Karleen C. Chinen

I don’t spend too much time worrying about how many more years of publishing life lie ahead for the Herald. Frankly speaking, it’s not a decision that I have much control over. Besides, there’s enough to do, getting us from one issue to the next, just two weeks away in most cases, while also lining up stories and freelance writers for future issue.

But once in a while, I’ll get a big jolt that will shake me up for a while. Such was the case a few months ago regarding the dire situation facing the Los Angeles-based Rafu Shimpo, the longest-running Japanese American newspaper in the United States with 113 years of history behind it. Our Ja-panese language sister-publication Hawai‘i Hochi, established in 1912, is a close second with 104 years this December. Of the more than a dozen Japanese-language newspapers that were once published, only the Hawaii Hochi and the Rafu Shimpo continue to publish as almost-daily newspapers today.

In her April 5 column, the Rafu’s English editor, Gwen Muranaka, revealed that the newspaper has nine months — basically by year’s end — to turn its finances around, or the newspaper will be forced to close. What might save the Rafu is if it can sign up at 10,000 subscribers for its online edition. (I plan to do that after this 35th edition goes to press.)

It’s not uncommon in these digital days for newspapers to switch to a digital-only format, or worse, to completely cease publishing. If it’s rough for a mainstream English-language newspaper to stay alive, it’s many times harder for small ethnic community publications like the Rafu Shimpo and The Hawai‘i Herald. The demographics don’t work in our favor, although I think the Herald’s all-English format gives it a slight edge.

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