Compiled by Shanghaiist Staff
Shanghai Eye has gleefully reported the demise of News Views Reviews in a recent post:
Rumour has it Shanghai’s NVR magazine, a rip off of the week, is no more. Most nodding dogs agree, this was likely to happen. Owner Thats Shanghai is looking pretty ropey too, and now comes with a “RMB 18” price sticker.
Jeremy Goldkorn of Danwei picked up the story and put the boot in:
The idea of doing a news magazine that aspires to be “the only news source you’ll ever need” (despite being published in China in partnership with a State-owned entity) is quite ridiculous. English-reading expatriates get quite enough of anodyne nonsense passing for journalism in the China Daily etc.
This sparked a riposte from the former NVR editor, JFK Miller (who, it should be mentioned, has since written for Shanghaiist):
Well thank you Jeremy for your kind post which has forced me to break my silence. I suppose my first comment goes to the amount of venom and schadenfruede in your words. As a magazine that always tried to push the boundaries of print in China, I would have thought (naively, perhaps) that my journalist contemporaries would prefer to see us succeed rather than fail. I was heartened by the comments of one of our subscribers below, and would have to agree that both our publisher (Nankai University) and the commercial operation that bankrolled NVR for almost two years showed a great deal of courage in supporting the venture. Given the tough media environment in which we operated, I’m enormously proud of the range of material that we were able to cover over the course of 40 issues. I can’t think of another publication in English, or in Chinese for that matter, that published political cartoons on their front cover, and I certainly can’t think of another English magazine operating on the Chinese mainland that covers politics. I take offense at the description of NVR as a “rag”; it was far from it, and I think that many of our readers and subscribers will be disappointed that it is no longer operating. I am afraid that now all is left is Asia Weekly (published out of Hong Kong), which succeeds marvelously in turning the most exciting continent on the planet into the most boring place on Earth. I’ve always liked Danwei and supported the role it has strived to play, and am more than a little disappointed that the professional courtesy hasn’t been reciprocated.
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding NVR’s bucket-kicking, though from what we can understand it was to do with renewing a licence with That’s Shanghai, which would have proved too pricey. Which, in our opinion, is a shame. We agree with one comment posted after the Danwei piece that:
the content was actually surprisingly brave and had the magazine made it onto the news stands and/or into a Chinese version, it would have been an interesting venture.
As for ShanghaiEye‘s comment that NVR was a rip-off of The Week, well, duh. However, we were never going to shell out for a subscription to the latter, which would have probably taken around three weeks to arrive from the UK, when, at 12 RMB, even we weren’t too cheap to pick up NVR. (Incidentally, we hear that people who took out a NVR subscription can get a refund).
Danwei’s insinuation that it was “anodyne nonsense passing for journalism” is pretty unfair. If anything it was a compilation of other people’s anodyne journalism. Though actually the mix of stuff they got in there was, for the most part, interesting. Sure, in this age of RSS feeds and mobile gadgetry, it could be argued that we can all make our own versions of NVR without having to pay. But then, what kind of person likes to spend ten minutes on the lav with a Blackberry?
As for Shanghai Eye’s hand-rubbing at the prospect of That’s Shanghai going belly-up, we’re not convinced there’s any truth behind this. They’ve just launched a new website (jury’s still out on this one – stay tuned – and there seems to be a little confusion just over what relation it bears to the print magazine) and have a city guidebook in the works. As for the 18 RMB sticker, the magazine has always been free from some places and charged for from others – just quite why is anyone’s guess – but it doesn’t signal a change in distribution methods, or a manning of the lifeboats.
And oh, oh, oh, we could not end without commenting on Danwei‘s comparison of the English-language media of Beijing and Shanghai:
Perhaps your correspondent is biased, since he was the founding editor of the two publications mentioned below, but the English language media in Beijing is simply much better than in Shanghai. That’s Beijing, which is operated by a different company than the Shanghai version, is fat, full of ads, and often contains good and informative writing and regular humor columns by people who actually know how to write, like Kaiser Kuo. They also publish a growing range of books.
Yes, quality comparisons like these can be, erm, somewhat subjective, so we won’t even venture there. But, at the risk of sounding like we’re picking a fight over who’s bigger/better, That’s Beijing is about half the thickness of its Shanghai counterpart the last time we checked, and it took us all of five minutes to finish it.