Next Magazine plays role in keeping gov’t in check: scholars

CNA file photo

Taipei, Feb. 26 (CNA) The tabloid weekly Next Magazine, which published its last version early Wednesday after 19 years, has played an important role as a watchdog in scrutinizing public figures and unearthing issues concerning public interest, two scholars said that day.

Hu Yuan-hui (胡元輝), head of the Association for Quality Journalism and a professor at National Chung Cheng University’s Department of Communication, said the Chinese-language magazine is responsible for introducing the gossip, tabloid style of journalism to the country nearly 20 years ago.

Such sensational paparazzi-style reporting focusing on private matters of public figures did have a negative impact on the country’s media circles, Hu said.

However, the magazine should also be praised for its close-up scrutiny of public figures, which had been a decades-long taboo for Taiwanese media, he said.

It is the media’s job to closely examine public figures for matters concerning public interest for the development of democratic politics, he said, adding that Next Magazine played a decisive role in this regard.

Hu expressed hope that other Taiwanese media will take up the baton following the weekly magazine’s closure, to continue serving as an agent of checks and balances on important public issues and public figures.

Taiwan Media Watch Chairman Lai Ting-ming (賴鼎銘), a professor at the Department of Information and Communications at Shih Hsin University, echoed Hu’s view.

Lai said the weekly publication did cause a great deal of controversy in terms of media ethics for its sensationalist reporting style.

But at the same time, it deserves credit for its efforts in investigative journalism and played an important role in serving as a watchdog on issues concerning the public interest, such as public safety and food safety, according to Lai.

The two professors’ comments came after the tabloid published its last online edition in Taiwan, less than two years after closing its print edition.

In a statement on its website last Thursday, its publisher attributed the closure to the operational transformation of its parent company, Hong Kong-based media conglomerate Next Digital.

In the statement, the company said it will protect the rights of its employees and subscribers, the latter of which will be given the choice of a cash refund or transfer of their subscription to Taiwan’s Apple Daily website — a sister publication.

Hu said the closure shows that the business model of the online version of the magazine could not generate revenue.

This is a common problem faced by many traditional media now, he said.

The magazine’s closure signifies a decisive moment for traditional media outlets on whether to adjust their business models in the age of digitalization, he added.

The Taiwan version of Next Magazine was launched as a weekly print publication on May 31, 2001, covering general news while also emphasizing paparazzi-style reporting on entertainment and society topics.

On Apr. 4, 2018, it ended its print version after 880 editions, but continued as a subscription-based online publication.

Both Next Magazine and Apple Daily are owned by Next Digital, which was founded by the Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy businessman Jimmy Lai (黎智英).

The magazine is scheduled to officially cease operations on Feb. 29.