weekly and Chinese Post (print editions), our community won’t be the same without you!
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.