More Papers Read Than Elsewhere

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

This is definitely not a one-newspaper town. Not even two.

The territory's 6.3 million people can choose from about 75 newspapers and hundreds of magazines. They publish in Chinese, English, and Filipino.

There are two English-language dailies for an expatriate community no larger than many big American cities that boast only one daily newspaper.

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Hong Kong consistently tops every other place in the world for readership penetration. The latest figures show that 823 people subscribe to a general daily newspaper per 1,000 population, compared with 238 in the US.

In addition to a plethora of local newspapers, readers can easily obtain a wide variety of Western publications.

Far from abandoning their perch, many foreign news organizations have, in fact, been boosting their presence. The Washington Post and The New York Times recently opened bureaus.

"We need to be able to focus more on Southeast Asia, and Hong Kong has excellent communications - in addition to the big story of 1997," says Leonard Downie Jr., The Washington Post's executive editor.

Of course, relatively few local publications concentrate on hard political news. Newsprint is gobbled by the ton to provide horse-racing tips or the latest gossip about movie stars or tycoons.

To en courage serious reporting, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong and Amnesty International this year created Hong Kong's first annual press awards for journalistic service to human rights. "We hope to encourage strong editorials and broadcasts and see less self-censorship," says Robyn Kilpatrick of Amnesty International.

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