The Epoch Times doesn’t like to brag

25 Apr

Habib, who runs a newstand on 42nd St. He sells two copies of the Epoch Times a day.

The woman behind the counter of the Hudson News stand at the World Trade Center Path Station said she doesn’t carry The Epoch Times, and said she hadn’t heard of it. (“The ‘Poch Times?” she asked. “I don’t know.”)

The funny thing is that The Epoch Times is actually a big publication. It is an international paper that prints in 33 countries and 17 languages, including Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Slovak, and calls New York its center.

Established by followers of Falun Gong, the paper is now an odd fact of New York life, present but not really accounted for. Its New York-area circulation is 35,000 weekly for the English version and 105,000 weekly for the Chinese-language edition, according to a spokesman for the company. The paper is available for a dollar at 70 vendors around the city, though it isn’t usually a big seller.

“People don’t know about it,” said Mr. David, from behind the counter of a convenience store on the corner of Broadway and 101st Street. He said he sells about one copy a week, if that, which is far less than the sixty or so copies he sells of the Daily News.

Mohammad Rahman, a vendor at 236 Seventh Avenue, has seen a similar trend in sales. The Epoch Times sends him two copies each weekday, but he only sells one or two copies a week, and not to any particularly loyal readers. Just down the street at 200 Seventh Avenue, Nemah Sam says he used to sell very few copies, but in the past month, sales have picked up.

He doesn’t know why, but across his six convenience stores, he’s recently been selling fourteen Epoch Times papers a week.

Habib, a vendor on 42nd St., says he sells about two Epoch Times a day.

It’s hard to judge The Epoch Times’ success by traditional measures, though. For a media organization, it is unusually averse to public attention.

The newspaper’s office in midtown Manhattan is stark, at least on the outside. (A spokesman declined to arrange access to the inside.)

Tucked between a wholesale shop with “I Love New York” umbrellas and a wig store called “Hair Motion,” the Epoch Times building is disguised by the word “FREIGHT” above a label marking the address: 34 W. 27th Street. When the hunter-green double door in front is shut, the place looks like an old apartment building or storage facility, maybe abandoned.

The Epoch Times is a privately held company whose mission is, in part, to “uphold universal human values, rights, and freedoms.”

That philosophical outlook is born of its ties to Falun Gong, which is, as described on its website, “a spiritual practice that consists of gentle exercises and postures, combined with a meditation component.” The government regards Falun Gong as a dangerous cult. This has made the Falun Gong a bitter opponent of all things that are perceived to have anything to do with Communism.

In The Epoch Times’ New York edition, this opposition manifests itself periodically as an intense dislike for New York City Comptroller John Liu, a gregarious Taiwanese-born politician who is cast as a witting agent of the Chinese government in a series of articles called “John Liu and the United Front.” As one such story reported back when Liu was a mere council member aspiring to become a citywide official, “John Liu is the chosen candidate of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and his election would be a very risky experiment for the people of New York City and the United States.”

Epoch Times spokesperson and opinion editor Stephen Gregory credits his paper’s unique take on Liu to the fact that his reporters speak Chinese in Flushing, an area Liu represented in the New York City Council. He said of Liu’s connections to the Chinese government, “This is something unprecedented in American politics.” When asked why no other news organization picked up on it, he replied, “I think that’s a question to ask The New York Times. I think that our reporting was very solid.” Liu’s office declined to comment for this article.

If The Epoch Times has a political agenda, though, it seems to be a narrow one. The content, when it is not focused on the perceived excesses of the Chinese government, is aggressively quotidian: updates on Paula Abdul’s reality TV career and features such as “My Wife Is Driving Me Crazy;” coverage of local press conferences; national and international news, often written from press releases and wire reports; sports.

The paper’s reporters—who staff locally based offices in each country where an edition is printed, and who are a not-uncommon presence at public events in New York—cover stories that pertain to their own areas and contribute to a pool of articles for the different editions to share.

David Ownby, director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Montreal and the author of Falun Gong and the Future of China, wrote that the newspaper’s articles are “well written and interesting, if occasionally idiosyncratic,” though he added, “it is sometimes difficult to tell who Epoch Times journalists are and where they get their information.”

The first print edition of The Epoch Times was published in New York (in Chinese only) in April 2000, and the online edition followed in August 2000. In 2003, The Epoch Times launched an online edition in English, which began printing as a newspaper in New York in 2004.

Though he would not comment on how The Epoch Times is funded because he says “the owners prefer to remain private,” Gregory said that in the beginning, “the people who started the newspaper were able to fund it.”

According to Ownby’s book, as the newspaper expands into many other language editions, these “are for the moment subsidized by the Chinese-language edition.” Gregory, the spokesman, confirmed this, but said he is “not allowed to talk about who the owners are.”

Mr. David, the convenience-store owner, said he hopes to boost sales of The Epoch Times by putting it on a rack with other international papers at the entrance to his establishment. He doesn’t think people notice it at the moment, and he’s not sure why.

text from: http://www.facts.org.cn/Reports/World/201011/t120267.htm

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