This article today, I do not know where to start. There is no point in lamenting, we have said all the words of encouragement to each other, how the situation is, we all have our own choices on how to deal with it, so what else is there to say?
I remembered some old stories from my limited dealings with Next Media, and I’d like to share them with you here.
Lai Chi-ying founded the “Next Magazine”, I read the first issue, and a senior said, “Next Magazine” paw! He had already retired from his old organization, and when Next Magazine opened its doors, he was asked to handle letters from readers.
He was full of experience with traditional newspapers and was not convinced by my views. I don’t have particularly good judgment, but reading the whole magazine from beginning to end, almost every page gave me a fresh feeling, the content was attractive, the text was crisp and never dragged, and the illustrations and design were unique. I thought that since I liked it as soon as I read it, and so did others, the magazine must be able to survive.
In the early days of the magazine, it was attacked from all sides because it was market-oriented, broke the old rules, started a paparazzi team, and was even more obscene in the daytime, and some of its journalistic techniques were very out of place. Lai Chi-ying was a media “bad boy” who stormed into the traditional media hall with a big stick and swept away the old furnishings with a round of sticks, sending pieces of them flying.
There was even a “news-making” scandal, and after a round of bickering, Next Magazine publicly apologized.
To kill a bloody road in the century-old media, the only way out of the cards, in order to attract the public eye, the first to get in, the old hall beaten to pieces, and then to clean up the mess.
After the success of “Next Magazine”, Lai Chi-ying again and again to create “Apple Daily”, and hired Dong Qiao look at the file. Dong Qiao is also such a person, how willing to serve a market-oriented phase, no bottom line of the new media? At that time, Tai Tin, a former member of the cultural community, told me that Chi-Ying Lai was asking Tung to open a boutique.
At that time, Apple Daily was like a big supermarket, selling everything, but in a corner of the supermarket, selling a high-end consumer product, and bringing in the high-spending people. Since then, Apple Daily has been on a firm footing.
From the beginning of Apple’s publication, I browsed it almost every day, looking for content I liked. The most important quality of Apple is that she is never boring, always interesting, and even if the content is not interesting, he still wants to make it interesting. In addition, he always emphasizes exclusive news, using his own reporters to dig into the political and business circles and cultural circles, to protect the readers’ right to know, and they do exclusives without discrimination, without avoiding social relations.
I didn’t write for them until the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution, when I wrote a 4,000- to 5,000-word article titled “Forty Years of Family” and sent it to Mr. Dong Qiao. Dongqiao initially replied to me, saying that they did not have the proper space and that it was up to the editor to accept it. As a result, a few days later, Apple allocated a large part of the page to publish my article in full at once. At that time, some of my friends in the cultural field read it and found it a little helpful to their understanding of the Cultural Revolution.
Later, Professor Yu Ying-shih, a historian, wrote a long preface of more than 10,000 words for our reprint of Wang Jingwei’s Shuangzhao Lou Poetry Ligustic, and I was worried about not having a place to publish it, when I met Dong Qiao one night at the Lung Yingtai Salon of the University of Hong Kong. A few days later, Professor Yu’s article was published in two large editions of the Apple Daily in one go.
If the Apple is only a newspaper that pleases its readers with its low taste, how can it publish a long article on a serious topic by a historian in one breath? From this, it is clear that Lai Chi-ying is not simply running Apple to make money, he has his own political and cultural ambitions.
It was not until the Occupy movement that I began to use the pen name “Gu Hongfei” to submit articles to Li Yi. I knew Li Yi, but I didn’t want him to publish my articles in front of his acquaintances, so I used a pen name. It wasn’t until some time later that Yi spelled out my name from the English name of the account where I received my fees, that he called me and encouraged me to write more.
I returned to Canada in 2018, and it wasn’t until 2019, when the anti-Send-China movement began, that I returned to writing current affairs commentaries and contributing to the Apple Forum. At that time, there were already many regular writers on the forum page, and the remaining space was very limited. Sometimes an article had to be pressed for a week or two before it was published, losing its timeliness.
At that time, the Chinese University Press wanted to promote my novel Blood and Rain in China and wanted me to start a Facebook page.
One day in April last year, Chi-Ying Lai called me out of the blue and invited me to write a column. I had met him once and had wanted to collaborate on his book, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. I had been writing columns in different newspapers for decades, but I had never had a newspaper owner personally ask me to write a column.
He discussed with me the date of publication and chatted for a while before starting the cooperation with Apple. I’ve been reading Apple for a long time, and many of the original columnists are writers I like, including Cai Lan and Li Bihua, who are the authors of Tiandi Books, Tao Jie, Jiang Yun and Shen Xicheng, who are also old acquaintances, and Gao Huiran, who is also my author. It was like entering a big family.
My social life is not as broad as yours, so I often struggle with the topics, but I always want to make my articles interesting and entertaining, so as not to lower the average quality of the entire column.
After a few more months, Mr. Zhang Jianhong wrote me a short letter asking me to write editorials. At first, I wrote one editorial a week, but later I increased it to two. I was a little bit scared at first because I had never written an editorial before, but Mr. Zhang encouraged me and told me to write boldly. My editorials and columns were respected by the editors, and I never changed a single word.
I am very grateful that I can still serve the people of Hong Kong in my retirement years, thanks to Apple Daily. I have fought some good battles side by side with them during my last year at Apple Daily, so I am deeply honored that if I were to choose to do it all over again, I would still consider them as close comrades.
Life has its ups and downs, and I am in a bad mood every day these days, not worth it for Apple Daily and not worth it for Hong Kong. But the situation is such that human beings can hardly undo it, we have to accept the reality and do what is possible in front of the impossible reality.
Apple is inevitably coming to an end. They are willing to risk the dictatorship and have the ambition of “who will enter hell if I don’t”. From now on, we will wait for the thunder of spring to come from the sky.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay my respects to Zhiying Lai, Jianhong Zhang and Weiguang Luo, and hope that they will take good care of themselves and their health. “Let’s go out with a big smile on our faces. Let’s use Li Bai’s poem to encourage each other.