San Francisco Journalist Launches Local Chinese Newspaper

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Since 1986, Portia Li had covered the Chinese community in San Francisco as a criminal justice reporter for the World-Journal, the largest Chinese-language newspaper in the U.S. But after three decades of reporting, she was laid off in April. Instead of throwing in the towel, she launched a new weekly bilingual publication called the Wind Newspaper. The first issue was published on Sept. 1.

“I really wanted to continue to cover news for (my) community,” Li said. “I look at the current Asian community in San Francisco and they don’t have as many voices as they should have based on the population.”

Wind Newspaper is published every Tuesday. Every story is published side-by-side in English and Chinese, which Li translates herself. The publication also has a website (windnewspaper.com) that is updated weekly, and Twitter and Instagram accounts that are updated daily. The staff consists of Li, who edits, reports and designs the page layout, and her son, who helps run the website. In addition, Li has a team of freelance reporters and designers.

The weekly editions allow Li to dive deep into issues that are important for the community. One of her priorities is covering the election this month. She explained that the turn out rates for Asian voters has been low for a long time, so her goal is to remind the community to vote. Also, covering criminal justice issues remains one of Li’s focuses. Soon, she hopes to include coverage of Asian American authors who are writing books about topics that are relevant to the community.

The print product and website are free to all readers, relying on the advertising model instead. She admits finding advertisers these days is hard work, especially for a new publication (to fund the newspaper, Li had to use her own savings). However, Li wants to offer the products for free because many people have lost their jobs during the pandemic and they may not be able to afford a subscription. So, Li still wants “them to be able to get the information they need and connect with the community.”

As the only Chinese and English newspaper in California, Li said she has received a lot of positive feedback from readers. She has heard from the immigrant community that the Wind Newspaper is a helpful resource to aid them in learning English. For the American-born Chinese readers, it is a platform that gives them the opportunity to keep up with their community. Many of the newspapers that cover the Chinese community are usually published only in Chinese, so there tends to be a language barrier.

When asked where she got the idea for the publication’s name, Li said it is a reference to the colloquialism, “which way the wind blows.”

“If you want to know what the direction of the Asian community (is), come look at my paper, and then you (will) see where the wind blows,” she said.

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