When fireworks blazed in the Las Vegas sky at Midnight, December 31, 2009, Mary Lin and Kent Wu thought of the scene as a celebration. After months of planning, the couple was about to officially launch a new Chinese-language newspaper, The Las Vegas Chinese News Network.
Seven years later, Mary Lin and Kent have a staff of 12 and their publishing empire includes a twice-a-week newspaper, a twice-a-month magazine, a once-a-year Las Vegas Chinese Phone Book and a news-based web site. All the publications are available in multiple locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The web site which started with 200 views each month now boasts up to 10 million views each month.
Every one of their publications and their web site is written in Chinese with just a few English subtitles. Kent Wu, formerly a successful journalist and editor in Taiwan, is President of their company and is also President of the International Federation of Chinese Journalists and is World Association of Chinese Mass Media Vice President.
Mary Lin, Publisher, also has a background as a journalist. She came to the U.S. in 1996; her husband came in 2000. They started several Chinese language publications in Los Angeles, later determining that Las Vegas would be a better place to launch their U.S. publishing empire.
“We worked to midnight many nights,” Mary Lin explained. “However, we proved to our advertisers that we could help their businesses through advertising and through support of their businesses in our publications. We have proved our trust to them, and many of our advertisers, including a number of large casinos, have been with us since the beginning.”
Having loyal advertisers is a key to the couple’s business success because all of their publications are distributed free to customers in restaurants, supermarkets, hotel lobbies, etc. Advertising pays the bills.
The newspaper typically has 50 to 60 pages (physically larger pages than the current Las Vegas Review Journal, incidentally). The large-scale magazine is typically 68 pages, and the Las Vegas Chinese Phone Book is 560 pages — substantial publications all. Printing is done in Las Vegas, and runs are typically 8,000 to 10,000 pieces. All of the Las Vegas Chinese News Network publications feature lively full-color pages.
Because of the work they do, the Wus have been invited to many special events for Chinese visitors in Las Vegas and they are also on a list to visit China every two years. Mary Lin has also been named a special ambassador to Chinese visitors by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The couple retains many contacts in China and with media representatives around the world through the United Nations.
Mary Lin will often say that “we always do our best; that’s why we are successful”. The “best” for visitors to their Wynn Road offices includes an offering of tea, tasteful Chinese decorations, tidy office and conference areas and even a photo of visitors as well. (I had brought my camera to take photos of Mary Lin and Kent, but before I knew it, I was being asked to smile for Kent’s photos.)
I asked Mary Lin about the Las Vegas Chinese Phone Book which looked about the same size as a telephone book that had recently been delivered to my home. I told her, however, that I no longer use a telephone book; when I want a phone number I look it up online. She said that many immigrants aren’t comfortable doing that and besides, the Chinese Phone Book contains helpful information such as maps, descriptions of all the hotels and tourist attractions in Las Vegas, descriptions of each of the years in the Chinese calendar (Year of the Dragon, etc.), principles of American Democracy (questions that might be asked of future citizens), a listing of local immigrant services, and even questions (and answers) that might appear on a drivers’ license examination.
In addition to establishing a publishing empire in Las Vegas, Mary Lin and Kent have two grown children, Shirley and Andy. Shirley is in the U.S. Army, has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, has earned a number of medals and has even written two books while in the Army. (The proud mother notes the books, on Amazon, have received five-star ratings.)
Andy, a hotel management graduate of UNLV, is currently living in Taiwan. He runs a school teaching Chinese to foreigners, and again, according to Mom, is warmly welcomed by the students. “The two children are like miracles to me,” says Mary Lin.
Though Kent Wu continues to work and think about business most days, Mary Lin says in her spare time she reads lots of Chinese traditional philosophy and she loves to commune with nature. She is also very fond of Las Vegas and continues to be amazed that people could build “such a vibrant community out of a desert”.
In the future, the Wus have more exciting plans, including, perhaps, the establishment of a Chinese language cable station. “In every project we try to do our best,” says Mary Lin, “but we have learned that each step must be stable and practical.”