The Far Eastern Economic Review, the 63-year-old English-language news magazine in print since 1946, is closing down in December 2009.
News Corp’s Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of The Far Eastern Economic Review, says it has been forced to resort to this extreme step because the magazine has become “unsustainable” after losing readership owing to “migration to the internet” as well due to shortages in advertising revenue.
Todd Larsen, chief operating officer at the Dow Jones Consumer Media Group, explained in a statement that the decision to end the publication of The Far Eastern Economic Review was “a difficult one” which was made “after a careful study of the magazine’s prospects in a challenging business climate.”
The Far Eastern Economic Review, which became one of the leading print publications in Asia, was funded in 1946 soon after the World War II came to an end.
The Hong Kong-based magazine – with a circulation of just about 20,000 copies at present – has enjoyed excellent reputation for its in-depth and fearless coverage of politics and business in Asia since World War II.
According to many media-watchers and former journalists of The Far Eastern Economic Review, the announcement of the magazine closing shop marks the “denouement” of a gradual decline in the fortunes of one of the greatest titles in Asian journalism,” which was once considered as “essential reading” for the intelligentsia of the region.
Dow Jones had, in 2004, sacked most reporters of The Far Eastern Economic Review and turned the magazine into a monthly publication. Only a few people were retained on the editorial, and articles were for the most part commissioned.
David Plott, who was the magazine’s Editor at that time, described what he called the “upheaval” in 2004 as a loss of “one of the greatest concentrations of knowledge and expertise about the region assembled anywhere.”
In the statement, Dow Jones said it will now focus on the Asian Wall Street Journal, its redesigned website WSJ.com, the launching of a Japanese-language website in a few months, as well as the expansion of its website chinese.WSJ.com
The plan to close down the venerated magazine comes at a time when more and more print publishers are changing over to electronic media.
Asiaweek, another widely acclaimed weekly magazine based in Asia, wrapped up in 2001, after 26 years of being in print.
Hugo Restall, the present Editor of The Far Eastern Economic Review, was quoted as expressing his unhappiness at the magazine becoming extinct thus: “It is quite paradoxical that, as the Asian region is becoming more and more important, there are fewer and fewer publications producing quality coverage.” Restall is to stay on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, which also is owned by Dow Jones.
The long list of distinguished personalities and correspondents who have worked for The Far Eastern Economic Review include John King Fairbank, the sinologist at Harvard University, and the Anglo-Dutch writer and academic Ian Buruma.
It may be noted that, all through its history, the magazine’s critical and investigative style of journalism has led to clashes with many governments in the Asian region. Right now, The Far Eastern Economic Review is involved in a legal battle with the government of Singapore. The High Court of Singapore has ruled that the magazine “defamed” elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Lee Hsien Loong, the incumbent prime minister.