THE INTERNATIONAL EXAMINER
The Asian American Journal of the Northwest
A Historical Perspective
By Gary Iwamoto
June 1974. Richard Nixon was struggling to save his Presidency. Impeachment proceedings in the U.S. House of Representatives were in its second month. Watergate was still fresh in the nation’s psyche. Patricia Hearst was kidnapped. Expo ’74 welcomed its one millionth visitor to Spokane. U.W. Coed Georgeann Hawkins was missing, later to be listed among the victims of serial killer Ted Bundy.
Dan Evans was Governor, Slade Gorton was Attorney General, John Spellman was King County Executive and Wes Uhlman was Mayor. Kojak, Flip Wilson and $6 Million Dollar Man were popular television shows. The Exorcist, American Graffiti and Deep Throat were playing in local theaters. Tom Burleson signed a contract with the Seattle Supersonics. Billy Eckstein was appearing at the Heritage House. Popular night spots included the District Tav, the Aquarius Tavern, and New Chinatown.
Meanwhile, in the International District, the Kingdome was under construction. Community activists worried about the impacts which the stadium would have on the District, predicting doom and gloom. The Danny Woo I.D. Community Garden was an area overgrown with weeds and sticker bushes. Social services did not exist. Enforcement of stricter building and fire codes resulted in the closure and demolition of over half of the 45 hotels and apartments which exited in the District. Businesses failed and buildings deteriorated. The International District was a neighborhood in decay.
But the early ’70’s was also a period during which different Asian ethnic groups, primarily Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese, came together as part of the “Asian Movement.” In their search for identity and ethnic roots, young Asian Americans focused their attention and concern on the International District. The battle over the Kingdome served to expose society’s neglect of Asian Americans – lack of decent housing, inadequate social services, and continuing discrimination. The emerging militancy of these young Asian activists culminated in a series of political demonstrations and marches that found a place on the six o’clock news. Galvanized by the development of the Kingdome, the young activists began serious efforts to preserve the neighborhood character of the International District.
While the older established community groups sought to improve the economic climate of the area, the young activists sought to bring social services and new housing to the elderly. Spearheaded through the leadership of Bob Santos and the International District Improvement Association (Inter*im), the community worked together to build new housing, renovate buildings, provide needed social services, and revitalize the neighborhood.
During the early 1970’s, the International District Community Garden, Kobe Park Terrace, and Hing Hay Park were built. Social service agencies such as the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, the Chinese Information Service Center, the International District Health Clinic, and the International District Housing Alliance began providing needed services to the residents and to the community.
It was against this backdrop that the concept of an International District newspaper was born. At the time, the only local Asian community newspaper was the Asian Family Affair, the “voice” of the local Asian Movement. The paper’s content reflected the political leanings of its activist staff. AFA not only covered political demonstrations, it sponsored them as well. This was not surprising since many of the young activists, such as Al Sugiyama, Frank Irigon and Silme Domingo, were active in the leadership of the Asian advocacy groups as well as the leadership of AFA.
AFA was actually more of a journal than a newspaper, focusing on topics and issues with the evolving Asian American identity – Asian women, Asian youth, and stereotypes in the mass media, for example. AFA served more than as a commentator than an impartial observer of events and issues affecting the Asian community. While AFA did features on the International District, it considered itself more as an Asian community newspaper than an International District newspaper. The International District really had no newspaper to call its own.
The idea of an International District newspaper came from a couple of civic-minded leaders of the International District Economic Association. Two individuals, Gerald Yuasa, then associated with the International District branch of Sea First Bank, and Larry Imamura, the proprietor of Officemporium, believed that a community newspaper was essential for improving the business climate and promoting a more positive image of the International District. Serving as publishers, Yuasa and Imamura hired George Cox, a Boeing engineer with some writing experience, as editor.
“Some people argue that the International District is gasping its last breath. There are those who think that the space it occupies could be better utilized by the creation of a large corporate shopping district complete with high rise apartments and nondescript shops selling assembly line products. Maybe, but it has much to offer in its present form, as well as potential for future change. There are those who assert that the ethnic quality of the area retards its worth and growth. But this in fact is its real asset.
What other part of Seattle can claim such a diverse mixture of ethnic groups, which is complimented by their uniquely different foods and specialty shops. If it is a dying area, why are there doctors, lawyers, dentists, banks, and merchants doing business in the District. This question and others will be explored and answered in the International Examiner.
The International District is not as well understood as it should be. This newspaper intends to help change that. We intend to show that the International District is a dramatic and visible part of the Queen City.”
—International Examiner, June 1974.
With these, the International Examiner was launched with the slogan, “The Heartbeat of the International District.” The cover story, headlined “Tatami Rooms Now at Mikado”, featured the then latest addition to a Japanese restaurant that has since closed, describing the opening of seven new tatami rooms, listing dinner prices for tempura ($5.50) and teriyaki ($6.75) that seem relatively modest in comparison today. Other stories featured Philippines Independence Day and Jimmy Mar, the unofficial “mayor” of Chinatown. Advertisers included Gilt Edge Cleaners, the National Bank of Commerce, Asahi Printing, Kiki’s Beauty Salon, King Yen Restaurant, Kokusai Theater, and Jackson Furniture.
The content of that first issue was business oriented with feature stories about the local merchants of the District. The burning social issues of the day, particularly the impending impacts of the Kingdome, still under construction, were not discussed or covered. The paper, both in format and writing style, appeared to be a mirror of another Asian newspaper, East is East. The first edition of the Examiner consisted of four pages with a subscription rate of $3 for what was intended to be a monthly publication. About 2000 copies were printed and distributed.
In those early of the Examiner, its business office was the Officemporium (site of the House of Hong restaurant today), where Larry Imamura handled the newspaper’s business affairs, solicited the ads, and kept the books. George Cox wrote the articles and did the paste-up out of his West Seattle home. But although the Examiner was supposed to come out every month, that first year saw very little of the newspaper. It took a while for the newspaper to get off the ground. Cox soon find out that he couldn’t devote as much time as he wanted to getting the Examiner out. Because of his full-time job at Boeing, Cox couldn’t get down to the International District to find stories to write about.
In 1975, the next year, the Alaska Cannery Workers Association, entered the picture. The ACWA, founded by Nemesio and Silme Domingo and other young Asian and Native American cannery workers as a way to combat racial discrimination in the canneries, had an office across the street from Officemporium. Nemesio Domingo became very interested in the idea of a community newspaper and began talking to Imamura and Cox about the possibility of taking over the Examiner. After a couple of meetings, a deal was struck for $1 and the Examiner became property of the ACWA.
Taking the role newspaper publisher, Domingo recruited an old friend, Tessie McGinnis, who had a degree in journalism, to serve as editor. Elaine Ko and yours truly, editorial journalism students at the University of Washington’s School of Communications, were asked to write stories. Ken Mar and Tommy Mar were brought in to be photographers. Neil Asaba and Steve Lock served as business managers and went around the District, trying to get businesses to advertise in what was envisioned to be a “progressive” community newspaper. After a few marathon organizational meetings which lasted over a couple of months, the Examiner hit the streets with the tag, “The Heartbeat of the International District.”
One of the first issues of the newly reorganized Examiner was the April 1975 issue. The front-page headline for that issue read, “Spellman Pledges: Concessionaires Will Employ District/Asian Workers.” This particular story dealt with ongoing negotiations between then King County Executive John Spellman and a group of Asian activists over promises which Spellman made regarding employment at the Kingdome – promises which continued to be unfulfilled even to this date as the Kingdome is about to be a relic of the past.
Two other stories in that April 1975 issue have historical importance today. One dealt with the City’s final approval of the concept of an International District public corporation which exists today as the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority. The other dealt with the rediscovery of the Nippon Kan Theater, then a deserted, run down hall which had once been the center of the city’s Japanese American community, with hopes for restoration.
The content of those early issues of the ACWA published Examiner was markedly different from the bland, business oriented first issue. The paper began covering the social and political issues affecting the International District, reflecting the political activism of its young, college aged student staff. With such writers as Elaine Ko, Doug Chin and Julia Laranang, articles about low-income housing, the Asian elderly, and distrust of redevelopment soon began appear regularly on its pages. But there was still a thin line between observer and participant. Some of the writers, for example, not only wrote about demonstrations but helped planned them as well.
By the fall of 1975, Tessie McGinnis had stepped down as editor, and two graduate assistants from the University of Washington’s School of Communications, Mayumi Tsutakawa and Rita Fujiki (now Brogan) became co-editors. Ron Chew, another U.W. journalism student and future Examiner editor, began writing articles.
The Examiner began to take on the look of a community newspaper. For example, the November 1975 issue contained announcements about board vacancies on the International District Special Review District Board, a press release for the Wing Luke Museum art auction, a short story about the newly formed I.D. Health Clinic, and a feature story on Donnie Chin and the International District Emergency Center. The paper still came out as a four-page monthly publication but had increased its circulation to 6,000.
In the spring of 1976, Mayumi Tsutakawa assumed the editorship of the Examiner, now billed as the “Journal of the International District.” There was a conscious effort to bring the paper up to professional standards. The paper began paying attention to the cultural and artistic aspects of the community as political and social issues. Tsutakawa wrote the following in 1976:
“Starting with the next issue, we’ll have eight pages (or more), a paper divided into news, features, and people’s culture sections, and more and better photos, graphics, and in-depth articles…. Why work harder? Because this District is important to a lot of people – the pioneers and immigrants who founded the Asian community in the Northwest, the current residents, shopowners, and community activists. And because the established media odes not adequately cover our news for us. The community press is important, and although several publications are out in the Asian community, none covers our special concerns.
Our underlying philosophy is that we will report news about where the people are – not where we think they should be. We want to help inform and educate people, but to learn from them at the same time…we don’t want to fabricate news for our needs–Asian American unity and culture comes in many forms, often imperfect, and we will try to report all aspects of it and not just what the loud talkers have to say.”
Unlike the early advocacy-oriented issues of the Examiner, lines were drawn between straight news and editorial opinion. For example, the April 1976 issue featured a front-page news story, written by Ron Chew, detailing the problems surrounding the funding of the I.D. Health Clinic. An editorial inside, written by Mayumi Tsutakawa, called for support of funding for the Clinic.
Political activism was still a theme of the Examiner. For example, the April 1976 issue covered the opening of the Kingdome with an article titled, “Dome Opening Greeted by People’s Rally” which described a protest rally at the Domed Stadium site. The May 1976 issue featured a front-page story, written by Lesley Matsuhira, titled, “Tribute to Asian Workers” which described a May Day celebration for Asian workers “involved in the battle to achieve low income housing, full employment worker’s rights, and a good education.”
But at the same time, the Examiner began running stories which were less political. In the May 1976 issue, an article described the decline of Japanese American businesses on Yesler Street, focusing on the future of Tokuda Drugs, Tom’s Grocery, and Yesler Hardware. The June 1976 issue described the exploitation of Chinese women in the garment industry. The July 1976 issue marked the 50th Anniversary of the Taiyo Club, detailing the memories of Nisei who played organized sports in their youth.
More attention was paid to the cultural aspects of the community. The May 1976 issue featured a story titled, “I.D. Music Spots for All Types” describing the “hot” night spots of the District, announcing that Deems Tsutakawa and his jazz band were playing weekends at the now defunct Gim Wah restaurant while other “sounds” could be heard at the also now defunct Silver Dragon and King Yen cocktail lounges. The June 1976 “District Notes” column described the latest theatrical offering from the Asian Multi Media Center (now the Northwest Asian American Theatre), “Nisei Bar and Grill” as “a melodrama with comic moments.”
The political activists on staff gradually left the paper to work on other causes, replaced by those less inclined to “save the world” but more interested in simply participating in the community and gaining newspaper experience. Expanding the paper meant more writers and more stories. A stable pool of writers emerged: Judi Nihei, Flora Lopez, Debbie Murakami, Kathryn and Karen Chinn, Sue Chin, Mark Mano and Ann Fujii (who, incidentally, has continued to be a regular Examiner contributor). Graphic artists such as Terri Nakamura and Anne Mori, and photographers such as John Harada and Dean Wong (who also incidentally, continues to be regular Examiner contributor) made significant improvements to the appearance of the newspaper.
In 1977, Ron Chew took over the editorship and began to actively recruit and train community workers and students to contribute stories and photographs to the paper. Bob Santos, then director of Inter*im, began writing a column on his perspectives of issues in the District. In addition, Inter*im helped support the Examiner by funding the editor’s position through the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA). Donnie Chin started the “District Watch” column, which provided a first-hand account of fires, accidents, and emergency situations in the District. Doug Chin began to write a series of articles on the history of the Chinese in Washington State. Gene Viernes wrote a series of articles on the Alaska canneries. The indispensable Alan Lau began to write about the arts.
The Examiner had become a diverse mixture of political, human interest, and cultural stories The July 1977 issue, for example, featured stories on funding for a mini park in the District, bilingual education, Alaska cannery workers, growing up in Chinatown, subsidized housing, and a pictorial on the newly created mural on the side of the Bush Hotel. Coverage extended to mark the first Day of Remembrance (which memorialized the internment of Japanese Americans at the Puyallup Fairgrounds and efforts to start an Asian American studies program at Washington State University. We said hello to the Quong Tuck Restaurant and Mich’s Men Shop and goodbye to the Asian Multi Media Center (which lost its funding) and to Denise Louie, who was tragically murdered in San Francisco’s Chinatown. To accommodate the growing numbers of contributors, the paper increased to twelve (12) pages.
Through its first five years, the Examiner shared office space with ACWA, next door to what is today the offices of the Seattle Chinese Post/Northwest Asian Weekly. ACWA had provided the Examiner with administrative support for many years – office space, typewriters (before the age of computers), paper, stamps, and a telephone. But as the Examiner continued to grow and advertising support developed, the Examiner no longer had to depend on ACWA.
In 1978, the Examiner was ready to go on its own and parted company with the ACWA. With a new editor, Sue Chin, the paper moved to new offices in the Jackson Building. Volunteers such as Guy Tsutsumoto and Kathy Kozu did the billing and bookkeeping and others such as Karen Chinn, Leonard Hayashida, and Steve Goon solicited the advertising. A board of directors was formed with Tim Otani as the first Board President. In 1980, the Examiner successfully applied to the Internal Revenue Service and became a 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax exempt corporation, a tax status rarely granted to newspapers with paid advertising support. The Examiner was now on its own.
In the next five years, coverage of news events continued to expand beyond the International District. The early 1980’s saw a blend of stories that reflected the continuing advances for progress in our community. In civil rights, Japanese American redress was a continuing story, martial law ended in the Philippines, and the families of Domingo and Viernes began their lawsuit against the Marcos regime. In politics, coverage focused on the political campaigns of Gary Locke, Dolores Sibonga, Lloyd Hara, Jan Kumasaka, and Vera Ing. In literature, interviews were conducted with writers Shawn Wong, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Philip Gotanda. We said hello to Lori Matsukawa, the Asian Management and Business Association, the rebirth of Nippon Kan, Arnold Mukai, the Seattle Chinese Post, and karaoke and goodbye to educator and activist Min Masuda and pioneer labor activist Chris Mensalves. To reflect the broadening coverage, the Examiner began publishing the paper twice a month and changed its billing in 1981 to the “Journal of King County’s Asian Communities.
The year 1981 was particularly painful because Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes were murdered in May at the office of Cannery Union Local 37 of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union. Both had made significant contributions to the development of the Examiner – Domingo as the one of the leaders of ACWA, the Examiner’s publisher, and Viernes as a writer. The Examiner covered their memorial services in great deal as well as the criminal trials of Fortunado “Tony” Dictado, Jimmy Bulosan Ramil, Pompeyo Benito Guloy and Tony Baruso, who were convicted of their murders.
By the fall of 1981, Ron Chew had returned as editor. The Examiner was about to take another step in its evolution as a community newspaper. The Board of the Examiner, under the leadership of Doug Chin, decided to publish the newspaper twice a month and try to generate enough revenue to sustain regular paid positions on staff. The primary concern was how to raise enough capital to sustain a newspaper which was still available free to the general public.
As funding became more important, the Examiner decided to begin publishing “special issues” which would be included as inserts in the regular editions of the newspaper. The intent of these “special issues” was to attract advertisers. An August 1982 issue featured a special “employment” supplement which featured articles and advertising related to employment, career choices, and jobs programs. The “employment” supplement has become an annual tradition of the newspaper. As the years went on, other special issues regularly appeared focusing on AIDS, financial planning, Chinese New Year, and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
The Examiner continued to build its reputation as a voice for the arts and the cultural heritage of this community. With the support of funding by grants, for example, from the Seattle Arts Commission and the King County Arts Commission, the Examiner began publishing special editions devoted entirely to literature and culture and sponsoring cultural events such as taiko concerts in the community.
By publishing twice a month, the Examiner had to look beyond the International District for stories. In the early 1980’s, the Examiner covered the murders of Vincent Chin in Detroit and Benigno Aquino in the Philippines and Gordon Hirabayashi’s 40-year fight to expose government wrongdoing in the evacuation and internment of Japanese Americans.
Occasionally, an edition would consist almost exclusively of stories outside the District. For example, the May 19, 1982 edition of the Examiner featured the following stories: the murder trial of Fortunado “Tony” Dictado (subsequently convicted for planning the Domingo/Viernes murders), the leasing of vacant county land in Snohomish County for the Indochinese Farm Project, a column by the Asian Pacific Women’s Caucus on teaching ethnic awareness to children, preparing Chinese food, a book review by Alan Lau, and a listing of 43 local Asian heroes and heroines identified by the Examiner to commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
To keep its connection to the District, the Examiner maintained two regular columns, “District Watch” by Donnie Chinn and “District Notes”, a community bulletin board written through the years by several writers, including Ron Chew, Susan Taketa, and Ann Fujii Linderwall. Other volunteer contributors wrote columns on particular items of interest–Sharon Harada gave sound advice in her “Money Guide”, Gary Huie authored “Legal Notes.” Wm. Satake Blauvelt wrote scathing movie reviews of mainstream movies with pseudo-Asian themes. Takako offered political perspectives. Nancy Lim and Stan Shikuma were informative about “Heath Issues.” Vera Ing shared her personal observations in “Dim Sum.” Bob Shimabukuro mused about life, love, and the community with his popular “Bull Session.”
In February of 1983, 13 of our friends, neighbors, and relatives were murdered at the Wah Mee Club. The Examiner covered the Wah Mee murders in great detail. The March 2nd issue that year devoted approximately half of its space to the murders, covering the arraignments of murder suspects Benjamin Ng and Willie Mak, providing short biographies of the thirteen who died, criticizing the stereotypic and insensitive coverage by the mainstream press, and interviewing community leaders concerned about the impact of the murders on the District.
During this period, the Examiner continued to focus special attention to the arts and culture. Interviews were featured with nationally known artists such as Janice Mirikitani, Tzi Ma, and Momoko Iko as well as locally emerging artists such as writer Ken Mochizuki, spotlighting his movie, “Beacon Hill Boys”, and choreographer Bengie Santos with her dance program, “Innovasions.” The movies “Nisei Soldier”, “Dim Sum” and “Unfinished Business” (the Oscar nominated documentary by Steven Okazaki about the Gordon Hirabayashi, Min Yasui, and Fred Korematsu coram nobis cases to overturn the legality of the World War II internment of Japanese Americans), were praised. The film, “Year of the Dragon” was heavily criticized and picketed as another example of Hollywood’s stereotypic characterization of Asian Americans.
Meanwhile in the District, the Examiner noted the closing of the old Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, the development of Jackson Square known today as the Asian Plaza, and monitored Metro’s plans for a bus tunnel. We said hello to the Ocean City Restaurant and goodbye to redress activist Theresa Takayoshi, Chinese community historian Willard Jue, and banker Robert Chinn.
From the mid to late 1980’s, the Examiner continued to report on the comings and goings within the community. The Examiner welcomed the openings of Kin On Nursing Home, Keiro Nursing Home’s new site, and the Viet Wah Supermarket, covered the political campaigns of Bob Santos, Cheryl Chow, Clarence Moriwaki, Al Sugiyama, Dolores Sibonga, and Nemesio Domingo; followed Gordon Hirabayashi’s 40-year fight for vindication, and said goodbye to Tobo’s Variety Store, the Fuji Ten Cent Store, the Silver Dragon Restaurant, the Asian Family Affair, Astronaut Ellison Onizuka, pharmacists George Tokuda and James Luke and community activists Leo Lorenzo, Yuri Takahashi, Don Kazama, Min Yasui, Tomo Shoji, and Danny Woo. The Examiner focused special attention to the AIDS issue, publishing regularly quarterly supplements devoted to publicizing the issue in the community.
In addition during this period, the Examiner noted the 100th anniversary of the exclusion of the Chinese from Seattle and Tacoma, paid special attention to the problems of Asian military veterans, described community complaints about the selling of fortified wine, reported on the possibility of turning Union Station into a “city hall”, outlined plans for a community cultural center to honor the memory of Robert Chinn, and followed the civil lawsuit successfully brought by the families of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes against the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos which resulted in a multi-million judgment.
Arts and culture continued to merit extensive coverage in the Examiner. With the completion of the Theatre Off Jackson, the Northwest Asian American Theatre began a steady stream of theatrical productions, opening with the musical, Miss Minidoka 1943. Hiroshima gained popularity for its mellow jazz sounds. Lesser known names such as Fred Houn and his Asian American Arts Ensemble and singer Tyrone Hashimoto were publicized as well. Low budget films such as “Living on Tokyo Time” and “Color Of Honor” were praised while the big budget film, “Come See the Paradise” was subject to mixed reviews. The Asian American Film Festival debuted.
Alan Lau began writing a regular Arts Column and in 1989, began producing the Pacific Reader, a literary supplement devoted to providing a comprehensive critical review of Asian/Pacific American books. The Pacific Reader reviewed the works of both established and newly emerging writers, covering all genres – history, visual arts, picture books, poetry, education, essays, children, young adult, fiction, non-fiction, and anthologies.
The Examiner continued growing, broadening its focus to bring an awareness of not only local and regional API issues, but national API concerns as well. To reflect this change, the newspaper billed itself as the “Journal of the Northwest’s Asian American Communities.” Its circulation had grown to 12,000 and the paper was distributed to most areas of Seattle and some of the Eastside. The newspaper outgrew its space and moved to its location at 6th and Washington, next to the Nippon Kan.
The early 1990’s began an era of rapid growth and changes within the International District. The Examiner reported on the opening of the Ding How Shopping Center, the development of the Leschi Center at the old Bailey Gatzert site, the Metro Bus Tunnel, the PDA’s plans to create a multi-generational, multi-service facility at Eighth and Dearborn, and plans by the Sonics to build an arena by the Kingdome.
The Examiner brought us interviews with such diverse personalities as writers Amy Tan and Ly Ly Hayslip, entrepreneur Scott Oki, and rising political star Martha Choe. The Examiner was there as Art Wang, Kip Tokuda, Velma Veloria, and Paull Shin made successful runs for the State Legislature. Gary Locke became King County Executive. Martha Choe and Cheryl Chow earned chairs on the Seattle City Council. Conrad Lee won a seat on the Bellevue City Council.
The Examiner had to show the dark side of our community with the murders of Mayme Lui and Fay Chan Mon Wai, the murder/suicide of Tessie and Narciso Guzman, the growth of Asian gangs, the increase in domestic violence, and AIDS/HIV issues. We also said goodbye to Jackson Furniture’s Tom Hidaka, Jack and John Uno, Lovett Moriguchi, Nemesio Domingo,Sr., artist Val Laigo, Henry Chin, the J.A.C.L.’s Mike Masaoka, and actor Keye Luke.
In 1991, the International Examiner instituted its Community Voice Awards to honor the unsung heroes of our community in conjunction with the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations. The initial honorees were Ruth Chinn, Dorothy Cordova, Quynh T. Nguyen, and Frank Fujii. The Community Voice Awards became an annual event and the Examiner’s major fundraiser.
In the 1990s, the Examiner continued to blend a mix of news stories and articles that affect the International District and the greater Asian Pacific Islander community. Developments in the International District coverage included the formation of the Business Improvement Area (B.I.A.); the construction and opening of both the Nikkei Manor and the International District Village Square; the arson fire at Mary Pang’s Warehouse and the subsequent arrest and conviction of Martin Pang as an arsonist; the collapse of the Kokusai Theater, the controversial closing of Lane Street to accommodate the expansion of Uwajimaya; aborted plans for the Stardome; and two, repeat two, new sports stadiums for the baseball Mariners and the football Seahawks. Paul Allen was welcomed.
Toward the end of the 1990s and into to the 2000s, the hot issues affecting the Asian Pacific Islander Community continued to fill the pages of the Examiner – the demise of the Employment Opportunities Center, welfare reform, bilingual education, the protests over art at the Obachine Restaurant, the tenure of Connie So at the University of Washington, and racial slurs by the Spokane County Democratic Party. The community’s efforts to oppose Initiative 200 as anti-affirmative action measure rekindled memories of the civil rights movement.
In the political area, Gary Locke ran a successful campaign to become Governor of the State of Washington then was reelected to a second term. Cheryl Chow and Charlie Chong made strong bids in the election for Mayor of Seattle. Sharon Tomiko Santos joined the ranks of elected politicians as the State Representative for the 37th District. Comedian Margaret Cho was the “All American Girl.” Tragedies were covered with the murders of Missy Fernandez, Susana Blackwell, and the An Family. Condolences marked the passing of Aki Kurose, George Tsutakawa, Paul Horiuchi, Harry Fujita, Amy Yee, James Omura, Eddie Espanol, Emmanuelle “Chi” Dang, Sam Yee, and Clara Fraser.
As we entered the turn of the century, in 2000-2004, the Examiner continued to note the events that the community should know about. The Kingdome imploded, replaced by the Seahawks Stadium. The World Trade Organization came and left. The Eastern Hotel was renovated and reopened. Plans for a McDonalds restaurant in the International District were stopped in its tracks. Groundbreaking ceremonies marked the second phase of the International District Village Square. Abercrombie and Fitch issued T-shirts that were racially offensive. The Examiner followed the tribulations of Chaplain James Yee and the emerging controversy over the planning of an Emergency Command Center on the edge of the International District. The curtain came down on the Northwest Asian American Theatre (NWAAT). David Della (successful) and Kollin Min (unsuccessful) ran for the Seattle City Council. Bob Hasegawa was elected to the State Legislature for the first time. The Asian Counseling and Referral Service and the International District Drop In Center found office space outside the International District and left. The Denise Louie Education Center opened a new site on Beacon Hill. The Wing Luke Museum bought the Kong Yick Building. We said goodbye to Senator Patsy Mink, Sadako Moriguchi (matriarch of the Moriguchi family) Judge Liem Eng Tuai, Florence Eng, Diony Corsilles, Bernie Whitebear, and activists Guy Kurose and Craig Shimabukuro.
In 2001, the Examiner ventured into the publishing business with the release of Doug Chin’s Seattle’s International District: Making of a Pan-Asian Community. This was followed one year later by the publication of Bob Santos’ autobiography, Humbows Not Hot Dogs. A second edition of Seattle’s International District: Making of a Pan-Asian Community was published in 2009. In 2010, the Examiner published Vera Ing’s memoirs, Dim Sum: ABC (American Born Chinese) Dreams.
In 2004, the Examiner celebrated its 30th anniversary. Special themed issues continued to be a prominent focus for the Examiner. In addition to such traditional themes as “employment,” “youth”, “education,” “the arts,” and the Pacific Reader, the Examiner partnered with other organizations to produce special supplements. For example, in 2005, the Examiner partnered with the Nikkei Heritage Association of Washington to produce “Pioneering Washington Issei 1979-1899,” a special issue which featured biographical profiles of first generation Japanese Americans which made significant impacts in the late 19th Century. In 2014, the Examiner partnered with General Biodiesel to publish an in-depth supplement of the environmentally-oriented business.
In the mid -2000s, the Examiner reported on plans announced for a streetcar on Jackson Street. The Nippon Kan (Japanese Hall) was sold to a legal messenger service who converted the old theater to office space. Seattle Public Library opened a branch in the District. Concerns were raised over an ambitious planned development by Goodwill Industries on Dearborn Street. Bob Santos retired from Interim. Tomio Moriguchi retired from Uwajimaya, replaced by his sister, Tomoko Matsuno. Teresita Batayola became the director of International Community Health Services. Nihonmachi Terrace opened. Lt. Ehren Watada refused deployment to Iraq. Bruce Harrell was elected to the Seattle City Council. Tay Yoshitani was named the Chief Executive Officer for the Port of Seattle. There was controversy over Casa Latina moving to South Jackson Street. As Asian American killed several students at Virginia Tech. We mourned the passage of young Tatsuo Nakata, an up and coming community leader, tragically killed in a traffic accident as well as the passages of actors Mako, Pat Morita, and Victor Wong, longtime activist Shigeko Uno, Senator Robert Matsui, landscape architect Robert Murase, and MarPac founder Dan Mar.
In the latter part of the decade, the Examiner, like all print media, struggled to survive. Asian Week, one of the few remaining Asian American-oriented newspapers, closed in San Francisco. The Seattle Post Intellingencer dropped its print edition and went solely to on-line. Ron Chew left the Wing Luke Asian Museum but emerged a few months later as Executive Director of the International Community Health Services Foundation. Dragon gates were installed at the entrance to the District. The Dalai Lama visited Seattle. Don Wakamatsu was hired as the manager for the Seattle Mariners. Gary Locke was appointed by President Obama to serve as his Secretary of Commerce. Phyllis Wise was appointed as the interim President for the University of Washington. The Examiner produced a four-part series profiling the Hmong, Mien and Cham communities. Obituaries noted the contributions made by film maker Loni Ding, activist Roberto Maestas, attorney Toru Sakahara, and Ruby Chow, former King County Councilwoman, Chinese community leader, and restaurateur.
In 2011, the Examiner introduced its first Reader’s Choice issue, offering readers the opportunity to name their favorites in various categories – restaurants, community leaders, politicians, bookstores, the arts, and businesses. The Examiner published a manual for community organizing. As this decade continued, Gary Locke was named Ambassador to China. The Center for Career Alternatives closed its doors. Surveillance cameras were installed in the District. Frank Irigon ran for a seat on the Newcastle City Council but lost. The Milwaukee Hotel underwent renovation. Dean Wong wrote a series of articles about growing up in the District. The Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team celebrated its 60th Anniversary. The Examiner documented the deaths of poet Hisaye Yamamoto, bookseller David Ishii, Senator Daniel Inouye, community leader Jimmy Mar, and JACL activist Elaine Akagi.
In 2013, the Examiner noted Interim CDA’s plans for the development of Hirabayashi Place, a workforce housing project, named for Gordon Hirabayashi who had challenged the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Hirabayashi, who died earlier in the year, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Jeffrey Chan, former police chief of Medina, won a $2 million racial discrimination suit against that city for unjust termination. Albert Shen ran unsuccessfully for the Seattle City Council. Kshama Sawant became the first South Asian and socialist to be elected to the Seattle City Council. Jeremy Lin achieved notoriety (“Linsanity”) as a professional basketball player. Gay marriage was legalized. In addition to Hirabayashi, there were several other notable passings–Chinese community leader Wai Eng, educator Roy Flores, educator/politician/Chinese Community Girls Drill Team leader Cheryl Chow, cultural arts activist Flori Montande, Akira Moriguchi, artists Jimmy Mirikatani and Johnsel Namkung, State Representative Kip Tokuda and his mother, Tama Tokuda.
In 2014, the Examiner celebrated its 40th anniversary. A major fire damaged a block on King Street. The Filipino Community commemorated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Carlos Bulosan. Mary Yu became the first Asian American, first Latin, and first lesbian appointed to the State Supreme Court. ICHS expanded its operations to Shoreline and Bellevue. Sakura Farms was embroiled in a migrant workers’ employment controversy over pay and working conditions. There were protests at the University of Washington over the elimination of its Southeast Asian student recruiter. The Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs observed its 40th year. Protests against the stereotyped portrayals of Asians were lodged against the production of the opera, The Mikado. Hyeok Kim, Executive Director of Interim CDA, was appointed by then newly elected Mayor Ed Murray to be Deputy Mayor. We lost banker and the founder of the International Examiner, Gerald Yuasa, famed dance teacher Martha Nishitani, activist Yuri Kochiyama, and beloved community leaders Fred Cordova and Vera Ing.
In 2015, the community was stunned by the murder of Donnie Chin, Director of the International District Emergency Center, an unsung hero, who had long been regarded as its protector. Homeless encampments in the District caused community concerns of public safety. The Seattle City Council formally apologized for the City of Seattle’s role in the exclusion of Chinese in the late 19th Century. Complaints were raised over the names of the rock group, “Viet Cong” and the restaurant, “Chop Suey.” The Asian Resource Center building was sold to a charter school. Pat Abe, the community’s auto mechanic, retired and closed his 7th Avenue Service Station. The 40th Anniversary of the fall of Saigon was memorialized. Debabutta Dash made an unsuccessful bid for the Seattle City Council. Al Sugiyama’s battle with cancer was chronicled. We mourned the deaths of Ticiang Diangson, Judge Warren Chan, Annie Chinn Wong, and Tsuguo “Ike” Ikeda.
In 2016, the Examiner partnered with several organizations in producing special issues – Seattle Public Utilities (Environmental Justice); 21 Progress and the Seattle Channel (OSPI Kip Tokuda Legacy Grant–Connecting the Lessons of History with Japanese Incarceration and Recent Anti-Muslim, Anti-Immigrant Rights Violations); the Organization of Chinese Americans (Celebrating Student Activism); the Inlandboatmen’s Union (Northwest Labor Activism-The Legacy of Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo); and Interim CDA (Standing Up For Social Justice Since 1969). Encampments of homeless in the District continued to threaten the public safety of residents, businesses, and community agencies. The children’s park was renamed “Donnie Chin International Children’s Park.” The community mourned the passing of its Uncle Bob (Santos), a man who dedicated his life to the preservation of the International District. The community also lost Ruth Woo, who had tremendous influence as a mentor to many past and present Asian Pacific American political office holders and seekers. Others who left us included Judge Charles Z. Smith, an African American jurist and law school dean who championed the redress movement for Japanese American and was a mentor for attorneys of color; artist and educator Frank Fujii; educator Rachel Hidaka; Chinese community restaurateurs Tek Wong and Wilma Woo; and Japanese community activist Frank Yamasaki.
In 2017, the Examiner, in partnership with the Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Foundation, was awarded a three-year program grant from the Seattle Foundation. The Advocacy Journalism Fellowship Program was intended to focus on developing leadership and journalism skills within underrepresented AAPI communities. This program engaged four aspiring community organizers and media leaders per year from API communities and backgrounds who spend a year doing a deep dive into specific immigrant communities in the Seattle area. Training was provided in such areas as advocacy journalism, community engagement, relationship building, compelling storytelling, journalistic integrity, the basics of newswriting, website management, video production, and editing. The goal was train these interns to develop skills to enable them to tell the stories of their communities. In its first year, the program reached out to Thai, Khmer (Cambodian), Pakistani, and Samoan communities. In its second year, the program focused on the Bangladeshi, Laotian and Tongan communities.
The Examiner has grown and persevered, but not without the dedication and contributions of the many writers, photographers, graphic artists, advertising representatives, and board members who made the Examiner what it is. And special recognition should go to those who served as Editor of the International Examiner–George Cox, T.M. McGinnis, Rita Brogan, Mayumi Tsutakawa, Ron Chew, Sue Chin, Maxine Chan, Dean Wong, Ken Mochizuki, Bob Shimabukuro, Danny Howe, Jeff Lin, Holly Smith, Eric Hsu, Chong-Suk Han, Nhien Nguyen, Diem Ly, Christina Twu, Travis Quezon and Jill Hyesun Wasberg.
Back in 1974, many of us advocated for revolution but who would have thought then that the revolution would be in technology. Computers were bulky and inaccessible to the general public. There were no scanners and no internet. There was no E-mail. Typewriters with built in self-correcting tape were the most valuable commodity for the production of stories for the paper. A supply of “White Out” was a necessary office item. The Kingdome, a symbol of threats to the community, is now a fading memory. Yes, the Examiner outlasted the Kingdome.
The Examiner continues to chronicle the comings and goings in the community, its pages reflecting the history of both the International District and the greater Asian Pacific Islander community. There are some issues which continue to push “hot” buttons in our community–bilingual education, “English only” proposals, welfare reform, conflicts over ethnic studies at the University of Washington, affirmative action, Asian stereotypes.
In some sense, we have come full circle. The four-page monthly publication has evolved into a 12-32 page twice a month publication. The subscription rate has gone from $3 in 1974 to $15 in 1990 to $20 in 2004 to $40 today. There have been changes in editor, organization, and format. What started out as the “Heartbeat of the International District” became the “Journal of the International District” then the “Journal of King County’s Asian Communities” then the “Journal of the Northwest’s Asian American Communities” to “Asian American Journal of the Northwest” to “Asian American Journal: The International District” is now “The Newspaper of the Northwest Asian/Pacific American Communities.” But one thing about the Examiner has not changed – to inform, to educate, and to let our voices be heard in serving our communities.