The Role of Sing Tao Daily’s Local Readership in its Transition to the Internet

Project Team

Matt Senate, Guang “Sunshine” Yang, Valerie Woolard



The Chinese-language press has been a staple of San Francisco’s Chinese immigrant culture for over a century, and continues to have a large presence in the immigrant community. However, as of 2004, none of the major Chinese-language newspapers in San Francisco were locally-owned. (Hua B1) This provided an impetus to study the evolution of internationally-owned newspapers and their web-presence over time. We thought that there may be more emphasis on international rather than local news in the online editions, and they therefore would not be well-suited to serving their local readership. We wanted to focus on a single paper, so our research question became, “How has the Sing Tao Daily, San Francisco’s most widely-read Chinese-language newspaper, dealt with the needs of its readership in its transition to an online presence?”

We looked at several scholarly articles on the Chinese ethnic press and the transition of these papers to the internet. One of our group members, Guang “Sunshine” Yang, is a native Chinese speaker, so she was able to look at the Sing Tao Daily website and make observations, as well as share her knowledge of Chinese-language newspapers in general. We also realized that there is a website run by the UC Berkeley Journalism School called the China Digital Times which aggregates and publishes news about China in both Chinese and English. The founder and editor-in-chief of the China Digital Times, Xiao Qiang, is UC Berkeley professor  and Chinese media expert and agreed to sit down with us for an interview.

We found that the market for these Chinese-language newspapers are largely first-generation Chinese immigrants who held ties to Hong Kong and thus (Zhou, Chen & Cai 43). This helps in creating a “transnational identity” in their ability create an identity in both the United States and China. The papers cater mostly to this market, as many of their articles are recycled from the international parent newspapers. Chinese-speaking second- and third-generation immigrants tend to obtain news from other sources.

On the whole, we determined that the online presence of the Sing Tao Daily was probably a positive step, but had a long way to go in realizing its full potential. For example, the Sing Tao Daily website archive only goes back one week, so if someone were to be looking for an article from an earlier time, they would have done better to have simply saved a copy of the print edition. Scholars have hailed the overseas Chinese press as a means of making more information available without the constraints of censorship (Zhang & Xiaoming 26). While often providing message boards and other “free speech” forums, the online versions of such newspapers also do not tend to have as many articles as their print counterparts, due to intellectual property concerns. As a result, someone seeking extensive information about a topic online would not be able to find very much. As a result,online newspapers such as the Sing Tao Daily serve as mere shadows, or “calling cards” for their print editions (Xiao 1). And while not catering exactly to the general local Chinese population, the paper is well-established among a particular demographic, and seems to have no incentive to improve its website to the point that it replaces or rivals its print edition.


Hua, Vanessa. “Ming Pao becomes 6th Chinese-language daily.” San Francisco Chronicle 3 Aug. 2004: B1. 19 July 2009.

An article on San Francisco’s daily newspapers, written in 2004. It was written because a new newspaper was beginning in the city, but includes information on the general perceptions of each of the newspapers as well as their circulation numbers. Also provides general historical background on the San Francisco ethnic press. We found this useful in providing some grounding in the popular perceptions of Sing Tao Daily in contrast to other newspapers of the area. Another thing we found interesting was the description of the China Times, which seems to be the last of the major locally-owned papers. It was bought and taken over by Sing Tao Daily the same year that this article was published.

Ma, Yan. “Chinese American Newspapers and Periodicals in the U.S.” Serials Review 29 (2003): 179-98.

This article is based upon a survey the author conducted in 1997 of American Chinese Language newspapers and periodicals, her 2001 follow-up research on their websites, and her 2003 update of web statistics and locations. It also contains the author’s analysis and suggestions about the nature and significance of these publications’ web presence. Ma notes some interesting findings like how some publications have utilized the internet as an opportunity to address democracy and human rights in China. Also, she infers the implications of this web transition and the value of the internet for both these publications as well as readers. Her view is somewhat technologically deterministic and lacks basic academic skepticism that would address disadvantages as well as the obvious advantages. Even though the Sing Tao Daily is not one of the newspapers studied (which could make our research more valuable) this study helps to situate our perspective of Chinese American newspapers and their transition to the internet.

Sing Tao USA. 19 July 2009 <http://www.Sing>.

The first thing I found is that Sing Tao Daily reports political events in a very objective way, and is able to give a lot of details, which would be not found in mainland Chinese newspapers. Besides, Sing Tao also plays a very important way in spreading Chinese culture and Chinese language. Rather than those which focus on international issues or world events, Sing Tao always put news about ceremony and activities relative to Chinese language onto headlines or report as highlight. There is a section called special edition, which keeps eyes on the history of immigrants and their next generations. In this section, they talk about all kinds of problems, experience and stories around Chinese community in early years. To some extent, it helps Chinese speakers form their awareness of belonging. And this is also the main difference between Chinese language newspapers and others. The on-line newspaper has quite a lot of advantages, like it provides an easy access for readers to get to know the latest news everywhere in China. We may say that, Sing Tao newspaper is a powerful tool for Chinese who live in CAL to keep in touch with their hometown and well informed of what happening where they live now. It is indeed an excellent place for culture translation.

Xiao, Qiang. “A Quick Chat with an Esteemed Scholar whose Research Focuses on the Intersection of China, the Internet, and Human Rights.” Personal interview. 4 Aug. 2009. Matthew Senate met with Professor Xiao, adjunct professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism, MacArthur Fellow, and editor-in-chief of watch-dog news aggregator

He helped situate the significance of the Sing Tao Daily and other Chinese-language North American newspapers in an overall scheme of information and journalism. We talked mainly about the limited scope and market that the Sing Tao Daily effectively corners, appealing mainly to first-generation Cantonese-speaking immigrants with ties to Hong Kong (business or otherwise). We also discussed the motivation behind his research and the China Digital Times, noting that while North American Chinese-language dailies and weeklies have their place, few have the skill and desire to do the kind of edgy, hard-hitting journalism that would cover topics relevant to his research.

Yang, Guobin. “The Internet and the Rise of a Transnational Chinese Cultural Sphere.” Media, Culture & Society 5 (2003): 469-90.

This article analyzes the basic elements, dynamics and political functions of online Chinese cultural sphere. Of all these things I am interested in Bulletin board system, which is developing in an amazing speed in recent years in China. It provides a big space people to talk, discuss, even argue. Since China is a ancient traditional country, there always exist a lack of communication. BBSs develop in such background, so they help people to express in their own way and make Chinese community all over the world closer than ever before. As far as I am concerned , there is no doubt to say that, BBSs play the role of promotion in modern times in the development of transnational Chinese cultural sphere.

Yang, Tao. Press, community, and library: “A study of the Chinese-language newspapers published in North America.” Chinese Librarianship: an International Electronic Journal 27 (2009).

This article (published online!) was one of the first I found and definitely easiest to obtain, which I consider very noteworthy. Yang proceeds through a history of the Chinese-language ethnic press in the U.S. It usefully touches on the Sing Tao Daily as an example of a new (emergent of the 1970s) style of transnational Chinese-language newspaper. He then does an analysis on contemporary newspapers, again discussing the Sing Tao Daily, as well as an analysis on Toronto and New York-New Jersey local newspapers. The rest of his paper considers the problems and issues libraries and library scientists have and must address in terms of cataloging and organizing these newspapers. He cites that many North American Chinese-language newspapers after 1970 are not being cataloged and that while there is an online presence, this does not suffice in historical record-keeping. The most interesting and notable aspect of this article is the clear distinction the Chinese ethnic press faced in the 1970s that lead to a denser, more transnational, and more technologically dependent version.

Zhang, Kewen, and Hao Xiaoming. “The Internet and the Ethnic Press: A Study of Electronic Chinese Publications.” The Information Society 15 (1999): 21-30. InformaWorld. 19 July 2009 <>.

An article on the role of the internet in Chinese ethnic press. Emphasizes the role of the internet in sidestepping censorship and making more specific information and publications widely available. Also discusses the possible implications of widely available Chinese news for Chinese-Americans in their connection to their culture, language retention and political involvement. The article seems mostly speculative in its claims, providing suggestions as to how the internet might change the ethnic press rather than evidence. It does also include internet usage statistics for several sites. In addition, there were lists of Chinese newsgroups, which helped us to get an idea of other sources of news for Chinese-Americans beyond conventional newspapers.

Zhou,  Min, Wenhong Chen, and Guoxuan Cai. “Chinese-language media and immigrant life in the United States and Canada.” Media and the Chinese diaspora: Community, communications, and commerce. By Min Zhou. New York: Routledge, 2006. 42-74. Print.

This article provided information on the Chinese-language press in North America. It gives not only an overview of the Chinese-language newspaper market, but also cultural and historical background for the Chinese press. It links the evolution of Chinese newspapers to the Chinese immigrant population at the time. For example, in the late nineteenth century, when local Chinese-American newspapers first emerged, much of the Chinese population was illiterate and not terribly engaged with this type of media. However, post-Tienanmen Square, the Chinese-American and Chinese immigrant populations are becoming increasingly better educated, which has caused a resurgence of the Chinese-language newspapers. It also mentions the Sing Tao Daily briefly as one of the major Chinese newspapers in North America.

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