Media

Dakai Maritimes bring news to Halifax’s Chinese community

'It is a niche market for sure but it is stable'

Meng Zhao on the launch day of Daikai Maritime at Halifax Central Library
Meng Zhao on the launch day of Daikai Maritimes at Halifax Central Library.   Lu Xu

It’s almost 10 o’clock at night. Meng Zhao hums her two babies to sleep, opens up her e-mail and starts her daily work.

As the editor in chief of Daikai Maritimes Newspaper, she has to look through the stories from the writers and give feedback to each of them.

“My day never ends. It keeps beginning,” Zhao says, laughing.

Her youngest son is only three months old and keeps waking her up during the night. Busy as it is, never once has she thought about giving up the magazine she owns. As she says, it is like another child.

The idea of starting a bilingual magazine was hatched six years ago when she was doing a degree at Mount Saint Vincent University.

She has always enjoyed the role of being the cultural ambassador in her daily life. To bridge the gap between international students and the native students is one of the goals she had as a college student. It was then that she realized the potential of Chinese media in the community.

“It is a niche market for sure but it is stable,” she says. The percentage of the Chinese people is indeed small, but there was no print nor bilingual media at the time.

But it was more than that. Zhao saw not just the absence of such media but realized its value as opposed to the existing Chinese BBS.

“The thing about print is that it has an irreplaceable value that the online media do not have,” she says. Daikai Maritimes documents its issues in the Nova Scotia Archives regularly.

“I think it’s important for us as Chinese to be in part of that documentation,” she says.

But not everyone believed what she believed. The hardest part of starting something that has never been done before is to convince people.

“My friends told me print is dying. They think I’m too naïve or unrealistic.”

In 2012 she quit her job as a publicist at a firm. With the connections built up from that previous job, she published her first issue of the magazine.

The magazine just published its sixteenth issue and has made quite an impact within the Maritime Chinese community.

“It is the only newspaper I read since I moved to Halifax,” says Hong Gao, who works at a Chinese restaurant in Bedford.

The popularity in the community draws the attention of a lot of Chinese businesses. A lot of businessmen have come forward to Zhao offering money in exchange for an article to promote their business.

“We have never taken on one piece purely for money,” she says.

This kind of quid pro quo is quite common in the Chinese community.

Businesses often reach out to community media to buy a story that will make their company look good. The amount of money they bring is often very tempting for a relatively small media platform like Daikai Maritimes.

“I don’t expect the income to support my whole family. That is not why I’m doing this.”