- Professional journalism failed to keep up with Taiwan’s economic changes until DIANE YEUN-PENG YING and two colleagues started the monthly CommonWealth in 1981 to bring substance, style and professionalism into business journalism.
- Avoiding sensation and stridency, CommonWealth was a sober newcomer to Taiwanese newsstands with its first printing of 10,000 in June 1981 sold out in only two days, and its circulation has now reached over 90,000; it has an estimated 630,000 readers monthly.
- In achieving such high level of excellence, YING persists in training her young reporters personally. Her attention to substance and quality accounts for CommonWealth’s growing reputation as an authoritative, must-read publication in Taiwan’s boardrooms, government offices and academic halls.
- The RMAF Board of Trustees recognizes “her contribution of economic reporting and business journalism to Taiwan’s industrial and commercial vitality.”
In three short decades the 20 million citizens of Taiwan have witnessed the transformation of their mountainous, predominantly agrarian island into a prosperous and highly competitive industrial and commercial power. A new generation of entrepreneurs, managers, bureaucrats and academics is now trying to steer Taiwan’s economy away from labor-intensive industry toward high technology, and changing founderled enterprises into manager-run corporations. For Taiwan, which has formal diplomatic ties with only 23 countries, business and trade with some 150 nations is today the key to domestic prosperity and the essence of its foreign relations.
Professional journalism in Taiwan failed to keep pace with these changes until Tien Sia, or CommonWealth, appeared. Founded by its editor and publisher DIANE YUN-PENG YING in 1981 to bring substance and style to business reporting, it has become a significant force in promoting economic progress, combined with social responsibility, in Taiwan.
When YING and two colleagues started CommonWealth, business journalism in Taiwan was primitive: the newventure’s competitors were few, unreliable and often unreadable. As a professionally produced business magazine of high quality, hers was the first to succeed. Launching the magazine was risky, especially because its price was dauntingly high. Avoiding sensation and stridency, it was a sober newcomer to Taiwanese newsstands. Yet, its first printing of 10,000 inJune 1981 sold out in two days, and circulation is now more than 90,000; it reaches an estimated 630,000 individual readers monthly. Among the more than 2,700 magazines, it is one of Taiwan’s most popular.
Every month CommonWealth offers concisely written articles on business, finance, production management and international trade. Its hallmark is in-depth and critical reporting on social and economic trends in education, demography and Taiwan’s relations with Japan and other economic partners and competitors. The style is easy-to-read and lively. Her readers, says YING, have too little time for ponderous scholarly journals. Although it is a thoroughly private enterprise, CommonWealth’s objectives in stimulating economic innovation and social progress in Taiwan synchronize with those of the government.
YING, who is 46 and came with her family from the Chinese mainland as a child, started the magazine without influential connections. She relied upon her prodigious capacity for work and lessons of two decades of fruitful education and experience, including a BA in English Literature from the University of Chengkung in Taiwan, and an MA in Journalism from the University of Iowa in the United States. For two years she reported local news and wrote feature stories for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Back in Asia, she worked for USIS and covered Taiwan for United Press International, the New York Times and the Asian Wall Street Journal. Gradually she conceived the idea of a Chinese language business magazine the caliber of Fortune. Another woman, Cora Li-hsing Wang, and Charles H.C. Kao, Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin, became her partners as business manager and president, respectively. All three invested their personal savings in the venture.
More than a publishing success, YING’s magazine is establishing standards for journalism in Taiwan. Articles are thoroughly researched and well written, complementing fine design and printing. In achieving such high standards, YING persists in training her young reporters personally. Exemplifying her personal philosophy which identifies talent with work, she takes a hand in every phase of the magazine’s production. Her attention to substance and quality accounts for CommonWealth’s growing reputation as an authoritative, must read publication in Taiwan’s boardrooms, government offices and academic halls.
In electing DIANE YUN-PENG YING to receive the 1987 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts, the Board of Trustees recognizes her contribution of economic reporting and business journalism to Taiwan’s industrial and commercial vitality.
It is a great honor for me to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award, which is established in memory of one of the most respected Asian leaders in recent history.
Since this is the first time the Ramon Magsaysay Award in Journalism is given to a candidate from Taiwan, it is also an honor, I believe, shared by all my fellow journalists in Taiwan in general, and by my young colleagues at CommonWealth Magazine in particular.
The Award carries a great encouragement. It reconfirms my belief that journalism is a profession worth life-long devotion. Despite the long trying hours, and the constant self-doubt that is part of the search for the ever-so-elusive truth, a journalist nevertheless encounters a very challenging and fulfilling mission. Journalism, perhaps, is the best profession in the world, because a journalist is paid to learn, and life itself is a process of ceaseless learning.
The Award is also a great inspiration, because it calls attention to the often forgotten importance of using writing, reporting, and publishing as “a power for the public good.”
When all over the world every day news is full of killings, starvation, crimes, disasters, political strives and trade wars, when “bad news” becomes the synonym of “news,” it is time for journalists to reexamine our roles.
Must we be nothing more than a commercial tool where news is regarded as a product for sale, a source of entertainment, and a journalist’s ultimate goal is to seek personal gain, fame, money and power?
Or can we, and should we, become a positive force in society, helping to build better understanding between the government and the people, to form consensus in a nation, and to foster hope among fellow human beings?
The Ramon Magsaysay Award serves as a great enlightenment.
DIANE YUN-PENG YING was born in 1941 in Sian, Shensi Province, China, where her father, Ying Chun-tsai, was manager of the Lunghai Railroad. She was his third child, but the first from his marriage to Ma Pei-chin whom he had met and courted after having divorced his first wife. Although Chun-tsai was descended from smallholder farmers in Shantung Province, and Pei-chin came from an elite scholar-official family in Honan, they had in common the experience of a modern advanced education. He was the first in his family to attend the university, she had graduated from a teacher’s training college. The Yings began their family life?three children followed DIANE? admidst the grave uncertainties of war and civil upheaval.
DIANE passed her earliest years in Sian but at the end of the Japanese war the family moved to Nanking. Here her father, an ardent nationalist and a ranking member of the Kuomintang (KMT), served as the KMT representative for Shantung in the National Assembly. When civil war resumed he went to Tsingtao as the senior KMT official in Shantung Province. Because of the fighting, however, the rest of the family remained in Nanking. There DIANE briefly attended school, but in 1948, as the KMT’s fortunes deteriorated and the communists approached Nanking, the family abruptly withdrew to Hankow aboard a plane provided by a relative in the air force. Left behind in this retreat was DIANE’s older half-brother who was away at boarding school; he has remained on the mainland ever since.
After a few months in Hankow the family flew on to Taiwan as part of the massive exodus of mainlanders to the off-shore Nationalist redoubt. DIANE?s father remained at his post in Shantung until the end, joining the rest of the family only in late 1949.
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