The Last Day, A Much Lighter Offering
Today represents my last day working as an editor and writer for three English-language magazines in Taiwan. As it wasn't my intention to teach English as a second language (ESL), which is what most foreigners end up doing in Taiwan, this job gave me the opportunity not only to hone my skills as an editor and learn about the magazine trade, but it also provided me with the permits and certificates required to stay legally in the country. But it was evident from the onset that I could only go so far (and long) writing for children and teenagers. In fact, the editor-in-chief who interviewed me back in November last year had been a little apprehensive. "But you have a Master's Degree in [War Studies]" he had said. "Don't you think you will be bored?" he had asked, as it turns out presciently. He was right, of course, but given the choice between teaching rowdy children and working in a magazine, the decision had been an easy one to make.
After eight months of doing this, however, the time has come to do something else and to challenge myself—which is exactly what I will get next Monday when I commence work as a copy editor at the Taipei Times, Taiwan's primary English-language newspaper. With a circulation of nearly 300,000 copies daily (and a web edition), I am yet again expanding the amount of people whose heads I will be welcomed into (the magazines I worked for had, I believe, a circulation of about 80,000 copies).
These will be interesting times to be working in a newspaper as well. Given the coming Presidential elections and the various ongoing motions to recall and expel the current DPP president, as well as continued tensions with China, Taiwan's renewed attempt to obtain—this time using its name, Taiwan—representation at the United Nations, arms purchases (66 F-16s from the United States, among other items) and other issues, I will have my fill of local and regional stories, not to mention international coverage, with the Times offers as well. The Times' inclination is pro-separatist (which as my readers will know I fully agree with) and somewhat pro-DPP, though it prides itself in calling everybody, regardless of their political affiliations and standing, to account. Whether they operate at the DPP, the KMT or in Beijing, crooks are crooks are crooks. This notwithstanding, it should be interesting to work in as polarized an environment as Taiwan's political scene. After all, not so long ago Taiwan's media were part of the state apparatus and, much as in China, had little choice but to toe the official line. In many ways, old habits die hard, especially in how one views the world. Today, though, Taiwan's environment is a truly democratic one that starkly contrasts with that which is available across the Strait, where yesterday a journalist was once again condemned, behind closed doors, for allegedly spying on Taiwan's behalf. No country in the world currently has more journalists in detention than does China. As a newspaper editor and sometime writer, I will not, thankfully, be facing such risks in Taiwan.
In the past month and as an earlier posting indicates, I have had my share of problems with the abovementioned editor-in-chief, but that matters little. Professional differences, exacerbated by cultural ones, dissipate with time and really have no weight worthy of mention. What stays, however, are the nice, dedicated people with whom I worked during that period, people who are now showing me that my presence here was indeed appreciated. I will be having dinner and karaoke with many of them this evening, and for those who cannot make it, I have been given well-wishing cards, pictures and so on. If only they, in turn, could be treated a little more fairly by their employer.
Isn't it ironic that the government employer I resigned from almost a year ago to the day entertained such a fear of the one area I am about to enter professionally—that of the news media and a foreign country's to boot!