‘Entering a new era’: What is the way forward for Chinese news outlets after Sing Tao Daily ceases publication?

·3 min read

In responding to profound changes in the market, such as audiences expecting more real-time updates and maximum flexibility in accessing news and information, Sing Tao Canada has decided to end the print edition of Sing Tao Daily, beginning Aug. 28.

According to the company’s statement on July 25, Sing Tao will focus on expanding and enriching its digital media offerings and shutting down the daily newspaper, which is jointly owned by Hong Kong-based Sing Tao News Corporation and Torstar Corporation, the parent company of the Toronto Star and this newspaper. The move will allow more resources to be dedicated to further strengthening and broadening its digital portfolio to meet the needs of advertisers and the community alike.

Sing Tao has been operating in Canada for 44 years, and the Markham-based Sing Tao Toronto Edition has accumulated many loyal readers during that time. As Joseph Lau, founding president of Toronto Chinese Media Professionals Association, said, it has become second nature for many middle-aged and older Chinese immigrants to buy and read Sing Tao Daily every day.

“We're not stopping printing,” indicated Calvin Wong, president at Singtao Media Group Canada. “For the Greater Toronto Area, a lifestyle magazine called Sing Tao Headline Weekly will be launched in September; and the high-end bilingual fashion magazine, EiteGen, will continue to be published.”

Wong expressed his gratitude to the newspaper’s readers over the last 40 years and emphasized that Sing Tao is not saying goodbye: “Readers can engage with our news website and apps, read our E-newsletters and the weekly magazine, listen to our radio programs.”

Transformation seems to be unavoidable for many traditional media outlets.

A Statistics Canada report shows that the operating revenue of Canadian newspaper publishers in 2020 declined 21.9 per cent from 2018, when the survey was last conducted. Prior to the pandemic, the industry had already been transitioning toward increased reliance on digital advertising and digital circulation sales.

Lau is pessimistic about the development prospects of Chinese-language media in GTA. “With the increasing number of self-media and internet influencers, the functionality of traditional media is constantly diminishing.”

Ten years ago, about 30 Chinese newspapers were distributed for free in the GTA, he said, and now there are only two or three. Ninety per cent of them are gone, which means the space for Chinese media is shrinking dramatically.

No new businesses, no new hires. Lau worries the path to re-employment for those affected by the closure of Sing Tao Daily will be difficult.

Wong confirmed that a total of 83 staff will be affected across the country upon ceasing publication of the newspaper.

The union representing 43 members at Sing Tao Toronto, Unifor Local 87-M, says the sudden announcement to close Sing Tao hurts not only the Chinese-speaking people of Toronto but Canada’s cultural fabric.

“Closing Sing Tao is an unconscionable blow to the Chinese-speaking people of Toronto who rely on a daily newspaper to keep them informed of what is happening in their city and around the world, in their language,” said Carleen Finch, president of Unifor Local 87-M.

Tracy Ying Zhang, assistant professor from the department of communication and media studies in York University, believes it is important to support locally established Chinese-language news outlets, because they not only facilitate the circulation of local information and stories but also foster a sense of belonging and collective cultural identity.

"I hope Canadian journalists of Chinese descent will open more political space for young and old Chinese Canadians to have meaningful dialogues, when anti-Asian racism is still pervasive."

Local news is in crisis, and that impacts all Canadians, Finch said. The federal government has taken a first step to support local news through Bill C-18, but more is necessary, she said.

Bill C-18, the federal government’s Online News Act intended to make online platforms like Google and Facebook pay for news, is currently stalled in committee, while Parliament takes their summer hiatus.

Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Economist & Sun