Two years … and still going …

With this issue, we have officially passed our two-year mark in publication as the first nonprofit ethnic newspaper of its kind in the country. Our first edition of the Nichi Bei Weekly, published on Sept. 17, 2009, featured the Spirit of Japantown Festival in San Jose — just as today’s special edition does.

Launching the Nichi Bei Weekly — without any real seed funding — was extremely difficult in the beginning.

Yet the encouragement and support of you, our community, has helped to initiate one of the most inspired community movements in recent memory. Together, we were able to rebuild a publication from scratch with a simple yet profound mission: keeping the community connected, informed and empowered while documenting our community’s history for generations to come.

Our rebirth as a nonprofit has kept us truer to our community, while we’ve also taken on the role of supporting other community nonprofits through these difficult times through sponsored advertisements, coverage of community issues, and the like.

Since the tragedy of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disasters hit, we’ve covered the ongoing movement to raise relief funds locally, and we also kept the community informed of the ongoing issues related to the disasters in Japan. We’ve even empowered those in Japan with Bay Area connections, giving them a forum to voice their frustrations and concerns.

We’ve kept the community informed about the ongoing Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan process, and we’ve helped to steer some to rightfully obtain their college diplomas through the California Nisei College Diploma Project.

Along the way, we’ve had some fun. This year marked our second annual Nichi Bei Day with the A’s, a day of fellowship using the backdrop of America’s Pastime. We also launched the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival, which has promise not only as our major fundraiser of the year, but also as one of the most unique festivals around.

This year was especially difficult in that we were hit with an unexpected budget shortfall, as sponsorship advertisements for the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival that have been placed in community newspapers for years were suddenly and inexplicably not placed in the Nichi Bei Weekly. Moreover, we weren’t given the opportunity to bid for the publication of the Official Guide to the festival — even though we had been publishing it for the previous two years. This caused severe hardship and threatened our very existence.

In fact, it led to some painful staff cuts, and budgetary turmoil that continues to persist to this very day.

 

Comings … and Goings …

Due to our budgetary issues, we lost one of our key staff members. Alec Yoshio MacDonald, our associate editor and Nichi Bei staff member since 2007, sadly left us in the spring. Alec has long been an inspiration to this movement, as it was his selfless act of volunteering for several months in 2009 which helped to allow us to start. Moreover, it was Alec who helped us launch some of our most memorable and meaningful issues, our annual Multiracial/Multiethnic Issue and our groundbreaking Green Issue — making the Nichi Bei Times the first Asian American newspaper in the country to have a dedicated English-language environmental issue. While some of these were born at the Nichi Bei Times, we’ve continued the Multiracial/Multiethnic Issue at the new publication.

We thank Alec for his contributions to the Nichi Bei legacy, but also for his community service and leadership.

Also as a result of our budgetary issues, our business manager, Duane Ong, has been working voluntarily over the last several months. Another selfless act that can never be overemphasized, we are moved and humbled by Duane’s commitment to help get us back on our feet.

In March of this year, our founding advertising and marketing director, Ed Goto, left his position. Ed was one of our former staff at the Nichi Bei Times, who took a leap of faith with us at the new publication, taking on the difficult role of seeking advertisements in an era where advertising budgets have been slashed. We thank Ed for his many months of hard work and dedication, and wish him well on his new endeavors.

His replacement, Rie Nishimura, brings a healthy dose of enthusiasm to her crucial role of helping to fuel our economic engine. From the start, Rie met the challenge head-on, helping to launch our Soy and Tofu Festival, working countless hours overnight in the process. She’s still getting her feet wet in the community, so we appreciate any support that you can provide.

Over the past few months, we also said goodbye to two of our founding board members, who helped us in pioneering this brand of nonprofit media: Paul Osaki, who had served as our chief financial officer, and Keith Kamisugi, who was our board secretary. We thank them for their leadership and support.

Paul has transitioned to our Advisory Council, where he continues to provide valuable input, while Tim Yamamura, a former Nichi Bei Times staff writer, has filled Keith’s role as board secretary.

We welcome two new members to our board of directors, Reiko Iwanaga and Tobin Tsuji.

Reiko is the executive director of Contemporary Asian Theater Scene (CATS) in San Jose’s Japantown, where she is also the lead choreographer for the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin’s San Jose Obon. A member of the board of directors of the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose, Reiko is active with several community organizations and is also the co-owner of an event and wedding coordinating company, At Your Request.

Joining our board as our chief financial officer, Tobin was the former general manager and CFO of the Hokubei Mainichi Japanese American community newspaper. He is the CEO of NODA USA, Inc. and is also a former chair of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. A San Francisco Japantown business owner, he is also a founding board member of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Foundation — which organizes the annual Mayor’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration in San Francisco.

We are excited about these two new board members, and how they will lead to stronger fiscal oversight as well as deepening our connection to San Jose’s Japantown and the South Bay Japanese American community.

 

Moving Forward …

Although we are hit with some unforeseen financial difficulties, we do have hope, as we are a resilient community that has been confronted with hardship in the past before, namely our forced removal during World War II and rebuilding from scratch after our wartime incarceration in American concentration camps.

Inspired by this legacy, we will move forward. However, we will need your help.

There are ways that you can help us immediately:

• Purchase a gift membership for a friend or family member, keeping them connected to the community, their culture, their heritage (see form on page 15).

Donate to the Nichi Bei Foundation today. If you believe in our mission, please use the form on page 14 to make a contribution to help us address critical funding issues. Our very existence depends upon such contributions, and no contribution is too small. You can also help us find other donors, or sponsors of our fundraising events. Donations can also be made at www.nichibei.org/donate.

• Advertise in the Nichi Bei Weekly, to not only promote your business or organization, but also support a worthy cause.

With our renewed efforts to help support other community nonprofits, an investment in the Nichi Bei Foundation is truly an investment in so much more.

A special thank you to our dedicated staff not previously mentioned, including our Managing Editor Heather Horiuchi, who ensures that we remain efficient and on task, and who carries the bulk of the workload managing the editorial end; Tomo Hirai, whose comprehensive writings have truly kept the community informed about ongoing issues, and who has developed into our key reporter; our graphic designer Rodger Takeuchi, whose energy, commitment and loyalty knows no bounds; and volunteer Amy Hanamoto, whose commitment to community volunteerism, and dedication to our members, has served as a model by which we can all learn from.

Lastly, we would like to thank our many donors, sponsors, advertisers, board members, contributing writers, volunteers and members like yourself, who inspire us to keep moving forward on a daily basis.

 

Kenji G. Taguma is the president of the Nichi Bei Foundation, and the editor-in-chief of its nonprofit publication, the Nichi Bei Weekly.

 

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