Today is the fifth anniversary of the launch of the Taipei Times. Over these past five years, whenever the foreign media and politicians have visited our newspaper, they have often asked the following questions: What is the newspaper's market? How much does the Taiwan government subsidize the the paper? How many copies do we sell sell each day? And how much income does the paper generate from ad placements? These foreigners are often often fascinated to discover that I — the media newcomer running this internationally renowned newspaper — am actually an elderly gentleman. I tell them very sincerely that the newspaper is collectively run by more than 70 people — members of our staff who come from as many as eight different English-speaking countries.
The founder of the Taipei Times, Lin Rong-san (林榮三), who is also the founder of the Chinese-language newspaper Liberty Times (自由時報), started this English-language newspaper with the goal of "bringing Taiwan to the world and the world to Taiwan." His intention was to make the Taipei Times a window through which Taiwan sees the world and the world sees Taiwan.
This newspaper was founded on the ideals and principles of professional journalism, which transcends political divisions, so as to impartially report on the developments and problems of Taiwan's evolving democracy, its politics, society, economy and culture. At the same time, we also report world affairs, so as to keep Taiwan connected with the world. Currently, based on the response of our overseas readers, we know that the paper has become Taiwan's most authoritative and trusted English-language news medium.
A main goal of the Taipei Times is to have a news section focusing on Taiwan's political, social, cultural, economic, arts, sports and financial events. The bilingual section, which targets the student reader market, is designed to help Taiwan become a truly bilingual country. It is our intention to publish a newspaper that is representative of Taiwan's voice and meets the needs of Taiwan.
From the very beginning we clearly realized that in running a newspaper in Taiwan we could not be over-dependent on the news stories published by the local Chinese-language newspapers. Nor could we simply reprint foreign wire news. Also, our communication with the global village could not rely simply on the publication of the printed newspaper. Nor could we simply rely only on local staff to do all the editing and reporting work.
Therefore, we recruited journalists from as many as eight different countries who embraced the ideal of "Taiwan first, democracy and freedom No. 1" to join us.
At the same time, we also designed and implemented an Internet news Web site capable of reaching out to all parts of the world. We were determined to become the best of the best.
This newspaper was finally launched on June 15, 1999. At the time, it was very difficult to recruit reporters who could write news stories in the English language. Now we have more than 30 local reporters with excellent professional journalistic writing ability in English.
Despite our ideals and passion, it was very difficult to publish in Taiwan, where there was no real market for English-language news media, an English-language newspaper on par with the standard of international media. In the past Taiwan had been shut out and confined to a small corner of the international community, lacking any news publications capable of making communication with the international community. The hard work of the Taipei Times over these past five years have brought Taiwan into the international community and this in turn has helped the newspaper win over the trust and respect of the international community.
The Opinion section of the newspaper is highly recognized and regarded by readers within and outside Taiwan. Not only do the daily editorials faithfully and accurately convey the popular will and mainstream voice of Taiwan, but the commentaries of the academics and experts, as well as the letters to the editor, have provided insightful views on news events. Page 9, the Insight section, provides a forum for voices and critique from the international community. On this particular page, one can often read important articles written by internationally renowned scholars and political figures.
The quality of the paper's news reporting and commentaries is widely recognized and welcomed by a large number of readers in the world. The design and the quality of reporting in the Taipei Times indeed lives up to international standards. Since our launch, we have participated in the Society for News Design (SND) awards for five years consecutively, and have won the top awards, including World's Best Designed Newspaper in 2001. The Taipei Times was the only Asian newspaper to win such a high honor.
Moreover, the Opinion section of the Taipei Times is known not only for its authoritativeness, but its classy and tasteful page design as well. The Opinion page for Dec. 25, 2002, when my article Merry Christmas, Mr. Jiang Zeminwas printed, won a Best Design award from the SND last year.
To promote the level of English proficiency in Taiwan, the bilingual section offers the youngsters of Taiwan English reading and learning materials. Many of them say that "The Taipei Times is simply great. After we began reading the Taipei Times and participating in its English-learning extra-curricular activities, we managed to pass the English proficiency tests. The Taipei Times is indeed a very helpful and useful newspaper." At the same time, for readers in the business sector, the paper has a page that focuses on teaching business English, so that they can easily communicate with the global village. We've also launched an E-Commerce project through which firms, schools and institutions may blend into the Taiwan market and the global village. Currently, Google, various universities and firms in the Hsinchu Science-Based Industrial Park have all subscribed to the E-Commerce section of the Taipei Times.
Before the launch of the Taipei Times, the market survey did not paint a rosy picture for a third English-language newspaper. However, our founder Lin insisted that the maturity of Taiwan's democracy and level of economic development created the opportunity for the survival of the Taipei Times.
Indeed, Taiwan's internationalization and democratization have helped the growth and development of the newspaper. Taiwan has become an exemplary democratic country in Asia. The growth of freedom of speech has kindled the exchange of thoughts and views.
With the people of Taiwan growing increasingly rich, and the country becoming increasingly internationalized, it is imperative to broaden the horizons of youngsters and open their eyes, and to deliver to them information and knowledge ofs the world. The Taipei Times has become an English-language newspaper recognized for its contributions to both the international community and Taiwan.
Lee Chang-kuei (
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