It might surprise you to know that it wasn’t until 1987 that The Correspondent magazine began to appear regularly in its current format. Other issues had appeared from time to time in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, but not on a regular basis. By the mid-80s it had been reduced to an eight-page newsletter that came out infrequently.
We have been only able to locate some surviving 1970s issues and one or two from the 1960s. Mind you, some of those issues were not dated inside or outside magazine, but given paper quality and style they probably date from the late-70s.
It was in 1987 that Club member Viswa Nathan came up with the idea of publishing a monthly glossy magazine that would be supported by advertising. Viswa made a go of it from the first issue. It’s not an easy business to find enough ads to cover the costs of producing the magazine, but these were boom days in Hong Kong and all the hongs had ad budgets for small-circulation magazines.
By the mid-1990s it became harder to get ads and it was no longer possible to take for granted ads from the hongs. The exception was the 50th anniversary of the FCC in Hong Kong special issue (1999) which was fully supported by ads due to the hard work of editor Saul Lockhart. From that time the magazine became financed fully by the Club, with the occasional ad income as a supplement to the budget.
Many of the ads in that issue were from the media industry; including one gem (as you would expect) from The Economist, which read, “Congratulating the FCC on 50 years of intoxicating journalism”. Sadly, as the media industry struggles with the digital revolution and the consequent falling ad revenue and diffuse readership, budget for ads has dried up.
Digital fallout also reaches The Correspondent from time to time as some argue that we don’t really need an expensive magazine when we can put it online. At some future time it may be online, however the demand for a magazine remains as the FCC’s November 2015 survey overwhelmingly shows.
During 2015 Club news and news features from The Correspondent plus website-only stories have appeared on the website. With the launch of the redesigned website in January 2016 there will be a greater an interaction between the website and the magazine which will enhance the effectiveness of both.
The combination produces the best from both worlds – as the likes of the FT, SCMP, New York Times, Monocle, The Economist and others are attempting, mostly successfully, to do. The publications that get this formula right will be the ones left standing.
Meanwhile, the magazine goes on as it should. A correspondents’ club without one would be a strange beast.
An integral part of the magazine is the production house that makes it all possible. Since the late 80s, production has been in the hands of Viswa Nathan, Mike Bishara, Firstline, Richard Cook at WordAsia and Terry and Aira Duckham at Asiapix. In fact, Asiapix, through two separate stints has the longest connection to the magazine,
The Communications Committee oversees the magazine, website and other publications usually in a very hands-on way.
Saul Lockhart was editor of the magazine for about four years until he left Hong Kong in 2002. Other editors who served for varying lengths of time include Simon Twiston-Davies, Peter Cordingly, Karl Wilson, Diane Stormont, Richard Cook and Paul Bayfield.
If you want to catch up with past issues of the magazine please refer to the FCC’s website.
The Human Rights Press Awards are run by the FCC, Amnesty International Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Journalists Association. The ceremony took place in May 2017. Click here to see the winners.