Tribute to one last newspaper death in ’08

Will 2008 be remembered as the year journalism died? Some say so. If anything, its the year that newspapers downsized, cut beyond the quick and even left print. The bell tolled for at least one more newspaper, Asian Week, probably most famous for the Kenneth Eng debacle.

This news is actually a few weeks late. I wanted to write about it, but didn’t have the time to really articulate my thoughts. From the article in the SF Chronicle:

AsianWeek will continue to publish online, at, and produce special editions about Asian American business, professional development, heritage and other issues and will still host events, but the print edition is going away because of economic realities, Ted Fang, editor and publisher, said in an interview Wednesday.

“It was very tough,” Fang said of the decision to shut down the presses. However, he said he believes the printed newspaper is but one of several means of communicating and noted the increasing adaptation to digital formats, particularly by Asian Americans.

Fang said that nearly all of the 11 AsianWeek employees in San Francisco will be let go.

Its a little sad that this paper will be best remembered for the “Why I hate Blacks” debacle perpetrated by Kenneth Eng, who, appropriately enough, had to be examined by psychologists after threatening his Queens neighbor. (But then, later that year, SF Weekly points out that they published a story about Asian men who love Black women. The cartoon, which I swiped from their blog post, looks amusingly like Mr. Eng.)

As with the demise of any newspaper (be it by being relegated just to the web, which is not necessarily a terrible thing, or by decimating its staff, which I think is much worse), I feel a loss. Even though I have always loved online journalism and was part of the first online journaling movement, I still have a love for print newspapers.

First off, when I was in college, I ended up becoming a dual major in journalism and Asian American studies, so it was a bit of a dream to become a reporter on Asian American issues or race issues in general. Asian Week was one of those publications I aspired to. Go figure they would go for a columnist like Kenneth Eng rather than someone a little more even-keeled than myself.

Secondly, this does create a hole in the coverage of Asian Americans. In a way, the Kenneth Eng debacle did us a favor by bringing tensions felt by some Asian Americans to the surface. Sure, those tensions may be felt by a minority within the community, but its still there. And that’s the crux — Asian Week was kind of like a newspaper for the minority within the Asian American community — to cover its news, arts, entertainers and political players when other, bigger publications won’t.

Now, I don’t feel going online-only is a curse that some feel it is. Like I said earlier, I love online, I love blogs and I believe this is where the world is going — although, if you have another historical event where you want your front page immortalized, what are you going to do? Take a screen shot? But there is still a large segment of the community that does not go online for its news. According to this Pew Report, two-thirds or 66% of Americans go online for news, but that leaves 44% of the population that’s getting shoddier news in their newspapers, or are losing their newspapers to the web.

I know that statistic is change very soon, if it isn’t in the process of changing already. But my fear is that in the process of paring down newspapers to go online only, the original goals of journalism — to inform, to spotlight, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I mean, cop logs once were a must-have for any newspaper, a good indicator of the crime in an area and crime trends (and really cheap to procur in the process). But cop logs haven’t been a part of the Los Angeles Times for years.

I love online, but newspapers taught me nearly everything I know about news. I do not want to see them go.