How to run a newspaper into the ground in 3 years

Good Morning Folks,
I send this along to you all for your amusement. It is a letter to the editor of the Taipei Times that I just wrote. Now in fact I am NOT going to send it. Two reasons for that; first, I am not interested in filling their paper with words for free. Second, I still to some limited extent need their good will. I still do features for them from time to time.

But the news item I mention in the letter did quite amuse me so I could not resist writing and circulating it among my journalist friends.

Dear Editor of the Taipei Times,
I read with considerable interest and with considerable amusement the piece Times host media group (page 2 of the May 24 edition). The article discusses a delegation from the National Newspaper Association who visited the Liberty Times Group and was treated to a presentation by Chen Chin-jung and Scholar Lee Chang-kuei.

The article says The delegation was particularly interested in how…The Taipei Times was able to come to the forefront and become the top English language newspaper in Taiwan just three years after is launch.

A better question to ask would be; how did the Taipei Times, using lame brained Taiwanese management, manage to achieve the following:
lose all of their quality reporters and commentators and
go from being clearly the best english language newspaper to being clearly the worse (well actually on par with the Taiwan I-Mei News)

All in three years.

Actually visiting the Taipei Times does provide important lessons for newspaper owners. Lessons in what not to do.

Brian Kennedy
Former Criminal Justice Commentator, Taipei Times

[quote=“brianlkennedy”]A better question to ask would be; how did the Taipei Times, using lame brained Taiwanese management, manage to achieve the following:
lose all of their quality reporters and commentators and
go from being clearly the best english language newspaper to being clearly the worse (well actually on par with the Taiwan I-Mei News)[/quote]
I think you both asked the question and answered it there too. As for losing all the “quality reporters,” i have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Since when did the Taipei Times news department have any “quality reporters?”
A better whay to describe the situation would be to say that the Times’ “barely competent” reporters have all quit and their jobs have been handed out to children of friends of the Taipei Times management.
The net result is dismal reporting standards and huge amounts of extra work for an already exasperated copy desk. These happy little reporter lambs are not even held responsible for the work they produce.
If a factual error goes into the newspaper, it is the copy editor who gets the blame for “not fixing it.” Same goes for when a reporter misquotes a source or miss-spells a name.
Hard work, honesty and ability are not recognized nor rewarded at the Taipei Times, and unless there is a sea change in mentality, the Taipei Times will continue on its road to ruin.
Anyway, i’ve wasted enough words on this in the other two newspaper threads. What happened Brian? Did the Times give your column the hoof?

Yes, Brian got the “slow boot” off the op/ed page. I noticed that starting the first of this year my pieces got further and further delayed between the time I submitted them and the time they got printed.

Then “Vinnie” the op/ed King (who you may know) started playing what I will call “games” with me. Such as, sitting on a piece for a week, then telling me “oh, not so timely”. Well, Vinnie that is because you sat on it for a f–king week. Those sorts of things went on getting gradually worse.

Plus I could never get a straight answer about anything from either Vinnie or his female sidekick.

Then one day “the straw that breaks the camels back” came. Vinnie told me over the phone that they were going to use some “translation retread” on some topic rather than my piece. I didn’t say anything over the phone but as soon as I hung up I emailed him. The substance of the email was:

“Vincent, this is bullshit, we are finished for the time being.”

Thus ended my Taipei Times op/ed career.

Take care,

Well, you won’t earn any money here on the forumosa web site, but your contributions would almost certainly be appreciated. As for criminal justice, I’ve hardly read a word about it in the Taipei Times since Ms. Irene Lin left for greener pastures at the Commercial Times. I can’t even remember what happened to the Hsichih Trio retrial case. As least Ms. Lin actually bothered to keep up to date on ongoing cases.

I suppose the TT management don’t really give a rat’s ass about justice unless it’s a chance to poke fun at former KMT politicians discovered to have had their hands in cookie jars during the former administration.
And you got shafted by the Taipei Times mangement and their toadies? Welcome to a big club … :unamused:

Go Brian! Maybe you could help out around here a little. It’s about time we had an actual lawyer in the legal forum, for example, or a human rights worker in the human rights forum…

I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned about the newspaper business. And as long as I’ve lived here, I always wondered what working at an English newspaper in Taiwan is like.

Thanks for posting your Letter to the Editor here, Brian :mrgreen:

It really is too bad that a person like Brian is no longer contributing to the English papers here. One more thing to drag them down (or one less thing to buoy them up, I guess.) But the “management” has made their decision, I guess.

I find it interesting that someone like Kennedy, who I never saw in person, but looked over his articles in the Times from time to time, has also figured out how the emperor that is the TT has no clothes.
Being inside the organization for just over the first two years of its operation, I saw very clearly how the dry rot began to set in. How the Chinese sat back and let the hired help bust their balls trying to make the paper work – not always harmoniously or with great success – and then, when things are running more or less smoothly, they start eating the bread they did not help to bake.
The thing that really steams me, among many, is how the Chinese management will jack you around, trying to cover their lies and incompetence when all they need to do is be straight with people and/or ask for advice and then heed it.
I have seen the most outrageous lies being told and thunderously bull-headded attitudes at the paper.
Look, the fact is Brian, the Chinese management wouldn’t know the difference between a silk purse and a sow’s ear. Just look at the recent CAL crash coverage. The front page was not devoted to the story and the six-column photo of aide worker women sitting in a row was befuddling.
If the Times cannot get it right on such a fundamentally important story, how would anyone expect to see improvement day to day?
And finally, Why in the hell doesn’t the owner of the Liberty Times and the TT, open his eyes and ears and see what a balls-up this hand-picked team have created.
…Or maybe they just found out you had a big beard, Brian, and thought you must be a weirdo…

Yeah, maybe it was the beard. Based on all I have heard and all I have kind of “guessed at” based on how the locals operate, everything you said rings 100% true.

I note that the same factors that went into the demise of the Times are basically the same factors that went into the demise of any serious criminal justice reform. They are also the exact same factors that killed Amnesty International Taiwan.

I have heard some say that Taiwan is a hopeless “basket case”. Part of me is starting to accept that.

take care,
p.s. yes, we never met. I set it up as just a email job. I email the article, they mail the money. But you are right, somehow they did find out I had a beard.

…that tai chi article or whatever discipline you do…didn’t look like the thumbnail sketch the TT had done before launch!

Remember also Brian that through publishing op/ed pieces, the TT management can find a way to pay their buddies TWICE – once through the Liberty Times and again via publishing the translated version in the Taipei Times.

Don’t worry, Mr. Kennedy – It is their loss, not yours, even though at first read your letter rings like it is from a sour grapes worker who got the boot. We all know better–your committment to making Taiwan a better place and insights into this island speak above that.

As far as the disintegration of that paper, I can’t believe no one saw it coming. The whole thing reminded me of when they build a brand-new apartment building here. They advertise it as having a great health club, restaurant, etc., (in the Taipei Times’ case they brought in the best in English newspaper talent) but then a few months later the health club, grounds, etc., are a mess and just forgotten and shut down.

But let’s not place our foreign newspaper studs that started up the Taipei Times completely off the hook–apparently in the beginning not all of the top foreign talent could get along.

In related news, has the world gone f------g fruity or what? The China Post has a 7-year-old bartending champion, yes 7, on the back page today. Apparently she’s going to show her alcohol mixing skills to the president. Incredible.

You seem to be telling the tale, familiar as it is to me, of management where the wheels just fell off.
The difference of the management of the TT is that they have purposely interfered regularly in matters that they have no understanding or comptency in.
“Where have you gone?” is frustrating, but: “Why the hell are you f**king everything up for us?” is probably worse.

Yeah, there were problems with some of the “best and brightest” from the get-go, but I think that one of the problems was that several people were not as familiar with the workings of the inside of the newspaper office as they were with the freedom of being freelancers and were unprepared for the situations that arose.
They are all still making their way in journalism I guess, but probably not behind a desk and a computer doing editing, layout or organizational tasks.
I will leave it at that for now.

By the way, even the early defections were traceable to the Chinese management, as I heard. Boy, if they thought it was bad way back then…

Wolf, point taken, but the above may simply be the difference between active incompetence and passive incompetence. I left out some episodes where management actively thwarted rational progress.

What I’m trying to figure out is what my (foreigner) place is in this alien culture. I’m focusing on this issue again because I’ve just been offered a job in a Chinese company and I’m nervous about jumping back into things without having a deeper understanding of the cultural realities. I’m hoping somebody will come out of the woodwork and say ‘yes, i’ve done it successfully and here’s how i did it.’

I have yet to meet a foreigner here though who’s successfully integrated in a Chinese company culture. I don’t claim to be an expert with all-encompassing knowledge. I’m just working with what I know now.

Brian Kennedy,

I believe you know how highly I respect your work. I have read your postings in this thread and can sense your frustration. It is my hope that you will have the time to give us the benefit of your knowledge and experience in the Legal Matters and Human Rights Forums.

Best wishes.

“The nail that sticks up highest is the first to be pounded down.”

The fact that there were “problems” among the foreigners during the launch of the “Taipei Times” is a non-issue. It is doubtful that the launch of any new publication would go absolutely smoothly.

In fact, during the course of the operation of any enterprise, there is a constant daily flow of problems. This is life! Life IS a problem. We are no longer in the Garden of Eden.

The issue here is not the fact that there are problems, but rather, how do we go about solving the problems.

The methods of problem-solving in business as well as in life are (or at least should be) a constantly evolving process. This is why the Harvard School of Business bases its program on case studies. Case studies are relatively current – text books quickly become outdated in the rapidly-changing business world.

But there are some basic problem-solving methods to be considered, such as how to maintain good communication channels, understanding the value of brain-storming sessions, how to conduct a brain-storming session, how to deal with ego-maniacs, etc.

The Enron case is a prime example of how a large modern enterprise can screw itself under the direction of a few bad managers.

If appropriate problem-solving measures are not adopted, an enterprise will eventually fail. These problem solving-measures must be adjusted from time to time to appropriately address new problems. This is not rocket science – it’s just plain common sense.

Chinese management style is based on political appointments (rather than hiring on the basis of merit), status, ego, and face. In Taiwan, management style is basically un-alterable. They are therefore unable to problem solve based on reality. They can only problem solve based on the limits of the head manager’s intellect and the constraints of his ego.

Eventually, and usually very quickly, the enterprise fails because the limit of the head manager’s capabilities is quickly reached, and because of the limitation of “face,” no one is permitted to challenge or question him. And his own massive ego does not allow him ask any of his subordinates for advise. If a subordinate should attempt to give advice, the manager would lose face because this would imply that the manager doesn’t know what he is doing, which is almost always the case! Welcome to Catch 22.

Based on the input on this forum, one could assume that bad management strategy is a universal problem in Taiwan. The best step to solve this problem would be to establish an MBA program in Taiwan that could produce a new breed of corporate managers here.

This, of course, is assuming that the same old misguided attitudes and strategies did not creep into such an MBA program. Based on my limited knowledge of sociology, such a program could never exist in Taiwan.

Excellent notion stogy. But who would overseas such MBA programs? Professors of management studies no doubt. And how many management professors do you know in Taiwan?

Isn’t the TT’s very own Nutty Professor supposed to be some kind of management guru? Just look at the job he’s done. It would be good to see him in charge of turning out legions of little management clones like himself, non?

I see dark clouds on the horizon…

That’s the one. The one who couldn’t “manage” to find his arse even with a mirror.