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Cover of the November 27, 2003 issue of Far Eastern Economic Review.
The Far Eastern Economic Review ( , Pinyin: Yuǎndōng Jīngjì Pínglùn; also referred to as FEER or The Review) was an English language Asian news magazine started in 1946. It printed its final issue in December 2009. The Hong Kongmarker-based business magazine was originally published weekly. Due to financial difficulties, the magazine converted to a monthly publication in December 2004, and simultaneously switched to an arrangement whereby most articles were contributed by non-staff writers who had expertise in a given field, such as economists, business-community figures, government policymakers, social scientists and others.

FEER covered a variety of topics including politics, business, economics, technology, social and cultural issues throughout Asia, focusing on Southeast Asia and Greater China. It presented views and opinions emphasizing local perspectives in an attempt to improve existing conditions in Asia.

Ownership

FEER was set up in 1946 with seed capital provided by the Kadoories, Jardines and the Hongkong Bank. The South China Morning Post, an English-language newspaper based in Hong Kong, had majority ownership of the Review from 1972. In 1986 Dow Jones, a minority shareholder since 1973, took over full ownership in a deal with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which had acquired a controlling interest in the Post. News Corp bought Dow Jones in http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Far_Eastern_Economic_Review&action=edit&section=12007.

Readership

FEER targeted markets in Hong Kongmarker, Malaysiamarker, and Southeast Asia. It reached an elite group of readers from the government, the business world and the academic sector. The magazine had a circulation of 93,055 in 2003. In September 2006, the magazine was banned in Singaporemarker.

History

The Far Eastern Economic Review was started in 1946 by Eric Halpern, a Jewish immigrant from Viennamarker, who initially settled in Shanghai and ran Finance and Commerce, a biweekly business magazine. Later on, when China was in the midst of the Chinese Civil War, he decamped to Hong Kongmarker and founded the weekly publication, FEER, focusing on finance, commerce and industry.

After Halpern's retirement in 1958, Dick Wilson became chief editor and publisher. He operated an office in a colonial building along the waterfront where the Mandarin Hotel now stands. During Wilson’s tenure, coverage of the magazine extended from China and Hong Kong into other regions around the world, from Japanmarker to Australia to Indiamarker and to the Philippinesmarker, with articles and reports supplied by cross-border journalists and scholars.

In 1964, Wilson was succeeded as editor by Derek Davies, a Welshmarker journalist, who had served in the British Foreign Office. Between 1964 and 1989, the late flamboyant Derek Davies built up the Far Eastern Economic Review from a small weekly into one of Asia's most authoritative magazines, with a circulation of nearly 90,000. At its peak, FEER had an editorial team of nearly 100 news staff in 15 bureaus across Asia - the largest news team of any regional weekly.

After serving 25 years as senior editor, Davies was succeeded by Philip Bowring. In 1992, Bowring was forced to resign due to differences with Dow Jones' Vice President Karen Elliott House over the magazine's editorial direction.

In November 2001, Dow-Jones merged the editorial operations of the Far Eastern Economic Review and the Asian Wall Street Journal in an attempt to cut costs. In 2004, the magazine ceased to exist as a weekly and was changed to a monthly publication with Hugo Restall as its editor. In September 2009, Dow-Jones, now a subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corp, announced that the magazine will be shut down permanently.

Criticism of Dow-Jones

The magazine ceased publication in December, 2009 due to falling readership and advertising revenue.. This was the reason given by its owner, Dow-Jones. But insiders cite other reasons. "Every ex-Review staffer knows that its days were numbered the day Dow Jones bought it. The Asian Wall Street Journal never enjoyed the kind of readership and readers' loyalty as that of the Review. And it wasn't a secret that the Americans wanted the AWSJ to supplant the Review." Philip Bowring pins the blame for the Review’s decline on Dow Jones. He says that its executives parachuted in from New York and wanted to homogenise the reporting. But according to Banyan, despite Dow Jones' missteps, FEER's business model was based on advertising revenue which foundered when prosperity declined.

'The decision to cease publication of the Review is a difficult one made after a careful study of the magazine's prospects in a challenging business climate,' said Todd Larsen, chief operating officer at Dow Jones Consumer Media Group. In 2004, Dow Jones fired most of FEER's reporters and transformed it into a monthly publication. Articles were largely commissioned and only a skeleton editorial staff was retained. David Plott, FEER's editor at the time, described the upheaval in 2004 as a loss of one of the 'greatest concentrations of knowledge and expertise about the region assembled anywhere'.

Dow Jones proclaimed the savings from the death of FEER will "catapult the company's growth in the burgeoning Asian marketplace." As the magazine has been in a vegetative state since at least 2004 when it was made a monthly, it is hard to imagine the proceeds of closure catapulting anything anywhere.

‘Dow Jones’s marketing people didn’t know how to sell it as it competed with the Asian Wall Street Journal – they ignored it and killed it by sheer neglect,’ said VG Kulkarni, a former editor at the Review.

Prior to the formal closure in 2009, FEER died many deaths - in 1992 when Bowring was forced to resign as editor; in 2001 when it was merged with the Asian Wall Street Journal; in 2004 when it ceased as a weekly and was published as a monthly after being downsized to a staff of two. "The death of the Review came by a thousand cuts inflicted primarily by Karen House," said Bowring in 2004: A succession of failed makeovers and revolving editors; the dumbing-down of the magazine in an effort to make it "more readable"; moving away from hard-hitting, controversial coverage of corporate and financial scandals; a shift from in-depth coverage of business and politics to soft-centred features of the sort that appear in airline magazines.

"The final insult to the Review, and indeed to Asia, was Dow Jones' refusal to sell the title. It has had plenty of offers - which would benefit its own shareholders," says Bowring, "There is a parallel here between Time and Asiaweek. Time bought locally-born Asiaweek even though it appeared to be in direct competition for readers and advertising. Not so long afterwards, Time closed Asiaweek rather than its ailing Time Asia. It was corporate imperialism more than commercial sense which brought Dow Jones to buy control of the Review, which was a direct competitor for niche regional advertising. It is clear that the closure of the Review, as of Asiaweek, represents an attack on diversity and further reduction in the variety of print media."

"The magazine lost its way because people in New York thought they understood what the readers wanted more than those who were on the ground in Asia," wrote Bowring in the South China Morning Post. Bowring claims that Ms. House infused FEER's editorials with the right wing and furiously pro-western sentiments of the Wall Street Journal.

Under its previous editor, Derek Davies, the Review had carved a name for itself for the excellence of its economic reporting, its refusal to be cowed and its wide-ranging book reviews. When Dow Jones took over the Review it introduced pompous “editorials”, indulged in numerous revisions to the format, each more disastrous than the last; brought in large numbers of American journalists and editors at the expense of well-established writers who knew the region; moved the focus from business and politics to “innovation” and “lifestyle”, neither of which was of interest to its core readership; and dramatically reduced the scope of the book review section. When Dow Jones took control of the magazine, efforts to introduce more lifestyle features sparked protests from Review loyalists - as did its decision to make it into a monthly rather than a weekly title.

"I don't think Dow Jones ever understood what our culture was and they never really put in the effort to make the magazine succeed", said John McBeth who joined the magazine in 1979. Dow Jones turned it into a snappy, happy, trend-conscious delight for the Internet age. It was a failed effort "to lure readers who presumably don't care about thoughtful coverage of politics and economics but do want to know which wine goes with which chilli pepper". The reporting staffs of the Review and the Asian Wall Street Journal were merged in 2001. More significantly, at that time the ad sales staffs of the two publications were also merged. Two senior correspondents said they had frequently been asked by executives at Asian corporations they covered why the magazine's advertising staff were hard to reach and would often not return phone calls. "There was no effort put in," said one. "They didn'teven try."

TJS George, co-founder of Asiaweek, says, "In due course, Time Inc. killed Asiaweek and Dow Jones (now a Murdoch property) killed the Review. Murdoch-Dow's Wall Street Journal and Time Inc.'s Time magazine now fly the American flag over Asia, unchallenged by lesser flags."

The Review Legend

Derek Davies, editor during those glory years, and Richard Hughes, the Australian doyen of the Foreign Correspondents Club, were part of the Review legend. Davies, a hard-charging Welshman, defied numerous Asian governments and big businesses and provided a frontline forum for many talented reporters: Emily Lau, Gary Coull, Bertil Linter, David Bonavia, Ian Buruma, Nayan Chanda, Nate Thayer, Susumu Awanohara, Christopher Wood, Philip Bowring, as well as dissidents TJS George and late Mike O'Neill, who went on to launch rival, Asiaweek.

Other legends include the late MGG Pillai and Tarzie Vittachi and his son Nury Vittachi, who delighted thousands by keeping up a steady patter as the guiding light of “Traveller’s Tales”, its humour column. TJS George wrote a nasty little book taking a sceptical look at Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore, and then founded Asiaweek. Alas that too went by the wayside eventually.

K. Nadarajah was felled with the enforced departure of a generation of some of the brightest from The Star, Malaysia's most widely-read English language daily. The late K. Das did yeoman work as the Kuala Lumpurmarker correspondent of the Review through the late 1970s and 1980s. Morgan Chua, a discovery of the Singapore Herald, took his cartooning skills to the Review after the Herald fell foul of Lee Kuan Yew & Co. (The brightest and the best always did.)

Ho Kwon Ping of the Singapore Times went on to the Review, and ended up being detained for his “pro-communist” reports. Anything nasty or sceptical was automatically labelled pro-communist in those days by Singapore's Straits Special Branch. Canadian-born Murray Heibert, the Review’s Kuala Lumpur correspondent, was jailed for reporting that a judge's wife filed a $2.4 million suit against her son's school because the school dropped him from the its debating team. The Malaysian judicial system decided that Murray had besmirched the “honour” of the judiciary.

In its 60-plus years, the Review hammered away at the walls of Asian despotism, shining a light through the chinks. It was regularly banned, especially in Singapore. And it was regularly sued. Especially, of course, in Singapore where the political family of Lee, Lee, Lee & Lee brooked no interference. A press law was promulgated in Singapore because of the Review.

Its journalists have a long and honourable record of being locked up or expelled from countries throughout Asia for incurring the wrath of regional leaders whose sins or foibles it exposed.

Many of the magazine's reporters came from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. But they were people who made Asia their home and whose clear-eyed reporting grew from a long and intense love affair with the region. They had a reputation for knowing the countries in which they worked better than any foreign correspondent and often with greater insight and better connections than local journalists.

In 1997, the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge and author of the "killing fields" genocide, was interviewed by Nate Thayer, then the Review’s Cambodia correspondent. Pol Pot was in hiding for 18 years, and Nate was the first reporter to track him down. The story was an international sensation.

“For someone who grew up dreaming about swashbuckling journalists reporting from far-flung places, there was no greater model than the Far Eastern Economic Review,” wrote one journalist. The article recalls John McBeth who, battling Suharto's oppressive regime in Indonesia, continued reporting even after losing a leg to disease. In 1975, FEER’s Calcutta-born Nayan Chanda was the last reporter left in the presidential palace in Saigon when North Vietnamese tanks broke through the palace gates and unplugged the telex, cutting Chanda off mid-broadcast.

Salil Tripathi, a former regional economics correspondent for the magazine, reminisces, “FEER was special because it stared back at Asia’s businesses and politicians at a time when few journalists in the region could speak truth to power. Some of FEER’s foreign correspondents were tried, jailed, expelled, harassed or followed; some were accused of sedition, contempt of court and defamation; its editors fined, its issues banned. Leaders resented the magazine because it would not bow or kowtow. An invading army might march in, but Nayan Chanda would continue to type his story till the North Vietnamese switched off power supply. Unfazed by the malarial jungle, Nate Thayer would not give up looking for Pol Pot. With calm forbearance, Bertil Lintner would bring the Myanmarese story to the world. Ian Buruma would cast light on culture, revealing nuances the region’s elite often preferred leaving unsaid. FEER’s intrepid financial reporters would figure out who hid what assets where. I remember the sleepless week in Jakarta when the Suharto regime tottered: Margot Cohen talking to people on the streets, John McBeth checking on troop movements, Michael Vatikiotis chasing politicians and academics, while I was with Anastasia Fanny Lioe in Glodok and Tangerang, where Chinese-owned shops and malls were burnt and ransacked, prompting ethnic Chinese people and capital to flee.”

The golden age of the Review was the 25 years from 1964 when former British spy in Vietnam, Derek Davies, was editor. His weekly "Traveller's Tales" column is still some of the most delightful journalism of the last half century.

BBC reports that the closure will mark the end of an era for challenging journalism in Asia. Because of FEER's independent reporting, many authoritarian governments used to black out its pages or ban it outright, the report said. "It was a tremendously exciting place to work," said Philip Bowring, "It was the place where up-and-coming journalists would go, because they were given an opportunity to prove that they were good."

Independent journalistic establishments

Besides qualified business reports, FEER was also the pioneer of independent journalistic establishments throughout Asia. Many of the articles from the first few decades were exclusive sources of information on the development of China, such as the report on Chairman Mao, the Cultural Revolution and the economic opening initiated by Deng Xiaoping. Despite the fact that journalists were not permitted to enter China during this period due to the era of authoritarian regimes, these covered events were still the core themes of the magazine.

Editorial

Editorial statement

For the first issue, the inaugurator, Mr Halpern, declared a brief but enduring Editorial Statement:



"The purpose of this weekly economic publication is to analyze and interpret financial, commercial and industrial developments; to collect economic news; and to present views and opinions with the intent to improve existing conditions. Politics and economics being connatural, it will be inevitable that this publication may at times appear to transgress its primary objective by reporting on, and dealing with, political affairs. At any time and in every case unbiased and dispassionate, factual and balanced reporting will be our aim and policy."

September 2005 issue

Editorial stance

The Review aimed to report and analyze financial, commercial and industrial developments in the Southeast Asia and Pacific regions with specific emphasis on Hong Kong and China. It gathered the most incisive and provocative commentary in Asia through leaders from every ideological stripe, background and profession. Articles were selected according to their potential progress toward prosperity, security and well-being for all Asians. Besides free-lance contributions and viewpoints from professionals, FEER's journalists also traveled around the region reporting from their own perspective with the intention of improving the local economic and political zone.

Reports by FEER

FEER regularly published reports that covered key topics in Asia. These reports were informative and important to the marketers, businessmen and also academics.

"China's Elite"( 2003 Issue) was a yearly side-publication by the FEER. Focusing on China's leading executives and their way of business, "China's Elite" was often praised as a valuable source of information on statistics, expectations and objective analysis obtained through in-depth interviews with leading businessmen in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhoumarker.

The "Review 200" ( 2003 Issue) was a tied publication by the Far Eastern Economic Review which ranked the top 200 leading businesses across Asia on an annual basis.



Published every two years since 1989 by FEER, "Managing in Asia" ( 2003 Issue) provided entrepreneurs with a clear description and explanation of Asia's business position. The report offered valuable information in the aspects of economic outlook, business challenges and economic issues, personal investment, technology/office automation, brand perception, ownership of products, travel habits,etc.

The "Asia Lifestyles" ( 2002 Issue) was published in alternating years. It conducted surveys on business executives and questioned their lifestyles, habits and aspirations.

FEER regularly published special reports focused on topics that were relevant and significant to Asia. For example, a special report on HIV/AIDS epidemicwas published in its July 15, 2004 issue.

FEER regularly interviewed government officials and other important people who had an impact in the region and the business world. In the past, FEER has interviewed Colin Powell, the US former Secretary of State (issue date: 28 October 2004), Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of United Nations (issue date: 22 July 2004), Chen Shui-bian, the Taiwanese President (issue date: 24 July 2003), Bill Gates, Chairman and co-founder of Microsoft (issue date: 14 March 2002), and many more influential people.

In 2002 and 2003, FEER was awarded the "Excellence in Specialized Reporting" by Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA). In 2004, it was awarded the "Honourable Mention for Magazine Front Cover Design" by SOPA.In 2005, it was awarded the "Excellence in Magazines" and "Honorable Mention for Reporting on the Environment" by the SOPA.

Censorship of the FEER

In late 1970s, Ho Kwon Ping, the Review's Singapore correspondent, was accused of endangering national security and fined $3,000. Lee Kuan Yew later charged FEER editor, Mr. Derek Davies, of participating in "a diabolical international Communist plot" to poison relations between Singapore and neighbouring Malaysia.

In the 1980s Lee banned the Review in Singapore after it published an article about the detention of Roman Catholic church workers.

The April 4, 2002 issue of FEER was banned in Bangladesh because its cover story, "Bangladesh: Cocoon of Terror," described the country as besieged by "Islamic fundamentalism, religious intolerance, militant Muslim groups with links to international terrorist groups."

In China the Review's correspondent, Serge Ivanovitch Kost, was arrested during the Cultural Revolution and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. He later emigrated to Australia.

In 2006, after the publication of an article on Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Singapore's prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father and minister mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, sued the publication for defamation alleging the magazine had suggested they were corrupt. The Singapore government banned the sale and distribution of the journal, but the FEER website could be accessed.

Defamation judgment

On September 24, 2008, the High Court of Singapore, in a summary judgment by Justice Woo Bih Li, ruled that the Far Eastern Economic Review and Hugo Restall, its editor, defamed Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in its October 2006 article, "Singapore's 'Martyr', Chee Soon Juan". The article was based on an interview with Chee Soon Juan, an opposition party leader of the Singapore Democratic Party who battled the ruling People's Action Party and its leaders. FEER appealed but lost the case when the Court of Appeal ruled in October, 2009 that the Far Eastern Economic Review did defame the country's founder Lee Kuan Yew and his son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Decisions by the Appeal Court are final.

Awards presented by FEER

The Young Inventors Awards (YIA) which began in 2000, was organized by Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) in association with Hewlett-Packard (HP). The purpose of the Awards program was to foster a spirit of scientific invention and innovation among students in the Asia-Pacific regions, including Chinamarker, Philippinesmarker, Singaporemarker, Indiamarker and Australia. Students who won the award were socially recognized and financially supported for their outstanding efforts and projects.FEER's annual Asian Innovation Awards was associated with Global Entrepolise @ Singapore, which honored Asia's emerging Technopreneur. Candidates for this award were judged against their innovative proposal as well as technological and commercial potential.

See also



External links



References



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