1999 / 5月
報禁解除後，台灣的報業在幾年內熱絡起來，由三怳@家大幅增加到二百三怳E家，但這樣的榮景只限於中文報紙，英文報長久以來只有《China News》（英文中國日報）和《 China Post》（英文中國郵報） 兩家。
直到最近，近年來迅速竄起的《自由時報》宣布將發行《Taipei Times》；而本土形象濃厚的義美食品公司也在近日宣布將投資《英文中國日報》新台幣數千萬元，雙方正研議擴張改版，並可能改名為《Taiwan News》。同時，國際知名媒體如《亞洲華爾街日報》、《國際先鋒論壇報》先後在台北印製後，也將一起加入搶奪英文讀者的市場。
台灣的經濟、教育、政治水準比東南亞許多國家好，但四怞h年來一直只有《China News 》、《China Post》兩家英文報，市場不能說是蓬勃。
司馬文武一再強調，「台灣講國際化講了多少年，連一份夠水準的英文報紙都沒有，如何國際化？」他了解早先創辦的兩家英文報有其歷史傳統，但都以「中國」為名，「國際社會怎麼知道你代表誰？」尤其大陸的英文報也叫做《英文中國日報 China Daily》 ，更容易令人混淆。
原來這份新英文報想以「台灣」為名，但Taiwan Daily 已經先被《台灣日報》用了，後來司馬文武想想，以「台北」為名可能更好。國際知名報紙如《紐約時報》、《華盛頓郵報》都以所在的都市為名，而國際航線、國際新聞中的氣象預報、股市行情也都以台北為代表，這個名字反而更響亮，政治性也比較低。
Teng Sue-feng /photos courtesy of Hsueh Chi-kuang /tr. by Jonathan Barnard
With the end of martial law in 1987, the ban on new newspapers was lifted. In the following years, the industry turned red hot, with the number of papers rising from 31 to 239. But the boom was restricted to Chinese-language papers. As before, there were only two English papers: the China News and the China Post.
It wasn't until earlier this year that the Chinese-language Liberty Times, which has made rapid gains in readership in recent years, announced plans to establish the English-language Taipei Times. Meanwhile, I-Mei, a food company with a strong Taiwanese identity, has recently invested several tens of millions of NT dollars to buy the lion's share of the China News. The paper and I-Mei are looking into expansion plans and may change the paper's name to the Taiwan News. The Asian Wall Street Journal and International Herald Tribune, both renowned English-language papers distributed internationally, have also entered the competition for English readers in Taiwan by deciding to print here.
These recent moves have come despite hard times for newspapers worldwide. Here in Taiwan the Independence Post group has changed ownership, and the Central Daily News and China Daily News have merged and cut staff. Overseas, major papers such as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times have laid off hundreds of workers. Why are English-language newspapers in Taiwan bucking this trend? And will they help to raise Taiwan's profile abroad?
Who needs English-language news in Taiwan?
Here's who: 45,000 aspiring elementary school English teachers; 300,000 citizens of other nations, including foreign workers and tourists, whose mother tongue is not Chinese; those frequent flyers who often deal with foreigners, such as Taiwanese businessmen, holders of advanced degrees or people who work in high-tech fields; as well as many students and those planning on attending universities in English-speaking nations. All are potential readers of these publications.
Although the market for English papers in Taiwan is small in comparison to the millions of readers of Chinese-language papers, people in the field agree that the future for English-language papers here looks much brighter than the past. With even elementary school kids studying English, the market can only grow.
While Taiwan's economy, educational system and level of democracy have long been superior to those of Southeast Asian nations, for 40 years the only English papers here have been the China News and China Post. The field could hardly be described as thriving.
English-language papers in Asia have developed according to two separate north-south models. Jack Huang, publisher and chairman of the China Post, notes that to the south of Taiwan, in Hong Kong and Singapore, English papers have been very successful, whereas those to the north in Korea and Japan have not fared nearly so well. In Hong Kong, with a population of only 6 million, there are two English papers, the South China Morning Post and Hong Kong Standard, which run to about 100 pages a day, half devoted to advertising.
"In the Philippines English is the language of government, and Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong were all British colonies." Huang holds that the long-term use of English in those nations is a key reason English-language newspapers have flourished there.
Although Taiwan's two English newspapers each have more than 40 years of history, their targeted readership has changed dramatically. In their early years, they appealed almost exclusively to foreigners, especially to the American troops posted here when the United States was participating in Taiwan's defense.
In 1949, when the ROC government fled here from the mainland, Taiwan became a lonely isle bulwark against communist China. In those precarious times, the two English-language papers were founded with the idea of "opening international eyes and ears."
Y.P. Huang and Nancy Huang, the husband and wife who founded the China Post, were elite students and graduates of Beijing University's journalism department. During the war against Japan, Y.P. Huang had served as editor-in-chief of the Chinese-language Shishi Xinbao. After coming to Taiwan, the Huangs longed to open a paper, but martial law regulations introduced in 1949 required that all new papers obtain government permits, and these were no longer being issued for Chinese-language papers by the time the Huangs applied.
Under the circumstances, they thought, why not just go ahead and start an English paper? With the government in agreement that Taiwan needed an English paper, they established the China Post in 1952 with the stated purpose of "using English to give foreigners a paper to read."
Soldiers leave, businessmen come
The China News had a similar founding aim. Its first publisher James Wei was also a senior newsman. He had held the jobs of vice chairman of the Central News Agency and president of the Broadcasting Corporation of China before moving into government and serving as director of the Government Information Office.
When the government moved to Taiwan, Wei saw the numbers of American forces posted on the island and the foreign diplomatic corps and other foreigners increasing by the day, and thought there was a need for more channels of communication. He started in 1949 by publishing just a small mimeographed newsletter. With the time difference with Europe and America, the newspaper was able to publish much more foreign news by coming out later, and so throughout this period the China News was published in the afternoon. Apart from allowing it to print later-breaking international news, being an afternoon paper also allowed it to stake out a separate niche in the English-reading market from the China Post. It wasn't until 1988, when the lifting of restrictions on the formation of new papers launched a new era of intense competition, that Wei's daughter Simone switched to morning publication in the belief that there were more readers of morning papers.
In the 1960s and 1970s, it was very difficult to operate an English paper in Taiwan. "After the United States switched recognition to the PRC and the American military left, everyone said that the China Post would fold," says Jack Huang, who took over the paper from his parents. "The soldiers left, but businessmen came in the wake of Taiwan's economic take-off. Although the Post hasn't made a lot of money, at least it's been in the black."
In recent years English study has been all the rage in Taiwan, and the China Post has come out with a bilingual weekly supplement for students. The China News has followed suit, and now both papers' student supplements, which are also available by separate subscription, are faring well.
Making Taiwan more international
After the end of martial law in 1987, the number of papers grew, so that by 1994 there were more than 200 in all. But because of the small English readership and the difficulty in finding English editorial staff, few people have thought of opening English-language papers, and it wasn't until this year that the News and Post's hold over the market was challenged.
Amid all the talk about tough times for newspapers, Antonio Chiang, a senior journalist who has worked on the Independent Post and China Times and is now the chairman of the Journalist and publisher of the Taiwan Times, has acquired yet another title: publisher and editor-in-chief of the English-language Taipei Times.
Within the field, it has long been known that Chiang has yearned to start an English paper. For more than a decade he has been buttonholing entrepreneurs and people working in media and cultural fields to talk about creating one. Five times he submitted formal proposals, only to find that his plans couldn't get off the ground for one reason or another: if there wasn't a lack of money, then there was a lack of personnel.
This time around, Lin Jung-san, the owner of the Liberty Times, was willing to put up the money. He wanted both to boost the Liberty Times' image and to "speak on Taiwan's behalf." Chiang points out that cross-strait relations are usually discussed internationally from an American or European perspective. Currently, Taiwan is the only Chinese society in the world with true freedom of the press and the latitude for frank discussion of issues relating to China and Taiwan or, for that matter, even Asian issues in general.
C.K. Lee, the Taipei Times president, says the paper will aim to help Taiwan "stand up and speak its mind" in the international community, using English "both to take Taiwan to the world and bring the world to Taiwan." Chinese papers just don't serve this function.
"China" in Taiwan?
Antonio Chiang stresses time and again: "Taiwan has been talking about becoming more international for many years, but how can it do this without a quality English paper?" He acknowledges that the two current papers have their history and traditions, but points out that they both have "China" in their titles: "How is the international community to know whom you represent?" Since the mainland's English paper is named the China Daily, it is easy to see how foreigners would be confused.
Originally, the plan was to put "Taiwan" in the new paper's title, but the Taiwan Daily is already the English name of a Chinese-language paper. Then Chiang began to think that perhaps "Taipei" would be better after all, since great papers abroad, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, usually have cities in their titles and because international air routes, weather reports, and stock market reports all use Taipei as well. He concluded that "Taipei Times" had an even better ring to it and fewer political connotations.
In regard to potential confusion about whether the China News is from mainland China or Taiwan, its publisher Simone Wei says that "changing the name is not out of the question." Two years ago I-Mei Enterprises, a food manufacturer with a strong Taiwanese identity, invested to become the paper's largest shareholder. In the near future, they may change the paper's name to Taiwan News, so as to foster greater intimacy with their readers.
The China Post, however, takes issue with the notion that its name may confuse people into thinking that it is a mainland paper. "The role of the media," says the Post's Huang, "is to gather news and transmit information." Readers have been recognizing the paper under this name for a long time, says Huang, who holds that there's nothing wrong with the name. Anyway, Huang continues, aren't journalists supposed to "leave all the baggage relating to politics, party and provincial origin outside their paper"? He jokes that if the word "China" can lead people to the misconception that these papers are mainland media outlets, then does that mean that the Chinese-language China Times and such major Taiwan corporations as China Steel and China Life Insurance should also change their names?
Good journalists are hard to find
When it comes to politics, everyone is going to have their own viewpoint. In any case, "English papers are foreigners' main source of news about Taiwan," remarks a reporter at one of the currently publishing English papers, who admits that neither of the two does a very good job. The international news editors, for instance, work under the principle that "just slapping on any copy is good enough," he says. And there is little character to their local coverage. Apart from a few articles written by their own staffs, most of their local news coverage is simply translated from the Chinese-language press "without really any understanding of what is going on." And readers find it hard to discern any substantial difference between the two papers. "They can't serve as the English-language papers that represent Taiwan on the international stage."
James Mitchell, news editor of the Taipei Times, was once a reporter for ICRT (International Community Radio, Taiwan). In his analysis, the main problem with English media in Taiwan is that there is a shortage of personnel. He cites ICRT. Although it isn't a news station, it does have news on the hour. But with only six reporters, its news can't adequately reflect the current situation in Taiwan.
Aside from money, staff is another essential for a good English paper. The first priority is finding reporters with sufficient language abilities. They've got to be comfortable in gathering news and writing copy in both Chinese and English, and they've got to be familiar with current events in Taiwan and have good contacts. The demands made on reporters at English papers in Taiwan are indeed greater than those made on reporters at Chinese papers.
"A good man is hard to find," says Anthony Yuen, who lived in America for 20 years and wrote for over 10 Chinese-language papers there before returning to Taiwan half a year ago to become editor-in-chief and vice president of the China News.
A lack of English-language personnel
After solving the problem of financial backing, Antonio Chiang has been "turning things upside down looking for talented English personnel." He wants the Taipei Times to have strong financial reporting, but has discovered that finance types with good English skills are all after big money and are unwilling to work as reporters. He has also been disappointed to find that although many students go abroad to study journalism every year, most study theory instead of taking practically oriented coursework, because they are scared to test their news gathering skills in an English environment.
Foreign reporters, no matter how good, will waste their talent here without an understanding of Taiwan and its cultural differences. Chiang, therefore, insists that reporters be locals. Times staff responsible for editing copy, writing headlines and laying out the pages, on the other hand, will be foreigners. Indeed, the editorial departments of English-language papers here all resemble small United Nations with personnel from Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and other English-speaking nations.
A newspaper's reputation is not made overnight. The renowned South Morning China Post of Hong Kong and Straits Times of Singapore each have more than a century of history. But the fact is that both these papers were founded by Brits.
Ching Cheong, the Straits Times correspondent in Taiwan, says that the Straits Times has always had greater prestige and a higher circulation than Chinese- and Malay-language newspapers in Singapore because that city state is a multilingual, multi-ethnic society that was formerly a British colony. English naturally became the "lingua franca" spoken between ethnic groups.
He says that he has yet to see an example of a successful English paper founded by Chinese. He defines success for a paper as not needing to exert political influence or obtain financial subsidies, but rather being able to rely wholly on content to attract readers that in turn attract advertisers, and thus keep afloat by its own efforts. This isn't easy to do, Ching argues. It depends largely on the standard and pervasiveness of English in a given society. In Taiwan, English is used much less in every day life than it is in Hong Kong or Singapore, so is the market here large enough?
Small in size, large in contribution
While there are positive and negative analyses of the potential market for English papers here, it should be noted that international media outlets seem to fall among the optimists. Two years ago, the Asian Wall Street Journal began printing in Taiwan, and in March of this year the International Herald Tribune joined them, making Taipei its sixth printing location in Asia.
Nigel Oakins, the International Herald Tribune's managing director for Asia, is confident about the paper's prospects in Taiwan: The International Herald Tribune targets the "globetrotters" who live in various communities around the world. Taiwan has more and more of this sort of person. Furthermore, in January of this year Taiwan did away with its restrictive publishing law, a move the Tribune supports from the standpoint of press freedom. As for the Asian economic crisis, the paper views it simply as a good opportunity to expand market share, spending US$4 million on printing plants in Taipei and Jakarta so as to speed up delivery times. Both plants became operational in March.
English papers in Taiwan have always had small circulations, and Antonio Chiang says that his expectations aren't overly ambitious: if the Taipei Times can reach a circulation of 20,000-30,000 in its early years, that will be good enough.
Yet Chiang believes that English papers should have a distinctive point of view even if their circulations are small.
In this respect, he believes that the Taipei Times will be more effective because it can make use of the ample news-gathering resources of the Liberty Times. The Taipei Times won't miss any big news stories and can spend its time providing news background and analysis. Legislative hearings, secret diplomacy, and interviews with and speeches by the famous, he says, will all get space.
Finding a market niche
Anthony Yuen, the editor-in-chief of the China News, agrees: "Trying to give readers news that doesn't appear in Chinese-language papers is a strategy of trying to 'snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.'" He cites the five-part series about ROC-US relations they ran when former US president Jimmy Carter came to Taiwan.
As far as international news is concerned, the English papers still largely rely on wire services, but "by relying on wire copy, you'll lack any special quality of your own, and will definitely lose out," says Ching Cheong. Ching notes that the Straits Times has its own correspondents in the major American cities as well as Tokyo, Beijing, Taipei and the capitals of Southeast Asian nations. The Asian Wall Street Journal has 15 bureaus in Asia with more than 60 reporters, and the International Herald Tribune, apart from publishing reports from the New York Times and Washington Post, also has more than 100 of its own reporters located around the world.
Antonio Chiang says the Taipei Times also hopes to post reporters in various nations around the world, but right now they don't have those kind of resources. To start, they're going to establish relations with freelance reporters around the world who can work as stringers, providing copy when news breaks relating to Taiwan, such as anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia or Macedonia's decision to establish relations with the ROC.
Paul Chen, deputy editor-in-chief of the China News, notes that they carry not only the major wire services but also syndicated articles from the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. Thus they have access to many different perspectives on the news.
Will growing competition in the English-language newspaper market help the international community to understand Taiwan better? It's not a question that offers a quick and easy answer. One thing is for certain though: this competition's biggest winners are readers of English-language papers.
Competition in the English-language newspaper market is heating up, with the Taipei Times, backed by the Chinese-language Liberty Times, about to hit the stands. Its editorial department, which looks like a miniature United Nations, is getting ready for the coming battle.
"As Taiwan becomes more international, the market for English newspapers is sure to grow," says Jack Huang, the publisher of the China Post.
As she describes the paper's early years, China News publisher Simone Wei pulls out the special commemorative issue that honored her father, the paper's founder, at his passing.
The International Herald Tribune began to print in Taiwan in March. Nigel Oakins, the paper's managing director for Asia, says that the Asian economic crisis's biggest impact on the paper has been to provide an opportune time to invest.
The several hundred thousand foreign workers in Taiwan create many business opportunities and comprise a large share of the readership of English newspapers. On holidays, English periodical hawkers gather on the sidewalk in front of St. Christopher's Church in Taipei.