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Sing Tao Daily: Bringing News Beyond Borders

NCM Profile

NCM, Sandip Roy and Julie Johnson Posted: Sep 16, 2003

Larry Lee faced a classic dilemmaget a college degree or work for Sing Tao Daily. A reporter and editor with the Peoples Daily in Beijing, Lee came to the United States in 1991. He opted out of Berkeleys East Asian Studies program for Sing Taos sunshine-yellow office. Starting out as a local reporter, he made his way up to Washington bureau chief. Now he is editor-in-chief of the Overseas News Group of the 70 to 100-page newspaper, which was established in Hong Kong in 1938. San Francisco is one of seven overseas operations of Sing Tao Daily, online at www.singtaousa.com.

The newspaper was founded by Aw Boon Haw, better known as the fabulously wealthy Tiger Balm King, and was eventually sold off by his daughter, though the editorial stance has not changed much. Lee says the paper always puts business before politics.

The chairman of our board told me that you dont have to be pro-Beijing, pro-Hong Kong or pro-Taiwan. Just cover the news, shrugs Lee. As a measure of success he points to his readership spread. Lee estimates that about 50 percent of the 65,000 readers who pick up the paper daily are from the mainland, 40 percent are from the Hong Kong-Canton area and the rest are from Taiwan and other parts of the world.

People from Mainland China are becoming the biggest portion of the Chinese community after the United States and China established a formal diplomatic relationship in 1979. China has replaced Taiwan as No. 1 in foreign students coming to America. Chinese papers have now found themselves fighting for that readership.

Getting the second generation interested is an uphill struggle. I have kids, he says, but its hard to get them to read it. The best we can hope for is they will understand the spoken language.

Lee knows that the Chinese press can cover issues no one else can. When San Francisco supervisor Leland Yee proposed that two San Francisco middle schools leave the citys school system, it was the Chinese press that first picked up the story and used the word secession to describe it. All San Francisco political candidates from the mayor on down wanted to meet with editorial staff so they compete for our endorsement, Lee said.

It is proof, he says, that ethnic papers do not create ghettos. We are not an obstacle to melting in the melting pot, stresses Lee. In fact we help make more connections with the mainstream. We never want to be isolated.

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