Community plans protests against magazine

Many members of the local Vietnamese-American community say they are offended by Viet Weekly’s pro-communist stance.

The Orange County Register

GARDEN GROVE – Hundreds of Vietnamese Americans are expected to protest today outside the Main Street office of a weekly news magazine, which many allege is serving as a mouthpiece for the communist government in Vietnam by publishing a series of articles sympathetic to the communists.

The Viet Weekly has incurred the wrath of the expatriate community in Little Saigon, many of whom came to the United States as refugees in the years following the fall of Saigon on April 30 1975.

But publisher Le Vu, himself a refugee who fled Vietnam by boat, said he is simply exercising his First Amendment rights. He said his main goal in printing stories about communists is to create a forum for dialogue and open doors for discussion that were shut decades ago.

“All we’re trying to do is to tell both sides of the story,” he said.

But organizers of today’s rally such as Diep Le say it is by no means a small portion of the community.

On Sunday more than 1,000 people gathered at the Westminster Civic Center to plan a protest against Viet Weekly, and many of them were so incensed that they wanted to go out to Main Street and protest right away, Le said.

“We’re a community of people who have suffered in the hands of the communists,” Le said. “It upsets us when we see a newspaper in this community praising communists.”

Demonstrators plan to protest outside the newspaper office for several days, he said.

“We don’t like the way they work and we’ll protest until they change their ways,” Le said.

Freedom of press is not the issue here, said Thuy Hoang, program director for the VNCR radio station in Little Saigon, who does a daily news program himself.

“Imagine if you glorify Hitler in a predominantly Jewish community or write pro-Ku Klux Klan articles in a newspaper that circulates in a black community,” he said. “That’s exactly what this is.”

The problem many Vietnamese Americans have with the Viet Weekly is that their reporting is not fair and balanced, said Jean Libby, a retired history teacher who created her own blogspot titled Viet-Am Review, where she mostly writes about accomplishments of Vietnamese Americans.

“From what I’ve seen, Viet Weekly thinks free speech includes lying, fabricating news and defaming individuals who mean a lot to the community,” Libby said.

She said Viet Weekly recently twisted the words of Michael Marine, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, saying that he condoned the actions of the communist government in suppressing the rights of political dissidents such as Catholic priest, Nguyen Van Ly. The photograph of Ly, whose mouth was covered by a plainclothes officer as he tried to speak in a Vietnam courtroom, was widely circulated in Little Saigon and viewed with disgust by local community members.

But Vu vehemently denies his newspaper concocts news or manipulates audio files, as Libby alleges.

“That’s a ridiculous charge,” he said.

Vu said the members in the community who criticize his magazine are not proponents of free speech as they like to believe.

“Vietnamese Americans came to this country in pursuit of freedom,” Vu said. “Now, they can’t take it that I’m publishing something that they cannot accept. There’s no way we’ll change the way we operate.”

Bob Jones, a Westminster resident who served as a U.S. diplomat in Vietnam before 1975 and later worked with Vietnamese refugees in Minnesota, said he believes the Viet Weekly young reporters have touched a nerve because of their “courageous reporting.”

“The older generation still has strong feelings about the communist government,” he said. “But the new generation is getting over the differences, want to travel back home and reestablish ties. Viet Weekly is trying to portray that, but is facing resistance from the community.”

Contact the writer: 714-445-6685 or dbharath@ocregister.com

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By The Associated Press

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(Multichannel News) _ It would be easy to read too little ‘ or too much ‘ into last month’s announcement that the MTV World channels MTV Chi, MTV Desi and MTV K were going dark. Read too little, and the news can be dismissed as problems specific to MTV Networks. Read too much, and it could signify that the bottom is falling out of the Asian-American TV market.

“I was disappointed,” said Bill Georges, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Asian network AZN. “It is sad, and it doesn’t send a message we would like to have out there.”

For ImaginAsian TV president Mike Hong, what happened to MTV World had to do with making a go of it in a premium space. “When you are trying to target the Gen Y Asian-American market with a premium service, it just doesn’t work,” Hong said. “And I think [MTV’s] was a premium service that had very little appeal to advertisers.”

During an interview last July on the launch of MTV K, MTV World senior vice president and general manager Nusrat Durrani claimed several advertisers were interested, but he refused to name them. Later that month, MTV president Christina Norman said, “We really feel these young audiences deserve their own MTVs.”

Maybe so, but not for long. MTV Desi, aimed at South Asian-Americans, launched in 2005. MTV Chi, for Chinese-Americans, and Korean-American-targeted MTV K launched in 2006.

ImaginAsian and Comcast-owned AZN report increasing advertising sales on a quarterly basis. That said, “the Asian market is grossly underspent,” according to Georges, with the amount of advertising targeting Asian-Americans in no way reflecting their buying power.

“There has been a lot of buzz and e-

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‘);” onmouseout=”hideAd();” class=”Hotlink”>mail circulating within the Asian space because it is Viacom and MTV,” said Hong. “And some of the agencies have been active in trying to support [MTV World’s] continued existence.”

By contrast, the demise of the satellite network American Desi drew little attention when it filed for bankruptcy last August.

Founder and former CEO Vimal Verma now regrets having granted exclusivity to EchoStar Communications when American Desi launched in December 2004. That approach, he said, is fine for a network from Asia looking to secure incremental revenue in the United States, but “today, for a local U.S. channel to establish itself on EchoStar would be difficult.”

Hong goes one step further. “I think the idea of creating a linear channel that is ad-supported today if you were just getting out of the gates is probably insane.”

That did not stop Filipino Click for the lowest price on dmnobieblanktelevision‘);” onmouseout=”hideAd();” class=”Hotlink”>television giant ABS-CBN from launching a “music/lifestyle” outlet called MYX, inspired by a music network of the same name in the Philippines. MYX debuted Feb. 28 on DirecTV.

“There really is a big market out there, specifically the Asian-American youth market who we know are really, really hungry for music videos,” ABS-CBN Global product manager Pia Palpal-latoc said. “They are not getting enough of that right now.”

ABS-CBN has run a premium network, The Filipino Channel, in the U.S. for more than a decade. In that time, according to Palpal-latoc, it has realized the children of Filipino immigrants felt there was nothing on the network that spoke directly to them as Asian-Americans.

In light of this generational shift, “The next question is, ‘What is the future of our company?’ Obviously we need to start talking to the younger people, the kids of the immigrants and they are looking for something else beyond our original programming on TFC. We feel the way to go after them is music and lifestyle,” Palpal-latoc said.

Despite its Filipino origins, MYX’s focus is on the whole Asian-American youth market. The network does not intend to provide separate Chinese, Korean and South Asian feeds.

ABS-CBN International product manager Jun Del Rosario said, “We are taking a risk but a risk that needs to be taken now.”

Other companies are taking that risk to the Internet and pursuing the Asian-American audience online.

KyLin TV, for instance, is an Internet Protocol-TV service that provides 31 broadcast Chinese channels and some 20,000 hours of “on-demand” broadband programming. The service has 15,000 subscribers, and is bringing in $25 per customer per month, according to Chris Wagner executive vice president of NeuLion, which distributes KyLin TV via broadband.

“Very attractive” is how Wagner described the multicultural broadband market. “You have an expatriate group that wants programming from home. There is a very strong desire for that.”

Broadband, according to Wagner, enables KyLinTV to reach a potential market of 20 million Chinese-Americans without going to the trouble of having to negotiate dozens of cable and satellite carriage agreements.

AZN’s Georges said his network’s online Click for the lowest price on dmnobieblankstreaming‘);” onmouseout=”hideAd();” class=”Hotlink”>streaming video player offers programming in several languages at the same time, “which you could never do on a linear platform and, with the number of Asian languages, you can’t do it on VOD either.”

Even when news of MTV World’s demise broke, the company said, “We remain steadfast in super-serving multicultural youth, and we are continuing to investigate ways to integrate the MTV Desi, Chi and K brands online and on our other screens.”

As ABS-CBN’s Del Rosario put it, “With the Asian market, everything is a work in progress.”

Copyright The Associated Press 2006. All Rights Reserved

March 31, 2006

Ethnic media filling the gap

NEW OUTLETS RUSH IN TO BRING NEWS TO VALLEY'S VIETNAMESE COMMUNITY

By K. Oanh Ha
Mercury News

Three new Vietnamese-language newspapers and an online news outlet are vying to fill the void left by the closing of the Mercury News' Viet Mercury publication, underscoring the vibrancy of ethnic media even as mainstream newspapers face uncertain futures.

Two former Viet Mercury editors plan to start publishing in the next two months while the paper's former advertising manager has launched an online news portal. A third newspaper plans to offer bilingual business news.

The publications aim to nab readers of Viet Mercury, which ceased publication in November.

“The enthusiasm for replacing Viet Mercury speaks about the viability of the market,'' said Jim Nguyen, Viet Mercury's former advertising manager who founded online news site VietUSA News after leading an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the paper. The site will soon relaunch as a news portal catering to Vietnamese readers globally, Nguyen said.

Former editor De Tran and his managing editor, Hoang Xuan Nguyen, have plans for separate publications modeled after the one they ran together for almost seven years.

The proliferation of Vietnamese and other ethnic publications is in stark contrast to the challenges facing mainstream newspapers: declining readership and advertising. Knight Ridder, the nation's second-largest newspaper chain and owner of the Mercury News, agreed to be purchased by McClatchy, a sale forced by major stockholders unhappy about Knight Ridder's financial performance. McClatchy has announced it will sell the Mercury News and 11 other Knight Ridder papers.

The landscape of the ethnic press is dramatically different. About a dozen Vietnamese publications now circulate in the Bay Area. Readers of Chinese can choose from at least six dailies and Indian-Americans, at least six monthly and weekly publications.

Richer coverage

Ethnic media, including television, online and radio, reaches one-fourth of the entire U.S. population and 80 percent of adults in minority communities, according to a 2005 study by New America Media, a San Francisco-based association of ethnic publications.

“If all the mainstream media went on strike, I wouldn't miss a beat,'' said Ling-chi Wang, a prolific reader of Chinese publications who heads Asian-American studies at the University of California-Berkeley. “What I read in Chinese papers is so much richer than mainstream content . . . There's many more pages of news about Asia.''

The success of ethnic publications goes hand-in-hand with increased immigration. The Chinese-American population in Santa Clara county more than doubled between 1990 and 2004 to 134,000 while the Vietnamese-American population also doubled, to 107,000. Numbers of Indian-Americans grew nearly threefold, to 72,000. As a result, the circulation of monthly magazine India Currents increased 20 percent, to 22,000, in Northern California over the past five years.

“It's pretty competitive,'' said editor Ashok Jethanandani. “I've seen so many publications come and go.''

The ethnic press thrives on a symbiotic relationship with mom-and-pop enterprises since both predominantly serve the local immigrant communities. “Korean dry cleaners need Korean media to grow their businesses,'' said Sandy Close, founder of New America Media.

Still, ethnic press have challenges of their own. Readership drops off considerably with the second generation, according to a 2003 San Francisco State University study on ethnic media.

Mindful of that, two of the upcoming Vietnamese publications plan to offer some English content.

Leaders at the new ventures say they want to emulate Viet Mercury, which was well-received by readers for its balanced journalism and high professional standards in a community where advocacy journalism is the norm and papers are susceptible to pressures from political and business interests.

Viet Mercury was also the first local Vietnamese newspaper to attract mainstream advertisers on a large scale rather than relying on just area immigrant businesses for revenue. The new publications hope to pair that model with lower overhead that will allow them to charge less for ads.

Viet Mercury charged up to $1,000 for a full-page ad, and couldn't pull in enough high-paying advertisers. Vietnamese publications typically charge $120 for a full-page ad.

But competition is already intense, and some watchers doubt the market is large enough for many more entrants. All four of the new Vietnamese publications are currently talking to one another about combining forces.

Quality — and profit

Tran, whose VTimes publication makes its debut next month, is convinced he can deliver both quality and profit. “We'll have the same quality of Viet Mercury,'' he said. “But we'll do it for less and we'll be able to charge much less for advertising.''

Tran wants his paper to be “a bridge to connect Vietnamese-Americans to the larger community,'' he said. Viet Tribune, headed by Hoang Nguyen, will focus on culture and lifestyle, particularly on issues affecting women and seniors.

Each of the new papers is being jump-started with only a few hundred thousand dollars. They aim for circulations around 20,000, compared with Viet Mercury's 57,000. They will rely on freelancers for most content.

The small scale of those operations leave many wondering whether they can match Viet Mercury's editorial content.

“Viet Mercury raised the quality,'' said Nguyen Qui Duc, the Vietnamese-American host of KQED's Pacific Time program. “I don't know that anyone can duplicate that because no one has those resources.''

Nguyen of VietUSA News said he wants to replicate Viet Mercury's “integrity'' but said there may be limitations. “Because we had the backing and protection of the Mercury News, we were able to be bold and courageous about exposing fraud and write exposes,'' he said. “With a community newspaper that has no shield, would we be able to do those same kinds of stories?''

Tran is undeterred: “A paper that's high-quality, objective and well-designed — there's a great need for it in the community.''


Contact K. Oanh Ha at kha@mercurynews.com or (408) 278-3457.