Daily Times’ Chief Editor John Lawrence says the nearly 7-month-old newspaper reports news from mainland China “without fear or favour”

There are two things I’ve always wanted to do: Write my own newspaper column and — more recently — edit a daily newspaper.

I got the first chance in the 1980s and 1990s when I started the social awareness column The Cutting Edge (by Watchman) while employed as training editor for the Nation group of newspapers in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

Of course, it’s history that I got myself summarily deported when I exposed a wee bit too much corruption in the former British colony. It’s not wise to write pejoratively about an African country’s immigration department.

The second chance came in April 2007 when the yet-to-be-born daily newspaper the Daily Times advertised for staff through the Journalism Education Association in Australia. I got the job and thus began my new career as chief editor of an English language daily in the former Portuguese enclave off China. It was my 11th assignment in a foreign country.

The Daily Times was launched on June 1, 2007, taking its place beside a burgeoning number of English, Chinese and Portuguese newspapers and magazines in a territory that has gained pre-eminence as the world’s gambling mecca, outstripping Las Vegas as it heads for an annual gaming turnover of about $12.5 billion.

The Daily Times achieves much from a very small editorial staff. Besides the chief editor, there is a director, four young journalists and a designer, who produces the newspaper on an Apple Mac, using the InDesign system.

There are some surprises in this multicultural outfit. For a start, all four reporters did their journalism training at Australian universities. None of them had previous exposure to daily journalism, apart from a young woman of Portuguese-English parentage.

The others are an Australian who spent some years in the Netherlands, a young Cantonese journalist and a Calcutta-born woman who went to Australia when she was 10. The director, who is in overall charge of the editorial department, is Portuguese Angolan and the managing director is South African. The designer is Macanese; that is, he is of mixed Portuguese and Chinese blood.

The Portuguese and Chinese elements are important at press conferences as the official languages are Cantonese and Portuguese. It can be frustrating if you speak only English.

The Daily Times is a 28-page tabloid segmented into local, Chinese, Asia/Pacific, world, business, cultural and sporting news. It relies heavily on international news, taking the AFP wire service. The ownership is Chinese, although the actual owners are not named in the paper’s credits. At present there is no staff photographer and the journalists take their own pictures.

From an outsider’s point of view, albeit from that of an old Chinawatcher, the Times is fearless in the way it presents news from the mainland. Mainland virtues and vices are reported without fear or favour.

Expatriates, who now outnumber the Portuguese population, find the Daily Times instantly appealing. Its forthright news reporting is also earning a growing readership among locals.

John Lawrence is the chief editor of the Daily Times — . He is a former trainer for the Commonwealth Journalists Association and well-known in the Pacific.

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